FIRST ON 3: West Brunswick High School principal quits over students’ graduation eligibility


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Submitted: Fri, 06/13/2014 - 6:42pm
Updated: Sat, 06/14/2014 - 2:24pm
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BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) — West Brunswick High School’s principal has resigned in an apparent dispute with school district leaders over the eligibility of students to participate in the school’s graduation ceremony tomorrow.

Teachers say it was an emotional day at west brunswick high 130 faculty and staff gathered Friday afternoon giving Ahrens a standing ovation as he walked in the cafeteria.
One teacher told us
Principal Ahrens handed in his letter of resignation to superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden after a disagreement over the school’s attendance policy in regard to walking at graduation.

Representatives from the school board say, some students found out yesterday they wouldn’t be able to walk at graduation but Ahrens says they’ve known all year.

“We actually paid someone on a budget to stay on a Tuesday, on a thursday and the AP’s shifted on a Saturday morning,” Ahrens said.

Ahrens said he gave at risk students three days a week to make up for their absenteeism over the past semester.

As soon as they had made up the missed days, they’d get their diploma.

The students actual graduation from West Brunswick High School was never in question, only their participation in the ceremony.
“That’s the important part … It doesn’t matter what day you get the diploma,” Ahrens said.

The Brunswick County school board overruled Ahrens Friday, deciding to allow the 18 students in question to participate on graduation day Saturday.

Brunswick County Schools spokeswoman Jessica Swenski says, “There is no attendance requirement specified in that state law or in board policy.”

However, the standing state and school policy says students missing more than eight days will be given a failing grade and in turn, unable to graduate.

While these 18 students did miss more than eight days, they had not received an failing grade.

Ahrens says they want their students to succeed and state requirements for school and teacher evaluations are encouraging teachers to allow students to make up work.

“There’s pressure on me, there’s pressure on our teachers, there’s pressure on our whole district,” Ahrens said. “We’ve created our own broken system.”

West Brunswick has implemented an entire absentee committee that calls parents when students don’t show up for school, but junior Alex Clarida says students have found a way around that by giving the school their own number. That way, the calls never actually make it to the parents.

Ahrens says he has seen a growing trend in absenteeism at West Brunswick. “I think it’s directly related to us as principals allowing kids to walk with high absentee rates,” Ahrens said.

School system reps says this ordeal has brought light to the fact, while they do have an attendance policy, they need to examine it and strive for consistency in the procedures for each of the schools.

55 Comments

  • WBHSmom says:

    Gina Sullivan you are a complete hypocrite! You say it’s not the school’s responsibility to call the parents to let them know that their child has missed school, but yet when your very own son “ditched” school with some of other kids earlier this semester you were the 1st person to call the school to snitch on all the kids including your own! That ended up back firing on you now didn’t it!

    State and Federal requirement is: Must have a minimum of 185 days OR 1,025 hours of instruction. If the kids meet the State requirement there should be no reason not to let them walk. Brunswick County Schools attend clases longer than what is require by both the State and Federal Government. There was actually no need to make up the ice days this year. As much as these kids go to school each year and with NO real breaks throughout the course of the day or throughout the year at that; the kids are going to get burned out faster! The county has no one to blame but themselves. I believe it was in the best interest of WBHS that Mr. Ahrens stepped down anyway. You don’t transfer people from school to school if they are not meeting expectations. In fact the school district needs to clean house with all WBHS lead administration. The philosophy of kids are meant to been seen and not heard is not the right way to run a school at any grade level. I believe that the Brunswick County School Board needs to look into the attendance policy as a whole. I believe that excused and unexcused absents should not be lumped together and that only unexcused absents need to count against the kids.

  • Du says:

    Another Pruden fiasco. Another call to FIRE Pruden.

  • Jonathan says:

    Lashonda,
    The students did NOT make up the missed days. That is the point of not allowing them to participate in graduation. There were many students who did make up the missed time, but the 18 who refused to make up the time that they missed are receiving the consequence that they were made aware of weeks ago! If the students did not make up the time they could not walk. They did not make up the time, so they should not walk. The board of education’s decision here completely undermined Mr. Ahrens. What a crying shame!

