I saw what happened at Graham Hill Elementary with constant principal turnover and a few very week principals. I've read and heard stories about weak principals at various schools around the district and the effect they are having on teaching and learning at the school. For example, after years of having a strong, talented principal, Kimball Elementary now has a principal who, faced with budget problems, left it up to a staff vote whether to increase class sizes or let go staff, who were named in the discussion. I'm all for participatory decision-making, but that strikes me as ludicrous and an abdication of leadership. You can guess how the vote came out.
There are many Seattle Public Schools principals with strong leadership skills who are doing wonderful, inspired work, and they should be celebrated, frequently and publicly. However, there are others who should not be allowed to continue as principals, being shuffled from school to school.
And the Seattle Public School culture, with its emphasis on secrecy and claiming that everyone is wonderful and doing a great job (see the 2005-06 Annual Superintendent Evaluation for a clear example of this) only adds to the problem. Principals are shuffled from one school to another with no explanation and little notice. Principals are put on leave, or take leave, with no details provided to the parents and staff.
For example, today in the Seattle Times is the following:
Whittier principal placed on leave
Parents at Whittier Elementary School in North Seattle learned late last week that the principal is on leave, but the Seattle School District won't say why. Alex Coberly, 33, has been the principal at the school since 2002. Seattle Public Schools spokeswoman Teresa Wippel said Coberly was placed on paid leave beginning last Thursday. Wippel declined to explain, saying only that students have not been harmed. Wippel also wouldn't say whether Coberly's leave was tied to a particular incident, whether police are involved or whether anyone is investigating. A letter sent to Whittier parents said "we are not certain when [Coberly] will be returning." An interim principal is in place at the school now.
Parent Teacher Association Vice President Shawn Severin said she didn't know why Coberly was placed on leave, but, she said, "He is an upstanding guy that we support."