Moore County Schools principal transferred

Melonie Jones will become the assistant principal at Pinecrest High School
Principal Melonie Jones

CARTHAGE — A Moore County Public Schools (MCS) principal has been transferred to another school.

According to a press release by MCS, Crain’s Creek Middle School Principal Melonie Jones had requested to be transferred to Pinecrest High School. She will be in the Assistant Principal position at Pinecrest, where she started her education career in the late 90s. 

“I feel honored and humbled to have been the principal at Crain’s Creek Middle School for the last five years, and I will be forever grateful for the relationships that I have built with the students, staff, parents, and community,” Jones said in the press release. 

“I have great respect and appreciation for Melonie and her service to Moore County Schools since 1999,” said MCS Superintendent Dr. Timothy Locklair. “I greatly appreciate her commitment and work at Crain’s Creek Middle School, and I look forward to her continued leadership with Moore County Schools. I am excited to see her positive impact on the students and staff at Pinecrest High School.”

The transfer will be effective Mar. 1, and Scott Absher will take over as interim principal of Crain’s Creek.

Absher has previously retired from Moore County Schools after serving as Principal of North Moore High School. He has served in a part-time role as the Scholarship Coordinator at Union Pines High School and in other interim principal capacities.  

As principal of Crain’s Creek, Jones was being paid $101,880 a year. It is yet unclear what her pay rate will be as assistant principal of Pinecrest High, but it will likely be comparable per the current MCS assistant principal pay scales.

The request for the transfer comes after a year of fighting incidents and discipline issues, as well as complaints by parents and former staff. 

Last October, North State Journal reported on a number of student fights caught on video, which were shared on a social media account. At that time, a Crain’s Creek parent shared images of her son with a bruised face as a result of an attack by another student that occurred in one of the middle school’s classrooms. The 13-year-old boy was also diagnosed as having sustained a concussion.

Following the story about the fights at Crain’s Creek, a former teacher of the school contacted North State Journal describing a “hostile work environment” experience while working at the school under Jones.

According to the former teacher, some staffers cried “daily” over how Jones was treating them. 

The former Crain’s Creek staffer also said it was typical of Jones to tell teachers that if they had a problem with how she was running the school, “the resignation letters are in my drawer of my desk. And I’ll be happy to give you one.”

Discipline problems with students brought to Jones were “always turned around on the teacher,” according to the former teacher. Additionally, the teacher indicated it felt like Jones was purposefully 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.

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

MCS confirmed that the school had seen high and increasing teacher turnover rates under Jones’ tenure of over 15 percent from Mar. 2018 through Mar. 2019, almost 17 percent for the same time frame during 2019-2020, and rose to 17.86 percent during 2020 to 2021.

A total of 20 staff members left Crain’s Creek between June 2021 and June 2022. Of those 20, only two were retirements. Between July 2, 2022, and November 2022, another three staffers left the school, including one who was terminated. 

Crain’s Creek is not the only school where assaults and discipline issues were occurring. 

Another MCS parent came forward last November, stating that their son had been “choked out” by another student in the lunchroom at Elise Middle School. That parent also said the student who attacked her child threatened “to kill him and bring a gun on school property.”  

The same parent also said her seven-year-old daughter, who attends Robbins Elementary told her a classmate brought a gun to school and that the student now has to use a clear backpack when he comes to school so the contents can be seen by everyone. The school did not inform parents of the situation, according to the parent.

At the Feb. 13 regular meeting of the MCS school board, the change in administration at Crain’s Creek was listed in the district’s personnel report as part of the consent agenda. 

During the meeting, multiple individuals spoke out about the situation at Crain’s Creek during the public comments portion of the meeting. 

One female speaker, identified by the board as Ms. Warren, spoke about the “identified and unidentified” reports of violence, bullying, and fights at Crain’s Creek. She also talked about the “cottages” on the campus, which are lacking proper ventilation, heating, and access to bathroom facilities. 

A female student from Crain’s Creek spoke about how the fights at the school are “still going on,” and she described a fight in the school’s gym where one boy was holding another against a wall by the neck. The student also said another fight near the school’s trailers involved a teacher being hit. Additionally, the student said she hears “racial slurs and cuss words every day, yet teachers turn a blind eye to it.”

A man named Jonathan Bowman also spoke about the situation at Crain’s Creek as well as issues “system-wide” and accused the board of not keeping promises to fix problems at the school.

Another woman called out the “toxic environment,” increased violence, and teacher resignation issues at Crain’s Creek under Principal Jones, but also cited redistricting had fueled problems prior to Jones’ arrival at the school. She said in October, parents hoped their complaints about Jones would be addressed, and she would be “swiftly removed,” but were frustrated with what they perceived to be a lack of action on the matter four months later.

By A.P. Dillon

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