Hearing wraps up for former Beach High School principal

By Christy Hutchings - bio | email

SAVANNAH, GA (WTOC) - She's dedicated almost two decades to educating youngsters, but she's fighting for her job and her reputation. The Chatham County superintendent called for the termination of former Beach High School Principal Deonn Stone, after it was discovered she changed some student's grades.

The termination hearing is one Stone probably never thought she'd be a part of. She had to sit before the school board, her peers, and students defending why she changed 13 student's grades from failing to passing.

Stone told the board, "I would not have done it, had I not thought it was in my authority as a principal."

Back in 2007, the policy on principals having the ability to change grades changed. Dr. Stone said she was unaware of the policy change, and she wasn't the only principal in Chatham County that didn't know.

Johnson High School Principal Freddie Gilyard told the board, "I can tell you I don't remember that happening and I was not aware of just a policy."

But that policy change almost cost Stone her job. "I've given every attention to what the school needed, to what the students needed, to what this board expected of me," Stone said.

Witness after witness testified, some in support of Stone, others against. The meeting lasted nearly 10 hours, and after two executive sessions the board finally made their decision. In a 7-1 vote the board decided to keep Stone, but to suspend her for 30 days without pay.

School Board member Ruby Jones said, "It's been a long, long, day, and a whole lot of testimony, and a whole lot of negotiating to come to this point."

Jones said it was really the testimony of other principals, who admitted they didn't know about the new policy either, that swayed the board's vote. "It certainly changed my mind and at least three other persons minds because if they didn't know, and they're in the system, it means that there's probably some other principals out there that didn't know. At least until this situation came about," said Jones.

Stone will return to her job working as a learning specialist at the Eli Whitney complex once her suspension is over.

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