NHHS Principal Todd Finn source of controversy

Recently complaints about Mr. Finn have reached a fever pitch.
Recently complaints about Mr. Finn have reached a fever pitch.

WILMINGTON, NC (WECT) – When he started his new job as principal at New Hanover High School a little more than two years ago, many were calling Todd Finn a miracle worker.

But in recent months, complaints about Mr. Finn have reached a fever pitch.

We recently received a 38 page packet in the mail, that was also sent to school board members and central office, outlining why critics think Finn should be removed as principal.

School board member Janice Cavenaugh says hardly a day goes by when she doesn't get an email or a call with concerns about New Hanover High School, or its principal, Todd Finn. She says it's the topic of 75% of her correspondence.

"I am getting very mixed feedback. It's adamant either one way or another. They are either very supportive of Mr. Finn, or they think he's the worst thing that's happened to the school," Cavenaugh explained.

Cavenaugh says some of the people coming forward were some of Finn's biggest supporters when he first came to NHHS.

She has asked Superintendent Tim Markley to look into the complaints to see what - if anything - needs to be done. She tells us he's hoping some of this settles down on its own, and he's holding off on more direct action until after the first of the year.

Mr. Finn sat down with us on camera to address the concerns. He thinks a lot of this has to do with changes he's making to the county's oldest, most established high school. Finn says he respects tradition, but he is also looking to the future.

"I am not going to be a status quo principal. I'm going to be a game changer," Finn said. "A lot of people are very uncomfortable when you change that status quo."

We've received a fair number of complaints about Finn over the last year, but not from anyone willing to go on the record. People say they're afraid of retaliation.

Critics say Finn has been a divisive presence at the school. They question his judgment in trying to start an honors weightlifting course - and accuse him of trying to sabotage the school's flagship Lyceum program.

"Lyceum is here to stay," Finn told WECT. "It will be here long after my days are done here, but a new program should never be seen as a threat to an established program," Finn said, speaking of new initiatives he's started to try to challenge students who are not taking the Lyceum track.

"My job is to educate and make sure that we are serving 1703 students. 200 can go to Lyceum. What about the other 1503? Are we trying to say the other 1503 shouldn't be honors and advanced placement? I think that's ridiculous."

Finn counters the complaints with numbers showing what he says are solid academic achievements at New Hanover High. He says for the first time in the school's history, New Hanover students' AP scores exceed state and global averages. And last year, the school was ranked in the top 2000 high schools in the country by Newsweek Magazine.

Finn has plenty of staunch supporters to back him up. On the day we scheduled an interview with him -- he brought an entourage of supporters who say he is the reason they sent their children here.

"Mr. Finn has such an amazing passion for these kids, and it sickens me that someone would poison the possibility of that passion," parent Michelle Hildreth told us. "My daughter has caught wind of the rumors and has said, if 'Mr. Finn leaves, it very well mean that I do too.'"

Other parents were literally in tears over the criticism of Mr. Finn. One told us she pulled her children out of a prestigious private high school in town, so that they could have the opportunity to learn in Finn's school.

Finn tells us he has a year and a half left on his contract. As for the future, he says he's keeping his options open.

Copyright 2013 WECT. All rights reserved.