When morning bell rings for the first day of school next month in Monongalia County, one familiar face at North Elementary won’t be there.
Following a months-long investigation over allegations of aggressive disciplining of special-needs students by staff there, the county Board of Education last week voted unanimously to terminate the contract of Natalie Webb — the principal who led the nationally known school for the past 12 years.
Which leaves the practical matter of a vacancy in the principal’s office.
The posting for the job closes July 20, Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr. said, with interviews beginning immediately thereafter.
He’s hoping a permanent replacement will be named on Tuesday, which is the next scheduled Board of Education meeting.
BOE members must approve the hire, he said.
“If we don’t get it then, we’re going to be getting into August,” the superintendent said.
The first day of school for the district is Aug. 22.
Corey DeHaas, an assistant principal at South Middle, closed out the year as North Elementary’s interim principal.
DeHaas was selected for that role in February, after the district placed Webb on administrative leave.
Webb’s exit follows investigations into incidents in January and this past November, which were caught on surveillance video and viewed by the district and local police, after the fact.
Webb, by accounts, wasn’t present or directly involved in the two incidents, in particular.
However, the district contended, she should have known about them, as North’s top administrator.
The district said she failed to report the incidents in a timely and proper manner.
Acting on the recommendation of Mon Schools Superintendent Eddie Campbell Jr., Board of Education members voted unanimously to oust the principal during a closed personnel hearing this past Thursday.
Webb, meanwhile, will appeal the board’s action.
Her attorney, Drew M. Capuder, told The Dominion Post on Tuesday that the incidents weren’t initially reported to the district — because they weren’t initially reported to his client, as they should have been.
“Principal Webb was not present at, and did not witness, any of these incidents,” he said.
“Principal Webb’s role was to take swift and appropriate investigative actions as soon as she learned of the incidents.”
His client, he said, “has been denied due process and has been ‘guilty until proven innocent,’” through the whole of the district’s investigation, which was launched in February.
Under her leadership, he said, the school has been heralded for its academic prowess, teaching innovations and diversity.
North is often the academic home of students with international backgrounds whose families cross oceans for professional opportunities at WVU and Morgantown.