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News Bradley suspended from East Franklin

Brooks takes over as interim principal

According to sources, Terry Bradley, principal at East Franklin Elementary School, was given an ultimatum on Tuesday last week to resign or face immediate suspension with pay while an investigation into “leadership issues” is conducted. Rumors are rampant about what exactly led to the suspension, but this Tuesday, long-time Macon County educator Larry Brooks was sitting behind the principal’s desk at the school.

Superintendent Dan Brigman said he could not give details about the suspension, but emphasized that no criminal allegations were involved. Brigman stated that it was Bradley’s performance which was under review. “This is an internal review of leadership issues,” he said.

“It is a suspension while we review information pertaining to the issues, and we are still collecting information.”

Since becoming principal at East Franklin, Bradley has occasionally found himself at odds with parents and teachers due to his management style. At a special called meeting of the school board in July, many parents complained that they were not being included in important discussions concerning scheduling and curriculum changes at the school. At the time, Bradley apologized for not including parents more, saying, “Maybe communication was not a strong point on this.”

Teachers and staff of Macon County schools have been asked not to discuss the issue of Bradley’s suspension with the public or members of the press. The Macon County News has requested the portions of Bradley’s employee file which are available as public record and which, in accordance with state law, should contain records of any disciplinary actions that have taken place.

When Bradley first took over at East Franklin in 2007, the school had failed to meet state mandated adequate yearly progress goals (AYP) for a number of years. But in 2008-09, the school reached all of its AYP goals for the first time. In 2009-10 it failed to make AYP, though it was still classified as a high growth school of progress. In recent years the school also saw progress in student performance in reading and math.

Renee Cooney, an East Franklin parent and vicepresident of the school’s Parent Teacher Organization said she was very surprised by the suspension. Speaking as a parent and not as a PTO representative, Cooney also questioned the way central office adminstration and Superintendent Brigman have handled the situation, particularly the fact that parents were not notified of the suspension sooner.

“This action to me is totally unwarranted,” Cooney said. “Whatever he has done, why not just put him on notice?”

Cooney also questioned the way that students at the school were informed about the situation. “The kids were hauled into the gym and told Bradley was gone,” she said. “He didn’t even have a chance to say goodbye.”

Cooney said she feels that the handling of the issue has shown poor leadership and added that if there were perceived problems with Bradley’s management style, the administration should have offered guidance before resorting to suspension.

On the other hand, Cooney says she and other parents know Brooks and think he will be a good interim principal.

Brooks, who ran as a school board candidate in 2010, said he was contacted by Brigman late last week and asked if he would step in as interim principal at East Franklin until the end of the school year. Brooks offered no comment on the circumstances around Bradley's firing.

Brigman confirmed that Brooks had agreed to serve as interim principal for the remainder of the year or “until a new principal could be selected.”

Brooks served as principal at Highlands School for 20-plus years, retiring in 1999. He said the invitation to take the helm as interim principal at East Franklin came as a surprise. “I really don't know,” said Brooks when asked about Bradley's firing. “As a matter of fact, I don't want to know.”

Since retiring at Highlands school, Brooks has been called to serve and assist the school system many times, most recently as interim principal at Cowee School for two years as that school was preparing to integrate students from Iotla Elementary School while the county's new K-4 school is being constructed.

“He will bring a lot to the student body, staff members and parents at East Franklin,” said Brigman of Brooks' interim position. “He will insure that teaching and learning at the school continues uninterrupted.”

Tuesday was the beginning of the second semester for the school district, with Monday being a teacher workday. Brooks said that he had been at East Franklin for part of the day on Monday but that Tuesday was his first full day on the job.

“I'm here for the kids and the staff and the community to try to end this thing well, if it's been bad, or to continue with the good if it's been good.”

Bradley could not be reached for comment.

On Tuesday, Brigman's office released the following statement:

“As some in our community may already be aware, I recently made a decision as Superintendent of Macon County Schools that has brought new leadership to one of our schools. Mr. Larry Brooks has assumed duties as Interim Principal at East Franklin Elementary School effective January 31, 2011, and I am very grateful to him for his willingness to once again give of himself and his time to our school system.

“The reasons behind this decision are the subject of an ongoing investigation, and North Carolina law requires that they remain strictly confidential. I am keeping members of our Board of Education generally informed of this matter. However, the personnel process requires that board members refrain from involvement, participation, or discussion of the matter at this time, pending the conclusion of my investigation.

“What I can share is that at this time is that this matter does not involve any criminal activity, nor does it involve any students of Macon County Schools. No improper conduct by any other party is suspected or being investigated at this time.”


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