Pine Grove Elementary School parents, teachers and alumni have thrown their support behind their principal after hearing that he may not keep his position for the 2018-19 school year

A Facebook page, “Save our Principal - Billy Hartwick-,” has garnered 265 likes and 279 followers. There are 169 signatures on a petition encouraging the district to allow William Hartwick to stay at Pine Grove.

Twenty-seven Pine Grove staff members have signed a letter to Del Norte County Unified School District urging trustees to rescind the pink slip they gave to Hartwick. Parents also plan to address the school board directly Thursday at Smith River School.

“I think it’s really sad what the district’s doing,” said Michelle Moore, a parent who has worked with Hartwick in a variety of capacities for about 15 years. “He’s a pretty amazing principal and I would say he’s one of the best administrators I have dealt with.”

On March 22, the school board approved a resolution giving Hartwick notice that he may not be in his current position for the 2018-19 school year, according to district Superintendent Jeff Harris. Harris referred to this resolution as a “March 15 notice” and said he was prohibited by law from saying why Hartwick received that notice.

But Hartwick has not been fired and the district hasn’t hired anyone to replace him, Harris said. The district isn’t currently advertising any open positions for principals, he said.

Harris noted that a March 15 notice is similar to what a first- or second-year teacher receives if he or she may lose their position the following school year. Teachers receive a final termination notice on May 15, he said.

Teachers become tenured in their third year, making the process for terminating their position more complicated, according to Harris.

Administrators, however, serve at the will of the school board, Harris said.

“A March 15 notice is basically legal notification that you may not be in (the same) position next year,” he said. “It could mean that you’re being given a promotion. It may be a demotion, you may be back to the classroom, you may be whatever. That notice, like I said, is very open ended.”

Even though administrators don’t have the same rights as a teacher, Harris said principals who have served in the district as a teacher or who have been principal at their school for two or more years do have a right to a teaching job. Harris couldn’t say exactly how many years Hartwick had been the principal at Pine Grove, but said it’s been a few.

When asked for comment, Hartwick referred the Triplicate to Crescent City attorney George Mavris. Mavris was unavailable for comment on Monday.

Moore, who has nine children, knew Hartwick when he was the principal at Mary Peacock Elementary School. She worked under him when she was a cheer coach at Crescent Elk Middle School and volunteers every Friday at Pine Grove.

Moore, a foster parent, also works with Hartwick on the Student Attendance Review Board and the Foster Youth Education Board.

“Our kids aren’t normal kids. Our kids have trauma, they have behavior,” Moore said. “For Mr. Hartwick, (it’s) why is this child acting like this? What can we do to make this child successful? Rather than just suspend him, let’s help him with what he needs, which is huge for me.”

The Del Norte County Unified School Board will meet at 4:30 p.m. Thursday at Smith River School, 564 First St., Smith River. For more information and an agenda, visit www.dnusd.org.

Reach Jessica Cejnar at jcejnar@triplicate.com .

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