Protesters descend on county school meeting

By JOSH TROY / PRESS REGISTER,

 

“Who do we want? Coach Moore.”

Protesters exclaimed those words repeatedly from the parking lot of the Coahoma County School District administration building during Tuesday night’s board meeting.

Rumors circulated that Coahoma County High School basketball coach and high school and junior high math teacher Derrick Moore and his brother assistant coach Daryl Moore, who teaches math and other subjects at Friars Point Elementary School, received letters of termination Monday. Citizens decided to take action, come together and express their feelings during the board meeting.

Derrick Moore coached the basketball team to state championships three of the past four seasons. Derrick Moore declined to comment and the board took no official action at its meeting, but Clarksdale High School senior Marchellos Scott Jr. started a petition on www.change.org to save his job. As of early Wednesday, the petition accumulated close to 2,500 signatures.

Scott attended Coahoma County Junior High School and Derrick Moore was his algebra teacher in seventh grade. He attended the meeting Tuesday hoping to speak, but joined the protesters after it went into executive session to discuss personnel.

“I want to say to the board that this decision comes down to the parents and the students at the end of the day,” Scott said. “We are the ones that have the last say so on it. We are the ones standing up for Coach Moore in this process. This is an important movement that they should pay attention to before it becomes a bigger issue that it doesn’t have to be. Because Coach Moore is a good man and Coach Moore has done nothing, but care for the students.

“Another thing is that Coach Moore is a black male teacher. Teacher retention is a big thing in Mississippi. For them to let go of good teachers will only hurt the students.”

Scott said students and other protesters should have been able to speak to the board prior to executive session.

“I want to say to everyone don’t back down in moments like this,” Scott said. “These moments right now are important, important to the community and important for all of us, everyone at this school. Because this is us taking back our community. This is us taking back the school and taking back someone who truly cares about us.”

Margaret Walker, a 1985 CCHS graduate and president of the 2019-20 PTO, helped lead the rally in the parking lot. She knew Derrick Moore, a 1996 Coahoma County High School graduate, since he was a child.

“Coach Moore pretty much grew up under me,” Walker said. “I’m way older than he is, but he’s a mentor to our kids. He’s stability. He’s just like a son to me.”

Walker said she and Derrick Moore agreed it was a good idea for him not to be present at the rally.

“We’ve got his back,” Walker said.

Walker’s son, Frederick Walker, a 2020 CCHS graduate with honors, plans on attending Mississippi State University majoring in kinesiology. Derrick Moore was his algebra teacher as a sophomore.

“Coach Moore helped me by providing one-on-one guidance, one-on-one lessons,” Frederick Walker said. “Whenever I was failing, he was the one who pushed me.”

Dave Houston, a Clarksdale High School graduate, has a son, Eaverius Houston, who was in Derrick Moore’s math class as a freshman during the 2019-20 school year. He supported Coach Moore and felt interim superintendent Dr. Ilean Richards and the school board were the problems.

“I want to be here so they can fire this superintendent,” Houston said. “The whole board, we need to get rid of all of them.

“The reason why we need Coach Moore is because we don’t have teachers as it is. So why would you fire qualified teachers when you’re begging all over Mississippi for teachers?”

Houston said the public needs to be aware of when elections take place for the school board, so incumbents can be challenged.

Derrick Moore’s cousin, Jeff Fisher, is a 2019 CCHS graduate and was on the 2017-18 basketball state championship team.

Fisher recently transferred colleges and will be playing football for North Park University in Chicago as a sophomore. Even after Fisher has moved away, his cousin his still there for him, and he expressed his support at the rally.

“He’s a role model, somebody I look up to and he’s just a great guy altogether,” Fisher said.

“I’m actually staying with him now. It’s a great relationship.”

Two public officials, Derrell Washington of the Coahoma County Board of Supervisors, and Thomas Williams Sr. of the Friars Point City Council, were present.

Washington is a 1997 then-Coahoma Agricultural High School graduate. He did not have a position on whether or not Derrick Moore should be fired. However, he said someone asked him to come and he wanted to see what was going on.

“I think it’s good that people do come out and support who they support,” Washington said. “I think it’s a good deal. It’s important for the community to come out, show their support for what they believe is right, what they’re displeased with.”

Williams’ son, Thomas Williams Jr., is a 2020 Coahoma Early College High School graduate. Williams himself graduated from CAHS and was an assistant basketball coach in recent years. He acknowledged the rivalry between CECHS and CCHS, but off the court, he and Derrick Moore are friends.

“Coach Moore is like a father figure to a lot of kids out here,” Williams said. “I remember when he took my son and molded him when he coached him in junior high. We have had our battles over the years, but he gets my upmost respect. It’s sad how they are treating this man. Coahoma County School District doesn’t deserve a guy like Coach Moore. Coach Moore deserves better.”

Following executive session when no official action was taken on personnel, the meeting adjourned.

With Richards and board members present, board attorney Nathaniel Armistad answered questions from Scott and other citizens.

“To protect Coach Moore’s due process rights, we can’t discuss something about his personnel,” said Armistad in response to a question about Derrick Moore. “The school district and I, as a representative of the school district, we need to protect Coach Moore’s due process rights.”

Armistad said when something is public information, information would be available.

“If any employee requests a hearing, during that hearing that will be the employee’s decision whether the hearing is open or closed to the public,” Armistad said. “That won’t be a school board or board of trustee decision.”

In response to another question, Armistad said Richards, who has been in her position for close to two years, is still officially the interim superintendent and the board renewed her contract.

“She’s working basically full-time,” Armistad said. “She’s under a contract as the superintendent of education. But she has a one-year contract.”

 

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