Reese Road parents, teachers object to principal recommendation

Reese Road Leadership Academy parents and teachers have barraged Muscogee County School Board members with emails and phone calls to protest the school district administration passing over interim principal Jacqueline Flakes for the full-time job.

They say their objection isn't against interim superintendent John Phillips' recommendation of Pam McCoy, the district's Title I program director. Rather, they contend Flakes also is qualified -- and already has done an excellent job in the position since Jeanella Pendleton retired Nov. 30.

Tammy Yancey, the Reese Road PTA vice president for fundraising, explained the calming effect Flakes has had during an otherwise tumultuous school year.

"This year has been very different for the kids," she said. "When they came back (from summer vacation), they had a new secretary, a new assistant principal and a new counselor. So all of their main people were new, except Mrs. Pendleton.

"Then when it was announced that Mrs. Pendleton was retiring, it was like on a Wednesday, and Friday she was gone."

A week later, the new secretary resigned to take another job, Yancey said.

"But Dr. Flakes has stepped in and hasn't missed a beat," she said. "She's been greeting kids, greeting parents. She still made sure everything was manned up front and no calls were missed. She practically was doing it by herself."

Yancey also praised Flakes for her reaction to the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn. She brought in the U.S. Army Marksmanship Unit, a Partner in Education with the school, to talk with students and ease their fears. She communicated with parents and implemented new safety procedures.

Flakes did all this without an assistant principal, because she was in that position since July, when the board approved her appointment as a shared assistant principal with Wesley Heights Elementary.

"She's just earned a lot of respect," Yancey said. "The kids like her. They're comfortable with her. She is very visible."

Phillips allowed school representatives to meet with McCoy last week, but the decision already seemed to be made, said Jeff Yancey, Tammy's husband, who was one of the two parents at the meeting.

"I wouldn't consider it an interview, because that would be an opportunity for us to give a thumbs-up or thumbs-down," he said, adding that Phillips wouldn't say why McCoy was chosen over Flakes. " Dr. Phillips made it very clear that this was just a courtesy to us. He was set on Mrs. McCoy."

Flakes is the wife of the Rev. J.H. Flakes III, pastor of Fourth Street Missionary Baptist Church, one of the county's most prominent congregations.

During the school board's work session Monday, several board members voiced their opinions about the issue.

Beth Harris of District 8, the board's personnel committee chairwoman, read a prepared statement. She insisted board members aren't involved in personnel decisions; they simply see the recommendation and can approve or reject it.

"I have no reason to deem the process flawed," Harris said. "Therefore, I cannot vote with good conscience against the recommendation."

Reese Road is one of the schools represented by school board vice chairwoman Pat Hugley Green of District 1. Hugley Green also happens to be the Reese Road PTA president, so she is caught in the middle and didn't reveal how she would vote next Monday.

"I am just very appreciative of the positiveness of all of the parents who reached out and all of the faculty," she said.

Cathy Williams, the nine-member board's lone county-wide representative, said, "I take public input very, very seriously. This is coming from the taxpayers in this county that make the magic that happens in our classrooms possible."

Naomi Buckner of District 4 asked Phillips whether he considers public opinion about personnel decisions.

"Yes, I do consider what input comes to me, whether it be administrators or teachers or parents," Phillips said. "In the final analysis, I walk alone."

Phillips said he seeks the best result for children, not necessarily adults. He wouldn't critique the candidates in public, but he defended choosing McCoy.

"I can tell you that she is in the top 2 percent of outstanding administrators," he said. "In any job she's been asked to do, whether she liked the job or didn't like the job, she's been exemplary.

"I can think of no one in my career who has impressed me more than Pam McCoy."