Jacksonville charter school’s board abruptly fires principal midway through inaugural year

Parents demand explanation after sudden, unanimous vote to oust school’s leader

JACKSONVILLE, Fla. – Less than seven months into its first year of operation, the governing board of Cornerstone Classical Academy in Jacksonville voted Tuesday morning to fire its principal.

“This morning, the Board relieved Dr. Melanie Williams of her duties as Principal,” an email sent to the school’s families stated. “We thank Dr. Williams for her service to the school as our first principal and wish her well in her future endeavors.”

The email did not offer any explanation for Williams’ firing but said Assistant Principal Dawn Oehmann will serve as the school’s interim principal until a permanent replacement is found.

“The Board is confident that the leadership team in place today will ensure smooth operations during this transition and that these changes will not impact our number one priority – the classical education of our students,” the email said.

The unanimous vote to terminate Williams came four days after the board convened an emergency meeting to vote on suspending Williams without pay, which was also approved.

“There was no transparency,” a Cornerstone parent who declined to be identified told News4Jax Tuesday. “Nobody knows what was going on. They said there are reasons why they couldn’t tell us.”

The parent, who attended Tuesday morning’s meeting, described little discussion and even less explanation.

“They had a couple of comments, they held the vote, they all said they voted to vote her out and to terminate her, and then they said, ‘meeting adjourned,’ and they immediately hung up. That was it.”

According to a Monday Facebook post from the school’s Parent-Teacher Organization, no information has yet been shared with that group.

Good morning, CCA. We have received many questions about the events that took place on Friday. We have not been given...

Posted by Cornerstone Classical Academy PTO on Monday, March 8, 2021

According to parents who spoke to News4Jax, Williams was very well-liked among both parents and teachers, which led several parents to voice their opposition to her firing during the Tuesday morning board meeting.

“She made us feel comfortable, it was her that drew people to the school, she is phenomenal,” the parent told News4Jax. “She had to have done something terrible to be terminated like that.”

Cornerstone responded to News4Jax’s request for additional information with an emailed statement that was mostly identical to the message sent to the school’s families, which can be viewed below:

“Dear Cornerstone Classical Families,

“This morning, the Board relieved Dr. Melanie Williams of her duties as Principal. We thank Dr. Williams for her service to the school as our first principal and wish her well in her future endeavors.

“Assistant Principal Dawn Oehmann is serving as interim Principal until a permanent replacement is found. Mrs. Oehmann reports to the Board and is responsible for managing all aspects of the school’s operations. Mrs. Oehmann has 22 years of teaching experience and holds a master’s degree in educational leadership from Saint Leo University.

“The Board is confident that the leadership team in place today will ensure smooth operations during this transition and that these changes will not impact our number one priority – the classical education of our students.

“Please do not hesitate to contact Board President Lindsay Hoyt or Board Secretary David Wood regarding this change.

“To those that contacted us directly these last few days, we will be reaching out to you later today.

“Thank you for your continued support!”

Board of Directors, Cornerstone Classical Academy

Cornerstone’s Secretary David Wood also sent News4Jax a statement that reads: “This is a personnel issue and we will not be commenting further.”

For its inaugural year, the charter school instructs about 450 students in kindergarten through sixth grade, but the school plans to add a grade each year through 12th.


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