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New principal for Essex High School, citizens relay concerns to school board

Posted on Thursday, July 17, 2014 at 8:50 am

The Essex County School Board appointed Andrew Hipple as its new high school principal during a closed session at their regular monthly meeting on Monday night.

Hipple was principal for one year for the middle and high schools in Colonial Beach before resigning in June. Before that Hipple was principal and assistant principal for Rappahannock County Public Elementary and Middle Schools. As a teacher he worked in Virginia and Pennsylvania  for ten years and was a post-secondary technical school administrator.

Hipple has a wife, Melissa and three children, Britton, Nicholas, who just graduated from Colonial Beach High School, and Libby who was inducted to the National Honor Society at CBHS in May.

Meanwhile, a science teacher resigned Monday, adding to a host of positions the county needs to fill before September. Essex has 25 positions posted on its website but Nan Elda, school board human resources director, said the positions are quickly being filled and the site is not up to date.

She said most of the core teaching positions have been filled. These include  the high school English teacher and earth science teacher, the middle school English teacher and social studies teacher and the high school guidance counselor and the elementary math teacher.

The county is waiting for responses for offers made to candidates for a high school math teacher, a middle school business and information technology teacher,  special education teachers and an elementary school paraprofessional, Elda said the board is interviewing candidates for a French teacher, library media specialist,  high school family and consumer sciences teacher, and two middle school math teachers. A speech language pathologist position is contracted out so that is always posted on the school website.

Several coaching and assistant coaching positions are also still posted on the website along with cafeteria worker, transportation and other student services staff.

None of the positions close until the board approves an applicant.

More than 100 parents, anxious over the many changes to the teaching staff, showed up at the high school auditorium where the board held its monthly meeting to accommodate the higher than normal turnout.

Jacob Plummer, a father of three, drew gasps from the audience when he questioned why their new superintendent Dr. Scott Burckbuchler has had two raises during the last five months (2 percent and then a 5 percent raise) while the schools were undergoing layoffs.

For many parents the night was frustrating as board members welcomed questions at the beginning of the meeting, then sat silently noting rules prohibit them from answering. Questions as simple as, “does the school have Title I funding?” went unanswered until next month’s meeting.

“I don’t believe that’s correct, that you can’t respond to public comments,” said Plummer. “I think that’s their prerogative.”

Plummer voiced what most parents were saying, “At the end (of the meeting) we don’t have an opportunity to address anything that went on during the meeting so you have to wait a whole month before you can even address that,” he said. “There’s a lot of work that needs to be done in communicating between the school and the community.”

The elephant in the room is a $20 million federal lawsuit targeting several county schools, including Essex, was filed last month. Parents from Essex County joined 20 families in the suit that alleges discrimination against African-American and disabled students.