But it was too late for Vince Arduini, the associate dean and football coach. Enticed by another offer, Arduini had already decided to take a job as athletic director at St. John's School in Houston.

"During the meeting, I was in football practice," he says. "By that time, I had already decided to leave anyway. After practice, I went to my car and headed home."


That's the worst part, says the high school student who spoke to New Times: the people who won't come back.

From the 2011 Pine Crest yearbook: Hank Battle poses with students; his associate David Bowman came with him to serve as Pine Crest's vice president of operations.
Pine Crest School/2011 Yearbook
From the 2011 Pine Crest yearbook: Hank Battle poses with students; his associate David Bowman came with him to serve as Pine Crest's vice president of operations.
Fort Lauderdale lawyer William Amlong filed age-bias charges against the school.
Michael McElroy
Fort Lauderdale lawyer William Amlong filed age-bias charges against the school.

"Some of the greatest teachers I ever had left," she says, mentioning Arduini by name. "The best ones are all gone now."

When Battle was ousted, David Bowman left the vice-president post, and John East declined the athletic director's position after all. The school reversed course: It contacted Jim Foster, the longtime athletic director, and asked him to stay on for one more year. He agreed to remain at his old job on a one-year temporary basis. But things aren't the same.

"I'm dealing with a mess," says Foster. "People left. The cross-country and track coaches, the boys' soccer coach... Some people left because of the East and Battle thing; some are moving on because I wasn't going to be there or because they have no confidence in the place."

He adds, "Pine Crest will never be the same as we knew it. It will either be better or worse. We need strong leadership to move forward."

Battle's plans for a new academic center have been scrapped. Communications Director Karla Dejean writes in an email that the school is continuing a "developmental learning" program to meet "each child's unique needs" without building a new center.

Amlong, the lawyer for the dismissed teachers, says the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission agreed to conduct "site visits" at Pine Crest and analyze employee rosters to look for discrimination. A settlement — or a lawsuit — could still be in the works.

Hank Battle did not respond to requests for an interview. He has taken a job as a consultant with a teacher recruiting firm in Dallas called the Education Group. The company's president, Mary Kesler, calls Battle "someone I've known for a number of years." Kesler says Battle has not moved to Dallas and "works independently out of his own home" in Florida.

Battle continues to fight with the school over the rest of his $5 million contract, according to sources familiar with the situation, who say that ending it prematurely is not going to be easy.

In June, Ellen Ramm, a retired Pine Crest teacher who coincidentally happens to live two doors down from Battle's old house in North Carolina, received a call from a private investigator. The woman said she had been hired by a law firm working for the school, Ramm recalled. It seemed to Ramm that Pine Crest was looking for signs that Battle might have misrepresented himself before signing the heavy-duty contract — in particular, the fact that he was not happily married, as he had claimed.

Ramm said she occasionally saw Linda Battle but rarely spoke to her. She knew Forsyth teachers and parents who had grievances about Battle's tenure there, but none of them wanted to talk about it. This silence is a common theme now, as both schools recover from Battle's whirlwind influence.

As this story goes to press, the "History" section of the Pine Crest website features a near-beatific painting of founder Mae McMillan beaming like a benign matron over the bell tower, the cloisters, the trees. It also contains a notable inaccuracy.

"Dr. Cowgill succeeded [Bill] McMillan on September 1, 1995; she retired in January of this year," the page reads. "Dr. Dana Markham became the school's acting fourth president the following month."

Dr. Dana Markham actually became the school's acting fifth president — in May, not February. Just like that, the 99-day tenure of Hank Battle is neatly erased from history. It's a period the school would rather forget.

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2 comments
SteelPanther
SteelPanther

"Knight may be the most recent alumnus bound for greatness, but he's not the only one. Wayne Huizenga, the Waste Management magnate and chief Fort Lauderdale benefactor, went to Pine Crest. So did Frasier's Kelsey Grammer and avant-garde jazz musician John Medeski."

Don't forget Ken Barrington.  The star of Love in the Wild II (who was also blessed with the sexy smooth voice of Alan Alda).  

SteelPanther
SteelPanther

And Scott Wagner.  Uncle Luke said mean things to him on twitter.

 
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