Patrick Henry High principal out as start of new school year looms

HANOVER COUNTY, Va. -- Less than fives weeks before the start of the new school year, Hanover County Public Schools officials announced Thursday night that Beth Smith is no longer the principal of Patrick Henry High School.

Officials said Smith is no longer employed by Hanover County Public Schools, according an email sent to families, faculty and staff from Superintendent of Schools Dr. Michael B. Gill and School Board Chair Robert L. Hundley, Jr.

"We understand that this news may be concerning, but we wanted to communicate with you as soon as we were permitted to do so by policy to help eliminate any further uncertainty in the community about her role and the future of PHHS," the email reads.

Patrick Henry High School in Ashland

Patrick Henry High School in Ashland

Because the departure is a personnel matter, school system officials said they could not comment as to why Smith was let go. However, they said their decision was based on facts, policy and what they "believe is in the best interest of students."

"Regrettably, this has caused a lot of speculation, misinformation, and frustration in the community. Nevertheless, we want to assure you that we make decisions based upon facts, policy, and, most importantly, what we believe is in the best interest of students," the release continues.

Do you agree with the school board's decision? Click here to weigh in on the WTVR CBS 6 Facebook page.

WTVR CBS 6 reporter Melissa Hipolit talked to a couple of parents who attended a closed-session school board meeting where the decision was made.

One mother said the majority of parents wanted Smith gone.

Conversely, a father said many others wanted the principal to continue at the school. In fact, he said more than 200 people had signed a petition in support of Smith.

District leaders are now working to find an interim principal before the start of the school year.

"This will allow us the necessary time to conduct a thorough search for a permanent principal," officials said. "During this process, there will be several opportunities for you to provide input on the qualities and characteristics you want us to consider in a new principal. We are committed to hiring the best candidate, and we genuinely encourage, want, and need your participation as we move forward."

School board administrators vowed to provide "strong and direct support" to the high school's administration, faculty and staff.

Classes begin in Hanover County the day after Labor Day holiday on Tuesday, Sept. 4.

This is a developing story, so anyone with more information can submit a news tip here.