Home » Island News, Schools

Washington parents upset by principal resignation

Submitted by on 1, April 15, 2010 – 5:00 am8 Comments

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).


  • Barbara M says:

    I am sure that is a hard thing to deal with. I don’t really blame parents for being less than thrilled but Washington is getting Judy Goodwin. That kind of thing doesn’t get bestowed upon everyone. I had heard how amazing Judy was through the years but having worked with her this last year at Chipman I will say this will turn out to be a good thing. When we were a little lost at Chipman last year and wondering how we were going to go through this challenging year Ms. Vital named Ms. Goodwin as our new principal. I was excited as I had heard good things but the joy and delight on the faces of the teachers and parents who have worked with her was amazing. I now know why.

  • Mike McMahon says:

    While it was not mnetioned in the meeting, the replacement for Mike Janvier at Alameda High School will be filled via a open job posting later this school year.

  • DLW says:

    I don’t blame her. Between the god awful board and the touchy, self serving parents with their endless hobby initiatives, it has to be one of the most thankless jobs in this town. Best of luck with that mess, Judy, and whatever you do, don’t focus on education. They’ll eat you alive.

  • Jill says:

    Exactly what do the parents expect the district to do – refuse to let the principal resign? This is not the district’s decision, folks!

  • Jill says:

    Washington is lucky to have Judy Goodwin. She is a fabulous principal. I wish they would have moved her to AHS! I had kids at Lincoln, during her entire tenure, and she picked up the reins after some rough years there. She changed the atmosphere very quickly. She is responsive to parents and staff, and everyone loved her.

  • Neal_J says:

    It’s always difficult for parents to lose a Principal they love. Any change of this magnitude is difficult. However, Judy Goodwin is a gem and was teriffic @ Lincoln.

    Given a year’s time, I strongly believe the same parents wil be overjoyed at their good fortune of getting Judy Goodwin.

  • Jen Laird says:

    Although our school hasn’t had same fluctuation in leadership, our principal retired a week before school ended. It caught parents by surprise. I sat on the interview committee for the new principal and after two months of interviews with 9 candidates we didn’t have a hire. With just a few weeks before school started and no principal, we parents were very concerned. And then we got the one (appointed by the district for a one year position)! Within a few weeks we realized this principal was worth the wait and uncertainty. The district made a great decision is choosing her and not choosing some the candidates the interview panel recommended– their references didn’t check out. Sounds like Judy Goodwin might turn out to be the one for Washington. I hope so!

  • J Miller says:

    Judy is a strong principal. When she came to Paden School, she helped get our staff moving in a unified direction. Judy was able to build on the strengths of our school’s culture and our staff’s experience to create lasting changes. She is good with the students, fair with the teachers, and listens to parents. I hope the Washington Community will come to appreciate Judy as much as our school community did.

Leave a comment!

Add your comment below, or trackback from your own site. You can also subscribe to these comments via RSS.

Be nice. Keep it clean. Stay on topic. No spam.

You can use these tags:
<a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>

This is a Gravatar-enabled weblog. To get your own globally-recognized-avatar, please register at Gravatar.