August 1, 2014

York Prep managing director resigns, board to hire consultant

Clay Eaton, York Preparatory Academy’s managing director for the 2013-2014 school year, resigned after being placed on leave by the board.

For the fifth time in as many years, York Preparatory Academy is without a managing director.

The Rock Hill charter school’s board of directors accepted the resignation of Clay Eaton after he had held the position for just one year. Eaton had been placed on paid leave by the board just more than a week ago. The board accepted the resignation in executive session Thursday night, its second closed-door meeting in a week.

Parents were notified of Eaton’s resignation in an email sent Friday morning.

“...there is a time and place for everything, and my time as an employee at this particular place has concluded,” Eaton wrote in a letter attached to the email.

In the letter, Eaton assured parents that the administration and staff at York Prep was ready for the upcoming school year and had “prepared nothing less than ideal learning conditions.”

Eaton also said his three children will continue to attend York Prep and said the “future of our school continues to be extremely bright.” He expressed confidence that York Prep will become one of the top schools in South Carolina.

Prior to coming to York Prep, Eaton worked for the South Carolina Public Charter School District, although he’s held a variety of positions in several industries. Last summer, after he was hired but before the new school year began, he said he and his family were making a long-term commitment to York Prep and that it was his desire to end the “revolving door” of leadership at the school.

Each school year has seen a different managing director since York Prep opened in 2010.

In the same email stating that Eaton had resigned, the board told parents that the “revolving door” for the managing director position needed to stop. It is the board’s job to hire and evaluate the managing director.

The copy of the school’s charter available on the school’s website was last updated in March 2012, according to the document’s title.

In that charter, the school’s governing document, the managing director is described as York Prep’s “instructional and administrative leader.” At a minimum, the person in that position is supposed to have a valid South Carolina teaching credential, a master’s degree and administrative certification or one year experience in school-based administration.

Eaton did not have a valid teaching credential, to the knowledge of Wayne Brazell, the superintendent of the Public Charter School District. Eaton did have experience teaching in higher education.

While a school may hire someone outside of its guidelines, an amendment to its charter needs to be filed with the district, he said. Brazell does not recall any such amendment being filed at the time of Eaton’s hiring.

Other qualifications desired for a managing director include understanding and modeling “best practice” teaching, demonstrating training and experience in teacher development and evaluation and demonstrating competence in modeling and implementing a character education program, among others.

Last week, Brazell said the district had concerns about the constant change in leadership at the state’s largest on-campus charter school. York Prep currently has about 1,300 students. That number has grown each year.

In the same email that announced Eaton’s resignation, board members said they will be bringing in a professional education consultant to “help us assess the skill set needs for a long-term fit.” Though this process will not be “speedy or simple,” the board assured parents that it was important and that the school remained in good hands.

The email also announced that York Prep has hired a new middle school principal, Ryan Bridges, and a new high school principal, although his name was not included because he hasn’t been released from his former employer.

York Prep’s students return to campus Aug. 18. This is a big year for the school, said board chair Abram Cramer, because it will be the first year with a full kindergarten through 12th-grade student population and will be the school’s first year with a graduating class.

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