Doubts are growing about whether the embattled principal of Bennett High School will be returning to his leadership position in the fall.
Terry Ross has been out on medical leave all summer, citing a back injury. School officials have had difficulty reaching Ross all summer and have named an acting principal to serve in his place.
Bennett has been under intense scrutiny from the state, while the district has been scrambling to come up with acceptable school turnaround plans for the struggling school. Ross has been bitterly criticized by many of the teachers who work for him while some students have expressed support.
Board member Carl Paladino said Ross claims his back was injured when he was pushed by a ninth-grader he was trying to restrain earlier this year. A doctor in Tennessee, where Ross is from, is apparently supporting the claim, said Paladino, who is demanding a follow-up investigation on the workers compensation claim.
Assistant Principal Bert Stevenson is now serving as acting principal at the high school until the principal’s seat is officially vacated and the district can post the job. Stevenson ran the summer school program housed at Bennett this year.
Darren Brown, the district’s human resources administrator, said Ross was not obligated to operate the summer school program and is still considered the principal at Bennett. Ross has not submitted any letter of resignation, but several board members say they are worried he will continue to draw his full salary while out on workers compensation, then resign when the new school year begins.
“I would hope we would replace him and he would just leave,” Paladino said.
Buffalo Promise Neighborhood, the community organization that had supported programs at Bennett until pulling out in May, also has expressed a lack of willingness to work with Ross even though the organization had recruited him last year to help lead the school, said Buffalo Teachers Federation President Phil Rumore.