Washington parents upset by principal resignation
Parents at Washington Elementary School are upset that principal Elyse Belanger has resigned after just a year at the helm, making incoming principal Judy Goodwin the school’s fourth principal in five years.
“I’d like you to show me the logic on how, by repeatedly dismantling the leadership at our school, you are successfully serving the needs of the teachers, staff, parents and most importantly, our children,” Lorrie Murray, Washington’s PTA president, asked school board members Tuesday night. “We’ve had four principals in five years. That’s disgraceful and embarrassing.”
Parents who attended Tuesday’s board meeting, who said they learned of Belanger’s resignation Monday morning, said they are concerned the continuous changes in the principal’s office could stunt efforts to raise what are some of the lowest standardized test scores in the district and will only serve to grow the negative perception people have of their school.
Murray said she will face her third principal in three years at the school when her child starts second grade in the fall. And while she’s eager to meet Goodwin, the constant turnover – paired the with the time and effort she said she and others have had to undertake to get the district and the board to address it – have made it hard for her and others to get programs off the ground at Washington.
For example, Murray said efforts to get school recycling efforts off the ground – efforts that are well underway in several other district schools – have gotten lost in Washington’s principal shuffle.
“We wanted to start a Go Green (effort) last year. I had to start all over again this year,” Murray said.
Parents said they liked Belanger and that she was quick to address their issues. And they are angry district officials didn’t talk with them in advance of Belanger’s resignation.
“As a parent, I was highly satisfied with the work she was doing,” Washington parent Cara Watkins said.
In addition to pleasing the school’s existing parents, Belanger was also successful in convincing the parents of incoming kindergartners to give the school a try despite the rough reputation the school suffers.
“I was planning to be a parent at Washington School next year,” Chris Martin, whose daughter is entering kindergarten, said. “The one reason I signed up was Elyse Belanger.”
Alameda Unified’s human resources director, Laurie McLachlan Fry, said Belanger resigned the job for “personal reasons.” She will remain as principal of Washington through the end of the school year.
Belanger, who came to Alameda from East Palo Alto, could not be reached for comment when a reporter called her late Wednesday afternoon.
McLachlan Fry said the district chose to replace Belanger with Goodwin because she is a seasoned principal who has worked at several schools in the district. She is currently the principal at Chipman Middle School, but she is not planning to work at the charter that will effectively replace the school next year.
“(She’s a) seasoned, veteran principal, a great fit for being able to come in and build a strong, stable community,” McLachlan Fry said.
Separately, the board accepted the retirements of Gilbert Cho, who became principal of Wood Middle School for the 2008-2009 school year, and Mike Janvier, principal of Alameda High School. The district’s current student services chief, Jeff Knoth, will become Wood’s principal; the district is posting the Alameda High job.
Also, the district named Robbie Lyng its new head of maintenance, operations and facilities; and Robert Shemwell, who has served these past few months as Alameda Unified’s interim chief financial officer, will become the district’s permanent chief business officer (the CFO job was eliminated).