A crowd of about 70 people gathered at Tuesday night’s Ardmore Board of Education meeting to hear who might be named principal at Ardmore High School for the coming school year.
The name announced for the top position at the high school was Jake Falvey, a 10-year employee of Ardmore City Schools. Falvey most recently served as the assistant principal at Charles Evans Elementary School, and before that spent four years as one of the assistant principals at the high school.
Falvey was approved with a 4-0 vote by the board, with Board President Willie Tiller recusing himself from the vote. The vote took place after a 75-minute closed-door session in which various employment positions were to be discussed.
Moments after the vote took place, dozens in the crowd quickly stood and left the board meeting. Following the meeting adjournment, others began to congregate, and it was the past school year’s AHS principal’s name that could be heard discussed.
“I so much appreciate what Kim Holland has done,” Falvey said following the meeting. “It was three years ago that he came here, and what he has done here for the students, staff and citizens of this community ... he has made this a more desirable position for me. He really has. This is my 25th year in education, 21 of those years has been in high school. I am glad I went to elementary. I enjoyed it immensely, but I am a high school person.”
For the past three years, Holland has held the principal title at the high school. Teachers and students describe Holland as well-liked, respected and dedicated to the students and needs of the school. At the March board meeting, Superintendent Sonny Bates announced the acceptance of Holland’s resignation, effective June 30.
Following the announcement, a petition including 1,176 signatures was presented to the board, along with letters from two community foundations encouraging the school board to accept the rescission of Holland’s resignation and reinstate him as principal.
In April, the board voted not to change school board policy, which states, “any resignation received by the superintendent is irrevocable.” Holland publicly stated he re-applied for the position. He was not present at Tuesday evening’s meeting.
Attorney Glen Burns, who was active in the petition efforts and a supporter of Holland remaining principal, said he believed the meeting would have a different outcome when he entered the school cafeteria before the start of the meeting.
“I really thought they (the board) had assured us they would hire the most qualified individual for the position. The most qualified person for the position was Kim Holland,” Burns said. “I don’t think anyone would argue with that. I don’t think the person who was hired could argue with that. They have mislead us, and I am very disappointed in that.
“I want to support the school and I will support the man they hired, but I can’t understand why they would show no respect for this community.”
Neither Bates nor Tiller made themselves available for comment following the meeting. During the vote, Tiller stated his wish to recuse himself during the vote roll call. He did not state a reason for his decision to disqualify himself. Tiller voted in all other actions regarding employment during the meeting.
Burns says he and others in the community will view the vote as unanimous.
“It is 5-0, he can’t back out. He might have recused, but he voted for it, even if he didn’t say no,” Burns said. “There was no reason, and what reason does he have? If you don’t clarify that, that’s a vote for no. Ask anyone in this community how they feel about it, and that’s how they took it.”
Falvey, who enters his fourth position with the district, said he appreciated all the efforts Holland has made at the high school. He is looking forward to being back at the high school and focusing on the students. Since spending the past four years at Charles Evans, the incoming class of ninth graders will be filled with familiar faces.
“I look forward to meeting, well, I know the freshmen, but I will know the other kids names after the first two weeks of the year,” Falvey said with a smile.
A native of Boston, Falvey attended the meeting with his wife, Jill, a teacher at Ardmore Middle School. The couple has two children, both enrolled in Ardmore City Schools. After the meeting, many in the community congratulated the educator on his new role.
“I am going to need a lot of community support and help to walk into this situation,” Falvey said. “I have been assured that I will be given all the help possible, and that excites me. I am a very lucky man, and I love this community.
“I am asking this community and the folks at Ardmore City School to unify and move forward.”