Purnell Demoted

Charlottesville assistant superintendent for curriculum and instruction Laura Purnell — who blew the whistle on superintendent Scottie Griffin in February — has found herself demoted to “coordinator,” whatever that is. The school board says that they’re “top-heavy in the administration,” which many parents have criticized them for recently, and saw that as a a position that should be eliminated. Purnell has been offered the new, lower position, presumably entailing a pay cut. James Fenald had the story in yesterday’s Daily Progress.

The question, of course, is whether this has anything to do with her central role in taking public the internal criticism of Griffin. It was a month ago now that Griffin tried to fire Purnell, and just a week ago that Griffin resigned. Is Purnell being punished? Or is the school board just responding to an often-heard and reasonable criticism that the school system spends too much money on central office staff and not enough on teachers?

15 thoughts on “Purnell Demoted”

  1. Everyone seemed to be fine with the administrative spending before Griffin tried to add more administrative positions. I think it’s crystal clear Ms. Purnell is being punished for throwing gasoline on the fire.

  2. It is my understanding that Griffin had a file on Purnell that included falsifying documents, temper-tantrums in Central Office, etc. I know everyone sees her as a whistle blower. It just isn’t the case. Why else would the school board who urged her to blow the whistle reduce her position? The decision to take action on her was postponed in the early April meeting because the board was skirting the backlash. Purnell had already lost their support.

  3. It’s interesting that Griffin is the one who hired Purnell and brought her here from Ohio. If Purnell turned out to be a temper-tantrum throwing liar, that could be counted as another Griffin error in judgment. Buck stops here and all that.

  4. Cecil,

    You are far too fixated on Griffin playing the part of Lucifer no matter what the facts are.

  5. No matter what the facts are? You just clarified the main issue in the school board/Scottie Griffin debacle of the past ten months; some in this community prefer to overlook the facts. Some in this community called for everyone to stand up for Dr. Griffin, based on her race alone. No matter how poor her skills were or how ill-qualified she was to lead this community, some African Americans urged ALL African Americans to defend her. On WINA, Dean Turner insulted those who did not come to her defense. The fact that few if any African American parents or teachers in the CCS stood up to voice support for Dr. Griffin at school board meetings this year should speak volumes. The people who speak on Dr. Griffin’s defense do not have children in the Charlottesville Schools. Those of us on the inside know the facts and we respond to them.

    Stories of Dr. Griffin’s (not Dr. Purnell’s) temper tantrums in Central Office are legion. Stories of her threatening (and carrying out) lawsuits are equally prevalent, and a few minutes spent on Google will lend credence to the stories. (If only the school board had read her resumé carefully, or checked her references, we wouldn’t be in the situation we now find ourselves in.) Dr. Griffin was completely wrong for this community. Instead of channeling the large number of very-involved parents’ energies and putting them to work for the good of all, she was visibly irritated by them and she pushed them away. She made no concerted effort to reach out to the uninvolved parents of the kids in C’ville who desperately NEED their parents to be involved. She rarely visited the schools, she didn’t come to football games, she was inaccessible to members of the community who wanted to meet and talk with her. Why aren’t these facts important to the Reverends Johnson and Rick Turner?

  6. I was flabbergasted when I heard of Dr. Purnell’s demotion. What makes me even more upset is who they put in charge. Gertrude Ivory? You have to be kidding. Excuse me but this was Dr. Griffin’s #1 henchman! Is she even appropriately credentialed to act in such a position? (30+ years in the New Orleans Public School system it seems to me should DISQUALIFY her.) You will never convince me that Dr. Purnell’s demotion and Gertrude Ivory’s appointment was not some sort of back room deal made by Dr. Griffin’s as a condition of her departure. I am sure that if one were to take a vote among teachers in Charlottesville Schools, Purnell would not be the one getting demoted. When are we going to get back to doing what is right and just in Charlottesville?

  7. Well, I am not surprised; I think the criticisms of a top-heavy CO have been there for years; the situation was not great under Shannon, and only got worse under Symons. Griffin was going to make it even worse. I think the board has made the right move. I am sorry that Dr. Purnell is the one who took the hit, but I doubt very much if it’s whistleblower retaliation.

    While I don’t really know anything about Ivory, she is one of Griffin’s people, and yes, I think that’s a strike against her. I would imagine she’d probably just want to stick around until fully vested and capable of retiring. She can’t be that far from it. Maybe in the service of a better leader she’ll be OK?

