A freshman course has been abruptly disbanded at Henry Clay High School and the principal has apologized to the school's decision-making council, saying he gave students academic credit without necessary council permission.
"I was trying to do something for students, but I should not have overstepped my bounds," principal Greg Quenon confirmed telling the council at a meeting earlier this month.
The student newspaper, The Devils' Advocate, first reported the problems with Quenon's actions, quoting him as telling council members, "The bottom line here, guys, is that I messed up... I am deeply sorry that I broke your trust."
The freshman course, a pilot called Awakenings 101 aimed at developing leaders and taught by Jonathan Smith, was disbanded earlier this month. The decision followed a meeting with Central Office officials, Quenon told the Herald-Leader.
When the course began in 2014-15, the school-based council of teachers and parents had not approved giving students credit for the class and Quenon said parents and students knew that from the outset. But Quenon said students and parents asked to receive credit once they began the class because students were working so hard.
Minutes from an Oct. 13 school-based council meeting said that Quenon said he "bowed to pressure" from parents of students in the class.
Social studies teacher Jody Cabble, a member of the school council, said she was concerned that students were given unauthorized credit under the course title "Renaissance Leadership." She said she was the only teacher for the course and none of the students were on her class roster.
Quenon said he intended to give the 2014-15 class credit through independent study and described what happened as a "miscommunication."
In addition, he said he recently discovered that some of the students in the 2014-15 class had not done the required work to get the credit.
Cabble said in an interview that she thinks it's important that "every person in power follow procedures and policy."
However, she said of Quenon, "I truly believe that he had only the best intentions of the students at heart in doing this."
Smith did not have teaching certification when the course initially started last year, Quenon said, but he received certification to teach one course in 2015-16. This month, the council voted against giving students in the 2015-16 class credit for Awakenings 101.
Students taking the class in 2015-16 and those who took it in 2014-15, the first year it was offered, are being allowed to take other courses for credit.
District spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Thursday that "the district was made aware of the situation and immediately worked in concert with school administrators to ensure that schedules and transcripts reflected the appropriate credits earned and that students were made aware of their future options for earning course credit."
Quenon said the fact that he's been willing to try new approaches such as the pilot course has led to high test scores and the school's distinguished rating in the state's accountability system.
Quenon emphasized that "I did not receive nor did any other Henry Clay administrator receive anything in exchange for allowing" the course to be taught.
Associate Principal Paul Little said that Quenon made a mistake by not getting council approval, but "he didn't do it for personal gain, he didn't do it for personal advancement," he did it to help kids.
School council member Jeff Walther, an attorney, agreed.
"I do believe he wanted to do something for the students," Walther said. "His motives were pure. He just let his desire to do something good for this group of kids override his judgment."