What is the procedure for principal appointments?

There have been and will be a number of new principal appointments made for the coming school year. In some cases the school communities have been allowed to offer input on the selection of their principal. In some cases the school community has formed a hiring committee and interviewed candidates. In other cases, however, schools have been assigned a principal with little or no community input or engagement.

What is the process for a principal appointment? What are the factors that determine the community’s input in the process? Can anyone explain the wide differences in community engagement in this process? It has long been a mystery and the topic of a great deal of conjecture and suspicion. Any transparency into the process would be an improvement. It would also be a step forward towards institutionalizing our procedures and making them seem less ad hoc, less personal, and less political.

Which schools are getting new principals next year? These are the ones I could think of:
  • Beacon Hill
  • Broadview-Thomson
  • Chief Sealth
  • Cleveland STEM
  • Emerson
  • Kimball
  • Lafayette
  • Leschi
  • Madison (interim)
  • McClure
  • McGilvra (interim)
  • John Rogers
  • JSIS
  • ORCA
  • Sanislo
  • Van Asselt at AAA
  • World School
Which had a role in selecting the new principal?
Lafayette's new principal was selected after a hiring process that included input from staff and families. Hamilton also got input in the selection of their new principal.

Which were just told who their new principal would be?
Beacon Hill's principal was announced just days after Mr. Aramaki's promotion. Jo Lute-Ervin was appointed to Kimball without any notice or input. Do secondary schools get input while elementary schools do not?

Why are some appointments permanent and some interim?
In the announcement of Robert Gary as the interim principal at Madison, Mr. Banda wrote:
"As is our practice with an interim appointment, in the middle of the school year the Madison community will have an opportunity to provide feedback. Then we will decide if a search needs to be conducted for a permanent principal."
Really? Is that our practice? We have a practice? Where is that written? How do we determine which assignments are permanent and which are interim? Why were the assignments to Madison and McGilvra interim while the assignments to Kimball and Beacon Hill were permanent?

Did anyone get an explanation about how their principal was chosen?
What process, if any, is at work here?

Why do some principals move around a lot while others do not?
Isn't consistent leadership necessary for improvement? I can understand a change when the current principal retires or is promoted, but we have also seen leadership churn with no clear purpose. On the other hand, isn't persistently poor performance a sign of poor leadership in need of replacement?


Right on all points.

What is the procedure/policy for principal placements?

I love the way the media talks about "lemon" teachers being moved around but is mum on people (principals) who much more control over an entire school. (Mr. Gary comes to mind.)

It is my observation that yes, high schools have much more control/input because of the high stakes at those schools. I know that most high schools would never just take any principal assigned to them and even a small high school like RBHS put up a fight.
Anonymous said…
John Rogers is also getting a new principal for 2013-14, Sara Mirabueno, due to the retirement of our principal, Marcia Boyd.

There was a community survey, as well as parent and staff reps on the hiring team for the new principal.

-JR Mom
Anonymous said…
John Stanford will be getting a new principal next year as well. Parents have been invited to partake in the process....

JSIS Parent
Anonymous said…
Sanislo is also getting a new principal.
mirmac1 said…
Yes, Madison has been the next landing point for retread Dr. Gary. If he's "mid-term", it is because SPS waited until Jun 3rd to replace Mr. Carlisle.

Unfortunately I've learned that hiring teams for principals are pretty much up to the Exec Dirs of Schools. If there's evern been a "political" position where you kiss the hand that feeds ya, there it is.

If this district thinks it can steamroll over a West Seattle community like they're trying to do by apointing Dr. "Retread" Gary, they got another think comin'
Anonymous said…
Orca K8 too. Concie Pedroza is leaving to lead The World School. There is some sort of hiring committee.

Anonymous said…
Mirmac, are you sure that the largest hand in the principal decision is the education director? That means that Nancy Coogan, the central region education director, called the shots on the McGilvra interim decision. What has Nancy Coogan ever gotten right?

