Hilldale Principal Fired, Parents Outraged

Saturday, March 31st 2007, 3:36 pm
By: News On 6

Angry parents erupt at a Green County school board meeting. We were there when the Hilldale School Board voted to fire popular principal, Dewayne Pemberton. It's a move that outraged parents. Pemberton and his supporters believed he was fired for just how his title reads, his principles. The News On 6’s Joshua Brakhage reports the school board says Pemberton gave them any number of reasons to fire him, and they're just playing by the rules.

After hours of passionate testimonies on both sides of the issue, the tension built to an emotional climax, and with a 3-2 vote, Pemberton was fired.

Pemberton says he supported Hilldale Softball Coach Cara Christiansen after she said she didn't feel safe driving a bus and never received a Commercial Driver's License. The school board says coaches have been required to drive their team's bus for 20 years, without exception. The board says Pemberton showed favoritism to the coach who is also his future daughter-in-law.

"He did the right thing, and those people are the ones who will have to go to bed at night and deal with it in their sleep. So they just have to realize how many lives they just affected," said Christiansen.

Four hundred parents and students stayed until 3 a.m. as a show of support to Pemberton. Some of the same students participated in a walkout the week the principal was suspended.

"I can understand anger on their part. Many times, when you're confused or you don't know the specifics of something, that can happen, but as I said, it's time now for the district to move forward,” said Hilldale Superintendent DB Merill. “This district's all about the boys and girls, their education is the top priority in this district."

Merrill says Pemberton acted unprofessionally, undermined other administrators and played favorites. Pemberton says he was just being loyal, standing up for a teacher that he felt was being forced to do something she didn't feel comfortable doing.

"I'm sure there's a school out there that wants an honest, strong charactered, strong integritied administrator," said Pemberton.

And after 18 years at Hilldale, Pemberton's looking for another job.

Christiansen says even though she watched the school board fire Pemberton, she still refuses to get her CDL. Both sides say it's time to put this controversy behind them, and focus on the Hilldale students.