“How does a principal go from being named Principal of the Year one year to being suspended the next?”
That’s a question Hardin Valley Academy parent Donna Dillon poses as she leads a community campaign to reinstate Dr. Rob Speas after the head principal was suspended with pay following a Thursday, March 30, response to a deliberate in-school gas leak.
“I also want to know what he has done wrong?” she said. “We live in a very scary world, and what happened could have happened at any school. I know of nothing at this point that he could have done differently.”
A parent of two HVA students, Dillion was vocal in her support of Speas following the incident. Last week she started a Change.org petition to reinstate the principal, which as of early Monday, April 17, had garnered 546 signatures.
Dillon said she plans to attend the Thursday, May 4, Knox County Board of Education work session to support Speas, where she and others will be wearing their “Free Speas” T-shirts.
She said her own experience with Speas, who was voted “East Tennessee Principal of the Year” in 2022 by the Tennessee Association of Secondary School Principals, “has been nothing but positive.
“I remember when I first met him, he spoke at my older son’s freshman orientation,” Dillon added.
“I thought then, and still think, that he’s great. My interactions with him have always been positive, and he is very supportive of the school and community.”
Moreover, “I feel like he has made HVA a great place to be and a great place to be proud of,” Dillon said. “I also feel like we need to support out educators.
“I didn’t want to just sit back, and say, ‘He’s done,’ without trying to do whatever I can to right the wrong I feel is being done here,” she added.
Beyond Dillon’s opinion, “I’ve had other parents, and teachers reach out, to ask how they could help and how they could get involved” to help get Speas reinstated, she said.
“They love him. At least one of the teachers I know was crying over the situation. It is tough on those teachers,” the HVA parent added. “They have likened it to a death.”
Dillon said she believes the circumstances that unfolded March 30 “have been blown out of proportion.
“I would be among the first to call out wrong if I saw it, but we feel he is kind of being a scapegoat for the situation,” she added.
Former Farragut High and Knoxville Central High principal Michael Reynolds was appointed interim principal at HVA while Knox County Schools superintendent Dr. Jon Rysewyk conducts an internal investigation into the incident and aftermath.