Former Maynard Elementary principal cites communication concerns

Former Maynard Elementary principal cites communication concerns as reason for resignation

Dr. Raphael Crawford turned in his resignation in March. Dr. Raphael Crawford turned in his resignation in March.
Crawford accused Knox County Schools of taking resources away from Maynard Elementary. Crawford accused Knox County Schools of taking resources away from Maynard Elementary.
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) – Frustrations from teachers and educators in Knox County schools have boiled over this year. More than 350 employees will not return next year. One of those is the principal of Maynard Elementary, Dr. Raphael Crawford who resigned in March after what he calls a lack of support and communication from the administration.

All year, we heard there would be a mass exiting of teachers and principals but numbers show the turnover is down compared to last year.

According to numbers provided by Knox County Schools, 205 employees resigned, while 154 retired. Last year 269 employees resigned while 186 retired. The numbers are also well below the national teacher turnover rate.

After speaking with educators this year, the reasoning behind their exits is a common thread, a communication problem with the administration.

On Thursday, Dr. Raphael Crawford began packing up his office. An office filled with memories of the last three years serving as principal at Maynard Elementary.

“The decision was born out of frustration. It was born out of a sense of hopelessness,” said Dr. Crawford.  

Crawford turned in his resignation in March.

“Where I’ve had times where I needed their help or I needed some guidance from them, they don’t respond. He doesn’t respond. His people don’t respond,” said Crawford.

Those feelings were heard and loud and clear Wednesday night at the Knox County School board meeting as he stood before the board accusing the system of taking resources out of Maynard Elementary.

Previous story: New Knox County charter school proposal passes despite teacher opposition

“He has not delivered on the support he promised. I have experienced personal and professional attacks. Most of his administration does not respond to me, they have withdrawn support from my young scholars, my students in an attempt to make things harder for me. Harming children is not how we demonstrate excellence for children,” Crawford said in a fiery speech to the board.

We took the accusations to superintendent Dr. Jim McIntyre.

“I think the bottom line is he has been supported and the school has been supported,” said Dr. McIntyre.

According to Dr. McIntyre, Maynard Elementary has the lowest student to teacher ratio in the district and receives the second most Title One dollars. He says they continue to address the concerns with communication.

“Can we get better at internal conversation, making sure that two way dialogue is there? Absolutely,” said the superintendent.

We examined the personnel file for Dr. Crawford. He has received two written reprimands during his tenure. The latest was in March, right before his resignation. It was in response to an email sent by Dr. Crawford sent to his elementary supervisor. In the email Crawford stated “I will no longer take your bullying, harassment, intimidations, threats and terroristic behaviors towards me.”

Web extra: Crawford's personnel file [PDF]

KCS says he did not follow specific policies and procedures if in fact he felt harassed or discriminated against. In a letter from the human resource department they said after reviewing the information and documentation they found his email “inappropriate, serious in nature and unprofessional.” Crawford was placed on leave without pay for one day.

Crawford says it was the last straw, saying they did not take his concerns seriously. He offered his resignation later that week.

Members of the community have rallied behind the principal. Mildred Westfield even started a petition. They feel like he was forced out.

“It doesn’t just me, it bothers the community,” said Westfield.

She said it will be a shame to lose him as a principal, citing the major work he’s done improving the school, especially parent involvement.

“He brought back some of those core values that we haven’t had in a long time,” she said.

And while Crawford says he doesn't want to leave his students he doesn't feel he has a choice.

“I believe we really can make it better, we can make the scores good, we can kids more successful but I don’t see the support I need to make that happen,” Crawford said.

Knox County Schools has appointed new principal for Maynard Elementary. Kim Cullom was most recently the principal at Pond Gap Creek.

Web Extra: New principal Kim Cullom discusses her hopes for the school's future

“It’s almost like going back home for me. I’m just excited to be there,” said Cullom whose grandfather taught at Maynard Elementary and several members of her family attended.

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