Wednesday, February 08, 2012

Lowell at Lowell's Principal Resigns

Principal Gregory King announced to parents and community today that he is leaving Lowell.   He is taking a job in Tacoma at a K-8.  It appears he will stay only until SPS announces a sucessor.

There is much speculation about why he is leaving but one issue is likely an on-going legal investigation at the school about issues with a staff member.  I have known about this issue for months but I was reluctant to say anything as it is quite serious.  I will not say anything until the investigation is done and results published.  From what I know, this issue was not handled well and as we all know the principal is at the top of leadership at any building.

48 comments:

Anonymous said...

WTF!

Rosentahal tweets

The Seattle School Board Exec Cmte votes to reduce the current 3-min public testimony time limit at board meetings to 2 min #SPSmtg

Mr Ed

Anonymous said...

Are there usually people left waiting who do not get to speak? I believe a twenty-speaker limit is in place - am I right? At three-minutes per that's about an hour of public testimony which seems fair.

I'm not in favor of this new rule. I hope there is pushback.
n...

Anonymous said...

Yeah, would like to hear the rationale on this. Does the public get a chance to comment...really quickly?

Mr Ed

Anonymous said...

DeBell, Patu & KSB make up the exec committee. I wonder if it was 2 to 1 or unanimous? Bad move, either way.

GrowingWeary

StopTFA said...

Sorry to comment further off-thread, but in light of revelations that the board meeting speaker list can be rigged...

Pssst, want a testimony slot? I'll make arrangements over a week in advance!

mirmac1 said...

Okay, here's some of the Lowell scoop.

Lowell Principals heads to Tacoma

What? Is he tight with Santorno?

dan dempsey said...

It takes three minutes to present a cohesive evidenced based argument.

I guess it is getting harder for the Board to ignore evidence. .... solution ==>

Only allow enough time for opinions.
=======================

At one time posters were allowed. That is no longer allowed either.

I made several posters that contained data and I was not allowed to post them. I brought painters tape and tack-putty but was informed that the rules prohibit posters. This used to be OK.

It looks like the board continues its preference for making decisions without using much evidence.

================
This preference has been very clear .... when the Board needs to submit the legally required transcript of evidence to the court after an appeal of a Board decision is filed, that transcript is normally an incoherent disorganized printer dump. It is clear that there is no real transcript of evidence that the board considers in making a decision.

As Carol Simmons found out .... the Board does not care to answer when it is making decisions that violate laws .... see TFA and Ms. Simmons letter and her requests for when the SPS conducted the required careful review of all options for closing the achievement gaps before requesting conditional certificates for TFA corp members.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was at the Executive Ctm meeting and was surprised to hear this. I know this is what they do at City Council and King County Council.

I get the need to shorten the Board meetings. I do wish they would not shorten the time slots as (1) people sometimes speak on more than one item and (2)it can be difficult to give much nuance to an issue in 2 minutes.

Also, it might be nice if staff cut back on their sometimes lengthy presentations but that wasn't even brought up as a possible idea.

I might make the suggestion that 2-3 Board and a couple of staff meet with the public one Saturday morning a month. Most people would probably rather have an informal back and forth rather than a formal 3 minutes anyway and maybe, just maybe someone would answer questions that are raised.

Anonymous said...

Board members openly say they don't have time to read or answer all email. So now they want to cut down on public testimony time? 3 minutes is time for 2 short issues or making 1 short point.

This is crap and it looks like Kay Smith-Blum is trying to make nice with Debell by capitulating to him here. She should be ashamed. No idea what Betty is thinking. Very unlike her.

What's the deal? Is testimony too boring or repetitive? Suck it up. Are the meetings too long? Suck it up. Or manage your schedule better. Is testimony too embarrassing? Don't let people testify there, and you're going to get pickets in the streets.

This is SUCH BS. Write, call, lobby, speak up to the rest of the board. Call Rosenthal at the Times. Headline: School board tries to cut out public.

DistrictWatcher

PS: No surprise King is gone. It's not like the community hasn't been sending "problem" signals for a couple years now. Maybe, even at 3 minutes of testimony, the staff just couldn't get the picture for months. and months. and months.

