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.

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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.