A school board member dislikes the way district officials hired Rock Hill High's new principal.
When his six colleagues on the board voted to give the job to Northwestern High assistant principal Arthur "Ozzie" Ahl, school board member Walter Brown abstained from voting.
"I have concerns over the process, how it was done," Brown told the room full of educators.
In an interview with The Herald, Brown said the time frame was too short and district leaders didn't try hard enough to attract a variety of applicants.
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Abstaining "was a small protest against the process," he said. He didn't vote "no," because "I didn't feel I wanted to vote against Ozzie."
Ahl's appointment came about a month after Superintendent Lynn Moody announced that Rock Hill High's current principal, Judy Mobley, was leaving for a job in the central office. Mobley will replace Sheila Huckabee, the director of secondary education who has taken a job as an assistant superintendent with Clover schools.
Moody stands by her choice.
Ahl "is an exceptionally strong instructional leader," she said. "I respect Mr. Brown. We both want what is best for Rock Hill High School. We just simply differ on this issue."
The debate is not unusual among school systems: Hire from within or bring in outside talent?
Brown argues that the district didn't bother looking outside. He thinks the job should have been advertised nationally, and Mobley should have remained principal until the school year's end.
"We use the same process to fill every principalship," Moody said.
According to Moody, the district advertised the job with the South Carolina Association of School Administrators and screened more than 14 candidates, who then interviewed with a 15-person committee of parents, administrators and teachers. Moody interviewed seven finalists, several of whom now work in Rock Hill schools.
The process concluded at Monday's school board meeting, when Moody met with board members behind closed doors for more than an hour to discuss the job. Board members declined to specify what was said.
Other school board members sided with Moody.
"If we didn't have anybody that was competent, I don't think the superintendent would have recommended anyone," said school board member Ginny Moe, whose daughter attended Northwestern. "I was super impressed by (Ahl). I've thought before that he would be a good principal."
School board Chairman Bob Norwood agrees.
"Ozzie was a great candidate," Norwood said. "It seems like he has paid his dues and is ready to get that spot."
While board member Jim Vining supports Ahl, he said it's time for the board to have a public discussion about hiring principals.
"Philosophically and strategically, we should have a blend of grow your own and bringing people in," he said. "It's important to bring in outside talent to get diverse ideas."
The district hasn't hired a principal from outside the district since the 1990s, Vining said.
Ahl said he's unfazed by Brown's move.
"I did not take it as a personal attack," Ahl said. "Over the past several years, I've worked to prepare myself to become a principal."
Promoting from within "shows loyalty to people," he said. "That's a good thing."
Ahl plans to pick up where Mobley left off, focusing on hitting more state and federal achievement targets. Part of his approach includes identifying which students struggle and why, then developing improvement plans for them.
Ahl, 40, has spent his 15-year career at Northwestern. He has taught special education and coached football and soccer. His wife, Jennifer, teaches first grade at Old Pointe Elementary.
"I'm very excited about going over there," Ahl said. "I've developed a great respect for the school and the people working there."
In 2004 Ahl was a finalist for the principal job at South Pointe High. The district hired Al Leonard.
It's not clear who will replace Ahl, who starts at Rock Hill High on Jan. 17.
Northwestern Principal James Blake said he's taking applications for the assistant principal job through Jan. 5.