Louise said...

SPS has made me so jaded that it seems like it doesn't matter how long the public testimony times are, they never seem to respond or react or even listen. It's like the testimony makes no difference, really.

ArchStanton said...

I might make the suggestion that 2-3 Board and a couple of staff meet with the public one Saturday morning a month. Most people would probably rather have an informal back and forth rather than a formal 3 minutes anyway and maybe, just maybe someone would answer questions that are raised.

Hm... I might be okay with this IF (and it's a pretty big if) those were documented - preferably on video. I get that the testimony runs long and sometimes isn't pretty or on topic, BUT that's the nature of the beast. I like knowing what other people are observing and concerned about.

Two minutes really seems too short. I'd prefer to have fewer speakers over reducing their time.

ArchStanton said...

it seems like it doesn't matter how long the public testimony times are, they never seem to respond or react or even listen.

Agreed. Still, I think bearing witness has value. It let's them know that someone is watching and cares what is going on. The absence of testimony would only serve to further ensconce the board in the SPS staff bubble.

Testify!

Anonymous said...

Below is a post from The Seattle Times story comments on Lowell. Deserves a repost here. And I'd love to hear from the Corporate Ed Reform people on THIS one. Their whole model falls down when confronted with the truth on the ground:

Weak principals. Weak central administrative staff. This is the heart of our problem. But as the other commenter on The Times story so far points out: Far be it from Corporate Types to blame a manager.

True True so True.

"DistrictWatcher"

Repost:

I think the general public is going to be shocked and outraged (again) when the results of this investigation are released. King was an abusive, intimidating tyrant to staff who didn't agree with him. His mishandling of reports of potential abuse are so disappointing.

I think people just don't expect this sort of cutthroat abuse by administrators in the field of children's education. I know I didn't when I first got into education.

It wasn't always this way in Seattle. I think of a lot of us noticed a real shift in how teachers and staff were treated when Maria Goodloe-Johnson got here. She seemed to actively despise teachers and staff and hand picked subordinates who she knew wouldn't be gentle with the whip. The tone is always set at the top.

Despite MGJ being ridden out of town on a rail, a lot of her henchmen and women (The "Spicy Mess Mob") are still on the job, but are inevitably screwing up (Fred Stephens) or behaving outrageously (King) or robbing us (Silas Potter) and are slowly being weeded out.

District morale is at an all-time low thanks to three years of attacks by MGJ, the state legislature, the Chamber of Commerce's orchestrated education-privatization campaign (with the help of the Gates Foundation, the League of Education Voters and it's other astro-turf false fronts) and especially a Seattle Times editorial board bent on tearing down public education for sport.

We in Seattle have already bent our knees and backs and have agreed to a job evaluation system that gives tremendous power to administrators to destroy teacher's lives and families. Any "rubric" based system is always going to be evaluated on subjective terms by an administrator who may or may not be competent, or professional, or knowledgeable or even a decent person. King failed on all those levels.

Administrators like him now have the power to wreck a teacher's career simply by ranking a teacher as "basic" on one out of 23 categories... some as amorphous as "Demonstrating Flexibility and Responsiveness."

Hmm.... that teacher doesn't agree with me 100% so I guess they're not flexible or responsive... ranked "basic"... uh, oh... time for an "action plan"... still didn't get the message... so time for probation... still didn't get it... adios. Go get in the bread line buddy.

I know what the usual anti-union, ignorant, right-wing trolls are going to say in response to this, but I don't know King (except by reputation and so many nasty storied confirmed by many sources), I was never evaluated by him and I've never received a negative evaluation so I don't have an axe to grind... but guys like this just show how the entire system is flawed.


DistrictWatcher

OnTheFly said...

LOL... that post was from me.

I was just going to post it here, but thanks for saving me the trouble.

Thanks DW.

suep. said...

Not to nitpick, but the Lowell principal story has been hijacked here. Can the public testimony issue please have its own thread? Both are important stories. Thx.

Anonymous said...

Poor Tacoma school! All I can say is that I hope the mismanagement that I have heard about at Lowell was either a one-time thing -- or maybe he learned from it -- or something. Because if the stuff I have heard is true -- NO school should be so ill-served.

