MESSENGER FILE PHOTO of John Monds
A small delegation of African-American citizens led by John Monds appeared before the Grady County Board of Education Tuesday night to question the reassignment of former Washington Middle School principal Derrick McCoy and the hiring process for his replacement.
McCoy served as the WMS principal from October 2018 until April 9 when Grady County School Superintendent Dr. Kermit Gilliard recommended and the Grady County Board of Education voted 4-1 to transfer him to the central office as administrative assistant to the superintendent.
The board also accepted the recommendation of Dr. Gilliard to hire Michael Best as the new WMS principal. Best, who has served as the principal of the Baker County K-12 School in Newton for the last two years, is a 21-year veteran of the Grady County School System having previously served as a classroom teacher at WMS and later as an assistant principal at Cairo High School.
Monds told the school board members Tuesday night that he and some colleagues had spoken with school system administrators, staff and parents in an attempt to gain insight into what was going on at Washington Middle School.
“The previous principal was highly qualified and that is not in dispute,” Monds said. However, Monds said that McCoy’s future soured with a “small minority” of WMS teachers and parents of WMS students when he attempted to implement changes designed to improve the school.
“This lead to staff threatening to leave and parents threatening to move their kids,” Monds said. He also noted that in investigating the matter he and his associates had determined that McCoy had support from other members of the WMS faculty and staff, but he acknowledged they had not been brave enough to speak publicly.
Monds said that there were also reports of issues with discipline at the school under McCoy’s leadership, but Monds argued that McCoy had been there only a short time and without a year’s worth of data to compare there could be no comparisons of data related to discipline at this point.
Monds also said he and his group had questions about the process for the hiring of McCoy’s replacement. He said that Dr. Gilliard had violated board policy in not advertising the vacancy before hiring a replacement.
“He had said he would get some legal advice on this, but we’ve never heard back from him,” Monds said.
The leader of the delegation said that the board should not have allowed “such a small group to have such a big impact.” Monds also questioned why a board member who has children enrolled at Washington who are taught by one of the teachers allegedly to have had issues with McCoy did not recuse himself from any votes regarding McCoy’s transfer or the hiring of a new WMS principal. While not referring to him directly, Board member Derrick Majors is the only board member who still has school-aged children.
Monds said he and other concerned citizens were requesting the board reconsider this issue and he thanked the board for being able to share their concerns with board members as well as the community.
The board met with Dr. Gilliard in a closed door session for approximately 40 minutes Tuesday night, but no action was taken as a result of the closed session.
McCoy, a native of Richland, Ga., came to Grady County having most recently served as principal of West Rowan Middle School in Salisbury, North Carolina. He had been principal there since 2015. Three years previously he served as principal of Spring Lake Middle School.