Rumors unfounded

Published 6:18 pm Thursday, March 10, 2016

GATESVILLE – The now former principal of Central Middle School here is not under investigation, nor has he been suspended or disciplined.

Instead, much to the dismay of his students and staff, James Woods is leaving to accept an administrative position within Gates County Public Schools (GCPS) at its main office in Gatesville.

GCPS Superintendent Dr. Barry Williams said on Thursday that Woods had requested that he be placed in consideration for the position of Curriculum and Support Specialist.

“That position just recently became open due to the resignation of our former Curriculum and Support Specialist,” Dr. Williams stated. “Mr. Woods sent me a written request showing interest in that position. I responded by telling him that he was extremely qualified to work in that position, but I didn’t like to move a principal during the school year.”

Williams said Woods asked could he take a few days off to think about changing positions.

“He needed some time to reflect on this important move in his career,” Williams said. “On one hand was the fact that he is doing an excellent job as a principal and is admired and respected by his students and staff. On the other hand is a chance to move up the ladder in educational administration. He had a tough decision to make.”

However, things got a bit messy when a Virginia TV station reported that Woods had been placed on administrative leave for 30 days. That report went on to state that parents said Woods was escorted off the school property last Friday (March 4).

The TV news story also cited another county official (not associated with the school system) saying that Woods was under investigation for alleged misconduct, but it was not a criminal matter.

Williams said none of that information is true.

“There is no investigation; there was never anything that came out of my mouth about Mr. Woods being suspended or escorted off the school campus,” Williams stressed. “This story got blown way out of proportion.

“Mr. Woods has done nothing wrong, not unless you consider wanting to be considered for a promotion and attempting to better yourself in life as wrong,” he added.

As for the TV news report saying that the Superintendent would not answer their questions of why Woods was on leave from the school, Williams said that boiled down to a matter of trust between he and Woods.

“I didn’t share any information until he (Woods) decided to take this new job,” Williams said. “He wanted it to be kept quiet until he made a decision one way or the other, and I honored that request.”

Williams said Woods began his new duties on Wednesday.

“We welcome him in this new position,” Williams said. “I can understand the frustration of the parents of our middle school students being kept in the dark over this issue, but as I’ve already stated, it was Mr. Woods who asked to be allowed some time off to weigh his career options and it was also his decision to keep this quiet until he made up his mind to either accept this new challenge in his career or remain as a principal. This was a tough decision for him to make and I personally know that it weighed heavily on him.

“The kids at Central love him, and still do,” Williams continued. “I met with the kids on Wednesday at the school gym. I asked all of them what grade did they want to be in next year: the sixth graders said the seventh grade; the seventh graders said the eighth grade; and the eighth graders said at the high school. I asked them how they would feel if that promotion was denied and they were not allowed to advance one grade. If Mr. Woods wanted a promotion and I denied him, even though he was qualified to advance, then that would be wrong on my part. Mr. Woods had a desire to take his talent to another level and make a change, and even though I do not like to move principals during a school year, I put that aside because I felt the time was right to allow him to make this career move.”

Williams said that parallel to an exit interview, Woods asked the Superintendent if he would speak to the staff at Central Middle School to evaluate his effectiveness.

“I honored his request and discovered that every teacher commented Mr. Woods cares about the students more than they have ever observed. He is focused on building relationships with the students and I noticed he will fill his office cabinet with snacks for students who didn’t bring money for lunch or has to stay after school for remediation or sporting events,” Williams noted.

Woods initially served as assistant principal at Central Middle School from 2012-2014. He was promoted to principal in 2014.

“Mr. Woods has worked extremely hard to strive for continuous improvement,” Williams said. “He is very keen and dialed in on building relationships with his students. As an athlete and professional baseball scout, Mr. Woods uses athletics as a carrot to help students build character and self-esteem. He also realizes not all students participate in sports, but all students have a talent. Theses talents range from the arts – poetry, art, music to spelling bees, mathematical/science and technology concepts to the history of the world. He also serves as the softball coach for the Lady Vikings.”

Woods thanked Williams for his support throughout his career in Gates County.

“He (Williams) is the best mentor and coach I have ever had to help me grow and learn as an administrator,” Woods stated. “He will give up all his time to provide strategies and suggestions, which help me make better decisions.

“Most principals get an annual evaluation report with numerous recommendations – which are overwhelming and rarely make any difference,” Woods continued. “Dr. Williams has a far more effective approach by giving principals bite-sized feedback, one item at a time, throughout the year. Dr. Williams told me, ‘growth does not come through elaborate rubrics, it comes from small, easily applied changes’.”

As for the inaccurate information concerning his departure from Central Middle School, Woods has this to say, “People have reported false allegations and made innuendos concerning my administrative leave. It really damages and hurts an employee’s reputation by reporting information that is not based on facts. I just hope this story is printed because this is the truth.”

Williams said for the remainder of the current school year, Chante Jordan, the Exceptional Children’s Director, will serve Central Middle as interim principal. Meanwhile, Trisha Walton will continue to serve the school as assistant principal.

About Cal Bryant

Cal Bryant, a 40-year veteran of the newspaper industry, serves as the Editor at Roanoke-Chowan Publications, publishers of the Roanoke-Chowan News-Herald, Gates County Index, and Front Porch Living magazine.

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