For all the public scrutiny over Robert Grimm, you'd think he was a nominee to the Supreme Court. And for all the challenges he's stepping into, he might as well be one. The newly appointed principal at struggling North Charleston High School is the school's seventh in 10 years, and he needs to gain a few votes of confidence.
The National Association for the Advancement for Colored People spoke out against Grimm's selection last Monday, saying the former C.E. Williams Middle School principal doesn't have the gravel in his guts to take the wheel at one of the lowest-performing high schools in Charleston County . In response to the criticisms, North Charleston Mayor Keith Summey held a press conference Thursday to welcome Grimm aboard.
"This is a huge responsibility for any principal, and without the full backing of the North Charleston community, we could very well be setting up Mr. Grimm for failure," Summey said in a press release.
Philanthropist Anita Zucker, owner of the South Carolina Stingrays and one of the school's biggest advocates, also spoke up in favor of Grimm.
Dot Scott, president of the NAACP Charleston branch, has met Grimm and says she has no personal qualms against his being hired, and she has all respect for Zucker. But she still isn't satisfied with the new hire in a district where her grandchildren go to school, saying that "you don't bring in a general practitioner to do brain surgery." She says the press conference, which she did not attend, was likely aimed at the NAACP.
"What he is saying," Scott said of Summey, "is you guys are wrong and I am right.
"Why engage the community if you're not going to listen to them?" she added.
Scott says the school board seemed to have already anticipated failure when it hired Grimm with the unusual caveat that he work directly under Associate Superintendent James Winbush.
"When we hired him and we publicly stated that we're gonna have someone else mentor him or hold his hand for the next couple of years, we sent a message then and there that we don't have full confidence that he's qualified to do the job," Scott says.
NCHS opens its doors to students Aug. 16 for the 2011-2012 school year.