published Thursday, April 19th, 2012

Brainerd High School Principal Charles Joynes’ move spurs backlash

  • photo
    Brainerd High School principal Charles Joynes gives 11th grader Lakelcey Rogers a fist bump before the start of school-wide meetings Friday. As part of the new program to help students at the school, teachers are taking on roles as parental figures and mentors to help teach students about responsibility.
    Photo by Doug Strickland.
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Brainerd High School Principal Charles Joynes, who has led the troubled school for three years and recently spearheaded an effort to reach young black men there, will be moved from his post this year.

And already there is backlash from the black community.

“We are making strides and now we are getting blindsided by a decision we still haven’t been told about,” said Ternae Jordan Sr., pastor of Mount Canaan Baptist Church.

Hamilton County School Superintendent Rick Smith said he hasn’t decided where Joynes is being moved to or who will take his place at Brainerd High, which in years past has dealt with gang members and failing graduation rates.

Joynes, whose efforts at the school were part of a Times Free Press story on April 1, is one of three Hamilton County principals being reassigned so the school system can receive a $500,000 grant from the state to turn around struggling schools.

The School Innovation Zone grant, aimed at improving schools that perform in the bottom 5 percent, requires new leadership for schools in that percentage whose principals have been in place for two years or longer, Smith said.

Joynes, Woodmore Elementary School Principal Visa Harper and Dalewood Middle School Principal Rodney Johnson won’t be dismissed, but it’s unclear whether they will be demoted or transferred.

On Wednesday night, hundreds of Brainerd parents and community members packed into Greater Tucker Missionary Baptist Church, right across the street from the high school, to hear national education activist Fluke Fluker talk about how to change the youth culture here.

Community leaders, including Joynes, recruited Fluker to come to the city in hopes of starting a mentoring program to reverse the cycle of violence, poverty and low achievement among black students. Fluker has reversed the prospects of black students at his school in Los Angeles and other cities with his Village Nation mentoring program.

During school on Wednesday, Joynes also brought in popular singer and actor Tyrese Gibson to plead with students to care about their future.

Fluker told the group that they need to act if they want to stop Joynes from being moved from Brainerd High. One or two parents speaking out won’t be heard, he said, but 50 parents may change the decision of school leaders.

The children at Brainerd have had enough men leave their lives, Fluker said.

“Right when [Joynes] is at that point, they’re snatching him up,” he said. “It just adds to the abandonment these kids have.”

Cassaundra Skillern, mother of a 15-year-old Brainerd student, who attended the Fluker rally, said she thinks Joynes has been a good principal for the school, noting that her daughters grades are up.

“If they move him, that would be a bad move,” she said.

Contact staff writer Kevin Hardy at khardy@timesfree or 423-757-6249. Contact staff writer Joan Garrett at or 423-757-6601. Follow her on Twitter at @JoanGarrettCTFP.

about Joan Garrett McClane...

Joan Garrett McClane has been a staff writer for the Times Free Press since August 2007. Before becoming a general assignment writer for the paper, she wrote about business, higher education and the court systems. She grew up the oldest of five sisters near Birmingham, Ala., and graduated with a master's and bachelor's degrees in journalism from the University of Alabama. Before landing her first full-time job as a reporter at the Times Free Press, ...

about Kevin Hardy...

Kevin rejoined the Times Free Press in August 2011 as the Southeast Tennessee K-12 education reporter. He worked as an intern in 2009, covering the communities of Signal Mountain, Red Bank, Collegedale and Lookout Mountain, Tenn. A native Kansan, Kevin graduated with bachelor's degrees in journalism and sociology from the University of Kansas. After graduating, he worked as an education reporter in Hutchinson, Kan., for a year before coming back to Chattanooga. Honors include a ...

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