Contentious School Principal Assignments

The school principal hiring decisions at Aki Kurose and the African American Academy have incensed many parents. Parents left fuming at South End principal choices (Seattle Times)

I have conflicted feelings about this story. On the one hand, inauthentic public/parental involvement really incenses me, so I completely sympathize with the Aki Kurose parent, Sharon Dodson's statement: "Basically it was a waste of our time for you to tell us that you want our input, and then you turn around and just slap us in the face."

But I also appreciate Carla Santorno's statement that "We tried to divorce ourselves from, you know, the political piece, and make a decision that serves students and perhaps not all the adults." What's impossible to know from the outside and in advance of these new principals beginning their work, is whether or not these were really good decisions that serve students well.

So, for me, because Seattle Public Schools doesn't have a good track record in hiring and assigning quality principals, I find it difficult to trust that these decisions are good ones. But I hope they are. Ineffective school leadership can completely sink schools.


Charlie Mas said…
How's this for a process:

The District solicits for applicants for the position and only forwards to the hiring committee the names of people the District finds acceptable.

The hiring committee goes through their process and selects the new principal - someone already vetted and approved by the District.

If the person selected by the committee signs a contract with the District then it's over and that's the choice.

I don't see any point in the District sending multiple names to the committee when the CAO has already made her choice.
Anonymous said…

Whittier has a new principal: Ms. Cothron McMillian.
The Whittier parents met her Tuesday evening.

She was greeted warmly and seems like she will be a good fit, as she is a strong experienced leader who the teachers can respect (she has more experience than the most of our senior teachers).

I think she will help Whittier, which has had some minor problems caused by an ineffectual leader of five years.

I am sorry to see Julie head back to Lowell but I am glad to have someone else capable of leading our strong school.
Jet City mom said…
I have been on a few hiring commitees- two for principals and all the people we interviewed ( for principal) were people whose names we were given by district.
Granted some I wouldn't have hired to walk my dog, but they all were already employed by a district at higher than teacher level.

Although the names were given to us by district- we still had to support our decision and rank the applicants re our criteria.
The decision still had to be approved by the superintendent.

For some of the schools, there may not be anyone in the district who is ready to be the head of the school- however- I would like to see a process where even if the principal comes from outside, the principal acknowledges the importance of the community/parents to the school and is ready to work with them.

Some communities may fight to stay at the table, but other communities may turn away if the process is too contentious.

I would like to see input from families who spend a great deal of time and money as well as effort in the schools taken seriously.
Anonymous said…
How did the principal selection process go at Whittier, with parent input?
We can't have it both ways: If we want the CAO to be held accountable for the performance of principals (and overall academic performance), then she needs final say on decisions like this. It's no different from the way interviewing works at Microsoft, for example: People on the team interview candidates and send their recommendations to the hiring manager, but the hiring manager makes the final call after considering all of the input. What seems to be missing from the SPS process is that the hiring manager (in this case, the CAO) isn't sending feedback to the others who did the interviewing to explain what why she went against their recommendation. Not only does that help prevent situations like this (where people feel like their input wasn't valued), but it also educates the team on which attributes are more important to the CAO (which is hopefully tied to her plan for academic excellence).
Anonymous said…

Lets have some perspective- afterall how bad could they be?
Anonymous said…
Ms. McMillian, who is fabulous, may have gotten the job without participating in a multi-canidate interview process, as she was a senior adminstrator who got displaced when a grant ran out last year. Displacement/union contract/seniority issues are often at play behind the scenes.
Charlie Mas said…
Hmmm... Cothron McMillan.

She takes very good care of her career. She was a strong supporter of Joseph Olchefske. She is very important in the principal's union.

I'm still curious about how she got Program Placement to put the Spectrum program for West Seattle-South with her at High Point when High Point isn't even in that cluster, only had one class per grade (and therefore couldn't really offer Spectrum classes), and only had one teacher who took the two-day Spectrum training.

No more than three students ever enrolled in the program. She left High Point the next year to lead GEAR-UP, the trained teacher left the same year, there is no trained teacher there now, the new principal knows nothing about it, and there is still no Spectrum program for the West Seattle-South cluster.

Who was served by putting Spectrum at High Point?

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