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Who’s in Charge?

The County Record investigates the real story behind the termination of BHS Principal Duane Barber. After three years at Blountstown High School, Duane Barber is packing up his office after being terminated. His stint at the school was longer than most in recent years, with the average stay two years for various reasons. So why is Barber not being asked back? That was the question The County Record posed this week to Barber, Superintendent Tommy McClellan, and School Board members. “Morale was low at the school and I just didn’t feel like people felt the school was friendly and accommodating,” says Superintendent McClellan. He says he got along fine with Barber, but adds, “I try to listen to a lot of people.” When asked if the decision was politically motivated, McClellan responds, “I didn’t take Duane out of there to get votes.” Barber agreed to share with The County Record a letter he sent to McClellan, Assistant Superintendent Vicki Davis, and School Board members. In it, he explains he was directed upon being hired for the BHS principal post by former Superintendent Mary Sue Neves to make student discipline his top priority. Taking that need seriously, Barber used the Student Code of Conduct and Discipline as his guide and says he stuck to it consistently. “We do this in order to make sure all students are treated fairly and firmly, regardless of who they are,” he remarks. “When we deal with discipline issues with students, there can be times that the parents don’t agree with the punishment handed down. This is the reason that we feel it is a must to follow the guidelines as set forth by school board policy. Both administrators and students know fully what the consequences are for their actions when an infraction occurs. They know we are consistent in our expectations for good behavior and we will not tolerate inappropriate actions without correcting them by following the Code of Conduct.” Sounds simple enough – the School Board makes the rules, the principal follows them. However, Barber soon learned that’s not always the case. School Board members are often presented with a call to vote on whether or not to uphold their own policies. For details from Barber’s letter, check out our print edition this week.

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