By Patrick Crowley
The Cincinnati Enquirer
ALEXANDRIA - The veteran principal of A.J. Jolly Elementary School who battled Campbell County School District officials over the proposed closing of the school was demoted Wednesday to a teaching position for the 2003-'04 school year.
Superintendent Roger Brady said his demotion of Principal Ann Painter, who has guided the tiny rural elementary school in California, Ky., for more than 20 years, was unrelated to her opposition to a plan that called for A.J. Jolly to close.
Earlier this year, Brady recommended that A.J. Jolly, located along the Ohio River in far southeastern Campbell County, be closed in a budget-cutting move.
Opposition by parents and staff, including Painter, convinced Campbell County Board of Education to keep the school open a few years until a new school is built.
The new school will merge A.J. Jolly with Alexandria Elementary School.
Brady, citing the confidentiality of personnel decisions and discussions, said he could not discuss specifics of his decision to move Painter back into the classroom.
"The circumstances surrounding this decision are a personnel matter and are between Dr. Painter and myself," Brady said Wednesday afternoon.
Painter could not be reached for comment.
Parents in the tight-knit A.J. Jolly community are convinced Painter was punished for her staunch opposition to the school-closing plan.
"This is revenge," said Gary Combs of Melbourne, who has three children at A.J. Jolly and who served as one of the leaders of the group opposed to the closing. "I've researched this. Mr. Brady is within his rights to do this, but I am talking to several parents tonight and we are going to try and do something about this."
"Ann Painter is a wonderful principal. She's done a tremendous job," said Mentor resident Lisa Daniels, who with Painter also opposed Brady's plans earlier this year. "I think everybody who has children in this school is going to be upset."
Brady said his decision "had no relationship to the school closing plan and the process we went through" and any suggestion of retaliation is "sheer speculation."
"It's unfortunate if that is being said, but I can't control that," Brady said.
Painter did send a letter home to parents about her demotion.
"This morning ... Mr. Roger Brady delivered to me a letter which states, 'I am writing to inform you that I am demoting you to a classroom teaching position for the 2003-2004 school year with comparable reduction in salary.' "
In an e-mail sent Wednesday morning, Brady notified district officials and school board members of his decision.
"I spent about 40 minutes with her and all in all it went well," Brady wrote.
In her letter, Painter called for calm this week, since students are taking state-mandated achievement tests.
"I have only one request," she said. "Please know that it is test time and our children need to be quiet, focused and in complete control during this critical testing time.
"It would be a wonderful tribute to me if this year's test scores were the best ever."
E-mail Patrick Crowley at firstname.lastname@example.org
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