H.E. McCracken Middle School principal Phillip Shaw will return to his job "in a few days," Beaufort County School District officials say.
Shaw has been on leave since Nov. 8, and the district has refused to give a reason for the leave or say whether it is voluntary or forced. However, spokesman Jim Foster said Thursday that Shaw would be back as principal at the 890-student school shortly. Foster declined to provide further details.
An attempt to reach Shaw was unsuccessful.
The district sent a note to McCracken parents via its phone-messenger system that said Shaw "is on leave and will be out of the school building for a few days." The message also said assistant principal Joseph Warfield will be in charge of all school operations in Shaw's absence.
Details have been scarce, with district officials refusing to answer most questions about Shaw's absence, saying it's a personnel matter and citing employee privacy.
Foster has said that both interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm and Alice Walton of the human resources department were at the school Nov. 8 to meet with Shaw. He declined to say whether the district placed Shaw on leave or if Shaw asked for it, or further explain what the meeting was about.
District policy allows for two days per year of "personal leave" -- the phrase district officials have used to explain Shaw's absence. Shaw left the school Thursday, though it's not clear what time of day he left, and has now missed at least five work days.
Rosswurm, who is still the head of human resources, declined to say whether Shaw's leave was in line with district policy.
In an email Thursday, Rosswurm said that if the public's need to know outweighs an employee's right to privacy, the district would release information.
Board of Education members say they know little about Shaw's absence but expect to learn more during a two-day work session that begins today.
A closed session this evening is scheduled to discuss personnel issues, but it's not clear if that relates to Shaw's case.
"I'm hoping we'll get more information," board member Laura Bush said. "Since we'll be together a day and a half, I'm sure it's going to come up as a question."
Bush's district includes families whose students attend McCracken Middle School. She said she had no reason to suspect something was wrong.
Bush and board members Bill Evans and Michael Rivers said they knew Shaw was on leave -- Rosswurm called Monday or Tuesday to tell them -- but not much more.
Evans said he didn't ask many questions when Rosswurm called, and he assumed the board would learn more at the work session.
"I understand parents want to know what's going on," he said. "But you need to make sure you're protecting people who might be involved in whatever took place."
Board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. said he was "aware" of the situation and declined further comment, saying it would be improper to comment.
Board Vice Chairman George Wilson said he prefers not to know too much, too early when it comes to personnel issues.
"I demand that (the district doesn't) tell us too much because any time an employee has a problem with management and he feels he's been unfairly treated, he can appeal to the board," Wilson said. "It's not fair for the board to hear too much because then they're not independent."
Attempts to reach board members Earl Campbell, Ron Speaks and Herbert Burnes were unsuccessful. Board member Julie Bell has said she didn't know anything about Shaw's absence.