  • Jonathan says:

    If these students had finished all the requirements at the end of the fall semester, they should have graduated in January when the semester ended. Schools would still allow them to participate in the ceremony today. This would have allowed the students to work as much as they wanted and have no obligation to the school during the entire Spring Semester. There are options for students do have completed their requirements. Unfortunately, some students want to be able to work when they want and hang out at school when they want. You cant have it both ways. If a students is going to be a student they have to be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. This is the only way a school can maintain safety for all students and faculty.

  • vaps says:

    He was always mean to people and told some people that the looked uneducated so how was that right

  • Bob says:

    They did not make up the days…read the article. You could use a few more semesters yourself by the way.

  • Guest000000 says:

    the school board needs changing, but not for switching back to the staggered schedule. They need to be changed for voting to do something that they had no way to pay for.

  • Local teacher says:

    Are you an idiot? Was your child one who would not be able to walk? Any parent who continually makes excusses for their child to get around the rules will eventually end up reaping what you have sown and visiting your child in prison. It is a parents responsibility to teach your child how to be an honest and productive member of society. School is to teach them acadenics. If you truly feel this way and are not just making excusses then I feel sorry for your child because they are being raised by a complete idiot!

  • Bob says:

    Or, if you know the rules, you abide by them. Of course he was doing his job.

  • Bob says:

    Speaking of graduation, I can’t believe the writer of this article graduated. Basic writing skills (capitalization, punctuation) are not evident. Amazing that these articles are published without anyone checking them. More amazing if someone claims to have checked them first.

    Example before I quit reading:

    “Teachers say it was an emotional day at west brunswick high 130 faculty and staff gathered Friday afternoon giving Ahrens a standing ovation as he walked in the cafeteria.”

    Looks like a 6th grade D student wrote it.

  • Guest2020 says:

    He was doing his job by enforcing the rules. There are more than just academic requirements for graduation. You are required to be there a certain number of days and allowed only a certain number of absences. If those absences are due to extenuating circumstances, then exceptions should be made. If the absences are because the student just doesn’t feel the need to follow the rules, then they should not be allowed to walk with the rest of the students who met all requirements and followed the rules.

  • Southern Child says:

    This type of stuff happens all the time in every school and school system. Students and parents are informed of the rules, and when the rules are enforced, they go to the school board and have the consequence overturned. I have been reading with interest the discussions on teacher tenure. This is precisely why tenure is needed. Teachers and principals cannot enforce the rules without angry parents going to the board to get what they want. And weak boards capitulate. The situation is similar in charter schools where staff can be let go on any whim–even because they make too much money and management wants to divert that money elsewhere. I suggest that school boards and management entities are more of a problem than so called weak teachers and principals. The only reason the media knows about this incidence is the principal quit and someone notified the media. Most teachers and principals do not have the financial means to quit or risk being let go. Now without tenure and in the charter schools with no due process, they have no choice but to go along. Who is at fault? We all are.

  • Gina Sullivan says:

    He was doing his job!!!!! Shame on you parents who are not involved in your child’s missed days. Check your parent portal and it will show how many days your child has missed. It’s not the school responsibility to call any parent to let them know that their child has missed 3 or more days. You had them, so do your job and make sure they are doing theirs. Be their parent and not their friend.

  • Phyllis Maybe says:

    Real simple. Have them switch jobs.
    Our School systems need Superintendents with the courage to make the right decisions. I suspect the Superintendent in this case has not spent much time in a High School classroom LATELY. This Principal could teach this superintendent quite a few things it would appear. Sometimes the right decision ruffles some feathers, but sometimes feathers need to be ruffled. Outstanding Job by the Principal. The Board should not accept his resignation and support his stand. The Board should do the right thing.

  • Lucy says:

    Sorry guys…. Wrong pole question. It should read, Was the superintendent wrong to intervene by overruling the principals policy ?

  • jaimee says:

    Uhm if you worked for 4 years and earned every credit you would be mad. And you dont know personal situations that students go through so he did his job but so did the students

  • Steve says:

    This is absurd. These students didn’t just miss one or two days. Clearly there is more to the issue than is being shared. Shame on the school board and the news media for making Principal Ahrens look like he’s the one at fault. The principal did exactly as he should. What is his job if not to make sure the quality and standards of our education are kept intact? This is horrifically unfair not only to Principal Ahrens but also the students who DID put in their time.
    I am thoroughly disappointed in our school board.

