Ashley High School leadership under fire

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Submitted: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:45am
Updated: Tue, 07/08/2014 - 2:31pm

WILMINGTON, NC (WWAY)– The level of dissatisfaction from teachers at Ashley High School in Wilmington is growing.

WWAY recently told you about the initial, and dismal results of those teacher satisfaction surveys.

Monday we learned about a second survey sent out in response to the initial survey. What it shows is the school seems to be concerned about the initial survey results.

Seventy-five percent of teachers responded to the 2014 teacher satisfaction survey compared to 47 percent in 2012.

Their concerns stem from what appears to be a lack of school leadership.

Questions from the survey include:

Teachers feel comfortable raising issues and concerns that are important to them? 20 percent agree. That’s down from 68 percent two years ago.

There is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect in this school? About 19 percent agree, down from 59 percent in 2012.

The school leadership makes a sustained effort to address teacher concerns about leadership issues? Twenty-seven percent agree, down from 69 percent in 2012.

Teachers have sufficient access to appropriate instructional materials? Thirty-nine percent agree, down from 70 percent in 2012.

After airing our initial story about concerns at Ashley teacher, concerns poured in via email.

In one email, a teacher said Ashley High School is, “a scary place to work.”

“It has been the worst year at Ashley ever this year. Our principal is a bully and is retaliatory,” wrote another teacher. That teacher added that everyone is afraid of losing their job if they speak up.

WWAY has tried twice to get either the New Hanover County Schools Superintendent Dr. Tim Markley or Ashley High School Principal Jackson Norvell to speak with us.

Markley said no both times. Norvell just left without responding once and has yet to respond to our second request.

Someone is responding to teachers though.

In an email to WWAY, a teacher sent us a copy of a survey that appears to have been sent from school administrators to staff in response to the survey.

The problem is teachers say this survey would not have been anonymous so some were afraid to respond.

In the interest of full disclosure Chris Brown, the reporter on this story, graduated from Ashley High School in 2004.


  • Guest2020 says:

    As long as he holds a position that is paid for by the taxpayers, then he is subject to public opinion. If he cannot handle the criticism, then he needs to find another line of work.

  • parent says:

    My child is new to Ashley this year. I have been engrossed in a fast-track graduate program most of the summer and had not seen the news in months. Today I found out about the issues surrounding Jackson Norvell and the teachers at Ashley. I was dismayed to hear about it, as when we met with Mr. Norvell we left the meeting feeling extremely grateful he would serve as our child’s new principal. My child is atypical in a certain way and we were leery about enrolling him in a public high school. Mr. Norvell completely set our fears at rest and absolutely determined that our child would be treated fairly at Ashley. My child is really, really pleased to have him lead the school. Mr. Norvell did not seem concerned with the popularity of his stance at all – he seemed only concerned about the best interests of our child, even though he didn’t know us. I believe that he can and will address his personal and management style with the teachers at Ashley and just hope they will give him a chance to do so. I am someone who has needed to change at certain times in my life and I recognize it when I run into someone else who is capable of that. Although I don’t bet, if I did I would put down a lot of money that Mr. Norvell will make positive changes in his management style and that he can take Ashley High School closer to its potential. I just hope he is given the chance to do so.

  • anonashteach says:

    I agree that no one rises to low expectations; that is much of the reason that the teachers are unhappy, but not in the way that you implied. I love high expectations, I love a challenge and I love an administration that is in my classroom, engaging in what is going on. I do my job and I do it well if feed back from students, parents, test scores and admin are anything to go on. We as a staff and a community have steadily grown over the past several yeas, however that has been trampled upon. Many of us have been commanded to change grades and when we have questioned it or refused, we have been written up and attacked. The teachers who have been transferred where proven to be strong teachers and they achieved excellent scores and held excellent reputations in the school, amongst the parents and the students. I am not sure how forcing those people out is beneficial to anyone except Norvell. He changed grades so that students who failed classes graduated and he forced teachers to sacrifice standards and ethics to push kids through so his percentages looked better. This is why we are angry– because he is lowering the expectations in the classroom, for behavior and it is damaging our school. I agree, no one rises to low expectations, but they will lower to them and that is what happening in our school–if you don’t believe me, look at the test scores over the last six years, see what growth has done under him. I am sure you like him as a person, but as a leader he leaves the bar pretty low.

  • Elizabeth says:

    I am commenting as a former teacher under Mr. Norvell when he was an assistant principal in Pender County. I have since moved out of state but felt that Mr. Norvell was just about the only administrator that understood what a struggle it was to teach in not only Pender County but also North Carolina in the bigger picture. The fact that Ashley has had 4 principals in 4 years means Norvell must have inherited quite the mess that the previous three principals couldn’t fix. Additionally, the NC state government is doing NOTHING to improve teacher satisfaction which is well beyond the scope of one principal at one school in one district. There is so much more wrong with the education system in NC that I simply refuse to believe that such few people are to blame. Perhaps let’s take a moment and remember that Jackson Norvell is a human being with a family and a passion for children and education and perhaps consider removing him from the cross of public opinion.

