Daily Independent (Ashland, KY)

May 18, 2013

Wurtland parents angry over principal's demotion

By MIKE JAMES
The Independent

LLOYD — A number of parents are hopping mad that Wurtland Elementary School principal Barbara Cook has been demoted and plan to confront the school board about it Monday.



The parents met Friday in Lloyd to discuss strategy and settled on circulating petitions and writing testimonials to the board about Cook, who they call a caring, effective and highly professional leader.



Cook, who was not at the meeting and who the parents say did not prompt them to organize their campaign, was demoted last week by Superintendent Steve Hall.



Parents learned of the demotion from a letter Cook sent home with students. A parent supplied a copy of the letter to The Independent.



According to Cook’s letter to parents, Hall didn’t provide her a reason for the demotion. She said in the letter she plans to contest the demotion.



“We were angry when we heard about it because there was no reason for the demotion,” said Nancy Poplin, whose two sons attend Wurtland.



Hall declined to comment and referred questions to James W. Lyon Jr., the district’s attorney.



Lyon would not provide specific information why Cook was demoted but said it pertained to inefficiency and ineffectiveness, two grounds under which a superintendent may demote administrators.



He said it was not related to wrongdoing.



The demotion takes effect at the end of the school year, which is Tuesday.



There were about a dozen parents at the meeting, many of whom live in areas where children normally are assigned to other elementaries but who enrolled their children at Wurtland because Cook is principal there.



They praised her rapport with children and her firm handling of school matters. “My child is at Wurtland because of Ms. Cook. She’s there for the kids. You’ll never see a child that will back away from her ... kids run to this woman,” said April Stephens, mother of a first-grader.



“I’ve never walked in her office with an issue that she hasn’t helped me with,” Stephens said. “She’s the boss. She’s an effective leader. The teachers are great because of her.”



The parents agreed to sign the petitions and circulate them among other parents, and to write laudatory letters to the board. They plan to attend the school board meeting Monday with anecdotes and evidence of Cook’s leadership and air some of their grievances with the board.



The meeting will be at Greenup County High School and starts at 6 p.m.



MIKE JAMES can be reached at mjames@dailyindependent.com or (606) 326-2652.