UPDATE: Questions are still circulating in Walker County about a high school principal who will not be returning next year. Monday, school board members voted not to renew the contract of Lafayette High School Principal Mike Culberson. The decision came as a surprise to students and faculty members. Many are still wondering why his contract isn't being renewed.
Mike Culberson was at school Tuesday despite the school board's decision to let him go. The school resource officer directed Channel 3 to the superintendent who said this is not unusual: contracts are renewed or cut every year.
Students at Lafayette High School are still searching for answers. They want to know why principal Mike Culberson won't return in the fall. “He is back now, but he is leaving at the end of the year. I don't know why they are doing all this,” said Freshman Eric Martinez.
Monday night, the Walker County Board of Education voted 4-0 against renewing Culberson’s contract. Board members review contracts each year and vote on which ones will be renewed. “Not something that was out of the ordinary. Happened to be a name on there that wasn't receiving a contract next year,” said Superintendent Damon Raines. He said the rumors of Culberson losing his job for his role in breaking up a fight or disagreeing with the district's grading policy are untrue. He said it is a personnel issue and he cannot release the details. “It is like somebody having something to do with you at your work. They are not going to tell me why they are not renewing your contract of why they are not having you back. It is personnel related. Certain things I can't talk about.”
For some, they are okay with the school board's decision. They believe personnel issues shouldn't be taken lightly. “I don't know, I got my own personality too but, in the public you got to be different when you deal with people's children, stuff like that,” said James Person.
But students say they deserve an explanation and support a principal who has done so much. “He is real nice, makes it easy for us to be able to get good grades. It helps a lot,” said Martinez.
Mr. Culberson will finish the 2017 school year as principal.
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The Walker County School Board has decided to look for a new principal for LaFayette High School but a reason has not been made public.
The legal director for the Georgia Association of Educators, which is an advocacy group for teachers, said the school system asked Lafayette High School Principal Mike Culberson to leave on Friday.
It's unclear why.
The legal director for the organization tells me they're investigating to gather more info. They're trying to save his job. @WRCB— Cameron Taylor (@CameronWRCB) March 20, 2017
Some students and parents were rallying behind him hoping he'll be able to keep his job if it's in jeopardy.
The principal was noticeably absent from campus. It left many wondering what happened to Mike Culberson.
"It's real frustrating because we know him so well and the kids all love him," Sheila Evans, a grandparent said.
Sheila Evans considers herself a family friend and has a granddaughter in the 10th grade at the high school. She has more questions than answers at this point.
"My granddaughter's up here and we'd like to know what happened," Evans said.
In a video sent to Channel 3, there were dozens of students on the bleachers of the football field. They said it's their way of showing support for Culberson.
"I hope he stays principal," Evans said.
Walker County Schools Superintendent, Damon Raines, issued a statement on Monday:
"There have been no personnel changes in the administration at LaFayette High School. Mr. Mike Culberson is still the principal; however, he is not on campus today for personal reasons."
Channel 3 spoke with Culberson by phone on Monday and said that he had been advised by his attorney not to comment at this time.
Students, teachers and parents packed the Walker County school board meeting hoping to get more answers about the fate of their principal.
During its monthly meeting, school board members voted against renewing Culberson's contract for next year.
"Not offered contract for the next year, 2017-2018 and Mr. Culberson's name is listed there," said Supt. Raines.
"A personnel issue that has nothing to do with standards-based grading, I want to clarify that, there's nothing going on with standards-based grading. We're moving forward."
The superintendent said Culberson is still under contract for the remaining year and he's expected to be back in school Tuesday.
"We have a right to know why someone so special to all these kids is being, what we feel, is rail-roaded out of the school system," said father John Nixon, "If the school system is going to be run this way I'd consider pulling my children out and putting them somewhere else."