  • Ashley teacher says:

    Jennifer. I know you work hard. So did many of the teachers that have left or were forced out. You will one day see that other side of Jackson and it is not pretty. And on that day you will have no voice and your great work will be meaningless. It’s sad but true.

  • Concerned educator says:


  • A concerned educator says:

    You are correct. I know first hand that he has sent EXCELLENT teachers to other schools. In that case Ashley loses, the others schools win. Clearly this bully is afraid of anyone who has different ideas than him and that’s shameful. But those teachers will thrive elsewhere and be better for getting away from him. It’s just ironic how the principal is the one giving the excellent rating then turning around and giving the involuntary transfer to the same teacher. Clearly he’s doing something shady…

  • Jodi says:

    Your facts don’t address the problem which is poor leadership based on data and actions of your principal. Your comments stray from the issue and although you highlight your views, they have nothing to do with what’s going on in the nucleus of the school. Do you teach a core subject that has been affected by his poor decisions? Or do you have the luxury to hang out with students and sing all day?

  • Ashley parent for change says:

    Teachers have their hands tied in this. Parents must have their voices heard. This man will truly hurt this school given more time.

    The board should hear from you!
    I just sent my email.

  • Concerned Citizen says:

    Your competing station had what they advertised and called a news conference with Jackson Norvell at 5:00. No questions were asked. He made two statements that amounted to his ignorance of his teachers’ dissatisfaction and his self assuredness that Ashley was where he should be. All I can say is that if the administration and school board does not feel he should be removed from Ashley, they should support the requests of all teachers and students who would like to move to another school in the county.

  • Jennifer Sugerik says:

    I have taught at Ashley High School since the day the doors opened. This administration is doing their best with an interesting school history. We have seen many principals and assistant principals come and go. We have faculty members who have been dissatisfied with different ones for different reasons. This year was difficult because of several factors; the climate from Raleigh in regards to tenure, pay, etc, the drastic changes in administration (yet again), and the changes in curriculum and testing. These stress factors only added fuel to the fire. Many teachers who have taught only specific subjects or levels of students (honors) for years, were asked to teach different/all levels or different subjects. I believe our administration (agree or disagree) was trying to best serve our students. Being a principal is a difficult job. The economy and climate of our nation has propelled parents into a frenzy to blame the schools for anything that might seem wrong with their world. Schools are an easy target, and teachers and administrators listen. We don’t always make perfect decisions, and anyone new has no idea who to trust and believe. The entire faculty at Ashley High School is not unhappy. We all want our school to be the best. AHS is a fantastic high school with wonderful,talented, intelligent students, dedicated teachers, a new administration with their hearts in the right place, and a support staff second-to-none. Please know all the facts before blasting people and my school.

  • BS says:

    “No one rises to low expectations.” We need to remember that this is an OPINION survey done by, what appears to be, dissatisfied teachers. There is bound to be some push back from teachers when they are asked to “step it up”. Sounds like he’s trying to make Ashley a better place as soon as possible. Good work Mr. Norvell. As someone said in another article’s comment “This nation, county, and school need strong leadership.” Well here you have it. Someone who is willing to make the tough decisions despite what grief he might get from those less willing to make the tough changes. I believe him when he said he has the best interest of the students in mind. Isn’t that what education is about? You know who’s not making the news? The principal at some other school that just sways in the wind to every parent or teacher’s opinion out there. This guy at least has the guts, determination, and morals to take a stand for something he believes in: the best education for those kids.

  • The Sheriff says:

    I sincerely question the integrity and the legitimacy of the alleged journalist and disregard the yellow journalism because it is biased and unfounded.

  • Mark Hicks says:


    I have been trying to get more parents involved with this, but there are just not enough parents out there willing to do it. Parents are so scared of the consequences that their children will faces if they speak out. If you will are willing to help, please contact me and hopefully we can get enough parents and students together on this and make our voices heard even more.

    First, a first year Principal should never have been placed at a 4A High School such as Ashley. Second, he is a friend of Holliday and Markley, and was placed there by them so it will be extremely difficult to have him removed. Third, the only way to go about this is work with the School Board to have this done, and to have Holliday and Markley removed from their positions – for they are the root of the problem.

    We need a Superintendent that is trust worthy, moral, and one who will speak to the media, tell the truth, and solve problems. Markley cannot and will not do this. We DO NOT NEED a Deputy Superintendent, this position is a waste of tax payer money and was only brought back to help solve the Markley issue with his secretary. A strong Superintendent does not need a “Deputy”, not in a county this small.

    We need to get as many people as we can to email the School Board about this, then show up at the School Board meetings and sign up to speak about this. Then if action is not taken by the School Board, elections are coming up this year, and we can vote and make changes in this manner.

