CHRISTIANSBURG — Several speakers, including parents, voiced their displeasure Tuesday night about some of the employment issues that have recently occurred at Blacksburg High School.
The comments, which were made to the Montgomery County School Board, came a day after Blacksburg High students staged a sit-in in response to the abrupt departure and replacement of principal Brian Kitts last week. The protest also aimed to raise concern about how Montgomery County Public Schools has communicated important employee matters.
The similarly abrupt departure of history teacher Bradley Kraft more than a month ago triggered a similar response from students and the community at large.
More than 200 people packed Tuesday’s school board meeting.
The board’s first meetings each month are usually more packed due to the fact that the school officials often use those events to hand out awards and recognitions to teachers and students. Most of the crowd that turned out Tuesday, however, remained after the recognitions.
Several speakers voiced support and praise for the principal.
“My children have had the privilege of having Mr. Kitts as their high school principal,” Blacksburg resident Sharon Duncan said. “I always felt welcomed to discuss my concerns with Mr. Kitts.”
Duncan said she always left meetings with the principal confident that he had her child’s best interest at heart, regardless of whether she completely agreed with him. Duncan also listed the names of several other current principals she said she could have settled with at Blacksburg High.
“The reason I could have settled … is they worked directly under the leadership and were mentored by Mr. Kitts,” she said before concluding her comment by voicing a wish to see Kitts reinstated.
Monday’s protest also involved the presentation of a list of five demands that the students asked Superintendent Mark Miear to accept. The demands, which Miear did in fact agree to meet, generally called for improved transparency in employee matters.
MCPS officials, citing personnel reasons, have disclosed few details on the cases concerning Kitts and Kraft. Students, parents and other community members have voiced disappointment with how the two issues were communicated.
The objective of the demands was reiterated to the board Tuesday by the three students who organized the protest.
Miear spoke about the plans to meet the requests and even added other efforts to remedy the issues, including the possible formation of a committee to review new school district policies. The superintendent said he would hope students, teachers and administrators could serve on such a committee.
Miear also invited MCPS human resources director Annie Whitaker to generally explain how the school district handles employee complaints.
School board member Mark Cherbaka said most, if not all, of his colleagues on the board are in agreement with Miear’s response to the demands.
“I appreciate you guys doing things in a constructive way,” Cherbaka said. “I am happy to hear you guys did have the sit down.”
One of the student demands that was emphasized Tuesday night is a call to ease the willingness of school employees to speak about issues that concern them.
Giovanni Mills, a Blacksburg High junior and one of the protest’s organizers, read out anonymous comments that he said came from teachers.
“One teacher stated, ‘I have little to no faith for central office staff,’ ” Mills said.
Mills said another teacher said that there’s a perception that the working environment is not safe in terms of job status.
Some parents maintained their displeasure over the issue with Kitts.
Blacksburg resident Jeri Elliott asked why Montgomery County Public Schools could not wait another three weeks to make the staffing change, referring to the upcoming graduation.
“Furthermore, if leadership did not anticipate the backlash and disruption … then they didn’t actively have their hand on the pulse of Blacksburg High School. We deserve better,” Elliott said.