Ending weeks of drama, the Central School Board on Monday promoted Assistant Principal David Prescott to principal at Central High School, replacing Bob Wales, the man Prescott has worked under for the past five years.
“We’re going to work hard,” Prescott, who has served as assistant principal since 2007, told the School Board. “We’ve got a great team. We can do this job. I’ll rephrase that. We will do this job.”
On July 1, the same day Prescott takes over as principal, Wales is moving to the Central Office for a newly created job. In his new position, Wales will lead a variety of high school programs, ranging from alternative schools to online classes and Advanced Placement courses.
Superintendent Michael Faulk shocked many in Central when he announced in late March that he was reassigning the popular Wales from the school he’s worked at for 27 years.
A few days after the announcement, a former assistant football coach at Central High, Michael Gardner, filed suit against Wales and the Central school system.
Gardner alleged Wales fired him from his coaching job in March because Gardner had recently purchased a daiquiri shop. Gardner said Wales went after him because owning a daiquiri shop while serving as an athletic coach to youths ran counter to Wales’ Christian religious beliefs.
Gardner is seeking his old job back.
The school system, in legal papers filed on Friday, denied most of the allegations and is asking that the case be thrown out.
Faulk said Monday that the lawsuit had nothing to do with reassigning Wales.
“Not connected at all. Just bad timing,” Faulk said.
Faulk used a Cedar Rapids, Iowa-based search firm, Ray & Associates, to help him find the next Central High principal. He said 30 people applied for the job.
Ray & Associates named five candidates as semifinalists, four of whom were interviewed, leading to two finalists and finally to Prescott’s selection.
Faulk announced that Prescott was his recommendation to lead Central High as the School Board meeting began Monday night in the school’s theater.
Prescott was Central’s head football coach in the late 1990s, when the school was still part of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system.
The Central School Board unanimously approved Prescott’s promotion to principal, prompting applause from many in the audience.
Under Central’s interpretation of state law, the Central School Board approves all administrative hires.
Some school districts, including East Baton Rouge Parish, have ceased voting on school administrators, employing a different interpretation of a state law passed last year that is under legal challenge.
Central High School steadily improved academically during Wales’ tenure, earning A marks under the state’s school ranking system.
Wales was not present Monday, but a few of his supporters were.
John Harris, a Central resident, attempted to raise the issue of what happened to Wales but was told that would not be allowed under parliamentary rules.
Board President James Gardner, no relation to Michael Gardner, said those rules require speakers to confine their comments to the promotion of Prescott.
He suggested that Harris instead speak individually about his concerns to Faulk or to board members.
“I can talk to any one of you individually, but that’s gone absolutely nowhere,” an upset Harris responded.
After the meeting, Harris said he has nothing against Prescott, but that Wales is a standout educator who should have been allowed to stay at Central High.
He said he still suspects the lawsuit prompted Wales’ reassignment.
“I find it very convenient that it happened at the same time,” Harris said.
Harris’ son, Christopher, a junior at Central High, made his own plea to the board in early May to keep Wales at the high school. The teenager’s speech was reprinted in a local Central newspaper.
“Many of us feel so strongly about this issue because Mr. Wales doesn’t simply ‘go through the motions’ as principal,” Christopher Harris told the board. “He fully carries out what he must do as principal, serves as a role model for the students and, most importantly, genuinely cares for the students.”