Kestrel Heights leader no longer with school

Jun. 02, 2014 @ 04:06 PM

Kestrel Heights School’s top administrator is no longer with the school.
Ritchie Mitchell, the former executive director and middle school principal at the charter school, no longer works at the public charter school, according to an office worker who answered the phone there Monday.
Also, a note sent to Mitchell’s email address returned a message informing the sender that Mitchell is no long with the school and that the email has been forwarded to Joe Bunch, interim director.
Bunch is listed on the school’s web site as the exceptional children’s director for the K-12 school, which has a student enrollment of more than 900.
Efforts to reach Kestrel Heights officials Monday were not successful.
The school’s board of directors also announced Mitchell’s departure in an email to parents dated May 31.
“It is with great regret that the Board of Directors must report that executive director and middle school principal, Richie Mitchell, has left the employ of Kestrel Heights School,” the email read.
The board said it would soon begin to search for a new executive director and middle school principal in a process that would include parents.
“The Board of Directors wants participation from parents and students in the hiring process as we seek new leadership,” the board wrote. “In doing so, we shall ask the short list of potential candidates to meet with parent and students in a facilitated forum to discuss how they would move the school forward.”
Mitchell’s departure comes amid a tumultuous period in the history of the school, which was founded in 1998.
Last month, dozens of students at the school boycotted morning classes and held a rally to protest the ouster of founder and high school Principal Tim Dugan and two teachers.
Parents and students attending the rally were critical of the school’s Board of Directors for not renewing Dugan’s contract and those of the popular teachers.
They said the board never explained the decision not to renew Dugan’s contract and complained that the board is not transparent in its decision-making.
In addition, they complained that the board holds meetings without the proper notification required under the state’s open meetings law, works to impede progress and is generally unresponsive to the concerns of students, teachers and parents.
The board will hold a meeting June 18 at the school to address grievances filed by parents.
Like with the decision not to renew Dugan’s contract, some Kestrel Heights parents said Monday that they have been left in the dark about why Mitchell is no longer with the school.
The board’s email said he “left the employ” of Kestrel Heights but parents reached Monday were not certain whether that meant he quit or his contract had not been renewed.
“It’s a big mystery,” said Joy Wilburn, a Kestrel Heights parent. “We don’t know what happened.”
  Wilburn said she is concerned that the news of Mitchell’s departure would be disruptive, especially coming as students prepare to take end-of-grade tests this week.
“All of this craziness is happening around this time,” Wilburn said. “The whole school is in a tizzy right now.”
Wilburn, who has one child graduating this month and another completing sixth-grade, said the sixth-grader would likely return to the school in August in spite of her concerns.
“The school has been great for my children,” said Wilburn, giving credit to the school’s teachers.  
Scott Haden, the parent of a Kestrel Heights junior, speculated that Mitchell simply became fed up with the way the school was being managed by the board.
“That’s my opinion,” Haden said. “I think he just got tired of the way things are going with the board.”
Haden said his son, who has attended Kestrel Heights since sixth-grade, would likely return to the school for his senior year, but that he is also considering a military school in Missouri.
“If he wasn’t a rising senior, I’d just pull him out, let him finish this year and just not come back next year,” Haden said. “If he wants to stay, then will stay, but if not, then we’ll go to the military academy.”