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FIRST ON 3: West Brunswick High School principal quits over students' graduation eligibility


BRUNSWICK COUNTY, NC (WWAY) -- West Brunswick High School's principal has resigned in an apparent dispute with school district leaders over the eligibility of students to participate in the school's graduation ceremony tomorrow.

Teachers say it was an emotional day at west brunswick high 130 faculty and staff gathered Friday afternoon giving Ahrens a standing ovation as he walked in the cafeteria.
One teacher told us
Principal Ahrens handed in his letter of resignation to superintendent Dr. Edward Pruden after a disagreement over the school's attendance policy in regard to walking at graduation.

Representatives from the school board say, some students found out yesterday they wouldn't be able to walk at graduation but Ahrens says they've known all year.

"We actually paid someone on a budget to stay on a Tuesday, on a thursday and the AP's shifted on a Saturday morning," Ahrens said.

Ahrens said he gave at risk students three days a week to make up for their absenteeism over the past semester.

As soon as they had made up the missed days, they'd get their diploma.

The students actual graduation from West Brunswick High School was never in question, only their participation in the ceremony.
"That's the important part ... It doesn't matter what day you get the diploma," Ahrens said.

The Brunswick County school board overruled Ahrens Friday, deciding to allow the 18 students in question to participate on graduation day Saturday.

Brunswick County Schools spokeswoman Jessica Swenski says, "There is no attendance requirement specified in that state law or in board policy."

However, the standing state and school policy says students missing more than eight days will be given a failing grade and in turn, unable to graduate.

While these 18 students did miss more than eight days, they had not received an failing grade.

Ahrens says they want their students to succeed and state requirements for school and teacher evaluations are encouraging teachers to allow students to make up work.

"There's pressure on me, there's pressure on our teachers, there's pressure on our whole district," Ahrens said. "We've created our own broken system."

West Brunswick has implemented an entire absentee committee that calls parents when students don't show up for school, but junior Alex Clarida says students have found a way around that by giving the school their own number. That way, the calls never actually make it to the parents.

Ahrens says he has seen a growing trend in absenteeism at West Brunswick. "I think it's directly related to us as principals allowing kids to walk with high absentee rates," Ahrens said.

School system reps says this ordeal has brought light to the fact, while they do have an attendance policy, they need to examine it and strive for consistency in the procedures for each of the schools.

Disclaimer: Comments posted on this, or any story are opinions of those people posting them, and not the views or opinions of WWAY NewsChannel 3, its management or employees. You can view our comment policy here.


Speaking of graduation, I

Speaking of graduation, I can't believe the writer of this article graduated. Basic writing skills (capitalization, punctuation) are not evident. Amazing that these articles are published without anyone checking them. More amazing if someone claims to have checked them first.

Example before I quit reading:

"Teachers say it was an emotional day at west brunswick high 130 faculty and staff gathered Friday afternoon giving Ahrens a standing ovation as he walked in the cafeteria."

Looks like a 6th grade D student wrote it.


Another Pruden fiasco. Another call to FIRE Pruden.

WBHS Issues

Gina Sullivan you are a complete hypocrite! You say it's not the school's responsibility to call the parents to let them know that their child has missed school, but yet when your very own son "ditched" school with some of other kids earlier this semester you were the 1st person to call the school to snitch on all the kids including your own! That ended up back firing on you now didn’t it!

State and Federal requirement is: Must have a minimum of 185 days OR 1,025 hours of instruction. If the kids meet the State requirement there should be no reason not to let them walk. Brunswick County Schools attend clases longer than what is require by both the State and Federal Government. There was actually no need to make up the ice days this year. As much as these kids go to school each year and with NO real breaks throughout the course of the day or throughout the year at that; the kids are going to get burned out faster! The county has no one to blame but themselves. I believe it was in the best interest of WBHS that Mr. Ahrens stepped down anyway. You don’t transfer people from school to school if they are not meeting expectations. In fact the school district needs to clean house with all WBHS lead administration. The philosophy of kids are meant to been seen and not heard is not the right way to run a school at any grade level. I believe that the Brunswick County School Board needs to look into the attendance policy as a whole. I believe that excused and unexcused absents should not be lumped together and that only unexcused absents need to count against the kids.

