VERSAILLES, Ky. (LEX 18) — Students, parents, teachers, and staff began to gather outside of Woodford County High School just before 7:30 a.m. Thursday.
Many showed up an hour before the first bell to show support for Principal Morgan Howell, a longtime educator who says administrators told him to resign or be demoted last week.
He says they told him the school is not “going in the right direction.”
“They said maybe the military has made me too black and white,” Howell, who serves in the Kentucky Army National Guard, told LEX 18. “And when I said to them, I understand you think things are not going in the right direction. When you look at all the measurables, I would say otherwise.”
Principal Howell is in his second year at Woodford County High School, and so far, students and teachers who attended the protest consider him a success.
“He gets what he needs to get done and he supports the teachers here,” senior Michael Chapelle said. “That's important.”
According to parents, Howell is known for his “tough love” approach to discipline, which many of them appreciate. That’s why they were shocked when they learned Howell was asked to step down.
“It's like they're taking away an ally,” Nancy Church, a mom of three teenagers, told LEX 18. “And they don't even have a logical reason. Not that they've shared.”
We asked Principal Howell to clarify what’s happened so far, and he said this started April 25.
“I was called into a meeting with the superintendent and told I either needed to resign, and if I did, then a bad evaluation and a letter of demotion would go away,” Howell said. He says they brought up issues with communication, although some of their examples happened when he was on a two-week annual training with the Guard. He didn’t want to speculate if his military service is impacting his treatment, but he’s not ruling it out.
“There’s definitely some factors that seem to correlate along with it,” he said.
Howell said he would be open to pursuing legal action depending on the outcome of the situation.
Superintendent Danny Adkins declined to comment when we emailed him, citing “personnel issues.”
But teachers like Susan Strange say the school deserves answers.
“Obviously just from today, the way students and staff feel about Mr. Howell and about the school, to say things are not going in the right direction is not enough,” she said. “It's very vague and he needs to defend his position on it.”
Strange said they’re hoping to bring the issue before the school board on May 16th.