A Hilton Head Island principal who has been on extended leave while battling illness will not return to his post next school year, nor will his wife, who also is a principal.
The Beaufort County Board of Education learned Tuesday of Hilton Head Island Middle School principal Jim Shirley's plans to leave the district, along with his wife, Jo Shirley, principal at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School.
Interim superintendent Jackie Rosswurm told the board the Shirleys plan to relocate to the Charlotte area near family as Jim Shirley recuperates from recent medical procedures. Rosswurm said he has been on paid leave since after Thanksgiving because of an unspecified illness.
Jo Shirley said Tuesday night her husband underwent cancer surgery in November and is currently receiving oncology treatments at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.
"I love the people and the work we've been doing at Shanklin Elementary, and we both love Beaufort County and being a part of this school district," she said. "It's really hard to have to leave that, but we've always said 'family first' and now we really have to live that. We appreciate tremendously the support of the district, faculty and school staff."
Assistant principal Pamela Maddox will continue as acting principal until a full-time replacement can be found. Jo Shirley will remain at Shanklin Elementary through the end of the school year, Rosswurm said, adding the district will advertise to fill both positions this week.
"It's certainly a loss for our district, but we certainly understand the personal issues they are dealing with and wish them well," she said. "They have done an excellent job."
School Board Chairman Bill Evans agreed.
"I had the good fortune to work with Jim and Jo Shirley both as a colleague, when I worked for the district, and in my continuing involvement on the school board," he said in an email statement Tuesday night. "I think it is unfortunate that we are losing their talents, and especially because of the circumstance has brought this about. Mr. Shirley has the need now to continue recovery from serious health concerns; family and healthcare systems in the greater Charlotte area will help give them the continuing support they need. ... I wish them both the very best and greatly appreciate the service they have given our students and the district."
Jo Shirley moved to Shanklin Elementary this school year after spending three years as principal of Port Royal Elementary School. Her husband served as principal at Hilton Head Middle the past four years, Rosswurm said.
Jo Shirley has applied and is awaiting approval to be hired as an elementary school principal with the Charlotte-Mecklenburg School District, Rosswurm said. That is the district where former superintendent Valerie Truesdale took a job as chief information officer after leaving Beaufort County schools in October.
The Shirleys' departure leaves the district with four principal posts to fill for next school year -- H.E. McCracken Middle School, St. Helena Elementary School, Hilton Head Island Middle School and Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School.
"Which is not that unusual," Rosswurm said. "We typically have about four to six principal turnovers in a year due to a variety of reasons, such as retirement or relocation."