Principal John Brewer will be allowed to return to Dominion High School, following a split vote of the Loudoun County School Board.
After its second four-hour closed session meeting in one week, the board on Monday night voted to reinstate the principal.
Technically, the board voted to terminate his position, and rehire him as principal effective April 17. He will be unpaid during that period. If he accepts the offer, Brewer will forfeit his continuing contract status and continue as principal on a probationary period, with contracts to be renewed annually, for three years.
Chairman Jeff Morse (Dulles) said Brewer will have to undergo a “plan of improvement” as set forth by Superintendent Eric Williams, who had recommended the board fire the principal. He would be required to take child abuse and neglect reporting training, and constitutional law training related to religion in public schools. He must also: provide appropriate and timely communication with supervisors, the human resources department and Public Information Officer Wayde Byard; recognize and report incidences of inappropriate relationships between students and staff; and be removed from any and all clubhouse activities. Clubhouse is a homeroom program Brewer established to connect with academically at-risk students at Dominion.
Brewer has 10 days to decide whether to accept the position and terms.
The vote to reinstate Brewer as principal was split, with board members Eric Hornberger (Ashburn), Brenda Sheridan (Sterling), and Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) opposed.
The decision comes after three months of unrest in the Dominion High School community. Brewer, named the county’s Principal of the Year in 2010, has been on leave since Dec. 2. The principal was suspended after the Loudoun County Sheriff’s Office launched an investigation of Brian Damron, who served as Dominion’s band director from July 2012 to January 2015 under the leadership of Brewer.
After Damron resigned from Loudoun County Public Schools in January 2015, records show that Brewer wrote a letter of recommendation for the band director that he submitted to Duval County Public Schools in Florida.
In August 2015, Damron was hired as a band director at Stanton College Preparatory School, a top-ranked high school in Duval County, FL. There, he was accused of making sexual advances toward a 15-year-old student. An investigative report from the Duval County Public Schools found Damron had not committed a crime, but that he showed “extremely poor judgment,” using abusive, sexual and inappropriate language with or in front of students. Damron has not been charged with any crimes.
Members of the Dominion community have packed School Board meetings for the past three months, recounting stories of Brewer going above and beyond his job description to mentor students, encourage staff and create a tight-knit school community. Some parents went so far as to accuse Williams of making Brewer the scapegoat in the controversial situation and called for the superintendent’s resignation.
It came to light last week that the superintendent requested that Damron’s Virginia teaching license be revoked in a letter to Virginia Department of Education on Jan. 17, two years after complaints were first raised about the teacher. Williams’ written request states that Damron, while working at Dominion, had “engaged in numerous behaviors that were inappropriate and that had a direct and detrimental effect on the health, welfare, discipline, and morale of students.”
Williams released a statement on Friday saying that his office requested the band director’s teaching license be revoked only after new information came to light in late 2016. It did not specify what was known in 2014 and what surfaced in recent months.
On Monday evening, 15 people, mostly Dominion parents, sat and waited to hear the board’s decision. Among them sat the principal’s wife, Rachel Brewer. She is also an employee of Loudoun County Public Schools; she teaches at Mill Run Elementary in Ashburn.
In an interview with Loudoun Now following Monday’s decision, she said she had not yet texted her husband the news. But said, “I just want God to be glorified through everything. And I’m so thankful for all of the beautiful Titan staff, parents and students.”
School Board members left the meeting without taking questions from the press.
Debbie Rose (Algonkian), whose district includes Dominion High School, posted a comment on her public Facebook page late Monday. “Tonight I, along with my fellow school board members, made a difficult decision in what has been a very difficult process for everyone involved. I will try to issue a statement on my vote, but it is complicated by VA employee privacy laws. But for now, I would respectfully ask that the community focus on the students of DHS. It is my hope and belief that starting on April 17, the process of healing can begin and that DHS will continue to thrive and be a place where all students feel welcome, respected and challenged to live a life of significance.”