Robert Smalls Middle principal reassigned to elementary school assistant principal post

sbowman@beaufortgazette.comMay 25, 2014 

Denise Smith, Robert Smalls Middle School principal for 17 years, will be reassigned to Lady's Island Elementary School, where she will be an assistant principal next year.

Superintendent Jeff Moss said neither the change in leadership at the school, nor Smith's demotion were related to the suicide of a Robert Smalls sixth-grader April 30. Some school parents and friends of Celeste Wills have blamed bullying at the school for her death.

The personnel decisions were made several months ago, but the district does not release the assignments until after all schools complete spring testing, according to Moss.

St. Helena Elementary School principal Nicole Holloman will replace Smith at Robert Smalls, which will become Robert Smalls International Academy next school year.

Attempts to reach Smith were unsuccessful.

"I make all administrative assignments around who I believe is the best administrative fit for the school and the challenges and needs of that school," Moss said.

He would not say why Smith would not be a good fit for Robert Smalls, which will serve students in pre-kindergarten through eighth grade starting next year.

Some of the factors he considers in making the assignments include the history of student performance, staff turnover and exit reporting, and the administrator's effectiveness in working toward district goals, Moss said.

Holloman has been with the district for three years and has experience as both an elementary and middle-school administrator, according to district spokesman Jim Foster. She also has taught foreign language and understands the new international perspective of the school, Moss added.

"It will be really exciting at Robert Smalls to bring in these new grades and have this new international identity, but still build on a school that is so well-established in the community," Holloman said.

Senfronia Smith, an assistant principal at Battery Creek High School, will replace Holloman at St. Helena Elementary.

Moss said Senfronia Smith's leadership style is similar to Holloman's and will easily make the transition to St. Helena Elementary, having taught there before for three years.

All other principals in the district will remain at their current schools. Moss said it is important to maintain continuity for students and staff when possible.

"I do look at continuity," he said, "but sometimes what outweighs continuity is what I think would be best for the school."

Current and next year's salaries for the three administrators were not available Friday.

Follow reporter Sarah Bowman at twitter.com/IPBG_Sarah.

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