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Embattled principal plans to leave Derby High School, move to Wichita district

Suzanne Perez

Tim Hamblin, the Derby High School principal who battled with school board members over diversity efforts, plans to resign after this school year. He said he accepted a district-level position with Wichita public schools.

Tim Hamblin, the Derby High School principal who was forced to apologize for showing a video about white privilege, is leaving Derby to take a job in the Wichita school district.

“I will submit my resignation tomorrow,” Hamblin said in an email to Derby High School employees Tuesday night. “I am forever grateful to those that have presented opportunities for me and supported me during my life here.”

Hamblin has worked at Derby High School for 28 years and served as principal for the past 13.

He said in the email that he has accepted a job as Wichita’s executive director of college and career readiness — the position currently held by Kelly Bielefeld, who last month was named superintendent of Wichita schools.

About a year ago, Hamblin was at the center of a debate over a video about white privilege that he shared during a staff meeting. He said he showed the video in response to hurtful race-based comments made toward some Black students on social media.

Derby school board member Jennifer Neel called the video “divisive” and “biased propaganda,” and said at least one employee told her it created a hostile work environment. She asked district administrators in an email to investigate why Hamblin had shown it.

Afterward, debate over diversity efforts dominated Derby school board meetings, with some board members linking the video to critical race theory and others saying they supported its message and Hamblin’s decision to show it.

Hamblin, a graduate of Derby High, did not mention the video or related controversies in his farewell email to colleagues. He said he originally planned to leave Derby in 2025 but recently “made the decision to adjust that timeline, feeling it is more responsible for my family that I am proactive now.”

His new district-level position in Wichita “will allow me to expand my knowledge and continue to utilize the skills I have developed in my career,” he said in the email.

The Derby school board’s conservative majority — Neel, Michael Blankenship, Andy Watkins and Robyn Pearman — have resisted several efforts focused on diversity and inclusion.

The districtremoved a controversial novel about the Native-American experience from a list of classroom materials.

Some board members raised concerns about a textbook publisher for supporting Black Lives Matter and other anti-racism efforts.

And the conservative board members rejected a proposed strategic plan for the district because it called for diversity and a focus on students’ mental health.

“I don’t think focusing on diversity is going to make up our kids, academically,” Blankenship, the board president, said at the time. “Rather than trying to point out our differences … we should try to find things that make us unite.”

Earlier this year, the board voted 4-3 against renewing contracts for Derby Superintendent Heather Bohaty and two assistant superintendents. A week later, the board met in a closed session before voting 5-2 to approve the contracts.

Derby, just south of Wichita, is a district of about 7,300 students.

Suzanne Perez is a longtime journalist covering education and general news for KMUW and the Kansas News Service. Suzanne reviews new books for KMUW and is the co-host with Beth Golay of the Books & Whatnot podcast. Follow her on Twitter @SuzPerezICT.