“My son was at a school that was run amok,” Jonathon Smith, a parent of an Avalon Park student, told the King College Prep Local School Council Thursday. “Ms. Higginbottom came in and turned that around.”
Smith — one of more than 20 people from Higginbottom’s former school who defended her — urged parents and students at King to trust that her style of discipline will work, even if the packaging isn’t always appealing.
“She is abusive, and she isn’t going to explain herself. She doesn’t do that,” said Smith, a member Avalon's council.
Teachers from Avalon, 8045 S. Kenwood Ave., praised Higginbottom’s ability to quell severe discipline problems, such as children throwing desks down the stairs.
“When she first came to our school, it was a new day,” said veteran Avalon teacher Sharon Brown, adding that she came to embrace Higginbottom’s strict rules.
“You should fear and respect your principal,” said Brown.
Higginbottom remained silent during much of the meeting. Afterward, she embraced the Avalon teachers.
Since arriving in September at King, a selective-enrollment school at 4445 S. Drexel Blvd., Higginbottom has ratcheted up rules on student movement during lunch and after school.
After a public argument between Higginbottom and a basketball coach about enforcing a rule against allowing students back into the school after regular hours — an incident that ended in the coach’s arrest — students protested by staging a three-hour sit-in on Dec. 13.
At a Dec. 18 meeting of the Local School Council, parents and teachers complained that Higginbottom was too aggressively pursuing a discipline problem that was a minor concern, and worried she was alienating teachers and students in the process.
The King Local School Council has scheduled a town hall meeting for 6 p.m. Wednesday at the school to hear more concerns from students and parents about the climate at King.