Gardner Principal search update

  • Email on most recent meeting
  • Template for speaking at Monday meeting (English, Spanish)
  • Sample statement by Luisa

Recent email from Louisa Urbani, Gardner SSC President (and Girl Scout leader, Troop #62725):

We gathered this morning to chat about next steps given what we know about the hiring process.

What we know:
The interview panel for staff and parents did happen Wednesday night and candidates recommended by that panel are moving forward in the hiring process. We know that parents in elected positions were not represented on the panel, and that the one parent who did attend was recommended by [interim Principal] M.P. (which is questionable, given M.P. is a candidate in this process herself). We know that the district wants to finalize the hiring at the Board Meeting this coming Thursday, February 7. We don’t know anything else about when or how the district will move from the recommendations to the final decision prior to that—and do not have reason to believe they intend to get input from our parent community and/or from parents representatives in elected positions.

What we will do now:
Our next step, then, is to attend the district Townhall Meeting this Monday, Feb. 4th at Gunderson HS. Information about this event is here on the district website, but it boils down to this: The Townhall is from 6-8pm, there is childcare provided and translation services as well. It is in this event that all of us can speak to the district to tell them our concerns about the lack of transparency and parent inclusion in the hiring of our principal.

If you haven’t attended one of these Townhalls in the past, it is held in an auditorium at a school, and in attendance are parents, staff, and students—as well as most district staff and several Board representatives. After an introduction—typically from the Superintendent—there is an open mic for anyone who wishes to speak. You get two minutes to say anything on any topic. At the conclusion of the meeting, one of the district staff will give a generic response to all of the speakers.

The more of us who show up and the more of us who speak, the better we can make our point clear to the room. Please plan to come, and please spread the word so we can fill the room with our parents and supporters. Please also plan to speak. Attached to this email is a template (English and Spanish) that can help you know what to say. If we repeat our message over and over, this has more power than if only one of us goes up there in front of the room. Yes, it is scary to speak on a microphone for many of us—but we must speak out, even if our voices shake as we do so.
We can state our case, and give the district an opportunity to do the right thing—even though they haven’t done that consistently thus far. This is a good next step and it will be effective if we show up in great number. Wear your Gardner shirts if you have them, so we are unmistakably visible to the room.

Please let us know suggestions and questions. Please reach out if you need help with creating your statement. A few of us have done this before on other issues, and we are happy to help you feel prepared.
Thank you everyone!
Sincerely,
Louisa

Template for speaking:

I’m a parent at Gardner Academy. (If you are a member of other groups, like SSC/SELAC, Familias Unidas, etc., say that here too.)

I’m concerned that the hiring process for our school principal is not being carried out with transparency by the district. I’m concerned about this because _. (Say something personal here—something about why this is a problem for your kids, and our school.)

What we are asking for is reasonable: The right to give meaningful input through a parent representative chosen by parents, not hand-picked by a candidate, on the principal of our school.

Plantilla Townhall

Soy un padre en la Academia Gardner. (Si usted es miembro de otros grupos, como SSC/SELAC, Familias Unidas, etc., dígalo aquí también).

Me preocupa que el proceso de contratación para el director de nuestra escuela no se realice con transparencia por parte del distrito. Me preocupa esto porque _. (Diga algo personal aquí, algo sobre por qué este es un problema para sus hijos y para nuestra escuela).

Lo que pedimos es razonable: el derecho a dar una opinión significativa a través de un representante de padres elegido por los padres, no seleccionado por un candidato, en el director de nuestra escuela.

Louisa’s draft statement:

–included here because it nicely frames the issues

I am a parent at Gardner Academy. I am active in our PTO and I currently serve as the president of our SSC/SELAC committee. Before the group was unexpectedly dissolved this year, I also represented Gardner on the District Advisory Committee (known as DAC).

I am deeply concerned that the district is not proceeding with the hiring process for our principal position with transparency, and I want to share my reasons for this concern.

First, the process is being rushed, as evidenced by the short notice given to parents in elected positions to participate in the panel and then an unwillingness to consider rescheduling when we were not available for the date dictated to us. We have had an interim principal since September, and only within the last two weeks has communication from the district begun for this process. The district has articulated their desire to conclude this process by February 7th and it’s been made clear to us that this date is inflexible. We wonder why the urgency, we wonder why now, when this process could have begun anytime since September. And without answers to these questions, we are left to infer those reasons for ourselves—and none of them are positive. Something this important should not be rushed.

Second, parent participation has not been authentic or meaningful in this process. When parents in elected positions were unavailable to attend the panel, the district then said last Tuesday—the day before the interview panel—that no parent had to be included for it to proceed. After an outcry from our parent community last Wednesday morning, the district then reached out to the interim principal—who is a candidate herself—for names of other parents from our school. This was happening the very day of the panel, which means anyone who participated could not possibly have had time to gather meaningful input from the parent community. This changing requirement—elected parents, then no parents, then any parent—casts suspicion if the intent of your policy is being honored or if you’re merely looking to check a box in the process. It is also deeply troubling that the parent who did show up was hand picked by one of the candidates in this process.

Third, the district has treated us with suspicion about our motives and our integrity—even calling our school to verify that one family did in fact have kids out sick when that parent had said her sick kids were the reason she could not participate on the panel with such short notice. You’ve implied that our parents are conspiring against you.

My question amidst all this is: Since when are we fighting for something different than you?

Gardner is a vulnerable school. We have been an underperforming school for a very long time, with chronic teacher and principal turnover. When my daughter was a kindergartner, we had three principals in that year alone. We are a Title 1 school that historically has lived down to the stereotypes and expectations of Title 1 schools. Our former principal committed to leading us for three years, and the staff, parents, and community of Gardner have worked hard within the stability of these last three years to turn around our reputation, to begin lifting up our student achievement, to build up the culture of our school as the collaborative and proud and inclusive community it is now.

While we still have a lot more work to do, we know that whomever our next principal is will be instrumental in where we go next—for better or for worse.

We do not have to fight each other. We want Gardner to be a school that thrives, and I would wonder if that’s not what you want for our school, too.

What we are asking for is reasonable: The right to give meaningful input through parent representatives chosen by parents, not hand-picked by a candidate, on the principal of our school.
Thank you.