In recognition of the “diversity of opinion” with regard to Superintendent Gerrie Fausett’s reassignment of the Hope School District‘s principals, the board of trustees voted unanimously to ratify the decision, despite that they were not required to do so.
Joseph Liebman was not at the July 1 meeting, where his colleagues took the opportunity to publicly query Fausett about her decision to move Hope School principal Patrick Plamondon to Monte Vista School, Monte Vista’s Judy Stettler to Vieja Valley School, and Vieja Valley’s Barbara LaCorte to Hope.
“What are the key benefits of principal rotation?” asked board member Todd Sosna.
“The most important thing is to have administrators who are well –versed in more than one section of the district,” said Fausett.
Board member Elizabeth Owen asked Fausett to address rumors that the principal rotation was connected to the possible closure of Hope School.
“We have no plans to close Hope,” countered Fausett, adding that any decisions about whether to minimize or maximize enrollment in the three school district, which has about one-third transfer students, would be made in a public forum.
The possibility of the district switching its funding to Basic Aid — the model used by the Montecito and Goleta Schools to ensure funding even with declining enrollment — has been floated in the Hope District for years, and will likely be on the table again in the fall, along with trying to cure the district’s budget woes with a parcel tax, a strategy that failed with voters in 2003.
As for the timing of the principal move, Fausett said “our scores are so close” that it is likely that one or two schools may be designated with program improvement status under the No Child Left Behind Act, and she was concerned that doing a move after that would be perceived as punishment for the principals.
Unhappiness over the rotation has already had some fallout. Fausett said that the Hope District Foundation Auction, which raised over $70,000 last year, would probably not happen this year. The controversy has also motivated some parents to become more active in board politics. Hope School parent Craig Malley brought a video camera to record the meeting for others.
Ed Adams, a Hope School parent who has said the board and superintendent didn’t follow the proper process in making the rotation decision, told them, “Guaranteed we will be here watching what goes on to see that in all decisions you follow the process that you’re supposed to.”
A few people have suggested that the news would have been accepted much more favorably if the principals had been part of the announcement. But Fausett said that wasn’t possible.
“Trust me when I tell you I would have done anything to keep this board and this community from going through what we have gone through. There is a reason why I did it the way I did it. It wasn’t the easiest way, but I had to do it that way. ”