  • Yaniah Gore says:

    These students were not permitted to graduate although they have made up their time and have done the work needed to graduate. There are many reasons a child can be absent from school, some which don’t get approved by the school. Most of the people defending Ahrens just want extra tickets for their own children, while the angry parents don’t get tickets at all. I say the parents have a right to be angry and graduation should be canceled until the school board finds a place big enough to hold all students’ families.

  • Lashonda Gore says:

    The 18 students for clarification miss days, made them up but were not allowed to attend their graduation ceremony. What do you say to child who has missed time but worked hard to make it up, but not allowed to graduate that is wrong by any rule book. if they cannot graduate then what is the point in having them to make up the days.

  • AG says:

    It seems like we are not getting all the details of this story. Many of these seniors may have had all the credits and classes necessary to graduate by the second semester of their senior year and chose to work instead of sitting in the library doing a whole lot of nothing while they waited for the school year to finish. If this is the case the attendance is not necessary and should not be held against them. They deserve to graduate on stage with their class as much as the ones that get credits to the last minute. If they have severe absences with classes, how do they pass those classes in order to graduate at all? Without details, nobody can have an opinion about these kids.

  • Martha Myers says:

    I support Mr. Ahrens decision 100% and applaud him for attempting to uphold policy. Why have a written policy regarding attendance, or anything else, if it is not going to be followed. What message are we sending students? To not allow the students to graduate would have been unfortunate, but life is full of consequences for rules not followed. What happens when these same students enter the world of work and they miss excessive days……they are fired! I wish only the best for Mr. Ahrens in his future outside of Brunswick County. And people wonder why so many teachers have left Brunswick County??

  • Martha Myers says:

    I support Mr. Ahrens decision 100% and applaud him for attempting to uphold policy. Why have a written policy regarding attendance, or anything else, if it is not going to be followed. What message are we sending students? To not allow the students to graduate would have been unfortunate, but life is full of consequences for rules not followed. What happens when these same students enter the world of work and they miss excessive days……they are fired! I wish only the best for Mr. Ahrens in his future outside of Brunswick County. And people wonder why so many teachers have left Brunswick County??

  • Dylan says:

    I am a student at West Brunswick. He does not have the right to keep them from walking at graduation. If you complete your work and pass the qualifications to graduate you should be able to walk down at graduation because not only did you go through 4 years of hard work. You did it without having to go to school as much as the others which also shows that you have an advantage in learning more quickly than other students. No he was not doing his job.

  • hambone says:

    He was and will always be an amazing principal. .I know I’ve worked for him

  • Michelle Cochran says:

    In my opinion we need to get rid of this school board and elect all new members. We need a strong board that will stand up and follow the rules. This board cannot even stand by a decision they made about changing back to traditional school times they rescinded their earlier decision about going back. I am worried about what is going to become of the high school now.

  • We can do better than this! says:

    I absolutely agree with Brock Ahrens, WBHS Principal! Shame on you Dr. Pruden for not supporting your administration’s attempt to enforce the rules…no wonder so many teenagers have an entitlement mentality.

  • Dewey says:

    As a former NC school employee I think the state requires 1k contact/attendance hours for a student each year. Students are usually given a 10 day grace for such things as sickness. Anything short of this they are supposed to make it up. Now, there are circumstances where a student cannot meet this requirement, such as, for major sickness. Even then the student can take advantage of home-schooling and even on-line studies. But when a student is absent for some other reason the school system administration should toe the line. But due to politics/parental pressure they give in and change any decision the principal/teacher makes following the same rules the administration has put on paper. Its a stupid parent that does not know their child has missed more than the 10 days allowed. This goes to further shine a light on the problems with the educational system nation wide. I am a firm believer that the problem is not the teacher/principals that causes students to fail. “We have the most money put into public education ever, we have the best facilities ever, we have the best and most materials, we have the most and best trained teaching force ever, we have made education available in abundance to anyone who wants it” then one must ask themself where does the problem lie! There is an old saying “Look about when in doubt.” That’s right look about and you will see what the major problem is. This situation at WBHS, and they are not alone by no means, shows you just where the problem lies….the local administration,state & national governments, and parents. Teachers can only train what they get from home and if there is no desire on the part of the student to show up and do the work required/study then the teacher is beating their head against the wall. Why arn’t these parents being held accountable for their children not being where they are suppose to be…in school.
    Shame on you Mr. Superintendent…just perhaps you should be fired for not following board policy. And any school board member who does not support the principal of WBHS should hang your head in disgrace and resign immediately. Just remember this goes on all around Brunswick County. Just to let you know I am a retired teacher who faced many problems from the administration I worked for. I believe in basically following the rules, but when your try to get student to work with you and they will not then let them face the music!

