More than a dozen Jack Anderson Elementary School parents attended a Sumner County School Board study session Tuesday to show support for Principal Ashley Aldridge who resigned suddenly June 1.
Several parents said after the meeting they believe Aldridge was forced to resign because she allowed too many students to be held back instead of promoting them to the next grade.
When asked earlier in the day if Aldridge was forced to resign, Schools Spokesman Jeremy Johnson said he could only refer to the principal's resignation letter.
In her resignation letter, Aldridge listed several accomplishments the school has achieved during her tenure and said she decided to tender her resignation to "pursue other opportunities, and make my family my number one priority."
Aldridge was hired as principal in July 2012 after moving to the area from Knox County where she was an elementary school principal for two years. Before that, she worked as a teacher in Hamilton County, according to her personnel file. Her file showed no reprimands or disciplinary actions.
When asked if the district had an issue with Jack Anderson's retention rate Johnson said, "I would have to look at those retention rate numbers and I don't have those in front of me."
He added that Sumner County hasn't had a problem with high retention rates at the district as a whole.
"In situations where it is appropriate to retain students we will," he added.
The Hendersonville Standard submitted a public records request for the retention rates at all Sumner County elementary schools. That request was not available by this newspaper's deadline.
According to the school district's policy on promotion and retention, "Students will normally progress annually in sequential order from grade to grade. The professional staff will place students at the grade level best suited to them academically, socially and emotionally. Retentions may be made when, in the judgment of the teacher, such retentions are in the best interest of the students. Decisions to retain are subject to review and approval of the principal after consultation with the teacher."
Jack Anderson parent Matthew Parker has been vocal on social media about his attempts to hold his child back at the school.
Parker and his wife Morgan said they attended Tuesday's meeting to get clarification about the policy and to show their support for Aldridge.
"The way we interpreted it, the retention policy was left solely to the teacher and the principal," said Matthew Parker.
However, he and his wife Morgan say they were told that Aldridge was over-ruled by Jennifer Brown, who is the director of instruction for the school system.
"When we met with Dr. Brown she said it was ultimately the principal's decision but Dr. Aldridge said her boss was forcing her to tell us no," said Morgan Parker.
"[Dr. Aldridge] said she had been overruled on it and had to follow protocol," added her husband.
"My primary concern was that we knew, the teacher knew, the principal agreed and even her doctor agreed that she needed more time and they denied us. Which makes me wonder, what does your child have to have to be retained?"
School Board member Jim Hawkins asked for clarification of the policy during Tuesday's study session.
He asked whether the reference to professional staff in the policy includes central office staff. Director of Schools Del Phillips said that it did.
"It starts with the teacher, then principal, then the question is ultimately up for review by the central office staff," said Phillips. Phillips said the staff has access to all of the recommendations made and looks at each situation on a case-by-case basis.
Matthew Parker said after the meeting that he and his wife have submitted emails to Brown and are waiting to hear back from her.
"Hopefully she will reconsider the issue," he said.
Other parents say they're also upset about Adridge's departure as well.
Jack Anderson parent Christy Atwell says Aldridge told her that she was forced to resign.
She said she would love for Aldridge to return to the school, "but more importantly we want to shed some light on what our current administration is doing and let them know it's not OK," she said. "Our parents are very concerned. Our school is known at a national level right now and it's definitely due to her leadership."
"I just don't think the way she's been treated is fair," said Jack Anderson parent Robert Jackson. "I don't think she wanted to resign, in fact I know she didn't, but sometimes that's your only alternative with the options that are presented to you."
Aldridge could not be immediately reached for comment. Johnson said the school system expects to name her replacement within the next couple of weeks.