Tuning out
Anonymous said…
No, it won't be Nancy Coogan. It will be Sarah Pritchett deciding on principalships for the central region. McClure Middle School will also be needing another principal.

-QA res
Anonymous said…
At Leschi, families were given the opportunity for input in framing the interview questions and working up a profile of the kind of principal we would like to have. We were also given the opportunity to have parent representation on the hiring committee.

I had heard from a Kimball parent that the appointment of Jo Lute Ervin was an interim (1 year) appointment - ?

Leschi Parent
Anonymous said…
Broadview-Thomson will begetting a new principal next year also. Wyeth Jessee is being promoted to Executive Director of Leadership Development. (Kind of ironic, considering how many excellent, experienced elementary teachers left under his leadership.)

Anonymous said…
I think it works like this: if they're giving you one of the horrible principals (Jo Lute Ervin or Robert Gary) - you only have to keep them for one year. If they don't need to park a problem at your school - you get parent involvement on the interview team.

How expensive is it to fire a principal?

Charlie Mas said…
Lynn, It costs about $200,000 to fire a principal. Since no principal ever got a bad performance review, and since it takes two years of bad reviews to fire one of them, they get two years' pay as severance - the two years' pay they would have earned during the time it takes to fire them. Since they make about $100,000 a year, it costs $200,000 to fire one of them.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said…

Who evaluates principals? And what can Kimball do now to refuse the assignment of Jo Lute Ervin? How many parents would have to contact Superintendent Banda or Kelly Aramaki to convince them that Kimball does not deserve what they're in for next year?

mirmac1 said…

I suggest you and your fellow Kimballians begin attending board meetings and signing up to testify. Do this repeatedly.
Anonymous said…
Well McGilvra has an interesting situation. The District appointed a 3rd grade teacher/principal trainee as interim and then said they'll contact families later this year to see if an acutual search is desired. Or perhaps families want to stay with the interim. That is awkward to say the least. Word on the street is that Mary Lane the outgoing principal was asked to leave the District. It sounds like plenty is going on at McGilvra these days.

interim reader
Charlie Mas said…

Principals are supervised by an Executive Director of Schools. The Kimball principal is supervised by Kelly Aramaki, the Executive Director of Schools for the Southeast District.

What can you do?

Presuming, of course, that you're not interested in giving Ms Lute-Ervin a fair opportunity to actually do the job on the off chance that she might actually do it well, you have some steps you can take.

You can contact your school board director, Betty Patu, and repeatedly tell her in regular and frequent messages from a variety of sources that you want your principal replaced. This will require a little organization as you'll need a number of different people to send emails and appear at community meetings. Ms Patu has a history of inappropriately taking action in response to constituent requests. She might do it again - despite her recent pledge not to do so.

You can become expert in the various policies and procedures that govern the actions of principals and watch Ms Lute-Ervin like a hawk. She is sure to violate a policy from time to time - it's kinda inevitable. Report every violation to Kelly Aramaki, Paul Apostle, Michael Tolley, Jose Banda and the board. Report it as if it were a crime against humanity.

Establish the belief throughout the school that Ms Lute-Ervin will be gone by the end of the year. This will make her a lame duck from the start and cause everyone on the staff to ignore her and destroy her effectiveness.

Boycott all testing until she is replaced. This would require a LOT of organization but it will definitely work as the District would really, really, really hate hate hate this. You have no idea how much they would hate this. Seriously. A really effective boycott of all standardized testing could have her out before mid-year. All the district wants from your kids is the data; deny them the data and they will cave in to anything you ask.

Student walk outs at the elementary level are actually easier to organize than they are at secondary schools. Have a few stay-at-home parents in each class volunteer to host students for the day so working families don't have to arrange childcare. Take them on a field trip to the zoo or something. One walk-out a month should bring the District to the table by November.

Give her the worst possible scores on all of the climate surveys at the end of the year. Again, this will require some organization and it defers the action for a year.