  • Dewey says:

    As a former NC school employee I think the state requires 1k contact/attendance hours for a student each year. Students are usually given a 10 day grace for such things as sickness. Anything short of this they are supposed to make it up. Now, there are circumstances where a student cannot meet this requirement, such as, for major sickness. Even then the student can take advantage of home-schooling and even on-line studies. But when a student is absent for some other reason the school system administration should toe the line. But due to politics/parental pressure they give in and change any decision the principal/teacher makes following the same rules the administration has put on paper. Its a stupid parent that does not know their child has missed more than the 10 days allowed. This goes to further shine a light on the problems with the educational system nation wide. I am a firm believer that the problem is not the teacher/principals that causes students to fail. “We have the most money put into public education ever, we have the best facilities ever, we have the best and most materials, we have the most and best trained teaching force ever, we have made education available in abundance to anyone who wants it” then one must ask themself where does the problem lie! There is an old saying “Look about when in doubt.” That’s right look about and you will see what the major problem is. This situation at WBHS, and they are not alone by no means, shows you just where the problem lies….the local administration,state & national governments, and parents. Teachers can only train what they get from home and if there is no desire on the part of the student to show up and do the work required/study then the teacher is beating their head against the wall. Why arn’t these parents being held accountable for their children not being where they are suppose to be…in school.
    Shame on you Mr. Superintendent…just perhaps you should be fired for not following board policy. And any school board member who does not support the principal of WBHS should hang your head in disgrace and resign immediately. Just remember this goes on all around Brunswick County. Just to let you know I am a retired teacher who faced many problems from the administration I worked for. I believe in basically following the rules, but when your try to get student to work with you and they will not then let them face the music!!!!!

  • Kay says:

    Well….WHY should a student be TOLD they have excessive absences? Aren’t they the ones that skipped the classes….therefore they should know. Not to mention Brunswick county has a program available to EVERY parent that allows you to see what your childs grade is on a DAILY basis as well as attendance. SO….QUIT blaming the school…blame it on the parents and students.

  • Kim says:

    The problem is when some students are told that they have excessive absences and others aren’t told then they are allowed to make up days then the other students that we are talking about were told yesterday that they couldn’t get their tickets for graduation until they talk to the principal because they missed to many days that’s messed up. Yeah I’m aware that the students are old enough and know how many days are allowed and how many they missed but once the others were told and they weren’t they thought they were good but found out different yesterday the last day of school. What chance did they have then none! The graduation deal is done wrong altogether the fact that the students only get two tickets but can possibly get one or two more is messed up the parents account for the two tickets then one set of the grandparents might get to go the siblings might get to attend. It causes a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety with the senior having to pick who gets to go.

  • not surpirsed says:

    It would seem that you are also part of the problem. My child can do no wrong. My child does not have to conform to the rules. It must be somebody’s fault, because it can’t be my child’s fault.
    These are young adults that knew they lacked days. However, the “can’t be my fault mommy or daddy” seems to go a long way with these young adults.
    Why can no one step up and take responsibility for their own actions anymore?
    MAKE THEM DO THE REQUIRED DAYS!!! It might just made them a tad more responsible for issues down the road.

  • parent says:

    ALL students who are over in days are met with, letters are sent home, phone calls are made, there is an attendance committee who deals with this issue and I can guarantee you the attendance committee at West puts in countless hours trying to make sure students are provided every opportunity to pass. The problem is, students assume that this exact scenario will happen and they won’t be held accountable, so letters given to the students for their parents get thrown away instead of taken home, contact numbers are not updated and so it is sometimes impossible to get in touch with parents, messages are left on answering machines but students erase those messages before their parents will hear them, and any countless other ways students have figured out to get around things. Then parents and students complain that they “Didn’t know”. How do you not know you are over in days when phone calls go home every day a student misses one class period, when the number of absences are posted along with grades on the online grading program and on progress reports? If you KNOW that you are over in days, be proactive and go figure out what you need to do to make up that time instead of just feigning ignorance and blaming it on others.

