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With New Principal, Hillside High School Reopens To Students, Faculty

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DURHAM, N.C. — All eyes were on the reopening of Hillside High School Tuesday after parents and students spent the summer protesting the school board's handling of the school staff.

Other than two protesters at the school system's central office, it was a normal day for students at the school. Many of the students said they were not concerned about the summer's events.

"Half of the people here have not mentioned it and even come close to thinking about it," said one student.

"To me, it doesn't matter to me what principal or what administration is here because everyone is here to help you," student Lisa Nwakpuda said.

Hillside High School has been at the center of a year-long debate over changes that have infuriated parents, students and city leaders.

Students at Hillside started another new year with a new principal. Eunice Sanders is the high school's third principal in three years.

Sanders replaced Henry Pankey, who after one year on the job, resigned to take a new post in New York. Pankey replaced longtime principal Richard Hicks, who was removed by the school board for passing students who should have failed for missing too many classes.

Over the summer, Superintendent Ann Denlinger sent letters to 24 support staffers informing them that they had to reapply for their jobs. Denlinger said the staff changes will improve academic performance.

Friday, dozens of protesters lined Durham streets, circulating a petition calling for the resignation of Denlinger and school board chairwoman Kathryn Meyers.

The petition came one day after a school board meeting ended with the re-election of Meyers by a 4-3 vote and the arrest of Durham NAACP leader Curtis Gatewood, who was among a group protesting the outcome.

The controversy at Hillside also prompted parents to protest outside of Northgate Mall. They called for a boycott of the mall where many of Hillside's students shop.


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