The principal at Stanback Middle School, criticized for her handling of the Orange County Schools’ first middle-school gay-straight alliance, has resigned effective Nov. 30.
Gay-straight alliances connect LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) students with supporters to fight discrimination based on sexual orientation and gender identity. Both of the Orange County district’s high schools, Cedar Ridge and Orange, have GSAs.
Worries about parents’ reactions, among other concerns, prompted Principal Gloria Jones to delay approval of the club for two years. She allowed it to meet late last school year.
But a change at Stanback this year requires the middle school GSA and a dozen other clubs to meet after school, forcing members to find rides home instead of taking buses.
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Jones, who has been principal since 2010, did not say why she is leaving.
Tuesday night Maurice Boswell, the district’s interim chief human resources officer, held an information session at the school to hear what qualities parents, students, and staff want in a new principal. Responses included compassion, approachability, energy, transparency, and energy. One parent commented that the school under Jones was a “very, very toxic environment” so there is “deep healing that needs to take place.”
Stephanie Rogers, the parent of an eighth-grade student who is not in the GSA, said “several excellent teachers left the school because they were upset about the way the school administration handled the formation of the GSA club last year.”
Nine teachers left Stanback over the summer, and 36 have left in the past five years, district spokesman Seth Stephens said. He said teachers have resigned or retired across North Carolina and did not know whether those numbers were high for Orange County or how they compared to departures before Jones.
Elizabeth Vallero, last year’s GSA adviser, said she did not know of “anyone that left because they had a problem with (Stanback) having a GSA” or “anyone that left solely because of complications surrounding the GSA.”
‘Value and worth’
Supporters were inspired to start a GSA in May 2012 after seeing middle-school students at Carolina Friends School, a nearby private school, establish a similar club.
“We went to the administration to ask for this club,” said English teacher Meredith Newlin. “She (Jones) said she would run it by the superintendent. … She came to us a few days later and said that the superintendent said no because there might be some parent backlash.”
Stephens said he was not in his position two years ago and did not know what the superintendent at that time said. He did say that decisions on when clubs meet are made at the individual school level.
Newlin left Stanback last year after teaching there for three years and now teaches at Orange High School. She said she hopes “all students are made to feel welcome, no matter who they are… Every student has value and worth.”
Stephens said the GSA had six or seven students when it began meeting this year and thinks the number is in the “double digits” now.