Local News

Questions Surround Departure of 2 School Officials

Posted August 13, 2000

— The principal and a school secretary at Durham's Healthy Start Academy left suddenly Friday. Parents want to know why, but no one's answering. And there are questions about the school lunch fund.

A letter went to the children's homes today, informing parents that there have been administrative changes, and that a new interim principal is in place, but there is no explanation of the departure of two administrators. And it doesn't mention a $75,000 shortfall in the school lunch fund. Neither the letter nor school officials offer much explanation.

Many parents are taking the news in stride.

And for the school's 450 elementary students, Monday was just another day in the classroom.

But there have been big changes in the school's front office. Headmaster Tom Williams and administrative assistant Renee Harrington left Friday after two-and-a-half years on the job.

Attorney Philip Adkins represents the school.

"It's a personnel matter and, by state law," Adkins said, "we aren't allowed to talk about any of the circumstances. Tom is a fine person, a great administrator, and we wish him well in the future."

Williams put the academy in the national spotlight recently, when he suggested that fourth-grade teacher Claudia Kirkley speak at the Republican convention.

An interim principal, brought in from Colorado, is already in place.

Adkins says there is an accounting discrepancy, but no money is missing.

"Most of the students here, about 80 percent of them, are on the free lunch program, which the federal government reimburses for. The problem we've got is that we're paying more money than the federal government is reimbursing," Adkins said. School officials call that an accounting discrepancy. WRAL-TV 5 was unable to reach Williams or Harrington Monday.

The Durham Police Department says it is not investigating anything connected to the school.

The Healthy Start Academy is on Dowd Street.


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