Union County charter school cancels elementary classes after principal’s exit

UNION COUNTY, N.C. — A Union County charter school canceled its elementary classes on Monday after too many teachers said they were too upset to come in after their principal was abruptly fired.

Impassioned students, parents, teachers and school administrators spoke to Channel 9 about the departure of the now-former head of Union Day School, Matthew Hamilton, who they said was terminated by the school’s board.

“We feel that his termination is wrong and we’re calling it out,” Kristen Evans told Channel 9.

“I’m devastated. This man has done nothing but lead this school through the hardest years in education,” said Liz Spinney, the curriculum coordinator for Union Day School, who is also a parent.

“He comes around every single morning and greets every single classroom, student, teacher -- he’s at car line, rain or shine,” parent and teacher Andrea Krehbiel said.

“Mr. Hamilton is an example of what a school leader looks like and what every school in North Carolina needs,” teacher and soccer coach James Parker said.

They all said they found out about his sudden departure on Friday from the charter school’s board.

“He was ripped out without explanation very quietly. New people are coming in and it just seems something doesn’t sit right -- there are a lot of questions that need to be asked of the board,” Krehbiel said.

Hamilton’s exit prompted a visual show of support outside the school on Monday. Parents with children attending the lower school (grades K-5) shared an email saying school would be closed Monday because of a staff shortage, something the head of the lower school confirmed to Channel 9.

“Actually I recommended it, I called the board yesterday after receiving multiple emails and text messages from teachers, they need a day off, they cannot come in because they are mentally sick or depressed about the whole situation,” said Sujin Hughes, the Head of the Lower School. “And I can’t say no to that, they have a right to take their sick days, so after I received way too many, I took it to the board and said it’s not safe to have school with 10-15 subs filling in.”

One staff member shared with Channel 9 that Hamilton is the sixth principal Union Day School has had in five years.

Hughes said they were just working together on long term plans for Union Day, and after seeing success even through the pandemic, the community deserves an explanation.

“We need an explanation of why this happened, we are a strong school,” Hughes said. “I worked very closely with him as far as I know, he’s a wonderful leader, and we need him back here.”

One person who sits on school leadership told Channel 9 that typically staff is consulted in every hiring decision, so they feel blindsided.

Channel 9 reached out to the board about Hamilton’s departure. The following response was shared:

“In response to your inquiry regarding recent action at Union day, this is a personnel matter that the board can not legally discuss publicly.”

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