  • Parent says:

    ALL students who are over in days are met with, letters are sent home, phone calls are made, there is an attendance committee who deals with this issue and I can guarantee you the attendance committee at West puts in countless hours trying to make sure students are provided every opportunity to pass. The problem is, students assume that this exact scenario will happen and they won’t be held accountable, so letters given to the students for their parents get thrown away instead of taken home, contact numbers are not updated and so it is sometimes impossible to get in touch with parents, messages are left on answering machines but students erase those messages before their parents will hear them, and any countless other ways students have figured out to get around things. Then parents and students complain that they “Didn’t know”. How do you not know you are over in days when phone calls go home every day a student misses one class period, when the number of absences are posted along with grades on the online grading program and on progress reports? If you KNOW that you are over in days, be proactive and go figure out what you need to do to make up that time instead of just feigning ignorance and blaming it on others.

  • Laney says:

    Why didn’t the students who found out the day before graduation know they were over in days? Didn’t they look at their report cards where the number of absences and tardies are recorded? Why did they not know how many days they missed. Didn’t every student get a copy of the absentee policy which they and their parents signed? This was the way it was handled when I worked for BCS. Don’t try to turn lack of concern and indifference into a case of some students receiving more information than others or receiving favor. It’s too late to get worked up over it now if you didn’t care enough to educate yourself or try to find out how to make up absences. I support the principal on this one. This is a good example of why teacher tenure is offered to teachers. On matters of policy such as this, school boards and administrators cave in to the loudest objectors. Similar stories are being played out all across the state and country but we don’t hear about them because no one is resigning or calling the press. I hope these 18 students try the same thing on their first job. We’ll see how far crying it isn’t fair gets them!

  • Guest2020 says:

    The problem with the graduation tickets is that the system is not open to alternative locations to Odell Williamson. There is a limited number of seats, therefore there has to be a limited number of tickets. There are larger venues in neighboring counties but Pruden’s office is unwilling to entertain that idea. They would rather people just miss out on watching their loved ones celebrate their 13-year achievement.

  • Kay says:

    As long as they make the work up and just skip as many days as they want it is OK? NO….its called being a young adult and learning about life. If a student misses a large amount of days…MAKE them make up those days. Its inexcusable. IDIOT. OH and BTW…many of the JAWKS as you say are very smart kids. Judgmental? Let me see you were scorned when a Jawk took you significant other?

  • guesty says:

    Because many school systems have a maximum amount of days a student is allowed to miss.

  • Heimie Schmelter says:

    If they have all met the academic requirements, which is the “purpose” of education, then why should they not graduate? I’ll bet there are a lot more that can barely spell their names that will graduate(i.e., football and bassebawl jocks)!!!

  • Guest000000 says:

    They would be allowed to graduate…once they made up the missed days.

  • disgusted says:

    For the majority of these students, teachers worked overtime and extended third, fourth, fifth and more opportunities for make-up work to help students raise their grades, on the condition the students would honor a commitment to make up time during the numerous opportunities (lunch, after school, Saturdays, even Sunday’s). These students may have raised their grades enough to academically pass, but did not bother with time on the assumption it would be forgiven instead of enforced. The initial decision was to deny them the privilege of walking, but allow them to receive their diplomas after making up time according to the policy. It is a slap in the face to students who followed the rules and students who worked to meet the requirements at the end.

  • Susan777 says:

    If you read the article he never said they couldn’t graduate just that they can’t “walk” at graduation tomorrow. What are we teaching our children? It’s ok not to follow the rules like everyone else, just complain enough (or get your parents to) and you’ll get the same treatment as those who followed the rules in the first place! Sadly these very children were given multiple opportunities to make up the time.

