December 18, 2014

Elyria
Cloudy
29°F
test

VIDEO: Elyria High students demonstrate in support of principal

ELYRIA — Students at Elyria High School are in an uproar over the loss of an administrator who will not have his contract renewed for the coming school year.

CT photo by Bruce Bishop.

The employment contact of Sam Dickerson, a team principal who came to Elyria in the 2010-2011 school year, will not be renewed, a decision district officials said they had to make based on finances. News that the school would lose an administrator and guidance counselor came down months ago, but students recently learned of the decision and protested Wednesday morning.

“I feel like he helps us so much and they just let him go,” said Talena Thomas, a junior at the school. “I feel like he’s the only one who helps us minorities and other kids. He keeps us out of trouble and tries to get us in scholarship programs.”

Shortly before 10 a.m., students walked out of classes and gathered in the dining hall to stage an impromptu sit-in. Hundreds of students participated.

Elyria High School Principal Tom Jama said the protest lasted for a little more than an hour. He then spoke with students and asked them to move their demonstration to the gymnasium so lunch could be served in the dining hall. He characterized the kids as respectful and civil throughout the entire time.

However, one unidentified student pulled the fire alarm as the students were moving between the dining hall and gymnasium. The building was cleared. The Elyria Fire Department was called, and, after a check of the buildings, Jama said, students were allowed back in the school.

“They went to the gym and waited there until Mr. Dickerson came to speak with them,” Jama said. “He was very upfront with the kids and professional. The kids were demonstrating their right to protest a decision they felt was not in the best decision to make.”

Dickerson’s dismissal is not due to his performance, but the financial performance of the district.

Earlier this year, Superintendent Paul Rigda announced a series of sweeping cuts the district was going to have to make next year to keep the district in the black. The cuts include the elimination of 59 positions — among them teachers, special education instructors and classroom aides.

“The decision was in no way due to job performance,” Jama said. “I gave Mr. Dickerson a good evaluation this year and recommended he receive a two-year contract.”

District spokeswoman Amy Higgins said students were back in class by 11:20 a.m.

A board meeting is set for 6:45 p.m. tonight following a State of the Schools presentation by Rigda.

Higgins said the meeting agenda will stay the same with the presentation at 5:30 p.m., followed by a short break and the regular meeting. Students and parents will have a chance to speak if they choose to during the visitors’ comment portion of the meeting, which is standard for all meetings.

Contact Lisa Roberson at 329-7121 or lroberson@chroniclet.com.