Before you any of this, I will remind you of what happened at Rainier Beach High School. They wanted to get rid of their principal. People picketed the school demanding her replacement in 1999 and 2000. The damage to the school's reputation is still being felt today. Was it the principal or the pickets? I can't say.
Charlie Mas said…
"How many parents would have to contact Superintendent Banda or Kelly Aramaki to convince them that Kimball does not deserve what they're in for next year?"

How many licks does it take to get to the Tootsie Roll center of a Tootsie Pop?
Interim, do you think McGilvra - traditionally, a very strong school - is weakening? That would be sad because I know the parents there are very dedicated and involved.
Anonymous said…

It depends on what you define as "strong." The school is struggling with diversity. There has been no leadership to address this struggle or even to acknowledge it. Look at the staff surveys - the ratings for support and training to teach a diverse study body are even below the District's average. That's pretty low! So why hire the 3rd grade principal trainee with these high stakes. I guess Nancy Coogan knows something we don't know.

interim reader
Anonymous said…
Interim Reader-

What your community was told was exactly what the Madison community was told regarding the "possibility" that the interim principal would be replaced.

My take is that the district is hoping they can get away with leaving the retread principals at their chosen dumping grounds (in this case, Kimball with Jo Lute-Ervin and Madison with Dr Robert Gary Jr.), but if parents make a big enough stink they'll consider taking input for a change.

Here's the quote from the letter sent to Madison parents on 6/3, one week before summer (please note that there's conveniently no mention of Dr. Robert Gary Jr.'s stint at the Interagency Academy and Skills Center after he was ousted from Rainier Beach):

"Dr. Gary will be a great fit for the Madison Middle School community. He is committed to working collaboratively with parents, staff and the school community to ensure that each student receives a quality education and is ready for high school after his or her eighth-grade year.

As is our practice with an interim appointment, in the middle of the school year the Madison community will have an opportunity to provide feedback. Then we will decide if a search needs to be conducted for a permanent principal.

Previously, Dr. Gary served as principal at Rainier Beach High School from 2005-2011 and was assistant principal at the school from 1997-2004. During his time at Rainier Beach, the school saw academic gains on state standardized tests.

He is pleased to be returning to Madison Middle, where he previously served as a teacher, house administrator and interim assistant principal."

Is it my imagination, or does the district hate West Seattle??

"The school is struggling with diversity."

May I ask what that means? Is that more ELL students or Sped or what?

Disgusted, I find that the district has generally ignored West Seattle but something changed after they closed Cooper.
Charlie Mas said…
The District has a track record of appointing weak principals to strong schools.

Kimball, Madison, and McGilvra, like TOPS and Lafayette before them, are strong schools with strong communities.

The thinking could be to put the strongest principals at the struggling schools, which leaves relatively weaker principals for stronger schools.

Or the thinking could be that these strong communities will hold these principals to high standards, will document their failures, will complain, and will help the district build the case to fire them.

Here's a critical question: What kind of performance reviews did Jo Lute-Ervin get after her years at TOPS and Lafayette?

You'll notice that these principals are appointed without any kind of community engagement.
Anonymous said…
Melissa, ELL is hardly the case for a place like McGilvra. The diveristy issues are race, ethnicity, and special needs. Again, it depends on what you define as "strong" in a school community. This school has miles to go. The principal leadership problems in the district aren't helping.

Interim, I was just asking. Well, this is troubling because if the demographics have changed a lot and you don't have strong leadership, it can be difficult. Something to watch.
TechyMom said…
Mary Lane is an amazing principal. She got married and moved, and the late start time at mcgilvra didn't mesh with her commute. If the district asked her to leave, while keeping some of the bozos who have been around for years, they're even more backwards than I thought.

However,I don't believe that rumor. Aside from the fact that the district never asks a principal to leave, she was training Ms Brueder. It feels more like a planned succession, you know, what good managers do before leaving a job.

An interim appointment is like a year long job interview. McGilvra parents have no trouble speaking their minds, and will not find it awkward to give honest feedback.

