Thursday, April 26, 2012

The mystery of disappearing principals

The families of Polo Ridge Elementary are living the latest installment of an ongoing mystery series in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools:  "What happened to our principal?"

After a confusing communique from fill-in administrators at the south suburban school, CMS officials explained that Principal Patricia Riska had recently been sent on a special assignment to help evaluate teachers, while Assistant Principal Cassandra Gregory had been reassigned to Eastover Elementary.

Things got even odder today,  when someone discovered that Riska was listed as a principal at West Charlotte High on the school's web site, along with Principal Shelton Jefferies. Spokeswoman Tahira Stalberte said Riska's special assignment is at West Charlotte, but she's not serving as a principal there.

Rumors are flying,  and people are asking why the Observer is accepting an official explanation that's clearly incomplete.  Some have suggested it's due to staff shortages here.

There's some truth to that.  CMS is seeing an unusual level of churn among administrators at its 159 schools this year,  and we could probably keep all our reporters busy checking out the changes.  Even when a principal retires,  there are often questions about what led up to the decision.

But the bigger issue is this:  There's a limit to what reporters can get  --  and what CMS can release --  when it comes to personnel issues.  N.C. law makes personnel files confidential.  CMS must disclose  promotions, demotions, suspensions and transfers,  but officials don't have to give explanations.  At Polo Ridge,  Stalberte has said only that the moves were not for disciplinary reasons.

We generally run checks of public records on lawsuits and arrests when questions are swirling about a school situation.  In this case,  as in most,  nothing popped up.

With unlimited staff time,  we could call everyone who might have heard something.  But without records to confirm or refute rumors,  we might just end up with a thick stack of unusable notes.

It's frustrating,  I know.  Principals play such a vital role in schools and communities that people legitimately want to know whether they've been treated right by their bosses,  or whether CMS is withholding information about incidents that affect the school or its students.  I wish there were a better way to get the answers without violating the confidentiality of employees  -- or the law.

35 comments:

Truth Seeker said...

More to come. Will be interesting to get grand total by end of June. Which zone will win with the most "churn?"

Anonymous said...

This story must be related to the comments made that CMS has effective principals in all but a handful of schools, then, right?

(insert an eye roll here)

Anonymous said...

When will CMS understand that lies and cover ups will only further incense a community of parents who only want the best learning environment for their children?

Anonymous said...

As long as the wealthy and welfare parents on both ends of the cultural spectrum terrorize entire schools, there will little reason to become an administrator in CMS. Write a referral and nothing happens. Confront a bully, nothing really happens. Look in the drawer of many a departed assistant principal and find the stacks of unattended referrals. This cultural turf war has descended to cesspool levels as well as CYA tactics so absurd that many teachers ignore the constant daily drivel.

Anonymous said...

7:57
Keen observation.

Wiley Coyote said...

Where have all the principals gone, long time passing?

Where have all the principals gone, long time ago?

Where have all the principals gone?

Project LIFT has picked them everyone.

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Oh, when will they ever learn?

Anonymous said...

Is this an attempt by CMS to legitimize removing teachers from west charlotte that are not on board with project lift? They would need someone who is certified to observe teachers and high enough in the food chain that their evaluation would not be questioned. SO instead of really allowing these teachers to leave bc they don't want to be part of project lift they are going to remove them. Just wondering...would not surprise me at all that the HR person would try this.

Anonymous said...

Aah, Karma.

Anonymous said...

As a former PRE parent I can't stand Riska, BUT I know her focus in her doctoral dissertation was gifted students. I wonder if she's been sent there because of the IB program? (Then again, that would make a modicum of sense, and this is CMS we're talking about.)

Anonymous said...

CMS has no "one" set of principals that it follows! Yuk, yuk, yuk!

Anonymous said...

Heath "the hairdo" Morrison, I hope your toolbox has some very big tools in it. The engine of CMS is a mess and is in need of dire repair.

Anonymous said...

Project Lift - you can't fix stupid!

Anonymous said...

The end of the matter will be interesting.
There is no way in the world that West Charlotte’s principal Shelton Jefferies and Assistant principal Mike Felder need help evaluating teachers. Maybe Riska is there to learn something. Like how to behave and have some decorum. Besides, there is no way that any school district is going to move an elementary principal to a high school, it just isn’t done. Maybe move them to a middle school for a few years then to a high school, but no hopping. Oh and did I mention that Jefferies and Felder need no assistance from the likes of Riska. I think Riska has been sent to in school detention. Poor Shelton and Mike.

Anonymous said...

And now, we lose a 30 year gifted teacher and principal from MPTS to another state and 50+ other pricinpals. Wake up, CMS. Our new super has to be a magician given what he has to pull out of his hat. Was "magician" one of the criteria on the job requirments? Seriously, there's so much at stake here; let's pull together.

Anonymous said...

Here is the pattern I have seen. If you are support staff, a teacher or an AP and there is any issue large or small then you are history. If however, you are a principal you have what I call "invisible tenue". You will not be given the choice to resign, retire or be fired unless it is something so publicly distasteful or CMS faces litigation. You will instead either be moved or socially promoted and become a boil on the butt of some other school or dept. Does anyone else see a similarity in policy with the Catholic Church playing musical chairs with their clergy in the past? A past that has now caught up with them and they now regret. We can only hope for the same; that CMS will change their policy and REmove,not merely move the bad apples in their principal core.

