Bryan Station High School principal Mike Henderson said Thursday that his retirement at the end of the school year had nothing to do with recent discipline problems at the school or the district's lack of support for the school.
"Absolutely not," he said. Henderson, 54, said he retired after 31 years as an educator because his wife, Beverly, a behavior specialist at Paul Laurence Dunbar High School and an educator for 32 years, also retired.
He said they wanted to spend more time with family. Henderson said he waited until after commencement exercises to announce his retirement so as not to take away from that event.
Bryan Station , one of Lexington's five public high schools, has been a focus of local and state attention.
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Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday said in a letter in May that a state diagnostic review cited for the second year in a row the district's lack of support for Bryan Station, the only school in Fayette County that the state designates as persistently low-achieving.
Also, in a widely publicized incident in May, school administrators promised "serious" discipline after a student burst into a Bryan Station biology class to attack another student and was followed by a crowd of others with cellphones to record the attack.
Then a Bryan Station High School teacher told the Fayette County school board last month that the district's failure to provide enough resources for a behavior-management plan meant that "disruptions, disengagement and acts of violence and aggression are far too common at our school."
Henderson, who became principal in 2011, said no Fayette County school official asked him to retire. He said Bryan Station High School had more discipline problems before he took over.
"I'm proud that I had the opportunity to work at Bryan Station and I am proud of the progress that we have made. I was proud to be able to say at every graduation all four years that that class had a higher percentage of college- and career-ready kids than any class before that," Henderson said.
"I really enjoyed my time and I loved working with the staff, the students and the families."
District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Henderson was one of three principals who retired at the end of the recent school year.
State officials said this year that Bryan Station showed a big gain — more than 20 percentage points — in students graduating from high school or being career-ready over the past four years. Bryan Station had double-digit gains in the percentage of students meeting the ACT math benchmark from 2010 to 2014. The school has closed student achievement gaps over the past three years, notable because it has more students who are eligible for free and reduced-price lunch than other high schools in the district.
But academic achievement problems persist. The 2015 state diagnostic review on whether district officials were doing enough for Bryan Station found clear differences between the opportunities provided to students in grade-level core courses and those in advanced courses, such as calculus and advanced-placement history. The review team cited several instances of student behavior affecting learning.
Several students were observed not attending classes, using cellphones, listening to music during class, and disengaging from the lesson. Teachers' attempts to redirect students were often met with ambivalence or initial compliance, followed by students returning to the inappropriate behavior.
The state's 2014 diagnostic review said the principal was not holding the staff accountable for student achievement. However, that report said Henderson had the ability to lead and should remain as principal.
Last week, WKYT-TV reported that the number of fights at Bryan Station surpassed the total number of assaults at all other Lexington high schools during the 2014-15 school year. Henderson said he announced his retirement to his staff June 1, before that report was released.