    Mark Hicks

  • guest123455 says:

    You should check out this survey at other schools and in surrounding counties. You will find several similarities.

  • Researching says:

    OK. I looked. There are certainly some strides to be made about our region, but I did there is not anything as low and as on point as Ashley. But, we need to have parents speak up at each school about ways to improve and how they can help.

  • Guest123456789 says:

    Ashley High School is not the only school in the region with a poor Teacher Working Conditions Survey…check out DC Virgo or Freeman in New Hanover or Cape Fear Elementary in Pender County. You can see the results of any school at

  • CJ says:

    Good efforts, but I would not expect that anyone will answer you in the NHCS or Ashley principal’s office. They have shown consistently over the past school year (Markley’s pay raises to his mistress, Running off good coaches to put in their buddies, non-renewing teachers without cause, Norvell lying about personnel files and evaluations, closed school board meetings about Ashley) that they feel no obligation to answer to you or anyone else about their actions.
    The conceit and power they wield is an embarrassment to all of us honest citizens and taxpayers.

  • Concerned Citizen says:

    One way for your voices to be heard loud and clear would be to make an appointment with central office and demand that your high school students be transferred to another school. New Hanover High School has excellent athletics and academic programs. Furthermore, the principal is Jame McAdams, the best principal Ashley has ever had.
    Teachers might want to consider that move as well.

  • The Sheriff says:

    So the Ashley Teachers did not learn the first time? No surprise there. Perhaps the problem is unhappy employees and not the leadership. Employees(i.e. teachers) forget, from time to time, they are there to work and not socialize.

    If I were the School Board, Superintendent and Principal I would dismiss this entire biased and unfounded yellow journalism simply on the grounds of this statement alone…

    “In the interest of full disclosure Chris Brown, the reporter on this story, graduated from Ashley High School in 2004.”

  • Anti-sheriff says:

    Please go away – you add nothing and make no sense. Who would care more about a school than it’s alumni. It explains why he is pushing to get answers. You are completed wrong AGAIN! Go troll through another website.

  • Legal Eagle says:

    Any legal advise from any corner will correctly tell these guys to sit quiet. The school board, I’m sure is aware already or wrongful termination cases and possible slander or libel, some sort of defamation cases that are in the pipeline if not already filed against this principal and his supervisors. The question they are panicking over now must be how to deal with the employees wronged and the losses they suffered in the cheapest, quietest way possible. Good luck school board and NHCS.

  • Screaming Eagle says:

    Over the 2013-14 Principal Norvell seemed scared of students and parents. A phone call or email complaint made immediate ripples and heads rolling without any investigation. Only a few parents figured this out and abused it, but NOW – with how weak he is and bankrupt of any authority – how can he run Ashley next year ?

  • Union member ( not teaching) says:

    I know it is summer and teachers don’t get a paycheck, but does that oh for their representation too? Through this whole mess, from teachers being run off, the coaches exodus, the unwarranted non-renewals, the startling results on the state-wide teacher survey, I have watched the Ashley administration commit abuse on abuse, and I don’t understand why no teacher organization has done or said anything. Are the interests of some teachers not the interests of all? My sister pays a lot more in dues to the NEA than I do for my job, and I’ve got to say – “why?” We know worker’s and boss’s interest don’t always align, and we need protection. Where are these leaders? Where do her dues go?

  • Carol Kramer says:

    Absent from the discussion is an organized voice for parents. We never get asked to rate the teachers or the school administrators or the superintendent. Heck…we don’t even have any input into “Teacher of the Year.” I think that it would be terrific if parents could form a Parents’ Organization at each NHC school. There’s lots to talk about! When did we get an opportunity to discuss Common Core???

    For the concerned Ashley parents…perhaps a “Meet the Parents” night can be organized with a special invitation extended to the Ashley principal and Dr. Markley?

  • Concerned Former Student says:

    As a former student who graduated this year, I agree with the teachers’ reports. We had a different principal every year that I attended Ashley. That’s right, all four years. This past school year was most definitely the worst. Seniors were treated as though they didn’t matter, and many annual events that matter to the students were canceled with only explanations such as “we don’t want to do it this year” or “the administration is still working out bugs.” I’ll say they were. Administration was terrible to students, parents, and teachers. When the teacher’s feel so strongly about the bad things going on at the school that it begins to have an effect on their teaching ability and that it becomes extremely obvious to the students that they are unsettled and unhappy, you know for sure that there is a serious issue. Ashley needs an overhaul of administrators and teachers alike. I have a younger sibling who should be attending Ashley in the fall but my family is seriously considering moving him to a private insinuation where he will actually be educated properly and without ignorant interference of people who seem to only be in the education business for themselves. It’s about the students, not the paycheck, and I think that many of our educators have forgotten that.

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