So it looks like the Seattle Public School District is averaging a scandal every two months. Not a propitious start to a big levy and election year.
The latest controversy is the unexpected summary firing of well-respected and beloved Principal Martin Floe of Ingraham High School.
Parents, students, staffers and prospective Ingraham families are reacting with shock, outrage and support for Floe, calling him “a class act.” They are also weighing in at the Seattle Times (Principal of Seattle’s Ingraham High School to be replaced).
An apparently spontaneous and unanimous statement of confidence in Principal Floe (posted below) was signed by the staff of Ingraham, making his ouster all the more bewildering.
A demonstration of solidarity for Floe is planned for 5:15 p.m. Thursday May 12 at district HQ, the John Stanford Center. (“Show your support for Martin Floe-Show up at the JSCEE lobby on Thursday -May 12th @ 5:15 PM – Wear your Ingraham Blue. 4 Staff and 4 parents will meet with Dr. Enfield for 15 minutes – we will gather in the lobby and show our support from there. – Mary Smith 5/11/11 9:11 AM”)
A protest is also planned for the May 18 school board meeting, reports The Stranger.
A “Friends of Martin Floe” Facebook page has also been created.
This is also not an auspicious beginning for new Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield. Only two months into her new job, and she is continuing the disruptive principal roulette that her recently fired predecessor Maria Goodloe-Johnson was infamous for, and which ultimately contributed to the near-unanimous No Confidence vote against Goodloe-Johnson by the districts’ teachers.
This is not a good sign on many fronts. It certainly does not instill confidence in the leadership and judgment of Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield, and could set her on track to her own No Confidence vote.
Apparently, district spokesperson Teresa Wippel has explained the firing as Dr. Enfield’s desire to have “new leadership” at Ingraham. (This sounds rather arbitrary and capricious to me.)
The APP/IB bait and switch
Complicating the matter further, Ingraham is slated to be the site for a new program that combines the district’s Accelerated Progress Program for highly capable/gifted students with the school’s existing International Baccalaureate program.
The district, under the previous superintendent, proposed this promising option to the APP community as a means to draw APP families away from Garfield High School, which has been their assigned school for the past 20 years or so, but which has become seriously overcrowded.
A number of families signed on to the APP/IB program for the 2011-12 school year, and more were considering the option (including my own family). A key factor in making Ingraham appealing was the warm welcome Principal Floe gave to the prospective APP families at orientations the district held last year. Not surprisingly, many families are now crying “Bait and switch.”
Floe — “A Class Act”
Floe has reportedly refused to resign and may be appealing the firing decision. By all accounts, Floe, a graduate of Ingraham himself, has been a conscientious leader and colleague at the school, who cares about his students, exactly the traits a parent or school — or sensible school district leadership — would want in a principal.
The school board should step up and intervene here. After all, as directors, it’s their job to direct the superintendent, as the state auditor reminded them last year. Right now their interim supt appears to be leading the district off another cliff.
(STATEMENT OF CONFIDENCE IN PRINCIPAL MARTIN FLOE FROM THE INGRAHAM HIGH SCHOOL STAFF)
Whereas Martin Floe is a highly respected principal who has built Ingraham into a cohesive, caring and academically challenging high school;
Whereas he sets clear policy direction for an achievement-oriented school;
Whereas he maintains a balanced and holistic vision for the school;
Whereas he maintains a safe and secure learning environment in which students and staff can work without distraction;
Whereas he maintains an open-door policy for all members of the Ingraham community, including staff, students, alumni, and parents;
Whereas he is marked by his excellent listening skills and positive attitude;
Whereas he ensures that staff receives all the support and materials needed to bring quality instruction to Ingraham’s students;
Whereas he supports staff in their care of students and encourages a collaborative approach in improving classroom instruction;
Whereas he maintains positive and productive relationships with the Ingraham parent community;
Whereas he has recruited and retained an award-winning staff that has gained the respect and gratitude of students and parents alike;
Whereas he has demonstrated a long record of fostering the development of the International Baccalaureate program;
Whereas he has fostered confidence in staff and in the parent community that the new APP Program will achieve success at Ingraham High School;
Whereas he is much beloved as an educator, leader, and colleague;
Be it therefore resolved that the staff of Ingraham High School expresses its confidence in the leadership of Principal Martin Floe.
SIDEBAR: Who is Bree Dusseault?
Another facet of this story is the reported role of new Executive Director Brianna “Bree” Dusseault in the summary dismissal of Floe. She is one of former Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson’s hires from last year. She came from the New Orleans Charter Middle School where she was principal for two years. She taught for a few years before that. Her husband, a former Teach for America, Inc. trainee, teaches in a middle school here. Dusseault is also affiliated with the Center on Reinventing Public Education, where she has written papers on charter school management. (The Gates Foundation has funded a study of charter school management by CRPE.) She is also a former resident of the Gates-funded New Leaders for New Schools, an enterprise that trains principals.
There have been reports in the blogs that Dusseault has not made a good impression on the school communities in the region she oversees, including Ingraham. In light of Dusseault’s background in privatized public education, her connection to Teach for America, CRPE, and her hiring by Broad Foundation trained corporate ed reformer, Goodloe-Johnson, it’s possible that Dusseault has brought with her the top-down, autocratic management style that Goodloe-Johnson was cited for, and is the hallmark of the corporate ed reform mindset.
Bree Dusseault played a key role in the misappraisal and temporary firing of Ingraham principal, Martin Floe. As NW Executive Director she was his supervisor. Although the NW is glad to be rid of her, the reassignment to the SE part of the district is very troubling. Dusseault does not meet minimum requirements for Executive Director and should never have been given this job.
According to SPS Human Resources, the requirements are: “Five or more years of successful experience as a Principal, Supervisor or District Administrator.”
Dusseault spent one year as principal of a small charter middle school in New Orleans that had 50 students and 5 teachers. She claims she was Founding Principal of New Orleans Charter Middle School. However, the school was founded in 1998 and well established until Hurricane Katrina demolished it. Dusseault re-opened it in 2007 and left at the end of the school year.
She has three years experience teaching high school math, one year as a middle school principal, and no experience in elementary schools. Bree Dusseault should not be supervising far more experienced principals. She does not have the required experience, or the wisdom to support their efforts and work collaboratively with the school community.