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Hopper supporters still vocal

FRANKLIN FURNACE — It was billed as a brainstorming strategy session that often sounded like a good old-fashioned revival as the “amens” would from time to time reverberate throughout the Franklin Furnace Community Center.

What brought out about 50 parents of students now and students past to a town meeting Monday night was their anger with their school board and its refusal to renew the contract of Green High principal David Hopper.

It’s another chapter in the fight by members of the community to keep Hopper, who’s been there for six years, as the leader of the high school.

At the board’s regular meeting March 17, Hopper’s supporters presented petitions with 248 signatures asking that the principal keep his job. The next week they learned at a specially called meeting that their efforts had been in vain.

Now Hopper supporters are circulating petitions asking for the resignation of all five board members, which they plan to present at the next board meeting on Monday.

Spearheading both drives are Loretta Dixon, a parent of a Green High student, and Sandy Cherry, Green High track and volleyball coach.

Cherry, who acted as impromptu moderator Monday night, started the town meeting off with statistics from the Ohio Department of Education’s Web site on the test score improvements of the Green High students.

For the 10th grade, proficiency scores in writing went from 61.4 percent in 2004-2005 to 82.6 percent in 2006-2007; 63.6 percent in math in 2004 to 82.6 percent in 2006; and 45.5 percent in 2004 to 71.7 percent in 2006.

“The No. 1 thing that hits home is the proficiency scores,” Cherry said. “Not only is our principal doing his job. He’s employing teachers who are doing their jobs.

“If Mr. Hopper leaves us, we have 12 high school teachers who have asked for recommendations. Where will our test scores be then?”

Throughout the controversy, the board has maintained its silence on why Hopper’s contract was not renewed. However, his supporters contend it was because Hopper, who is also the school’s basketball coach, failed to have winning seasons for the past two years.

In an interview last month, Superintendent Ron Lindsey said the basketball season was not the reason for the non-renewal.

At that time Lindsey declined to elaborate on the reason for letting Hopper go, saying it was between the board and the principal.

“All I can tell you is the evaluations were satisfactory. There were some issues the board was uncomfortable with,” Lindsey said.

Hopper had two opportunities, Lindsey said then, to meet with the board in executive session to determine those issues, but the principal chose not to.

Such comments did nothing to appease those at the Monday meeting as several demanded the board make public their reasons.

Tony Hall, who has children in the Green district, suggested a mediator be called in to arbitrate between the school board and the principal’s supporters.

“Do you think the board would go for that?” he asked.

High school secretary Kathy Russell asked if writing a formal complaint to the county school board could have any effect.

One-time board member Tom Davis who served from 2002-2006 encouraged those at the meeting to keep the issue in the public eye.

“You ought to make your feelings heard. Let’s get out there and make your voices heard,” he said.

“Mr. Hopper and the teachers have made (Green) a School of Promise twice. It would be

a shame to turn our backs on a principal who has done that.”

As the latest petition made its way around the tables, Cherry prodded everyone to show up next week at the board meeting.

“Come if you want to keep the schools on track as they are,” she said. “Don’t just come to the board meeting. Bring a couple with you. We have to be persistent. We need some new voices.”

Calls made to Superintendent Ron Lindsey and board president Steve Willard were not returned by press time.

Efforts to contact board member Ralph Salyers were unsuccessful.