New principal at school in midst of health controversy says 'school is safe'

By: Sheli Muniz Email
By: Sheli Muniz Email
Wednesday was Major Lee's first day as principal of Terrace Manor Elementary. (WRDW-TV)

Wednesday was Major Lee's first day as principal of Terrace Manor Elementary. (WRDW-TV)

News 12 at 11 o'clock / Wednesday, Dec. 12, 2012

AUGUSTA, Ga. -- A local elementary school found itself in the spotlight when its principal blasted the school board about mold issues last month.

It turned out to be a career-ending move. There is now a new man in charge at Terrace Manor Elementary and he's talking about where to go from here.

The first day of school is in the books for new Principal at Terrace Manor Major Lee, and it's safe to say that he's jumping headfirst into a school in the midst of controversy.

Two weeks before Christmas and Lee is meeting his new students and new staff. His gift is this school, some would argue a gift wrapped in mold and asbestos, that is, if you ask former Principal Hartley Gibbons.

In a news conference last Wednesday, Gibbons told cameras, "It's something wrong at Terrace Manor and someone needs to seriously do something before someone gets seriously hurt."

So, News 12 wanted to know what the new principal thought.

"I have no thoughts on that actually because I was convinced prior to coming that this was a safe school," Lee said. "In fact, my kids went to Terrace Manor."

Perhaps, it speaks volumes considering that Gibbons has cited problems dating back 30 years.

Gary Stringer has grandchildren at Terrace Manor.

"Hopefully, things could change for the better," he said.

Parents are now looking ahead, hoping that a new principal means a new beginning.

"There were a lot of parents that were taking their students to other schools," Stringer said.

We're told about 15 parents have withdrawn their kids, parents who were looking for change then.

"What happened yesterday at Terrace Manor, Major Lee was not the leader," Lee said.

But, while Lee was not the leader, as new principal, no doubt he'll deal with lingering laundry.

"I expect not only to be the instructional leader but to be the social leader, to be the motivational leader," Lee said.

Motivation is exactly what many of the parents and kids may need in a place where what is in the air has been, well, up in the air, even though, tests show nothing is wrong.

"I'm a visionary, and I look forward to moving this school and my faculty forward into the future," Lee said.

Each child received a letter from Lee to take home to parents as a way to introduce himself.

Lee said it was his choice to go there. It was a quick turnaround for Lee who was just at Langford Middle as assistant principal.

Lee says he believes the school is safe because tests say so.

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