  • Susan777 says:

    If you read the article he never said they couldn’t graduate just that they can’t “walk” at graduation tomorrow. What are we teaching our children? It’s ok not to follow the rules like everyone else, just complain enough (or get your parents to) and you’ll get the same treatment as those who followed the rules in the first place! Sadly these very children were given multiple opportunities to make up the time.

  • Corinna says:

    Way to go, Principal Ahren! Brunswick County needs more honest people. Shame on you, Superintendent Pruden! What a bad example you are setting! As far back as I can remember, students who didn’t meet the guidelines couldn’t walk. It’s as simple as that! You want a diploma? You go to summer school and receive it in the mail. Kids need to be made responsible (and the parents)! Where’s the accountability anymore? Reward the few that don’t abide by the rules? That’s absurd! There needs to be a serious discussion on whether the higher ups are suitable for the job. It will be a real shame to lose such a good principal. Please people, speak up and let’s make our children’s future a better place!

  • teacher says:

    The teachers of West Brunswick High School support Principal Ahrens to the fullest. Sadly the superintendent ignored the state policy in order to allow students who exceeded maximum absences allowed by DPI. This is a black mark on this county.

  • former student says:

    The same happened at South Brunswick last year. I wish the best to the educator that has more intergrity than the Superintendent. Why are they teaching these kids its ok to just break the rules?

  • jj says:

    Maybe the State will step-in and fine the BOE for this. The State should also void their diploma’s.

  • Sandra says:

    It is about time someone took a stand on this. I worked in the school system and saw this happen all the time. Why have a rule if you are not going to enforce it. Good work Mr. Hardens.

  • I agree says:

    Students who do not follow the rules and are awarded the same rewards as those who do are being taught you do not have resposibility. Last year at Sout a student who did not attend school over half the year was aloud to graduate and share in the ceremony with those who did attend per the policy. It was continiously asked why this student was granted this honor, no explanation was given. Allowing these students to just by pass the system and shooing them out the door with diplomas that were not earned through hard work and diligence is just creating a generation of young people who believe that everything will be handed to them. You wonder why our younger generations are not responsible and productive wake up open your eyes and look at our no accountability school systems!!!!! Wake up people in the real world if you do not pay your way you cant make your way. Start teaching these children that society has rules you must follow and you get what you earn!!!!

  • Belville gal says:

    You are so right. That is what is wrong with this country now. It has gotten to acceptable. Our BOE needs to step up Man and Woman up and fire someone who doesn’t know how to be a true leader, if not we need to vote them out. The future of our children and grandchildren doesn’t stand a chance if something is not done and soon.

  • R Honeycutt says:

    An in depth investigation needs to occur concerning WBHS. Unless recent changes have been made, WBHS is without a Principal, Football Coach, Baseball Coach, Volleyball Coach or Cheerleading Coach. That’s what I’m aware of. I find it disturbing that one school has that much turmoil.

  • smith says:

    Unfortunately, its not just one school experiencing turmoil. Someone should investigate the teacher turnover rate in schools at the north end.

  • jj says:

    It is the State that states the maximum amount of days. Why do you think they had to make up the snow days.

  • craig says:

    gotta’ agree with the principal on this one. If they missed a lot of class they did not meet the requirements. These students are learning that they are the “exceptions” which is no good for any body. Best of luck sir. You will be snatched up in a hurry I am sure.

  • Pam Cannon says:

    I’m sure this has nothing to do with the county’s graduation rate, right??
    Good for this principal, too bad he did the right thing and got the punishment for it. Shame on the superintendent for lowering his standards and making exceptions for students. This is not a good lesson for them to learn. Children are way too “entitled” these days already and things like this teach them that it’s fine to do whatever you want because if you raise enough fuss then you will get your way no matter what.

  • funny says:

    I commend the principal at least he is doing his job ,an I agree with alot of these post maybe someone will step in and do something about this cause really its not fair to the other kids that where there everyday.. I have personally seen this happen at west brunswick I knew someone that went there an not only did she only went 56 days out the whole year because she would skip classes or scho her highest grade was a 67 an her mother tried an tried to get the school to help an noone would help her keep her daughter in school an she graduated just because she did her senior project which counts for most of their grade I just think it BS cause if they keep on all the kids are going to start doing it .geez teach these kids a lesson it almost makes you think that these educators are not here for our kids they are just there for the money

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