Anonymous said...

Ann, Both of those administrators have been "tapped" for LIFT zones for 2012/2013 school year. This is going to be a trend of how the principals get shuffled to work for LIFT. If they buy into the LIFT idealism then they can stay and take the cash. If not we shuffle a new bunch in with fresh koolaid. This is why its on the down low from the PR folks. They dont want you to know that a functioning school with good history is losing a leader to Ms. Watts and LIFT for a temporary fix. (possibly) It just cements the "TRUTH" comments they study downtown. I think they need to add 5 more to the "spin department" and remove Latarzan.

Anonymous said...

Many principals and/or administrators who are "removed" are transferred to other "quieter" Central Office positions. This is not unusual at all! The support staff see it happening, but John Q Public does not. Many of them even get to retain their same pay, time off and benefits.

Ann Doss Helms said...

6:30 a.m., CMS did move Stan Frazier from an elementary school where he'd done well to Waddell High. Eventually even he said that hadn't been a good idea and he wasn't really ready for all the challenges of that school (which, of course, no longer exists).

Anonymous said...

9:08, are these principals that have been "blessed" by whatever program with whatever college that is?

Wiley Coyote said...

Eventually even he said that hadn't been a good idea and he wasn't really ready for all the challenges of that school...

But Teach For America graduates are ready for the challenges?

And the all important "newly updated CMS data":

Teachers demonstrate leadership...36%

Teachers establish a respectful environment for a diverse population of students...40%

Teachers know the content they teach...30%

Seems like a whole lotta incompetence goin' on...

Anonymous said...

Wiley, I guess I see "incompetence" as 2 different things. One is related to your first comment in that you are getting people into areas that they have no training for and no experience with. Or second, is this a case where the deliberate expunging of experienced, i.e. higher paid teachers (and maybe administrators) has created this vacumm.

Wiley Coyote said...

I don't think expunging is deliberate, but you're right, the (in)competencies are somewhat different, but both still show a lack of skill?

Anonymous said...

Wiley, expunging is suttle versus deliberate you are right. Administrators clearly have some directive to lower their costs as a function of the budget wars over the last few years. But as you well know, CMS has not had a reduced budget from previous year's comparison till this year. So clearly administrators can decide to become a thorn in a teacher's side by many methods and they feel okay with it since they know the teacher can go to another school system and get hired right away.

Anonymous said...

Subtle.

Anonymous said...

Hup, thanks. Typing faster tha nmy brain can process it. Gotta get a thought out for the age thing kicks in.

Anonymous said...

A few more need to "disappear" due to their incompetence and how they bully and threaten teachers. They do not understand that ogre Pete is gone. He's the one who told them to low rate experienced teachers to make it easier for him to get rid of higher salaries during reductions in force. They took it to a higher level and use this directive to try and silence teachers who dare to speak truth to power.
Harding epitomizes this trend and is a hostile working environment for everyone. No one is happy there and every teacher will tell you it is not the kids that are making them leave. It is the administration. No support and "gotcha" mentality when interacting with teachers and staff. Remove the incompetents before all the good teachers are gone. There are some great young people there who will be leaving the profession because of the way they are being treated. If Harding is to have any chance, the administration has to go.

Anonymous said...

Sure would like to investigate how a grievance board could be setup to give teachers a platform and protection from retribution.

Anonymous said...

Ann,

I have no hard data re this except discussion among colleagues at CMS: CMS will see a mass churn of staff -- school to school along with a large exodus of teachers and administrators this year.

CMS will probably have to do several job fairs in other states to recruit for the upcoming year.

My opinion as to why...no raise in three years with an improving economy, overuse of testing with accountability for teachers/principals but not students, no real alternative schools for the many children that can not learn in a traditional setting.

Anonymous said...

what is wrong with this place... What happened to nixon? Everyone loved him. Did you see the teachers pay in the paper? Who in their right mind would want to teach here? No wonder they have to get teach for america... Cmess at its finest.

Anonymous said...

Pete Gorman may be gone, but his policies are still in place. He promised that some of CMS’s most experienced and effective teachers would be removed over the next 5 years. We still have 2more years to go to full fill this political agenda.

Anonymous said...

Riska's no longer on the website. Curiouser and curiouser.

sell my house said...

Really Principal have a vital role to school and community.

Truth Seeker said...

Did my own unscientific study - several of leaving teachers at the end of this year are going to charter schools, private schools or leaving teaching altogether. These are not beginning teachers but seasoned veterans who have been with CMS for years. Sad. What can we do as a community to help CMS?

Anonymous said...

It was announced yesterday in the paper that Riska is going to be principal of Highland Mill Montessori - It's mind boggling how another non-Montesori trained principal has been hired to head up an alternative school with a highly trained staff who believes in these proven, scientifically based methods. CMS seems to have no intention of hiring trained or experienced Montessori principals who can nurture and cultivate and truly develop this sort of specialized school. It's incredibly short sighted and will weaken each of the programs in all four Montessori magnets that parents have been clamoring and long wait-listing for. Why is this allowed year after year and what is the thinking behind these appointments?

Anonymous said...

Any one following how well it's going at Highland Mill? Well, it's not going well and families are leaving this great program mid year and I'm wondering why.... I'm not sure who out there is helping the parents.