Tuesday, May 23, 2006

Demoting A Popular Principal: What's The Deal?

It's not very common to see parents and teachers protesting on the same side, but that's what they're doing over the reassignment and demotion of a popular Virginia high school principal:
In Prince William County, parents and teachers are rallying around a popular high school principal.

The school board voted 4-2 in a mid-April closed session to reassign and demote Freedom High School principal Dorothy McCabe.

McCabe was promoted two years ago to run the school and oversee the county's most diverse student body.

The school board's decision was kept secret until a few weeks ago when McCabe informed the faculty she would not be back.

Parents did not receive a letter about the change until last week. Now, parents are angry they were kept in the dark and they are asking the school board to reconsider its decision.

McCabe is barred from speaking about her personnel case. But an Education Association representative said an associate superintendent told McCabe in mid-March that she would be reassigned and demoted.

"The only thing she had heard in that meeting was that she was concerned about the administrative team not jelling and she was also asked the age question, about how old she was," said Christy Sullivan of the Education Association.

"I was shocked to hear Dot McCabe was being demoted as the principal of Freedom High School ... she is truly devoted to the school. It's an outstanding environment around the school. The kids love her as do the teachers," said Ted Kelley, a representative of the Superintendent's Advisory Council.

Teachers and staff members at the school have signed a petition, praising McCabe and outlining the school's accomplishments. There are currently 102 signatures on the document.

The Education Association has filed several grievances. They point to McCabe's latest evaluation, which was not completed until after the school board vote. It shows that McCabe was judged to be an effective administrator in 72 of 85 categories.

In a summary letter to McCabe, the associate superintendent particularly criticizes the principal for a school climate in which some teachers made negative comments about minority students.

In the evaluation, the administrator wrote: "Dr. McCabe's leadership are in need of ongoing development in discipline strategies and understanding cultural differences."

The former Freedom Parent Teacher Student Organization president and her husband, the current Boosters president, have asked for a town hall meeting to press the administration for an explanation.

"To say that after two years, 'You're not doing a good job and we're not even going to tell the parents why we think you're not doing a good job, and just remove you.' I think that does a disservice to us as parents, but, more importantly, to our children in terms of their education, the disruption it causes," said Caroline Lewis.

The Boosters Club is a non-profit organization made up of students and parents who volunteer time and energy to raise money for the school's various teams and events.

A spokesman for the Prince William County schools said they cannot comment on personnel matters.
I wonder if there is more to this story than meets the eye... I am especially concerned about the allegation that some staff members may have been making inappropriate comments about minority students.

Unfortunately, we are not apt to learn more, as McCabe has been effectively gagged and district administration will not give an additional details about what it calls (correctly) a "personnel matter."

Heh. In the 14 years that I've worked for our midsized district here in California's "Imperial" Valley, the district has never demoted or fired a single administrator, though they've shown numerous classroom teachers the door and their "0- tolerance policy" toward teachers who break even the most minor of rules is well-known.

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