Jan

dan dempsey said...

DW ... great observation on the huge abuse of power by educational administrators.

"To hell with what works do what I say." -- THE MGJ operational plan has permeated far beyond Seattle.

The weak board just kept rubber stamping.

It will be interesting to see what the King report reveals.

Santorno's style was no different than MGJ... management by bullying. ... King may fit right in in Tacoma.

Jan said...

Melissa -- we have sure had to wait an awfully long time for the results of this investigation to become public. My patience is wearing pretty thin. Have you heard anything that gives any sense as to when this will see daylight?

Jan

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
OnTheFly said...

I already tipped off the Tacoma News Tribune.

suep. said...

I'm saving these comments from Anonymous in Tacoma before they get deleted:

Anonymous said...

Thank you all for the commentary regarding Mr. King. I can only hope that The Tacoma School Board reads it. It appears that you folks are dealing with the same issues that are plaguing the Tac. Pub. Schools. How can we expect our children to learn when the boards don't.....

2/8/12 5:48 PM
Anonymous said...

Oh, and by the way -

Tacoma has chosen Mr. King to replace a principal who was ousted for the same behavior that you have attributed to Mr. King. Please keep the children, staff and teachers of Bryant in your prayers. They continue to suffer from the failed polices of the former principal, and now this replacement. Bryant's truly dedicated staff and kids deserve a principal with a much better track record.

2/8/12 5:57 PM

Anonymous said...

This is interesting to me - Lowell had a counselor (the same competent person actually) for about a dozen years. The school funded the position when it wasn't covered centrally.
This year Lowell doesn't have a counselor. I thought it was odd because they raise a lot of money and have valued the position in the past.
I bet getting rid of the counselor was King's doing. Anyone know?

abracadabra

suep. said...

abra -- No, the decided to cut school counselors in many schools last year.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
J. Goebbels said...

Our experience was that of a fuhrer that cared about his staff and had high performance standards. That's the story I know.

Josef Goebbels

P.S. And I'm sticking with it.

Anonymous said...

suep, central funding was cut for counselors 2 years ago. It was up to schools to fund counselors from that point on. Lowell had done this in the past (including last school year) and raises plenty of funds to do so again. Plus its a community with a history of valuing counselors. Why suddenly the cut?

abracadabra

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
W.Churchill said...

Re-posted from anonymous (who will get deleted):

Godwin's Law

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Godwin's_law

But seriously J. Goebbels. Someone posts an opposing viewpoint and you make a Nazi Germany reference? The level of discourse in the comments section of this blog can is a sad representation of the narrow minds of some on here.

WV says "rants" and I agree

Sahila said...

Its funny that someone chooses the nom de plume W Churchill, to make a comment on someone else likening a comment to Nazi spin....

dw said...

I posted some of this on another thread, but more appropriate here.

The sad thing is Greg King came in as such a strong candidate for many reasons. He was part of the TT Minor move and had good ties with those students and families. He had two kids who were in APP, so he understands those kids as well. He was energetic and communicative. The first year he seemed to be on track to be a great principal - no small feat for a building with both APP and GenEd. Then his second year comes and BAM, he does a Jekyll-Hyde thing.

I've actually lost track of how many teachers and support staff he singlehandedly chased out of the building. Very clearly because of him, specifically.

Sometimes change is needed. Sometimes teachers are not effective and they need a nudge. But in this case the vast majority of staff driven away were strong and highly valued. The morale in the building last year was abysmal, and it was obvious to anyone who spent any time in the building. The whole thing was so painful.

So what happened to Greg? Anyone think it's a coincidence he took "superintendent training" that year?

Anonymous said...

Amazing how two disgruntled people (who needed to go) can run an anonymous smear campaign through a blog. I hope Tacoma values the gem they got.

AHT - A Happy Lowell Teacher

suep. said...

abracadabra --

(whoops -- I left out the word "district.")

You may be right, but if memory serves,the board had to vote on RIFing counselors last year, and they voted yea.

Now it's possible that funding was cut and the PTA was called to pay the difference and didn't have enough to pay for all positions.

