There has been much conversation about the happenings at Rainier Beach High School. As we head into the final couple of days of the school year, I feel compelled to comment on what is and what is not happening at RBHS.
As of right now, there is no principal at RB, even though the timeline was to have someone hired by the middle of May. I am not on the interview team, but the last update I received is that no one is even under serious consideration at this time. I have met the candidates in the informal "meet and greets" that the district organized. I have to say that I was summarily unimpressed by all of the candidates except one. The one candidate I was impressed by was the assistant principal from Foster. I think in a different situation, he would have been a very good candidate for RB. He understands the school and the students, but at this time, RB needs to hire an experienced principal. This cannot be someone’s first principal assignment. The gentleman from Foster will be a principal soon and the school that hires him will be very glad they did. My feeling (and this is just me, I have no "inside" information), is that an "interim" principal will be appointed because the district will be unable to find anyone. The hiring process has been poorly managed and the concerns of the community have been ignored (again). The fact that there has not been any consistency in the interview committee shows just how flawed the process has been.
From my vantage point, the first thing any new principal must do is change the climate of the school. Many (and I mean a large number) of the teachers don’t feel safe. They don’t feel supported when dealing with the disruptive and disrespectful students who make it difficult, if not impossible to teach. Other schools do not put up with this sort of foolishness. Students who are disrespectful and disruptive need to be counseled that maybe RB is not the place where they can be successful. RB needs to get away from being concerned about enrollment numbers and be more concerned about educating the students who are there and want to learn.
EDIT: One other observation that I would like to add is the impact of the new teacher evaluation system that all the other schools will be using next year. The feeling among the staff at RB was that the evaluation system was used as a weapon against the teachers and not as a tool to help them become better. It has added to the distrust that many of the staff felt toward the administration. The faculty felt that the evaluation system was used in a planned and systematic way to get teachers to leave. Teachers who were considered to be less than proficient were not given the support to become proficient, but were left to twist in the wind and pushed out the building. It came across as very planned and deliberate.
I was BLT chairman this year. I made a strong effort to check in with as much of the staff as possible to see how they were doing. I will not comment on any one person’s status for next year, as that would be inappropriate and a violation of trust. However, at the macro level, I count 31 faculty members that break down like this:
Department . . # of Faculty . . # Leaving . . # Staying
Business . . . . 1 . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . 0
CTE. . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . . 0 . . . . . . . 1
ELL. . . . . . . 2 . . . . . . . . 0 . . . . . . . 2
Fine Arts. . . . 3 . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . 2
Health/PE. . . . 2 . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . 1
LA . . . . . . . 4 . . . . . . . . 3 . . . . . . . 1
Math/Math Lab. . 5 . . . . . . . . 5 . . . . . . . 0
Science. . . . . 3 . . . . . . . . 2 . . . . . . . 1
SPED . . . . . . 5 . . . . . . . . 5 . . . . . . . 0
Social Studies . 3 . . . . . . . . 1 . . . . . . . 2
World Lang.. . . 2 . . . . . . . . 2 . . . . . . . 0
Total . . . . . 31 . . . . . . . 21 . . . . . . .10
This is a very large number of people leaving in one year. I have a theory that this is exactly what the district wants because the district wants to make RB, its Teach for America experiment. The conspiracy theorist in me says that the district wants to get TfA in here, start the IB program, get the increase in test scores that will come from having IB caliber students and claim TfA a success and say that the reason RB was not doing as well before was because of the teachers that were there before and use it as a bargaining chip against the SEA.
As for myself, I am transferring to Ingraham. This was a very hard decision for me that I did not enter into lightly. I really like teaching at RB and I will be forever grateful to Dr. Gary and Ms. Lessig for taking a chance on me. However, I live 17 miles from RB. I live 5 blocks from Ingraham. I also student taught at Ingraham and still have relationships with the math teachers there. I spend upwards of 90 minutes a day commuting and that is starting to wear on me and my car. When I started at RB in the fall of 2005, I weighed 210 pounds. I now weigh 280 (and that is down 10 lbs). At 51 years of age, I am a heart attack waiting to happen, so I have to make some changes in my life. I will be using that time I used to spend commuting exercising and getting healthy again. That being said, I was really surprised, how hard it was for me to tell the students who I am close to, that I was leaving. I think the last time I got misty eyed in front of a 16 year old girl was when I was a senior in high school and my girl friend was breaking up with me!!!
I will continue to post when I feel that I have something to say that is relevant and may move the discussion about SPS forward. Thank you to all of the people who have read what I have written and took the time to comment. I very much appreciate your insight, wisdom and passion for the SPS.