Students Gather To Protest Principal Peggy Miles' Dismissal

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Julia Randall Elementary School students and parents gathered April 14 at a before-school rally to show their support for embattled principal Peggy Miles.

The administrator's contract for the 2006-2007 school year was not renewed at an April 10 school board meeting.

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Julia Randall Elementary students gathered for a before-school rally to show support for Principal Peggy Miles.

PTO member Teresa Chernov said the rally was the result of some JRE students wanting to object to Superintendent Sue Myers and the school board's decision to let Miles go.

"They (the students) wanted to have a voice, but a protest was not the way to do it," Chernov said.

The students eventually expressed their concern to PTO members who helped the students plan and stage the peaceful rally, Chernov said.

During the rally, the students chanted pleas to bring Myers back and carried handwritten banners supporting her.

"After (the rally), we hung (the banners) up near the school but were told we had to take them down," Chernov said.

In refusing to renew Miles' contract, Superintendent Sue Myers said the principal had an inadequate knowledge of elementary school curriculum, failed to unite her staff and was the weakest member of the administrative team.

Parents were angry at the decision, pointing out that last year Miles helped the school earn the "highly performing" ranking in the AZ LEARNS system that is designed to tell parents how public schools perform and progress.

Payson Elementary was the only other district school to be rated highly performing.

Also, Miles -- in her first few months on the job -- led the school through a volatile controversy involving overloaded fourth-grade classrooms.

The situation had a group of parents, led by Marlene Armstrong and Linda Jackson, lobbying district administrators and the school board.

Throughout the controversy, Armstrong and Jackson said they supported the interim principal.

"Mrs. Miles is an absolute asset to JRE," Armstrong said. "She has taken the time to meet with us, answer our questions openly and honesty.

"When she did not know the answer or asked for time to research what we were asking, she did so expediently."

Nancy Harrison, also a parent of a JRE student, also supported Miles.

"I am thrilled to have Peggy Miles head up Julia Randall Elementary School. Mrs. Miles has proven to be trustworthy, hard-working and worthy of the important post," she said.

During Miles' two-year tenure, JRE also enjoyed the largest increase among district schools in Credit For Kids donation. Those donations are often a benchmark of parental support of a school.

Miles said she was surprised and taken aback by the decision to not rehire her. She learned of the decision in a district memo she received just before the board meeting.

She immediately asked that any discussion about her contract not being renewed be done in open rather than executive session.

At the meeting, a crowd of supporters listened to Miles defend herself, saying she had lived up to her job responsibilities.

Ten of Miles' supporters were allowed to speak in her behalf. Veteran teacher Trevor Creighton defended her as a competent administrator who had brought solidarity to a school that had seen five principals come and go in 15 years.

Although the board listened to Miles' supporters, the members agreed with Myers recommendation not to rehire her.

That decision angered many of those at the meeting.

"She got railroaded," JRE parent Joe Bayless said. "The board had already made up their minds before they heard us."

Since the firing, it has had tongues wagging in grocery stores, beauty shops and on KMOG radio.

During an appearance at the radio station last week, Myers was besieged by callers wanting to know the reasons behind the firing.

Short tenure

Miles was appointed the interim principal of JRE just two weeks before the onset of the 2004-2005 school year. She replaced Ardith Potter who had resigned to accept a position in special services at the district office.

Miles received the job and temporary title on short notice following an unusual set of events.

Then-superintendent Herb Weissenfels said at the time the job opening was originally advertised in early May that a candidate was offered the position but turned it down because of its low salary. A second candidate was selected, but did not have the necessary administrative certification.

The two defections left four candidates remaining -- Miles and three from outside the district. Eventually, the administration offered the job to Miles on a temporary basis.

At the time, Weissenfels said the position would be re-evaluated in early January to determine whether to hire Miles or reopen the job search.

On Jan. 10, 2005, the governing board awarded Miles a full-appointment contract through the 2005-2006 school year.

Before taking over as JRE principal, Miles was a girls' physical education teacher and a health counselor at Payson High School.

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