This opinion was contributed by members of the Anzar High School Site Council. The opinions expressed do not necessarily represent BenitoLink or other affiliated contributors.
A timely transition to a new principal presents an important opportunity for Anzar High School. However, as representatives serving on the Anzar Site Council, we are deeply concerned about the Anzar High School leadership transition plan, initiated by Superintendent Michele Huntoon and approved by the District Board of Trustees in a 3-2 vote on March 14, 2018.
The Anzar High School Site Council is a committee of staff, students and parents that act as a governing board for achievement goals and academic programs. The Site Council relies on current student data and teacher and principal input to make decisions. This letter encapsulates the input the Site Council has received from the Anzar community regarding the leadership transition plan. To date there has been no public support for this transition plan.
Principal Charlene McKowen planned to retire in June 2019, after 25 years of dedicated leadership at Anzar High School. The transition plan demotes her to a “co-Principal” position during the Fall Semester 2018, working with a newly hired principal. During the Spring Semester 2019, Principal McKowen will be reduced to a 40 percent teaching position to “ensure the continuity of Anzar programs”. This reduction adversely affects her pension.
We are shocked that this transition plan was developed by Superintendent Huntoon and approved by the board members with no input solicited from the Anzar principal and staff. Site-based management and team collaboration are at the heart of Anzar High School. Our educators and principal are most knowledgeable with regards to the needs of the entire student population. Principal McKowen and Anzar staff best understand the transitional processes that will provide an effective and seamless transfer of leadership. It is highly disrespectful and punitive to prevent Principal McKowen and her staff from managing the transition.
A mid-year transition to a new principal is difficult to implement successfully. It is common practice for schools to hire administrators in the spring for the following school year, to allow orientation and planning over the summer. To retain a new principal by the district’s goal of July 1, 2018 rushes the process, and attracts a smaller pool of qualified applicants. The expense to support dual administrators during fall 2018 is unnecessary for our financially-challenged district; the ~$150,000 required is more wisely spent on teacher salaries, or replacing classes eliminated due to budget shortfalls. This plan shows a lack of educational and institutional understanding and financial judgment.
Broader implications include low staff morale, uncertainty for students during a most important time in their lives, and community disillusionment with Anzar High School. These effects will have repercussions for many years within the school district.
Anzar High School Site Council Parents and Staff
Joey Dorrell-Canepa, president
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