So, while I'm sorry Mary is leaving, I think we got the best possible outcome for continuity. We're promoting a known good employee from within. She knows the community and has a good reputation. She's committed to the community and has been there for years. She was trained for her promotion in place. Plus, if she doesn't work out, we have the option to ask for someone else.

I'll also add that in every meeting I've been in with Ms Brueder, she has advocated for the less affluent kids at the school, often to blank stares from parent volunteers.
mirmac1 said…
Ms Brueder? You mean the trainee with the audacity to tell the new Exec Dir of Special Education (who is NO pushover), "we don't want to spend our PD budget on civil rights and IDEA compliance!" Yeah, she seems to be picking it up where Lane left off.
Anonymous said…
TechnyMom definitely does not know what she is talking about!

another interim reader
Maureen said…
Interesting that the SPS job title for a principal position at Broadview Thompson is: PRINCIPAL - Alternative School I - Broadview Thomson.

I suppose it was written before the co-location was scrapped?
TechyMom said…
We're all entitled to our opinions. I've been impressed with her in the interactions I've had with her. I think promoting from within is usually a good idea, unless there's a strong reason not to.

But, that's the beauty of an interim appointment: we get to try before we buy. If it turns out you're right, I will gladly join you in asking to have a search done.
n said…
Life isn't simple, is it? In what will seem contradictory to my last post on a previous thread in which I try to raise the status of teachers, I now have to admit I've worked in schools where a few bullying teachers have done principals in. It isn't uncommon for teachers who have power to want to keep it and when a principal - a strong principal - joins the staff, those teachers will recruit parents and kids shamelessly to get those principals out.

There is bullying in schools and it is not that rare among teachers. It is often your best teachers who get bullied. They are resented. I think this is part of what underlies the notion that all teachers should be doing the same thing. My current school is trying to "align" everyone. What that means to me is pulling the best down so that no one teacher outshines any other.

See the "victim" profile at this site: :http://www.bullyonline.org/workbully/myths.htm

I've had three excellent principals in my time. Two of them were drummed out by insubordinate teachers. The district should have fired those teachers. It's boils down to power struggles. Parents, you do not always know the inner politics of a school. Trust me.
Anonymous said…
McGilvra gets one principal or more per year. Seems nobody is good enough to satisfy that crowd. And, don't be fooled. No, the principal wasn't fired or driven out. Does somebody really think "diversity issues" have something to do with the principal leaving? Laughable! The work environment surely must play a role in the inability of the school to retain a principal.

Anonymous said…
And then there is the old bait and switch. After community input Ms. Oatis was made principal in spring of 2012. Now she is being moved.

This is the fourth principal in 6 years.

July 3, 2013

Dear Alki Elementary School community,

Today I’m announcing a leadership change at Alki Elementary School for the next school year.

Your principal, Ms. Chanda E. Oatis, has been appointed principal at Van Asselt Elementary School effective for the 2013-2014 school year.

Ms. Carmela Dellino, Executive Director for K-12 schools in West Seattle, will lead the process to identify a new principal for Alki. We will move quickly to form a hiring committee, and will keep you informed of the process. We are committed to finding a strong principal who will be a great fit for your community and who can build on Alki’s successes.

I appreciate the outstanding leadership that Ms. Oatis brought to Alki Elementary the past two years which has led to impressive gains in literacy, math and science achievement. And I appreciate the dedication of Alki families and staff to student success and to creating a positive and enriching learning environment at your school.

Please join me in thanking Ms. Oatis for her years at Alki Elementary.


José Banda


Seattle Public Schools

Anonymous said…
Yumpears, what bothers us is that we still have so much mediocrity in principals around here and they enjoy way too much autonomy. I don't know what banda is trying to achieve. He is not dealing w fundamentals

Anonymous said…
Reader is correct especially where special education is concerned. The accountability gap is fueling the achievement gap for students w disabilities.

Another reader

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