Friday, July 25, 2008

Another new principal for Aki Kurose

Seattle Public Schools has announced the resignation of Ana Ortega, the principal at Aki Kurose Middle School. Mia Williams, currently an assistant principal at Denny Middle School, will serve as interim principal until a permanent hire can be made. Ms Ortega served in the position for one year.

For those keeping score at home, here is the lineup:

Aki Kurose, Principals:
2006-2007 - Bi Hoa Caldwell
2007-2008 - Ana Ortega
2008-2009 - Mia Williams
2009-2010 - New Hire, TBD

It will be extraordinarily difficult for the school to experience a turn-around or implement any sort of lasting reforms with a revolving door at the leadership. Incoming principals will have to implement the Southeast Initiative plans of their predecessors, many of them made by someone serving in an interim role. It presents a challenge, particularly with those elements that require a high degree of investment from the administration and the staff.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I had planned to blog on the subject of the SE Initiative but I might as well chime in here. I'm disappointed that this has happened but not surprised. As Charlie points out, this makes for a lot of pressure on the entire staff to make the SE Initiative succeed.

I had a talk with Sakara Remmu who used to work for the now defunct Race and Equity department. Sakara had been pretty outspoken during closure and consolidation and, like me, is no shrinking violet. I don't always agree with her viewpoint but she kindly wrote to me a couple of months ago and said if I had questions about the SE Initiative to call her as she is active in keeping up with this issue.

We had a very good conversation. (As an aside, I have found that I may not like someone's POV but that meeting with them, talking face to face with them, can really close some gaps and create opportunities to find common ground.)

It turns out that the SE Initiative is one year in its 3-year run. I hadn't realized that and that this year has been a planning year according to Sakara.

She also said the original concept - way back - was to create a pilot magnet program at Rainier Beach and have an academy of performing arts. I thought this was interesting because they have a great performing arts hall there and almost no program.

Her impression is that some schools may be closed or merged if benchmarks established aren't met.

This almost seems like an exercise in frustration or stretching out to what the end process will be a closure or total revamping of some or all of these schools. (We're talking about Rainier Beach, Cleveland and Aki Kurose although African American Academy has a place here as well to a lesser degree.)

The pressure on these schools is huge. They are all under-enrolled but how do you get parents to support schools that seem in turmoil or in distress?

It's no use trying to figure what has happened. Some of it may be parents giving up on a neighborhood school. Some of it may be the district not stepping in A LOT sooner. But I wish that the district and the Board had the political courage and will to say no to the SE Initiative and just take steps to revamp these schools entirely. I feel like its going to be money wasted on an effort that will not succeed.

And don't get me wrong. I know the staffs at all these schools want to succeed. They have challenging populations and declining enrollment. I note that Rainier Beach especially has made great strides. But I think it may be too little, too late.

I had been reading about a failing high school in Colorado (I think it was in Denver) and they completely shut it down for a year, revamped its identity and started over but only with 9th graders, adding on one more grade per year. That gave the administrators and teachers time to create and implement a coherent vision and kept the school size manageable.

Where will this all lead? I don't know. I wish the district and Board would talk to someone like Trish Dziko from TAF.

Charlie Mas said...

The District is now talking about 2007-2008 as a "planning year" but in the original - and, as far as I know, the only - authorization for the effort, the planning was supposed to be done in the summer of 2007 and 2007-2008 was supposed to be the first of three years.

Unfortunately the planning didn't get done that summer. The three-year goals and the annual benchmarks were supposed to be set before school started in September 2007, but they were not set by the time school ended in June of 2008. So how will they set the first year's benchmarks when the first year's numbers are already in?

I think that the Southeast Initiative was intended as a genuine effort to improve these schools and attract new students. I would hate to think that it has become an empty gesture at improvement and more of a process for documenting the schools' inevitable failure so they can be "reconstituted". However, if that is to be the schools' fate, then I have to believe it is for the best.

Jet City mom said...

So how will they set the first year's benchmarks when the first year's numbers are already in?

easy, just like the goals for the Gates funded transformation plans and for IEPs they write them after they see what they managed to accomplish.
( have experienced too many meetings where nothing changes- including transformation planning)

My D attended a school for 6 years, had 3 principals ( and a couple after that).
Attended another school for 4 years, one principal.
Huge difference in atmosphere.

I don't know what comes first, principal turnover makes for school that lacks cohesive vision, each classroom doing their own thing, student success depending on success outside school doors, or power plays between teachers, lack of community support and struggling students contribute to short term leadership.

I wish we could have merit pay for principals.
The ones who earn it, really deserve it.

Jet City mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Gouda said...

I'm just going to shrug my shoulders at this one, both the change in principals at Aki and the SE Initiative.

Most of us knew the choice for the Aki principal was "not a good fit" within her first month. As for the SE Initiative, most of us predicted that it wasn't a good plan during the design phase. We shouldn't be surprised now when it isn't all it appeared to be.


Charlie Mas said...

I can't say that I'm suprised that the Southeast Initiative is unfocused or mismanaged. I would be surprised, however, to learn that is has been a disingenuous ploy to justify reconstituting the schools.