ANDERSON — A teacher that members of the community hoped would be promoted to principal at Anderson Elementary School will have an opportunity to become an administrator – just not there, Anderson Community Schools Superintendent Joe Cronk confirmed Monday.
Terasha Webb is expected to be transitioned into the principal’s position at Edgewood Elementary School in time for the district’s return to in-person instruction on Sept. 28. The decision is expected to be made final at the Oct. 20 board meeting.
Sharon Buchanan, the current principal at Edgewood, will become the principal at Anderson Elementary. She served as the first principal there, lifting the school to a B accountability grade before serving in other capacities throughout the district.
“We’re opening schools in two weeks. We need a principal at AES who’s been there and done that and understands the staff and the community,” Cronk said. “Given that we are about to open the schools in a few weeks, these are the best moves we can make.”
That’s precisely the reason some who have led the fight on behalf of Webb said it actually would be best for her to remain at Anderson Elementary where she has built a rapport with students.
But Cronk said Buchanan will be better able to manage Anderson Elementary, which has a larger student population than Edgewood, while Edgewood would be a good size for an emerging principal just learning the ropes of administration.
“Edgewood is a building that a new principal can handle,” he said. “It will allow her to build her administrative tool kit. It’s more commensurate with her developing skill set.”
Though official enrollments for the current year have not been tallied, according to the Indiana Department of Education, Anderson Elementary had 462 students, and Edgewood had 240 in the 2019-20 school year.
Neither Buchanan nor Webb could be reached for comment Monday. ACS board President Pat Hill did not return a call for comment.
The Anderson Elementary principal’s position became an issue about two weeks ago when it was offered to an educator from Indianapolis public schools. Some residents were concerned that the position had been offered to a white male candidate from outside the district with two DWIs on his record when the hiring committee had before them a Black female candidate with more experience and a clean criminal record.
Opponents to the initial decision said it was unfair when former Anderson High School coach Phillip Washington was fired after a second DUI. They said the rules seemed to change depending on whether the candidate was white or Black.
School board members mounted an aggressive counter-campaign. But in the end, the candidate from Indianapolis withdrew from consideration.
Lindsay Brown, one of several concerned citizens who led the campaign on behalf of the city’s westside community, said he’s not certain whether he is satisfied with the decision.
“To me, it looks like you’re trying to save face, but ‘We did give you something,’” he said. “I’m happy for her getting the opportunity to be a principal for all the hard work she has done. But if she was good enough to be No. 2, why can’t she be the choice?”
He also was one of several community members who expressed concern Webb was being moved from one building to another.
“She knows the students, she knows the teachers, she knows the parents. She’s from the area. She grew up around the corner from the school. You want someone who is in tough with the people in the community,” he said.
Domanic Wills, president and founder of the Westside Concerned Citizens Coalition, agreed Webb’s rapport with the Anderson Elementary community is important and is concerned about her move to Edgewood.
“I feel like that’s not a bad thing, because both of them are women and of color,” he said. “If this gives Mrs. Webb more exposure and more training, I think that’s a good thing.”
In a Facebook post she later deleted, ACS board member Holly Renz had tried to diminish concerns expressed by members of the public in regard to the principal’s appointment by implying only a handful of people spoke.
Wills said that often happens with local government bodies but added in this instance, the community’s general concern was evident in a rally that had been planned for Saturday by a coalition of groups, including his, Concerned Ministers and the Anderson Chapter of Indiana Black Expo.
“That’s their mentality once they get into the decision-making process,” he said. “They always seem to think the one or two people who show up and say something are the only ones who care, and obviously, that’s not the case.”