Former teacher claims hostile work environment under Moore middle principal

RALEIGH — A former Moore County Public Schools teacher claims the principal of Crain’s Creek Middle School is responsible for creating a hostile work environment, particularly when it comes to student discipline issues. 

The claim comes on the heels of over a dozen student fights caught on video, threats of mass violence by students attending the school, and complaints by families of students who were injured during an assault by another student.

Crain’s Creek Middle School’s principal is Melonie Jones. She took over as principal of the school in July 2018. Jones is currently making $8,490 a month, or around $101,880 a year. 

Jones has been an employee of Moore County Public schools (MCS), spanning almost 20 years. She served as an English teacher at Pinecrest High School from June 1999 to June 2003 and again from August 2005 to July 2012. Jones was also an assistant principal for two schools; Union Pines High School from August 2012 through July 2015 and Southern Middle School starting in July 2015 through July 2018.

The former teacher, who spoke with North State Journal under the condition of anonymity citing a fear of reprisals, said that under Jones’ tenure teachers had been, “leaving in droves.”

According to information supplied by Moore County Schools’ Communications Director Catherine Nagy, the annual teacher turnover rate at Crain’s Creek Middle School has been in double digits and increasing under Jones’ tenure.

March 2018 – March 2019: 15.13%

March 2019 – March 2020: 16.98%

March 2020 – March 2021: 17.86%

Nagy said the data for March 2021 through March 2022 had not yet been released by the state, which was confirmed by the N.C. Department of Public Instruction (NCDPI). In their response, NCDPI also said their data was only for the district level and does not drill down to individual schools.

Additional data Nagy supplied to North State Journal shows more resignations.

Between June 2021 and June 2022, 20 staff members left Crain’s Creek. Of the 20, two were retirements. In addition, between July 2 and to present, another three staff members left the school, including one terminated staffer.

Nagy indicated that the additional resignation information was for personnel that are directly supervised by the principal and does not include child nutrition or transportation personnel. 

According to the former teacher, some staffers cried “daily” because of how Jones treated them, and it was typical of Jones to suggest a staff member resign if they didn’t like how she was running the school. 

“She [Jones] would say, ‘if you have a problem, the resignation letters are in my drawer of my desk. And I’ll be happy to give you one.’ That had been said… multiple times,” the teacher told North State Journal. “And she has actually offered resignation letters to individual staff members several times. With the teaching shortage we have… I mean you do not feel like you are worthy at all there.”

The former Crain’s Creek teacher also told North State Journal around a dozen staff members had complained about Jones, including reporting the resignation letters tactic to Mike Metcalf, the superintendent of middle schools for MCS. The former teacher also said none of their complaints have seen a resolution. 

“Dr. Metcalf, the Chief Officer for Academics and Students Support Services, met with four teachers in late May and June and one additional teacher this school year for a total of five teachers, who requested to meet to discuss their experiences and share their perspectives,” Nagy said in a response email to North State Journal’s inquiry. 

Nagy indicated that In response to concerns expressed by staff, as well as parents, the district has taken or is in the process of taking some action. 

The actions cited by Nagy include:

Reassignment of two of the district’s most highly regarded counselors to Crain’s Creek full-time at the beginning of this year.

Continuation of the MCS Police officer assigned to the school full-time.

In addition to a full-time assistant principal, a half-time assistant principal was added to the school at the beginning of the 2021-22 school year. An additional assistant principal was provided last week to provide support on an interim basis.

All staff have been trained in Capturing Kids Hearts, a strategic program to develop a relationship-driven campus culture and promote student connectedness.

Staff is scheduled for Reconnect Training, which provides them with the skills to assist students in developing self-discipline and in how best to respond to students in trauma.

The schools’ Positive Behavioral Interventions and Supports program is being reviewed for effectiveness and to ensure there are clear expectations in terms of behavior communicated to students.

The organizational and physical structure of the school was reassembled in order to enhance monitoring of students and to provide support. Examples include teacher-student assigned groups to foster student and staff relationship building, as well as separate grade-level assignments within the building to reduce interactions among grade levels.

An in-house mentoring program was instituted the second semester of last year, and the school is working with Moore Buddies to develop additional team mentoring opportunities.

The former teacher said that any problems with students brought to Jones were “always turned around on the teacher.” Additionally, the teacher said it seemed like Jones was keeping the school resource officer “out of the loop” when it came to discipline or threat issues.

“She [Jones] just did so many things to disrespect us with our discipline. There was no support with discipline,” the former teacher said, later adding that it was “almost like she tries to cause conflict amongst the staff.”

An example given was Jones’ apparent favorable or rewarding treatment of students who were causing incidents. The former teacher noted that it wasn’t just the staff who noticed and that the kids who did follow the rules had also noticed that behavior.

“You know, I mean, it was crazy, and they [rule-breaking students] would go to the office, and she [Jones] was almost making friends with the kids,” said the former teacher. “Mr. Lee was making friends with the kids, and it was like there was no discipline or anything.

They did not back us up, and they would have people come in and make us sit through these meetings during our planning time telling us how to discipline and, you know, this positive behavior and capturing kids’ hearts stuff. And these kids don’t react to that. They need consequences, and there were none.”

By A.P. Dillon

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