  8. I’ve been following the many postings on Ch’ville schools over the last several months. I want to point out the obvious mistakes with the entire upper administration in the school division— they’re reluctant to answer important questions from the media, from city leaders and residents.

    Since Griffin has left, you’ll notice the school division has been interviewed several times. This ultimately reflects the fact Griffin had gag-ordered her subordinates. Now, the administration answers questions about their management styles and techniques. It’s information the public needs to hear, since it’s funded by you, me and all community members.

    One last point for now… The school board is guilty of the same misguided representation of which I accuse Griffin. All MUST be responsible for answering the questions of the press and none are exempt from this. Dede Smith has led a board that is absolutely embarrassing in the public eye. None of them understand how to operate in the public eye, on a professional school board. Before the school board embarks on the process of selecting the next superintendent, the public should really eyeball how competent the board has been in the last several months.

  9. Before even Purnell’s infamous letter, CCS staff I spoke to liked Purnell, but respected Ivory and thought that if Griffin left Ivory would be the logical choice on an interim basis. If we’re talking about a lack of professionalism, Purnell’s letter — overwrought with feelings rather than facts — was in my estimation unprofessional. If Ivory was in NO for 30 years and Griffin was there for a few months I doubt Ivory can be classified as Griffin’s “henchman”.

  10. Really, how else did Ivory get the job without meeting the Ph.D qualifications and without going through a true interview process? She is really good but so was Purnell. Ivory and Thompson are a good pair- their was no other choice, no way could they have moved Purnell up. Also, Purnell’s original letter was sent only to Dr. Griffin. Her letter was amended and sent to the school board- I am assuming by Purnell.
    Elizabeth, when you have a boss who is treating you the way she was treated she actually did exactly what she was supposed to do with regards to the chain of command. She addressed her boss and when unsatisfied with the result went up the chain of command. Especially where she was going to be held accountable for something that was not on the up and up- the state reports. As a matter of fact it was professionally what she should have done and followed protocol.
    What do you think she should have done?
    If she hadn’t written that letter she would have been the logical person to share that role with Ivory.
    My guess would be that Griffin felt threatened by the knowledge, professionalism, and history of success Purnell had.

  11. It is my understanding that Griffin had a file on Purnell that included falsifying documents

    If this is true, the question is why didn’t Griffin fire Purnell long ago? Falsifying documents is a very serious offense. If this is true, then it’s another example of Griffin’s wonderous managerial “skills.”

    Sorry – that accusation just doesnt’ pass the giggle test.

  12. As far as Ms. Ivory’s competence is concerned, I assume that that is why Ms. Griffin brought her along in the first place: so that Ms. Griffin had someone around who could actually do the work of the Superintendent. It is also my impression that the reason she wanted four more subordinates (paid for by the reduction in student-facing staff) was to further insulate her from the requirements of her job. I believe that Ms. Griffin has been shown to be a bad choice, but I don’t believe that there has been anything substantial offered against Ms. Ivory to this point.

  13. Al,

    Newsflash, she tried. When she did, the board postponed a decision on it because of Purnell’s alleged whistleblower status and an already heated situation. Don’t take my word for it. Ask some questions.

  14. newflash is to you, Martin!
    The only falsifying of documents were from Griffin herself. I have been reading many of your posts. You must be one of the ill informed folks who has his own temper tantrums at board meetings. I encourage YOU to ask questions of those who lived it…… But can you really hear the truth? For those of us who work with kids in the “gap”, Dr. Purnell is the ONLY one who tries to move mountains for us. It makes me sick to hear obviously uninformed people as yourself defame her. If it weren’t for her, my kids I work with wouldn’t be getting the attention they need right now. In this mess of a year we have had to fight to stay on the RIGHT issues, Helping Kids!!! Leave her alone and volunteer to be a Book Buddy! If everyone who spoke at the meetings put their money where their mouths were, we would be well on our way to helping this community.

  15. Martin,
    I’m afraid I’ve lost confidence in the truthfulness of your postings. Initially, I found your postings of interest. But then the Progress had to print a correction to your claims about Dr. Griffin’s handling of the Dimberg affair; and your claims that Griffin’s credentials were impeccable turned out to be utterly false. Now I find no credible basis in your comments about Dr. Purnell.
    I’m surprised a person in your position doesn’t value their personal and professional reputation more carefully.

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