The Newport News (Va.) School Board has voted to oust Superintendent George Parker III, less than three weeks after a 6-year-old boy brought a gun to school and shot his first-grade teacher.
The Daily Press reports that Parker has faced a barrage of criticism after the Jan. 6 shooting of first-grade teacher Abigail Zwerner at Richneck Elementary in Newport News.
Board members voted 5-1 to approve a separation agreement with Parker. they named Michele Mitchell, executive director of student advancement, as interim superintendent.
The agreement states that Parker will receive severance pay equal to two years of his current base salary plus benefits. Parker’s current salary is $251,057.
Parker’s termination came hours after a lawyer for Zwerner announced that she intends to sue the school district. The attorney, Diane Toscano, contended that Richneck administrators had been notified multiple times on Jan. 6 of concerns that the 6-year-old student had a gun in his possession. Zwerner suffered wounds in the chest and hands, and is recovering after being treated at a local hospital.
Also on Wednesday, the district said that the assistant principal at Richneck, Ebony Parker, has resigned.
Board member Gary Hunter, who voted against Parker's separation agreement, argued that “getting rid of one person” will not solve the district’s problems, which he said are not unique to Newport News.
“This superintendent has done a very competent job,” he said.
Board member Douglas Brown said the separation does not diminish Parker’s accomplishments.
“I personally really did not want to reach this point,” Brown said. “But in the discussions that we’ve had, I did become convinced that we do have to move in a new direction as a board.”
Teachers, parents and community members have blamed the administration for failing to properly handle “out of control” student behavior and called for Parker’s removal.
Parker was hired as Newport News superintendent. He previously served as superintendent of Caroline County (Va.) Public Schools, and before that, spent many years as an educator at Virginia Beach City Public Schools.