I recall being told that the school had to choose between a librarian, a counselor or a math specialist. I don't know how exactly it happened, but the counselor lost out.

Maybe you know more details about how that choice was made. It's true the counselor had the most seniority of the three.

The main point I think we both agree on, though, remains that an unusual number of teachers left or were squeezed out of Lowell last year, and the atmosphere and leadership played a part in most of that attrition.

And no, AHT, this is not a "smear campaign."

Anonymous said...

When it comes to funding questions, you need to remember that Lowell has two separate PTAs this year, one for each site.

Despite early promises that there'd be one PTA serving both schools, the APP folks split off early and formed their own PTA, and took most of the money and fundraising capacity with them.

I hear that the APP PTA has raised more than $125,000 ths year. The PTA for the gen ed and special ed programs has raised less than $10,000. The money stays at each site.

- Observer

Mike Godwin said...

Churchill... you drunken anti-semite... why are you defending Hitler?

Also, stop misinterpreting my law to make ad hominem attacks on those who may actually be making appropriate and just comparisons not to Hitler, but to the unquestioning attitude of those who were his favorites.

me said...

Observer, technically everything you say is true, but be careful how you tint it.

you said: Despite early promises that there'd be one PTA serving both schools, the APP folks split off early and formed their own PTA, and took most of the money and fundraising capacity with them.

I can't be 100% sure of your intent, but it sounds like you're painting the L@L folks as self-serving. Lowell North parents were actually debating at the beginning of the year whether or not to split PTAs. As it turned out, Lowell CapHill wanted to split as soon as it was feasible, so at the end of the day both parties decided it was for the best. Lowell CapHill wanted the freedom to allocate their funds as they saw fit without having to coordinate or "get permission" from folks at L@L (who made up most of the combined PTA board and members). Make sense?

Yes, most of the fundraising capacity did move north, but they chose to divide previously raised funds on a per-student basis regardless of who/how it was raised, to leave a good chunk with the CapHill PTA. I don't know exactly how those numbers turned out, but it seemed like a pretty fair plan when I saw it.

Charlie Mas said...

Maybe observer has the kernel of a good idea. Maybe all PTAs should be two school organizations. Instead of two PTAs, one for McGilvra and one for Madrona, there should be just one organization for both schools.

Anonymous said...

Hey Charlie,

That's a great idea. You forgot to have the schools across town from each other, though. Maybe we could pair up John Hay and Madrona. You want to make sure that there's no way parents will drive across town for "all school" events.

There's a reason that both schools decided to separate quickly. It could never work.

-apparent

dj said...

Charlie, per-pupil spending at Madrona is higher and average class sizes are smaller than at McGilvra, according to the district's figures for each school.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, no name-calling. I will start deleting comments, whether you have a name or not, if this continues.

dan dempsey said...

Tacoma News Tribune:
New Tacoma principal came from school under investigation

A new principal named to lead Tacoma’s Bryant Montessori School comes from a Seattle school that is under investigation by the Seattle School District, according to The Seattle Times.

Tacoma Public Schools announced Wednesday that Gregory King will become the new principal at Bryant Montessori in Tacoma later this month. He has been principal at Lowell Elementary in Seattle since 2009.

The Times reported Wednesday that “personnel conflicts” at Lowell are the subject of a forthcoming report by a special investigator employed by Seattle Public Schools.

The newspaper quoted King’s message to parents at his Seattle school: “I am leaving because it is in my best interest for professional and personal financial growth as a principal and future leader.”

Tacoma Education Association President Andy Coons told The News Tribune Wednesday that he was contacted by Tacoma teachers who were concerned after reading the Times article. He’s said he’s been assured that the Tacoma School Board will look into those concerns.

Bryant has had its own share of conflict. Parents with kids at the school complained to the School Board and to The News Tribune about disagreements that pitted some parents and teachers against Bryant’s former principal, Claudia Mason. She resigned earlier in the school year.

Connie Wick, a retired Tacoma principal, has been interim principal since December.

Jon said...

dw's comment about "a Jekyll-Hyde thing" resonates with my experience with Greg King. He was great the first year, then took superintendent training and came back with an authoritarian and uncompromising management style that did not serve him well and repulsed all around him.

