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Edna community rallies around high school principal

By Jennifer Lee Preyss
April 25, 2012 at 8 p.m.
Updated April 25, 2012 at 11:26 p.m.

Richard Wright

Students and parents of Edna Independent School District high school are organizing a community effort, with petitions and Facebook posts, to retain the school's principal, Richard Wright.

"If he goes, I don't want to go to school there," said 15-year-old Tyler Hudson, a sophomore at Edna High School.

During the April school board meeting, members voted not to extend Wright's contract beyond the 2013 school year.

"He's a great principal. When you need him, he's there," Tyler said.

But Wright and Edna ISD Superintendent Bob Wells said the principal's original two-year contract for the 2011-12 and 2012-13 school years has not changed.

Wells said he is aware there is concern circulating throughout the community about why Wright's contract was not extended, yet he insists Wright was not terminated. Wells also stated that Wright has had an unblemished record during his 10 years as principal and two years as assistant principal.

"There is no scandal, there's nothing like that going on. But I can't talk about what is going on. Mr. Wright is not fired; he has a contract for the coming year," Wells said. "If we were firing him, we would have to give the community the reasons for doing so. It's a personnel issue."

In an attempt to quell the rumors and speculation about Wright's extension, Wells posted the contract terminology of educators in his "Supe's Blog" on the Edna ISD website.

"Non-renewal happens only for specified reasons. The employee must be notified of the intent to non-renew and told of the reasons for non-renewal. The employee may appeal a decision to non-renew."

"In the middle of a term contract, the district may 'extend' the contract to a longer term. Or, the district may choose not to extend the contract. Regardless, the employee is still employed while he or she is in the middle of a term contract. There is no requirement to extend or to notify employees that they will be extended or not extended."

Wells explained in his blog that Wright suffered a stroke in February.

Tyler's mother, Michele Hudson, speculated the non-extension may be related to Wright's medical history.

"When he had his stroke, he was supposed to be out for six to eight weeks, but he was back a few days later - that's how dedicated he is to these kids," Hudson said. "Maybe that's what it is. They may take his medical history into consideration when they make their decision."

Wells said Wright's contract will come under review again at the end of its term next April. At that time, the school board will vote to extend, or not renew the contract for another year.

"At that point, we'll have another discussion of extending his contract, or letting him go. And I have no intention of letting him go," Wells said.

Wright explained there's a difference between a non-renewal and a non-extension, and the board's decision does not indicate an employment termination.

"A non-renewal is they have grounds to terminate you and don't want you to come back. A non-extension means you're in good standing with the district," Wright said. "I don't know why they didn't extend it. I have not been fired. I'm not leaving. I have another year. And they very well may give me another contract."

The superintendent also insisted there is no animosity between the school principal and school board, nor with him personally.

"We're good friends. I think the world of him. He's doing a real good job as principal," Wells said.

Wells said he has fielded many phone calls from concerned members of the community in regard to Wright's contract extension.

"I've already explained to them there's nothing wrong," Wells said. "Nothing has changed. He's on contract right now, and he'll be on contract next year," Wells said.

Tyler responded positively to Wells comments about his intentions to retain Wright after his 2012-2013 contract ends.

"I feel great about that, knowing I'm going to be a junior next year and still have him as principal is great," Tyler said. "He's a great principal, and he should stay."

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