ROANOKE, Va. – “Today, we have a clarion call. Lucy Addison Middle School needs us. That’s all of us. We are witnessing a crisis," said Roanoke NAACP president Brenda Hale.
Hale delivered an impassioned speech to dozens of people at Lucy Addison Middle School Monday evening in response to a fifth principal in 18 months leaving last week.
The principal had only been on the job for four weeks, and left citing a family health reason.
Three of the other four principals were only there for a couple of months.
“The school’s in a state of emergency when you have teacher who, I’ve seen, cry; teachers who I’ve seen express frustrations. Not because they’re mad at kids, not because they don’t want to do their jobs, but because they feel unsupported in trying to get their job done,” Lucy Addison Middle School Parent Teacher Student Association president Kevin McNeil said.
McNeil is urging the community to stand up and demand change.
That was the message he hoped to get across at Monday’s meeting.
“I think that starts with change at the top," McNeil said.
But during Monday’s meeting McNeil also said change needs to happen in the community.
“I will make sure I toe the line and stand the line to make sure that what they need they get, and I will accept nothing less," McNeil said.
Some change will happen soon.
Roanoke City Schools’ superintendent, Dr. Rita Bishop, is retiring at the end of the school year.
She was not at the meeting Monday.
“I want 100 percent from the school board! I want 100 percent from the community,” Hale said. “When do we want this? Now! That’s it. Now. We must take this crisis situation seriously. We must support the acting principal."
The acting principal is Jonathan Rosser, a product of Roanoke City Schools and a 1995 graduate of William Flemming High School.
“I love our children, that’s why I’m here. I didn’t want the kids to go through any more transition, so as soon as they asked me downtown did I want the role, absolutely," Rosser said.
The tension at Addison has been thick. Some teachers decided to stay around after school Monday to see what the community had to say. First year teacher Stephanie Seitz said it was nice to see the support.
“Just hearing them get really excited and pumped for it, that makes me excited to come back tomorrow knowing that all these people here are going to be on our side and help us," Seitz said.
McNeil said the next principal needs to understand how to work with kids coming from traumatic situations, be able to communicate what kids are going through to other faculty and staff members, and be able to use alternative forms of teaching.
“I think the community needs to have a voice and a say in who and how the new superintendent is picked, who that person is, and not just that individual but the person’s entire staff needs to be looked at," McNeil said. "I think we then need to have that same approach with the principal.”
Rosser said he is the person to fit that role. He’s been in an administrative capacity at the school since August. Rosser said his role as acting principal is up in July, but that he hopes to earn the full time spot and the trust of the community between now and then.
Many teachers at Addison have had questions about administration, telling 10 News off camera that students are not always on their best behaviors. Some said students don’t listen, others said they’re disrespectful. Rosser said the issue is bigger than just what happens at school.
“I’m going to tell you that it starts at home, the behaviors from children starts at home, and I’m going to leave it at that. We come to school and we’re here to teach our children," Rosser said.
The community agrees with that feeling. They pledged to step up and do something, whatever it may be, to save Lucy Addison and its students.
“You need to be asking yourself what can I do to help teachers teach these kids, what can I do to help administrators do their job better, what can I do to encourage a child to be a bringer of hope, and not a bringer of hate,” McNeil said.