Pine Crest School has made a valiant effort to move forward ever since the abrupt termination of former President Hank Battle, who reportedly sealed an enormous contract with the school and instituted controversial changes during his tumultuous 99-day tenure.
Dr. Dana Markham, the school's vice president of academics under Battle, took the reins as acting president when he left (and the school erased mentions of Battle from its website).
Now, she's officially filled the position on a permanent basis, according to Kelly Downey, a representative for the PR firm that the school has recently (wisely) hired.
Back in June and July, when we were reporting our cover story, Losing Battle, the school failed to respond to most requests for interviews and effectively blocked access to the board of trustees. In charge of media relations at that point was Director of Public Relations Karla Dejean, the school's former diversity director, who was shuttled into the position around the time Battle took office.
In response to several inquiries, Dejean provided a basic press release on the board's selection process. Our story, without major quotes from the present administration, drew over 70 comments from agitated parents, alumni and staff. Later, we spoke with two students who had been part of Battle's much talked-about student advisory panel.
Anyway, a press release landed in our box last week: "Pine Crest School appoints Dr. Dana Markham as new president." Markham (who did not speak with us earlier either) is the parent of four Pine Crest graduates, unlike Battle, who moved in from out of town.
Downey, the school's new professional flack, was eager enough to communicate, a refreshing change. She wrote:
I know you penned "Losing Battle" just a few months ago, and since Dr. Markham has stepped in to fill Hank Battle's position, the school has undergone a really positive transformation. As the new leader at this prestigious institution, she has taken the opportunity in the past six months to create and sustain a meaningful shift in the way the school operates, teaches and communicates. There has been a return to calm, where the focus is solely on teaching students.
She offered to set up an interview with Markham, then asked that questions be sent in advance. When we demurred, instead sending some general issues we'd like to discuss (including Markham's view of how board politics intersect with community values, and how to keep that in balance), we got a reply: "Dr. Markham would like to respectfully decline the interview."
We wish the best to Markham and Pine Crest's students and faculty as they continue to recover from the mayhem.
Stefan Kamph is a New Times staff writer.
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