Randy McClain, principal at Oak Grove High School, says he's happy to move past the controversy surrounding his contract.

Randy McClain does not like to be the center of attention.

The Oak Grove High School principal does not like the focus to be on him.

He would much rather talk about his students’ successes in athletics, academics, music, theater – the list goes on and on.

But the past few months have been all about him. Ever since he was presented a contract for the 2008-09 school year in February that was almost $10,000 less than what he is making now, with the same responsibilities.

“It has been tough for me because I don’t like being in the limelight,” he said. “But it seems like all I have been doing the past few months is talking about me.”

The contract also included a clause that basically says that McClain can be fired at any time, for any reason, without a hearing explaining why he is being terminated. Despite these two major changes from the contract he is working under now, McClain did sign the new contract. Once given to him, he had 10 days to sign it. He said if he had not signed it, it would have been the same as resigning, which he said he had no intention of doing.

“I feel like because of the great amount of support from the student body, parents and community, I owed it to them to stay here,” he said. “I feel indebtedness to this community, and I will strive to do the best I can.”

McClain has never worked any place else other than Oak Grove, coming to the district more than 30 years ago. He said he became a teacher for two reasons – he loved school and he wanted a job where he could work with children.

As a teenager, McClain found himself at school more often than he was at home. School became a second home to him – a place where he felt safe, secure and comfortable.

“I think I became a teacher because I really did always like school,” he said. “When I wasn’t playing a sport, I was watching a sport. The vast majority of my time was spent at school.”

During his years in high school, McClain said there were a lot of wonderful educators who made an impression on him, providing him with a lot of good advice and guidance. He said the logical choice when he got to college was to become a teacher.

“I was blessed with the opportunity to come to Oak Grove (when I graduated from college),” he said. “As I spent more time here, more opportunities became available, and I was blessed to take part in those. But there is something about this position here at Oak Grove High School that has been even more unique.”

McClain said what makes the position unique is the relationships that he has formed with his students. A picture of 300 of those students sits on his desk. In it, the students are wearing black t-shirts. On the back, are words McClain said makes him feel very humbled, “With Mr. McClain, every day is a great and powerful day of learning at Oak Grove High School.”

“That t-shirt is still humbling to me,” he said. “The relationships that I have made with these students are clearly a blessing. Life is about relationships and as teachers, we talk about building those kinds of relationships with our students.”

The students are one of the reasons why McClain chose to stay at Oak Grove High School. Although the new contract stipulation is in the back of his head, he said he does not plan to change how he does anything next year.

“I feel a certain amount a frustration because I feel like on paper, I am doing a good job. There are a number of positive things at the high school that I feel like I have had something to do with – our Adequate Yearly Progress scores, APR (an annual accreditation review), and I performed well on a recent staff survey,” he said. “Yet I am still under scrutiny. That part is confusing and frustrating.”

But at this point, McClain said he just wants to put everything behind him and begin focusing on the next school year.

“It has been distracting on the kids and that is not good,” he said. “I want to simply focus on the kids of Oak Grove High School, not the staff. That is the way it should be anyway.”

Phone calls to Oak Grove Superintendent James Haley’s office about this story were not returned.