I wonder if that is the style of leadership they teach at superintendent training, that to be a leader is to listen to no one and make rapid decisions to create the appearance of control, and how well that ends up working out for want-to-be executives that complete that training. It certainly did not work out well for Greg King.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if Principal King went through the UW Danforth Educational Leadership program. Our former principal went through that and came out full of it. I don't know what they teach them there, but collaboration, listening, consensus building doesn't seem to be a strong WORKING point, just strong "talking" point.

living in babbles

JohnnyPaycheck said...

I've been through five principals at the school I've been at for nearly two decades and their behavior all seems to fit a pattern which is probably true of most people... They were all lovely the first year and tried not to rock the boat. By the second year you started to see a few things crop up that you tried to be generous about and cut them slack. By the third year, they showed who they really were.

With one principal, that was okay since they generally were a decent person. With the others, you just tried to hide in your classoom and keep your head down until they screwed up bad enough to be disappeared by the district.

But I think Jon is right... something dark and ugly happened to people at MGJ's "principal training." I can't prove it, but I believe principals were told to find at least two people in their building and fire them. It didn't matter if it was justified or not... just find the weakest and the oldest and cull the herd.

It makes them look tough and competent when they do that and it serves to scare the other monkeys into behaving.

It is an ugly thing to see teachers who have worked so hard for the company for 25-plus years harassed and brow beaten into early retirement because of a quota.

dw said...

Y'know what Happy Teacher? You're full of it. YOU might be happy, but the vast majority of your building was NOT happy last year. Period, end of story. There were several who were unaffected directly, but still not pleased with what was going on around them. And there were far more than 2 disgruntled people involved. If I had to guess, I think it's more like 7 (?) staff members that actually left because of Greg, and there were 2 or 3 more that I know of personally who were barely hanging on by a thread. That's out of control. Of all of them, only one was a good candidate for a nudge out.

Readers, stop and think about how far you'd have to be pushed to up and leave your job.

A principal is supposed to be a leader, a mentor, an advocate, not a dictator.

Just so other readers here don't believe AHT's BS about just a couple "disgruntled" blog readers, let's take a look at last year's Building Climate Survey and see how the staff felt about leadership. And let's compare with the previous year just for good measure.

Conflict among staff is resolved in a timely and effective manner.
49% -> 16% (only 9 of 56 staff)

The staff has an effective process for making group decisions and solving problems.
37% -> 16%

The principal sets high standards for teaching practice.
76% -> 56%

The principal encourages and supports open communication.
83% -> 29% ( a drop of 54%! )

The principal is an effective manager of school operations.
74% -> 35%

When 2/3 of your staff feels you are not effectively managing your school, it's not just a couple bad eggs. And you know things have gone completely out of control when there's conflict over the handling of a building climate report.

I don't know what happened to Greg between years one and two, but it wasn't good. All the respect I had for him during the first year (plenty, believe me) more than disappeared during the second year. The report is sure to clear up a lot of misconceptions on all sides, I hope it's published soon so we can get the facts.

onthefly said...

Very well done, DW.

The district won't shut about "the data." Well, you live by the data and you die by it.

I've read a lot of other climate surveys, but wow, those are some shockingly low numbers.

Anonymous said...

A very reliable source has indicated that Mr. King may be staying in Seattle - he has reportedly withdrawn his application in Tacoma. I can't tell you how much your commentary herein has been helpful, not to mention the media coverage. I do hope Mr. King is exonerated in the investigation, but to hire him beforehand would be unwise. Sorry, Seattle!

suep. said...

I asked him directly if he was doing the Broad supt. training and he said no. I believe he said he was doing it through UW. I heard he was being mentored by Goodloe-Johnson. He was gone from the school most Fridays last year --possibly pulled into mandatory principal training by MGJ, I'm not sure. I second earlier comments about how good he was the first year after the split -- respectful of staff, helping to knit together two schools under one roof, good with all the kids, etc. But the following year, under his rule, turned into a nightmare for many.

What was in that MGJ or UW Kool-Aid? Perhaps an overdose of ambition and an underdose of empathy?

Alas.