20 Aug 2014
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Questions Mount Regarding Woodland Principal’s Removal

Parents say they were surprised to receive her automated message on Friday saying that a charge had been filed against Baskerville and her contract would not be renewed, effective June 30.

Dr. Ruth L. Baskerville has been removed as principal at Woodland Elementary Charter School and Cheryl Williams, formerly of Mimosa Elementary in Roswell, will take over on Wednesday.

On Monday, Baskerville was still considered an employee of Fulton County Schools, according to Susan Hale, the communications contact for the school system.

Hale did not provide details on Baskerville’s sudden removal and would only say that it is a personnel issue.

Knowing Baskerville’s passion for Woodland, parents say they were surprised to receive her automated message on Friday saying that a charge had been filed against the principal and her contract would not be renewed, effective June 30.

“It was completely baffling,” said Michael White, an active parent with a second grade daughter at Woodland. “It was a very short message. I [wondered] did she do something wrong? It was strange. She seems pretty capable to me.”

In the message, Baskerville added that she was advised by Human Resources to contact parents and let them know of the change, added White.

On Monday, students were sent home with a note from Area Superintendent Leonard Box, contradicting Baskerville on the way parents were informed. [Click on letter under the video]

“I was told that I must share [the information] with parents and staff by Monday,” said Baskerville, on Monday evening. “What I told them was 100 percent true. It wasn’t until this morning that I learned that I should not return to the building or contact parents, or staff.”

Why was Baskerville removed?

Sandy Springs Patch learned that Baskerville invited Elisa Falco, Director of Education and Training at the Georgia Charter Schools Association, to visit Woodland in March, to observe classes and review data.

Woodland's charter expires in June. The school planned to apply for a new charter, which, if approved would take effect in the 2012/2013 school year. That would leave the school without a charter for a year, however Baskerville and the governance board were already brainstorming on what the new charter might entail.

Patch was told that Falco saw Baskerville involved in two conversations during her visit - with a student and separately with a parent - and reported to Fulton County Schools that the principal was speaking in an abusive manner.

Baskerville has obtained an attorney and says that she cannot discuss the incidents.

“Do you know a principal in America that does not occasionally raise their voice,” asked Baskerville, adding that she has a stellar record during her 42 years in education.

Baskerville said that she has mentored young principals from the start of her four years at Woodland. And this month Woodland will be honored for achieving a Title 1 Distinguished Schools recognition for eight consecutive years.

Corey Sherman, who has two children at Woodland, described Baskerville as a “tireless advocate for the school and represents it well.”

He added, “There is no one who can meet her and not see the passion that she has for the school.”

Sherman said that Baskerville’s vision for Woodland is the reason that he and his wife decided on the school for their daughters. They transferred their oldest from private school.

“She gave a vision of the curriculum, which made it sound like a very advanced school. It was clear that these teachers were passionate and that they were very dedicated to the school,” he said.

What’s the charter got to do with it?

Sandy Springs Patch was told that there are mixed views from parents on Woodland’s charter not being renewed for the next school year. However, we have no information that it played a role in Baskerville’s removal. 

Sherman said that parents and the school governance board have no influence on Baskerville’s personnel status. And although there were some concerns on the charter not being renewed, he said, “Parents had for the most part, a lot of confidence, [in Baskerville].”

Michael White said that he tried to helped Baskerville edit the charter and it was rejected, last year.

“I thought, why do we need this? A charter is designed for a school that needs improvement…Woodland has basically achieved most of the achievement objectives… so why do we need to be a charter school anymore,” said White. “I guess a lot of parents are adamant that the term “charter” be attached to the school.”

Baskerville has been active in the community on behalf of Woodland.

Baskerville’s activities in the community are vast and she says they were all for Woodland. Her list of memberships includes, Leadership Sandy Springs, the Kiwanis Club and Keep North Fulton Beautiful. 

“I go to every meeting. I’m there volunteering…I go deep in my pocket and deep in my time just because of what they do for Woodland,” she said.

Former City Council candidate Chiteka Jackson has two children who attend the elementary school.

“I know she has done incredible things for the school,” she said. “To have this happen after four years; I think there needs to be some transparency in this process.”

Video: During a visit to Woodland Elementary in March, Dr. Ruth L. Baskerville explained the process of becoming a charter. Woodland has been a charter for 10 years and is oldest conversion charter school in Fulton County.

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