FLORA, Ind. (WLFI) - The Principal of Carroll Elementary School is not returning next year. The Carroll Consolidated School Board voted not to renew Amanda Redmon's contract at Tuesday night's meeting with a vote of four in favor of non-renewal, one opposed.
The 6 p.m. meeting was supposed to be held at the school corporation administration building, but so many people showed up in support of Redmon that the meeting had to be moved down the street to the high school auditorium.
"I was completely blindsided and I didn't see it coming," said Principal Redmon, who is in her eighth year as principal.
She said it all started last Thursday when Superintendent Keith Thackery scheduled a meeting after school with her. That's when she learned that the school board would determine whether or not to renew her contract in just five days time. Redmon said her contract has to be renewed every year, however it happens automatically unless something happens to warrant needing to evaluate its terms.
"I was told the decision to non-renew my contract is based on assessment data and that this was against the wishes of Superintendent Thackery," she said.
In an email, Superintendent Thackery declined the chance to comment on if this was his recommendation or not for privacy reasons.
The assessment data is now known as ILEARN. Governor Eric Holcomb and State Superintendent Jennifer McCormick have both voiced their support of a hold harmless on the first year of ILEARN scores. This means that schools and administrators should not be punished based on low scores. The hold harmless will be voted on in the 2020 legislative session.
According to data from the Indiana Department of Education, passing rates on standardized test has been on the decline for years, and ILEARN didn't perform any better. Redmon said Carroll Elementary's scores were middle-of-the-road compared to other schools across the state.
Judging Principal Redmon based on these scores goes against Indiana Code. IC 20-28-8-5 states that the evaluation of a principal's performance may not be based wholly on assessment data. Principal Redmon said she was not given any other reason for why her contract was being debated for renewal.
In addition, the Indiana School Board Association Code of Ethics states "a School Board member should maintain desirable relations with the superintendent of schools and other employees by acting only after consideration of the superintendent’s recommendations on matters of school governance.”
People said they were just as blind sided as Redmon by this decision.
"We were definitely disappointed," said Alesia Brown, a teacher at Carroll Elementary and the co-president for the local teachers union. "A lot of people are confused, we don't really understand what's happening, no one saw this coming."
Principal Redmon received a satisfactory performance review in October from Superintendent Thackery. She said she has gotten support from all over the community since this was announced, including parents rolling down windows to say so as they pick their kids up from school.
"It's been overwhelming and emotional to hear, especially from the students," said Redmon. "The teachers will talk about and the parents will talk about the culture that has been created there that we are there for students number one."
"Amanda is really special because she brings a really positive energy into our school," said Brown. "She has created a culture in our building that makes you want to come to work everyday."
After the school board made it's vote, the crowd of around 100 people stood in protest. At the end, the board allowed four people to speak on behalf of Redmon, however a fifth person decided they had to let their voice heard. Tamara Ogle's son jumped at the opportunity to speak on behalf of his principal.
"She is trustworthy and kind," he said into the microphone to the men at the big table.
"That's something that he never would have done a year ago," said Tamara.
Ogle and her husband moved their son to Carroll Elementary from another school district. Her son has an Individualized Education Plan, and she said at the previous school he was not doing well. But since coming to Carroll Elementary, she said he has flourished and his attitude about school has done a complete 180.
She said Principal Redmon was a deciding factor in deciding to switch to Carroll Elementary because of her focus on mental health.
"It's not always about the test scores," she said. "It's also about how we interact with each other, how we work together, those mental health resources and we have that at Carroll and we don't want to lose it."
"Everyone has been supportive, that makes me feel like I've been doing my job," said Redmon.
At the end of the meeting, News 18 did approach Superintendent Thackery and all the school board members to get their comment on the decision regarding Principal Redmon, they all declined the chance to comment. Board Member Eric Johnson was the only member to vote against ending Redmon's contract. Many of the audience members took the time to shake his hand and thank him after the meeting.