Published: May 26, 2012 12:00 AM
Modified: May 25, 2012 04:58 PM
HILLSBOROUGH - Supporters of Armond Hankins, Orange High School’s principal for the past two years, are voicing their opposition to his demotion to assistant principal.
As of Friday, more than 140 people had signed an online petition created by Phyllis Mack Horton, mother of an Orange High freshman.
Many who signed the the petition praise Hankins’ leadership and cite a perception he was demoted because he is black, a charge that school board officials say is unwarranted.
Personnel recommendations are made by Superintendent Patrick Rhodes and are then voted on by the board.
“I just wanted to reach out to the community and make sure they have a voice,” Horton said in an interview. “I’m really hoping they [the school board] will reverse their decision.”
In an email, Hankins confirmed the demotion, effective June 30.
“I have not been offered a contract to continue as principal of Orange High School next year,” Hankins wrote. “I was offered a contract as an assistant principal at an unknown location next year. As things stand today, I have no intention of accepting the demotion to assistant principal.”
Horton said Thursday she learned of Hankins’ demotion a few weeks before from a staff member.
“I was really shocked,” she said. “I just know he’s had a lot of accomplishments … and all these things equate to a successful administration.”
Hankins, who previously worked as an educator in California, was Orange High’s assistant principal from 2008 until his promotion to principal in 2010.
The petition cites academic improvement during Hankins’ tenure, which Hankins reiterated in his email, in which he makes his own case to continue as principal.
“We went from being just a regular school to a School of Distinction in my first year, and the year that followed we reached School of Distinction with High Growth status,” Hankins wrote. “SAT scores were up, suspension numbers were cut in half, and dropouts were reduced.”
Hankins said he’s choosing not to discuss the reasons he was given for the demotion except to say “I do not believe they were accurate or justifiable.”
The petition, meanwhile, suggests race may have played a factor. For example, Alton Tyre of Cedar Grove writes: “This action feeds into the perception that Orange County Schools are doing little to recruit and retain minority administrators and teachers.”
The school board released a statement Friday to the Chapel Hill News that denies race was a factor in his demotion. It reads, in part:
“The school system has a uniform and fair process for evaluating principals. … As performance evaluations are confidential under applicable law, the school system is not at liberty to share the rationale for any particular personnel decision, including the decision to offer Mr. Hankins a four-year contract as an assistant principal upon the expiration of his current contract on June 30, 2012. Mr. Hankins’ race had absolutely nothing to do with the decision.”
In a letter to The Chapel Hill News, school board Chairwoman Donna Coffey wrote that 16 percent of Orange County students are black, while 38 percent of administrators and 21 percent of teachers are black.
“Recruiting and retaining educators of color has been a longstanding goal of our Raising Achievement and Closing the Gap Committee,” Coffey wrote.
The online petition urged supporters of Hankins to attend the next school board meeting, which occurred Tuesday night, after the Chapel Hill News deadline.
The petition supporting Hankins can be found at http://chn.ge/JCvtDJ