A respected and beloved high school principal got fired in Seattle. That action has ignited a firestorm of controversy for Seattle Public Schools.
The firing has also left substantial confusion.
Martin Floe, principal at Ingraham High School for the last six years, is the employee in question. He has since appealed that decision.
Interim Superintendent Susan Enfield is likely to hear a great deal of parental concern about the action. She will attend a meeting with parents at the school at 6:30 p.m. today (May 17).
State law and Seattle School Board policy contradict each other on the matter of appeal. Under state law, a hearing examiner is to be chosen by both sides to hear the appeal, but under Board policy, the Board would hear any appeal.
The district is following state law. The hearing could come as soon as two weeks from now with a ruling 10 days after the hearing. Interestingly, Floe could request an open hearing, which could shed some light on the reasons behind this firing.
Principal shifting is an action that strikes fear in the heart of every Seattle Public School parent. The district rotates or removes principals with dizzying speed and often parents are left with no explanation; sometimes, there is not even an opportunity to help pick the next principal.
What might be the key issues in this dispute?
- Curriculum Alignment. Over the last couple of years, the district has begun a process of high school curriculum alignment. The feeling among some high school staff is that this is a curtailing of academic freedom enjoyed by schools in the past. It may be that Ingraham was feeling pressure around this alignment and Floe was supporting his teachers and clashed with the new education director in his region.
- No Child Left Behind. Ingraham, along with five other high schools, is at Level 5, the most serious stage under the federal No Child Left Behind rules. Ingraham has not met AYP (adequate yearly progress) for six years, but it’s not alone among SPS high schools. Level 5 mandates severe restructuring. However, this restructuring applies only to schools receiving Title I funds; none of SPS high schools do. In short, this restructuring is not mandated, either by the state or by the feds, and so exiting Floe is solely the district’s decision.
- New programs. The district announced a new APP program at Ingraham to relieve overcrowded Garfield. Parents of those students are now complaining of a bait-and-switch because they picked Ingraham based on the enthusiasm of Principal Floe. The district may not share their confidence.
A vote was taken by Ingraham staff and, of those in the building that day, 100 percent voted to support Principal Floe. Parents and students started a Friends of Martin Floe Facebook page that now has over 1,100 members.
Seattle Schools has real and pressing issues before it. That it has stumbled so badly on this decision does not speak well for a district already on shaky ground.