Another rally for Central Middle School principals

Tuesday, May 1, 2007
In April, students of Cape Girardeau's Central Junior High School gathered around Central Middle School principal Frank Ellis, who was recently fired by the school board.
(Diane L. Wilson)

Supporters of Cape Girardeau's Central Middle School principal Frank Ellis and assistant superintendent Debbie Followell will hold a rally Sunday at Capaha Park to demand that the school board reverse its decision to replace the two administrators.

The rally is scheduled to start at 11 a.m. and last until 5 p.m. at park shelter No. 1.

Mary Jackson, a Central Middle School parent, is organizing the rally. Jackson said she'll have a petition on hand for people to sign calling on the board to reinstate Ellis and Followell.

At least 600 people have signed the petition so far, said Jackson.

"A lot of them are just citizens," she said, adding that some of them are parents of middle school students.

Jackson said hot dogs and chips will be provided at the rally.

"I am paying for it myself," she said.

Sunday's event will be the second rally in support of Ellis. Hundreds of fifth- and sixth-graders at the middle school walked out of class and staged about a half hour rally on April 17 in which they held up signs and chanted their support for Ellis.

School board's decision

The school board last month voted 5-2 behind closed doors to replace Ellis and Followell at the end of this school year.

School district officials so far have refused to explain why the decision was made to replace Ellis and Followell other than they felt an administrative change was needed.

But in a Dec. 7 letter to Ellis, Scala and assistant superintendent Pat Fanger cited five main problems: Poor communication with teachers and parents, inconsistent discipline, lack of instructional leadership, failure to address assistant principal issues and failure to perform principal duties such as parent/teacher conferences.

According to the letter, Scala and Fanger met with Ellis on five occasions last fall, from Sept. 13 to Nov. 30, to discuss problems at the middle school.

Also according to the letter, Scala and Fanger told Ellis in November that an administrative change was needed and urged the principal to find a new job outside the school district.

In the letter, Scala and Fanger wrote that Ellis and Followell " have not proven to be an effective administrative team."

But Jackson disagrees. "Mr. Ellis may be a little more strict than Mrs. Followell," she said, "but you need that balance."

Said Jackson, "We have other principals in the area who don't care for the kids the way he does. He doesn't just toss a bad apple out in the street."

She said, "Frank Ellis is all about putting forth the effort to encourage these children to become better people."

Jackson said she's seen no evidence of the administrative problems cited in Scala's letter. "I don't believe a bit of that," she said.

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