University High students protest against administrator
By Sunshine Wiles, WV MetroNews
MORGANTOWN, W.Va. — A student protest at University High School Monday morning targeting Principal Shari Burgess prompted crowd control before the start of classes.
“It certainly is unfortunate that students have used this venue when they could’ve easily met with Dr. Burgess or the administrators out there if they needed to. But, the First Amendment right protects everybody’s rights to do these kinds of things, and we’ll certainly honors those as well,” said Dr. Frank Devono, Monongalia County Schools superintendent.
About one-fourth of the student population gathered outside, some with signs noting they have no confidence in their principal, with a school resource officer and another Monongalia County sheriff’s deputy there to maintain a peaceful protest. There were no reports of unruliness.
In April, 67 members of the UHS Faculty Senate gave Burgess a no-confidence vote.
“I would certainly hope the teachers didn’t encourage any of this. That would be really disappointing if that was the case that teachers would condone a loss of instructional time for students that decided not to come in this morning,” noted Devono.
Friday is the last day for one math teacher who recently announced his resignation. In September, an assistant administrator with Monongalia County Schools said the district was short three certified math teachers for middle and high school classes.
“Students are being involved at this level, to my understanding, because they are concerned about the instructional program. That’s the problem we have at hand today. That’s the problem that we’re trying to address today. We’ve got a thousand students in that school right now looking for a good quality education,” Devono added.
Devono would not comment on particular accusations against the principal due to personnel privacy requirements but he did say measures for improvement have been made since initial complaints came in UHS staff.
“We only had one grievance filed early in the year. And, everything else has been addressed to our knowledge. There was a request for more involvement in scheduling and that was done. There was a request for more involvement in faculty meetings and that was done. There was a request for more opportunities to meet within planning and learning communities within the school. We’ve done those as well.”
Devono said students were invited into the auditorium to further discuss their concerns. Many had gathered outside the school as early as 6:30 a.m.