August 2, 2008

Principal Named at Carrboro High

By Anna Kim, The Herald-Sun, Durham, N.C.

Aug. 2--CHAPEL HILL -- A closed session held by the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education Thursday evening brought an end to the search for Carrboro High School's new principal.

Kelly Batten, the current assistant principal of Leesville Road High School in Wake County, was named the new principal at Carrboro.

"The only thing one can say is that he would best suit the needs for the school," said Hazel Gibbs, executive director of human resources. "That really is all there is to say."

Prior to Batten's tenure at Leesville Road High School, he taught at Wake County's Sanderson High School as a social studies teacher.

The new principal received his bachelor of arts degree in secondary education from UNC, in addition to two master's degrees.

Those degrees include one in secondary education while the other is in school administration. Batten was also a North Carolina Teacher Fellow and Principal Fellow.

"I believe that Carrboro High School students, parents and staff will find Mr. Batten to be well-grounded in what it takes to run a high school as well as an enthusiastic cheerleader for the school," said Superintendent Neil Pedersen in a statement. "His friendly, personal style will promote unity and trust among all parties."

Unity was noticeably absent in the reassignment of the high school's former principal Jeff Thomas, whom Batten will replace.

Thomas' resignation from the district was accepted by the board on July 17.

He was reassigned to the central office after serving as principal of Carrboro High for two years, the first during planning stages before the school opened.

The decision was met with speculation and rumors when a volunteer committee began interviewing candidates.

"For legal reasons, I cannot discuss specific reasons for Mr. Thomas' reassignment," Superintendent Neil Pedersen said in an e-mail in July. "After acquiring information from a variety of sources, I concluded that Carrboro High School needed a different leader."

One indicator of the need for new leadership may have been the 2008 staff climate survey, which was conducted in January across the district.

The survey revealed that 63 percent of Carrboro High teachers reported they either disagreed or strongly disagreed that "there is an atmosphere of mutual trust and respect in this school" regarding leadership there.

However, the decision to accept Thomas' resignation elicited mixed feedback from the community, teachers, students and staff, Pedersen said in an interview in July.

In the month prior, rumors circulated about Thomas' possible reassignment, which led eight of the nine department chairs to seek out Pedersen to say that "the last four months of the year -- 40 percent of the entire school year -- had been better," Pat Lewis, a former English department chairwoman at Carrboro High, told the Herald Sun.

Nevertheless, it appears that Carrboro High School and CHCCS administration are ready to move in a new direction with Batten at the helm.

"Carrboro High School had many successes in its inaugural year, and I expect the school to build upon these positive steps this year," Pedersen said.

Batten could not be reached for comment Friday.


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