Are you an idiot? Was your

Are you an idiot? Was your child one who would not be able to walk? Any parent who continually makes excusses for their child to get around the rules will eventually end up reaping what you have sown and visiting your child in prison. It is a parents responsibility to teach your child how to be an honest and productive member of society. School is to teach them acadenics. If you truly feel this way and are not just making excusses then I feel sorry for your child because they are being raised by a complete idiot!

Shame on you Dr. Pruden

I absolutely agree with Brock Ahrens, WBHS Principal! Shame on you Dr. Pruden for not supporting your administration's attempt to enforce the wonder so many teenagers have an entitlement mentality.

WBHS principal resigns

In my opinion we need to get rid of this school board and elect all new members. We need a strong board that will stand up and follow the rules. This board cannot even stand by a decision they made about changing back to traditional school times they rescinded their earlier decision about going back. I am worried about what is going to become of the high school now.

I agree...

the school board needs changing, but not for switching back to the staggered schedule. They need to be changed for voting to do something that they had no way to pay for.

He was and will always be an

He was and will always be an amazing principal. .I know I've worked for him

He was always mean to people

He was always mean to people and told some people that the looked uneducated so how was that right

Support for Principal

I support Mr. Ahrens decision 100% and applaud him for attempting to uphold policy. Why have a written policy regarding attendance, or anything else, if it is not going to be followed. What message are we sending students? To not allow the students to graduate would have been unfortunate, but life is full of consequences for rules not followed. What happens when these same students enter the world of work and they miss excessive days......they are fired! I wish only the best for Mr. Ahrens in his future outside of Brunswick County. And people wonder why so many teachers have left Brunswick County??

Support for Principal

I support Mr. Ahrens decision 100% and applaud him for attempting to uphold policy. Why have a written policy regarding attendance, or anything else, if it is not going to be followed. What message are we sending students? To not allow the students to graduate would have been unfortunate, but life is full of consequences for rules not followed. What happens when these same students enter the world of work and they miss excessive days......they are fired! I wish only the best for Mr. Ahrens in his future outside of Brunswick County. And people wonder why so many teachers have left Brunswick County??

Details are not there

It seems like we are not getting all the details of this story. Many of these seniors may have had all the credits and classes necessary to graduate by the second semester of their senior year and chose to work instead of sitting in the library doing a whole lot of nothing while they waited for the school year to finish. If this is the case the attendance is not necessary and should not be held against them. They deserve to graduate on stage with their class as much as the ones that get credits to the last minute. If they have severe absences with classes, how do they pass those classes in order to graduate at all? Without details, nobody can have an opinion about these kids.

January Graduation

If these students had finished all the requirements at the end of the fall semester, they should have graduated in January when the semester ended. Schools would still allow them to participate in the ceremony today. This would have allowed the students to work as much as they wanted and have no obligation to the school during the entire Spring Semester. There are options for students do have completed their requirements. Unfortunately, some students want to be able to work when they want and hang out at school when they want. You cant have it both ways. If a students is going to be a student they have to be where they are supposed to be when they are supposed to be there. This is the only way a school can maintain safety for all students and faculty.


The 18 students for clarification miss days, made them up but were not allowed to attend their graduation ceremony. What do you say to child who has missed time but worked hard to make it up, but not allowed to graduate that is wrong by any rule book. if they cannot graduate then what is the point in having them to make up the days.

They did not make up the

They did not make up the the article. You could use a few more semesters yourself by the way.


The students did NOT make up the missed days. That is the point of not allowing them to participate in graduation. There were many students who did make up the missed time, but the 18 who refused to make up the time that they missed are receiving the consequence that they were made aware of weeks ago! If the students did not make up the time they could not walk. They did not make up the time, so they should not walk. The board of education's decision here completely undermined Mr. Ahrens. What a crying shame!


This is absurd. These students didn't just miss one or two days. Clearly there is more to the issue than is being shared. Shame on the school board and the news media for making Principal Ahrens look like he's the one at fault. The principal did exactly as he should. What is his job if not to make sure the quality and standards of our education are kept intact? This is horrifically unfair not only to Principal Ahrens but also the students who DID put in their time.
I am thoroughly disappointed in our school board.


Sorry guys.... Wrong pole question. It should read, Was the superintendent wrong to intervene by overruling the principals policy ?

