By Kim West
Limestone school officials effectively wiped the slate clean during Tuesday night's school board meeting, approving a new contract for the embattled principal at Clements High School.
The seven-member board voted 5-1 to accept a recommendation from Superintendent Dr. Tom Sisk to renew Principal Keith Hairrell’s contract for three years.
The board also unanimously approved hiring Pleasant Home High School football coach Cody McCain, a 27-year-old Cullman County native, as a physical education teacher and the Colts’ third football coach in three years. His hire date is effective April 14.
“First and foremost, I want to thank the board for approving Cody McCain as the coach at Clements High School,” said Hairrell, who was CHS’ assistant principal for seven years before being promoted in 2012. “We want to welcome Coach McCain, his wife Samantha and their children to the Clements community.”
McCain, an Athens State University graduate, will arrive on campus in time to oversee spring practice for the Colts, who finished 1-9 last season.
Blue Springs Elementary School Assistant Principal Cade Baker served for three weeks as interim football coach, coordinating the conditioning program with the Colts’ assistant coaches.
Zebbra Green, the school system’s executive director of human resources, confirmed Hairrell’s salary will remain at $88,740.
Board chair Marty Adams, vice chair Earl Glaze, Anthony Hilliard, Charles Shoulders and Darin Russell voted for the renewal. Bret McGill cast the dissenting vote, while board member James Shannon was absent.
“Dr. Sisk coordinated his inquires and made his recommendation and the board approved (it), and I’m thankful for the opportunity to continue as principal,” said Hairrell, who spoke extensively with both Sisk and McGill after the meeting.
McGill, who lives in Clements school district, said he wanted the board to raise its expectations and improve the learning environment for the 612 students in grades 6-12 at Clements.
He read a seven-point list of “minimum expectations” for any school administrator, including “consistency in discipline” for the benefit of teachers and students; having students under direct supervision at all times on campus; and ensuring “students are on task when it’s time for education to occur.”
After the meeting, the superintendent said he stood by his prior proposal to transfer Hairrell to assistant principal at West Limestone High School “as the right decision at the time.”
The transfer motion — prompted by questions about the second-year principal’s effectiveness — failed 4-3 during last month’s board meeting during which Sisk said the state does not permit school boards to offer one-year renewal contracts to principals.
But school officials also pointed out during the March 4 meeting that Hairrell had neither violated board policy nor broken any laws, and that a transfer could be viewed as a demotion rather than a professional development decision.
After visiting the Clements campus on March 17 and 18 to meet individually with school staff, Sisk said during Tuesday’s meeting that he now believed Hairrell could succeed at the school if provided the necessary support and resources.
Sisk said this includes mentoring from the central office, “a strong assistant principal” and the collective “buy-in and commitment” from teachers, parents and community stakeholders to improve the school’s culture.
This school year, Clements has undergone a series of personnel bumps in the midst of a $5.4 million school-wide renovation project that broke ground in March.
First-year football coach Dan Beavers resigned in December, Hairrell dealt with the uncertainty surrounding his contract renewal and Sisk placed Clements assistant principal and athletic director Kevin Davis on paid administrative leave.
Davis has been on leave since Feb. 14, with Sisk declining to comment on the status of an ongoing investigation by a forensic auditor who reviewed school records.