IMC - Interdenominational Ministerial Coalition

Fenderson Fact Sheet

Overview of the Issues

1. Rev. Harold Fenderson was fired on Nov. 12 for what the district said was a pattern of mismanagement and poor oversight.

2. The dismissal letter said, among other things, that he had allowed students to graduate without proper credit on their transcripts, repeatedly overspent the school's budget and failed to consult with Central's site-based decision-making council.

3. Fenderson's firing has caused one of the largest public outcries from Ministers, Parents, Students and Community in Louisville. Public Rallies were held at Quinn Chapel AME Church, West Chestnut Baptist and St. Stephen Baptist Church

4. There is growing distrust in the community of JCPS Superintendent's continued effectiveness to lead the school district.

5. 3 West Louisville State lawmakers hold public Fact-Finding Hearing. They plan to gather more information and issue a written report detailing their findings.

6. Ministers from Baptist Association, IMC, A.M.E. Fellowship and Community pledge public support for Rev. Harold Fenderson.

7. Fenderson has appealed through the state Department of Education and filed suit in Jefferson District Court seeking reinstatement. He says he has been targeted by district officials and is the victim of institutional racism.

8. Supporters credit him with the historically black school's success.

9. Supporters contend the issue is not whether Rev. Fenderson made mistakes but rather do the mistakes warrant dismissal in the disruptive and callous way enacted by the JCPS Superintendent.

Fenderson Successess and Supporter Comments

 Many of his supporters -- including parents, students, teachers and activists -- question the allegations or argue that, even if they are true, they don't justify dismissal, given Fenderson's record and reputation.

 ''I've seen nothing that shakes my confidence in him,'' said Raoul Cunningham, a voter-empowerment official with the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in Louisville.

 Principals like Fenderson could ''change the personality of a school,'' he said.

 In 1986, Fenderson beat more than 40 applicants to head Louisville's Shawnee High, a school that was struggling with falling enrollment

 Shawnee had among the highest suspensions, lowest attendance and worst grades in the district.

 During Fenderson's four years there, enrollment stabilized and school pride climbed

 Fenderson developed a unique aviation program, and a travel and tourism career program

 ''He had a lot of creative ideas.''

 Fenderson, one of the district's few black high school principals, became a rising public figure. He was chosen as one of the city's ''people to watch'' by 50 civic leaders in a 1989 article in Louisville Magazine and received several community-service citations from local officials.

 The district transferred Fenderson in 1990 to Central High to fill a vacancy, hoping he would repeat his success.

 ''Central needed somebody who could add spark and vision

 Fenderson found that Central, founded as Central Colored High School in 1882, had a rich tradition as the city's only historically black school, counting among its alumni and faculty boxing legend Muhammad Ali and renowned civil-rights activist Lyman T. Johnson.

 He improved the school's few magnet programs and added others, including programs in dentistry, pharmacy, veterinary science, banking and physical therapy.

 He successfully lobbied to designate Central as a full-magnet career academy in 1993-94, allowing it to select students from across the district and eliminating a partial-magnet program.

 Fenderson, who could have relied on a district office to do such work, chose instead to work on his own to secure community partnerships for student mentoring, scholarship and career programs.

 The school partnered with businesses such as KFC ,Speedway, which set up a student-run store in the school (only one world wide), and colleges such as the University of Kentucky, which began holding enrichment courses and seminars in areas such as law and chemistry.

 ''He didn't just come and ask, he kept asking. He was persistent,'' said Lauretta Byars, UK associate provost for minority affairs. ''To my knowledge, and I've been here 30 years, it was the first time we've had a principal make an appeal.''

 Fenderson said he's also proud of helping to get Central's football stadium built and establishing a foundation to help funnel financial support to the school.

 At the school, he became known for his inspirational banners, rousing talks peppered with biblical anecdotes and persuasive vision of Central as an academic standout.

 In a school where 60 percent of students receive free or reduced lunch and 74 percent come from single-family households, Fenderson became a father figure and role model,

 Shala Wilson, 20, a 2000 Central valedictorian, remembers Fenderson helping her land a job at a prestigious law firm, giving her academically struggling brother a second chance and attending her father's funeral.

 ''I would always visit his office. He'd say, 'Come in, come in.' You'd feel all important. He'd ask about school, life. I'd show him pictures,'' she said. ''He'd get you fired up about being there, like, 'Yeah, this is our school, and we love it.' He wanted you to succeed, you could tell.''

 ''I think both sides would agree Harold played by his own rules,'' he said. ''People saw him as a maverick, but that fit Central.''

 Central did show improvement with Fenderson in command.

 Between 1992 and 1996, the school boosted reading, writing, math and science scores on state tests. Its academic index in reading more than doubled, while its math index rose from 12.7 to 22 and science rose from 19 to 33, according to the KIRIS accountability system reports provided by the district. As a magnet school, it was also able to choose its students.

 More recently, Central's progress has been stilted. Between 1999 and this year, scores from reading to social studies stayed the same or fell, while most of the district's other high schools saw their scores rise.

 Central ranks 10 points below the district's academic average for high schools but district officials acknowledge the school ranks more highly when its large number of students from poor, single-family, highly mobile households are factored in.

 And though Central is not improving at the rate that state education officials would prefer, it still received a designation last spring as a ''progressing/novice reduction'' school.

 ''I'm sure he's been more valuable to the school than a detriment,'' said Ella Shoulders, a parent representative who sits on the school council. ''He's gotten kids more interested in achieving at higher levels and is carrying on the tradition of what people want the school to be like.''

 Fenderson, though an energetic public speaker, is a private person who reads self-help books in his spare time..

 Fenderson, who became a minister in 1995, works as one of seven associate pastors at the St. Paul Missionary Baptist Church in Louisville. He is a popular speaker and teaches a men's leadership Bible study, said Lincoln Bingham, senior pastor and Fenderson's mentor.

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