Courage - Simple Solution

Real simple. Have them switch jobs.
Our School systems need Superintendents with the courage to make the right decisions. I suspect the Superintendent in this case has not spent much time in a High School classroom LATELY. This Principal could teach this superintendent quite a few things it would appear. Sometimes the right decision ruffles some feathers, but sometimes feathers need to be ruffled. Outstanding Job by the Principal. The Board should not accept his resignation and support his stand. The Board should do the right thing.

He was doing his job!!!!!

He was doing his job!!!!! Shame on you parents who are not involved in your child's missed days. Check your parent portal and it will show how many days your child has missed. It's not the school responsibility to call any parent to let them know that their child has missed 3 or more days. You had them, so do your job and make sure they are doing theirs. Be their parent and not their friend.

I am a student at West

I am a student at West Brunswick. He does not have the right to keep them from walking at graduation. If you complete your work and pass the qualifications to graduate you should be able to walk down at graduation because not only did you go through 4 years of hard work. You did it without having to go to school as much as the others which also shows that you have an advantage in learning more quickly than other students. No he was not doing his job.

He was doing his job by

He was doing his job by enforcing the rules. There are more than just academic requirements for graduation. You are required to be there a certain number of days and allowed only a certain number of absences. If those absences are due to extenuating circumstances, then exceptions should be made. If the absences are because the student just doesn't feel the need to follow the rules, then they should not be allowed to walk with the rest of the students who met all requirements and followed the rules.

Or, if you know the rules,

Or, if you know the rules, you abide by them. Of course he was doing his job.


These students were not permitted to graduate although they have made up their time and have done the work needed to graduate. There are many reasons a child can be absent from school, some which don't get approved by the school. Most of the people defending Ahrens just want extra tickets for their own children, while the angry parents don't get tickets at all. I say the parents have a right to be angry and graduation should be canceled until the school board finds a place big enough to hold all students' families.

Uhm if you worked for 4

Uhm if you worked for 4 years and earned every credit you would be mad. And you dont know personal situations that students go through so he did his job but so did the students

Happens All the Time

This type of stuff happens all the time in every school and school system. Students and parents are informed of the rules, and when the rules are enforced, they go to the school board and have the consequence overturned. I have been reading with interest the discussions on teacher tenure. This is precisely why tenure is needed. Teachers and principals cannot enforce the rules without angry parents going to the board to get what they want. And weak boards capitulate. The situation is similar in charter schools where staff can be let go on any whim--even because they make too much money and management wants to divert that money elsewhere. I suggest that school boards and management entities are more of a problem than so called weak teachers and principals. The only reason the media knows about this incidence is the principal quit and someone notified the media. Most teachers and principals do not have the financial means to quit or risk being let go. Now without tenure and in the charter schools with no due process, they have no choice but to go along. Who is at fault? We all are.

graduation rate?

I'm sure this has nothing to do with the county's graduation rate, right??
Good for this principal, too bad he did the right thing and got the punishment for it. Shame on the superintendent for lowering his standards and making exceptions for students. This is not a good lesson for them to learn. Children are way too "entitled" these days already and things like this teach them that it's fine to do whatever you want because if you raise enough fuss then you will get your way no matter what.

West Brunswick high school

The problem is when some students are told that they have excessive absences and others aren't told then they are allowed to make up days then the other students that we are talking about were told yesterday that they couldn't get their tickets for graduation until they talk to the principal because they missed to many days that's messed up. Yeah I'm aware that the students are old enough and know how many days are allowed and how many they missed but once the others were told and they weren't they thought they were good but found out different yesterday the last day of school. What chance did they have then none! The graduation deal is done wrong altogether the fact that the students only get two tickets but can possibly get one or two more is messed up the parents account for the two tickets then one set of the grandparents might get to go the siblings might get to attend. It causes a lot of hurt feelings and anxiety with the senior having to pick who gets to go.


Well....WHY should a student be TOLD they have excessive absences? Aren't they the ones that skipped the classes....therefore they should know. Not to mention Brunswick county has a program available to EVERY parent that allows you to see what your childs grade is on a DAILY basis as well as attendance. SO....QUIT blaming the school...blame it on the parents and students.

The problem with the

The problem with the graduation tickets is that the system is not open to alternative locations to Odell Williamson. There is a limited number of seats, therefore there has to be a limited number of tickets. There are larger venues in neighboring counties but Pruden's office is unwilling to entertain that idea. They would rather people just miss out on watching their loved ones celebrate their 13-year achievement.