New Eagle Ridge principal relieved of post

Friday, August 11, 2006

The mother who made accusations against him has been asked to remove her children from the Cape school.

A controversy surrounding the hiring of Dr. Jim Garrow as principal at Eagle Ridge Christian School in Cape Girardeau has ended with Garrow leaving his post and the parent who made accusations against him being asked by the school to remove her children because her actions were not in line with Scripture.

The parent believes she is being punished for acting as a whistle-blower.

"They said I was discrediting his integrity, but I say it's a fair thing to do. If I've got questions, I want them answered and I'm going to go and investigate," said Joan Binnie. "He knew that I had him on the hot seat, and so did they."

Binnie is the mother of two children, ages 4 and 8, who attend Eagle Ridge, a parochial school with 206 students from prekindergarten to 12th grade. Last week, Binnie said, she was asked by others on the school's parent advisory board to do research on the newly hired principal.

Through a Google search, Binnie discovered that Garrow had once been fined 3,000 Canadian dollars and suspended from a teaching position in his native Ontario. The punishment was for "professional misconduct," according to an Ontario College of Teachers periodical.

Binnie demanded an explanatory meeting with Garrow, who had only been in Cape Girardeau a matter of weeks, and school leaders. The meeting took place Aug. 4. A reporter from the Southeast Missourian was also present at that time.

During the meeting, Garrow explained the nature of the charges first brought in 1999. He said he discovered five students at Athens District High School in Ontario had cheated to win an international contest. He said he told administrators of his suspicions but was warned to "keep my mouth shut." Garrow alleges the students in turn conspired to charge that he once called them "retards."

It was this charge and Garrow's subsequently leaving his position without notice that resulted in the school board's decision to suspend and fine him.

Garrow said that before being hired in Cape Girardeau he directed Eagle Ridge school leaders to contact his references about the incident. Both pastor Mark Carbaugh and outgoing administrator Janice Margrabe professed to be satisfied with his explanation.

"We knew about this. It wasn't some skeleton in his closet," Margrabe said at the Aug. 4 meeting.

For his part, Garrow believes the Internet age has made it too easy to defame someone's reputation. "That's the way the Internet is. Things are just floating out there and they stay there," he said.

Garrow said some are determined to believe him guilty of something no matter what his explanation. "You're not giving me the benefit of the doubt. You've judged me," he told Binnie.

The meeting ended with school administrators standing behind Garrow.

Binnie, though, was unsatisfied. "You've got a person representing the school, and they're not representing themselves in a respectable manner. ... I'm not OK with that," she said.

Last week, school leaders made the decision to relieve Garrow of his position as principal. Carbaugh said Garrow will stay on in an advisory capacity but will primarily work from his home in Guelph, Ontario. Carbaugh said the decision was not connected to the information brought by Binnie and was "something we were migrating toward already."

Garrow runs an organization called the Bethune Institute, which teaches English and operates exchange programs in China. Carbaugh said obligations to the institute meant Garrow wouldn't have the time to concentrate all his attention on Eagle Ridge. That, he said, was the reason for the change.

Thursday Binnie received a letter from Margrabe saying that because of her stance of "disagreement and opposition," "it is in your family's best interest that we terminate your involvement with the school."

School officials believe Binnie's manner of confronting Garrow was not in keeping with the scriptural teachings in Matthew 18. The Scripture says among other things, "if thy brother shall trespass against thee, go and tell him his fault between thee and him alone." Making the accusations public, they said, violates this teaching.

"There is a biblical method to follow, and she chose not to do that. That's the issue here," Carbaugh said.

Margrabe will stay on as administrator this school year to replace Garrow.

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