Linn-Mar parents cite communication issues in principal shuffle

Superintendent: Parents 'just upset'

(The Gazette)
(The Gazette)

A pair of parents in the Linn-Mar Community School District say what they have there is a failure to communicate. 

Both Craig Adamson and Mark Hudson were among the crowd of adults seeking answers during a June 9 school board meeting. The question: Why did administrators reassign principals Marilee McConnell of Wilkins Elementary School, Tina Monroe of Indian Creek Elementary School and John Zimmerman of Bowman Woods Elementary School to new buildings starting with the 2014-15 school year?

"It was just kind of out of the blue," said Adamson, an Indian Creek parent, who called the replies offered at the June 9 meeting "lip service."

The May 27 announcement that McConnell would move to Indian Creek, Zimmerman would replace her and Monroe would take over for him, unsettled at least a few people. As of June 12, 247 have signed a petition Adamson drafted in support of getting Superintendent Katie Mulholland and the members of the school board to attend a public forum and address community concerns on the administrative moves. 

Mulholland, who recommended the shifts, said the board reiterated its support at the June 9 meeting but appeared at a loss when asked what more she could tell frustrated or confused parents.

"I don’t know what else to say," she said. "It doesn’t make any difference. The parents who are upset are just upset. There isn’t any explanation or rationale that is accepted and I understand that.”

Both Adamson and Hudson said that their issues have nothing to do with the three principals who will be changing buildings, but rather at the way Linn-Mar administrators have insufficiently explained their motive.

"Answers weren't provided. There might be a very valid reason for all of those different things. I just want to know what it is. If there’s research behind it, let’s see it. If there’s analysis about why we’re doing this, let’s see it," said Hudson, whose children also attend Indian Creek. "What I am concerned about is how decision making is happening as a whole."

Mulholland said administrators had been discussing a change like this for the last three years, but were waiting for a year in which they did not hire new principals. 

"Essentially the reasons for doing it are professional development for the principals and professional growth for staff," she said. "At the same time, when you think about or talk about consistency in culture and so on, it’s another way to have that kind of consistency across the (teaching and learning) culture at Linn-Mar.”

Mulholland maintained that, during the June 9 board meeting, administrators presented research demonstrating that changes in leadership yields teaching and learning benefits for students, but the evidence "was not well received" by parents. 

Hudson acknowledged that the moves could be positive but said that what he feels is a lack of information and explanation from the district doesn't allow him to reach that conclusion.

"I think change is positive, but with change you have to have a rationale or reasons and also goals behind it," he said. "Do I think they need to move them? No I don’t. But that’s based on me not having the research or analysis that I hope a school district would do in making a decision as large as this one.”

Mulholland said that the principals will each be in place in their new buildings for at least five years and that the administrators' instructional strategists also will follow them to their new schools.

That's not the outcome some parents would like to see. Adamson said a group of parents will still convene on June 23, "to kind of take a look at what should we start paying attention to in the future so we aren’t caught off guard and how we can make our school board more accountable in the future.” Adamson said he'd like to see the schools retain their principals or transfer to buildings that he said are underperforming. 

“Ultimately the board and the superintendent have not been able to explain it," Adamson said. "It’s just disappointing from the parent aspect.”

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