Peggy Petrilli admitted Monday that she didn't always fully inform parents about all the details of so-called "split classes" at Booker T. Washington Academy.
Students struggling with reading were sometimes held back in split classes to receive a mix of second-grade and third-grade instruction, she said. Youngsters were to move to fourth grade afterward. No child was assigned to the program without parents' permission, Petrilli said.
But under cross-examination by Fayette County School Board attorney John McNeil, Petrilli acknowledged that some students who weren't ready for third-grade work didn't receive third-grade instruction in the split classes. She said she didn't always explain that to parents, or that many youngsters didn't move on to fourth grade after the program.
"I don't know that we got into that with parents," Petrilli said, emphasizing that her goal was to get the students "caught up" academically.
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The school system maintains that it was such issues that ultimately caused the concerns that prompted Petrilli's resignation from Booker T. Washington, not the racial issues that she claims led to her being forced out of her job.
The developments came during the second day of testimony in a Fayette Circuit Court trial on Petrilli's civil lawsuit against the Fayette Public Schools and Superintendent Stu Silberman. Petrilli alleges that Silberman forced her to resign as principal of Booker T. Washington in August 2007 to appease a small group of black parents who wanted an African-American as principal. Petrilli is white.
McNeil pushed Petrilli into a number of concessions during almost a full day of relentless cross-examination on Monday.
She admitted that two black parents whom she previously identified as leading the effort to oust her never told her that they wanted to push her out.
She also admitted that only five items on a 21/2-page list of complaints submitted by parents could be construed as referring to racial concerns.
Petrilli also acknowledged that she inquired about a possible job with the Scott County schools roughly a month before she resigned from Booker T. Washington.
Nevertheless, Petrilli stuck to her contention that she was forced to resign.
"I knew if I didn't go very quietly, I would be hurt professionally," she said.
Lexington attorney Jeff Walther, who advised Petrilli during her resignation, said the school system essentially gave her three choices: resign, retire or be suspended and face an administrative investigation.
If Petrilli had gone through the investigation successfully, she might have gotten her job back, Walther said. But the process would have cost thousands of dollars in legal fees, money Petrilli didn't have, he said.
"The district had put her in a corner," Walther said, "and there was little if anything she could do to get out."
Alice Weinburg, who worked on Petrilli's staff at Northern Elementary School and Booker T. Washington, said "it was very obvious" that some parents at Booker T. wanted a black principal. She cited Jessica Berry and Buddy and Alva Clark — parents who Petrilli says led the effort to oust her.
Weinburg also testified that she told Silberman at a meeting after Petrilli's resignation that he had hung Petrilli "out to dry."