Hope School parents were shaken last week when superintendent Gerrie Fausett announced plans to reassign all three of the district’s principals in the fall. So far, the other two schools, Monte Vista and Vieja Valley, appear to not be too stirred.
“It’s created quite an uproar at Hope School,” said Fausett, who became superintendent in January. “I have several calls from other schools saying that they understand. That they like their principal but that they understand the need to have a district perspective and the sharing the wealth with regard to what each principal can bring to the site.”
About 100 Hope parents protested at the district office May 27, the result of a hastily organized phone campaign after Fausett visited teachers at each school to make the announcement the day before. Letters also went out to parents explaining her decision to move Hope principal Patrick Plamondon to Monte Vista, Monte Vista principal Judy Stettler to Vieja Valley and Vieja Valley principal Barbara LaCorte to Hope.
Some Hope parents carried signs that read “Don’t tear the heart out of our school,” to which Fausett responded, “For me, the heart of the school has to do with teachers and students, and that’s what I look at when I try to make these difficult decisions.”
School board members are backing the decision but Fausett said she did not get their consent since the superintendent has the authority to assign management personnel.
Still, the scheduled June 6 board meeting should be a lively one. Hope parents held a meeting May 31 to plan strategy.
Vieja Valley parents were planning a June 1 forum on the decision. A note to parents from the PTA executive board stated, “One of the strengths of our Vieja Valley community is that we are a thoughtful, intelligent group of individuals. We try not to act (and react) purely on emotion, which does not usually lead to good decisions. We like to get the facts and hear various viewpoints.”
Monte Vista parents did not have any immediate organized effort.
Principal shakeups are not an anomaly on the South Coast. In 2001, Isla Vista and Foothill schools switched principals, as did El Rancho and Ellwood schools, according to Goleta Union School District assistant superintendent Daniel Cooperman. Goleta reassigned other principals in the 1980s, he said.
Fausett — who previously served as principal of Santa Barbara Junior High and Washington schools, as well as Santa Barbara’s assistant superintendent of elementary education — said the management moves would strengthen the district and had nothing to do with enrollment trends or closing a school.
“As … we’re working on curriculum or textbook adoption or whatever, Patrick will have the benefit of knowing two-thirds of the district instead of only one-third,” she said.
“It helps principals help superintendents make the right decisions.”