Hawley: Too much principal shuffling in Pinellas
The recent, mass shuffling of principals and assistant principals in Pinellas seems "arbitrary," and the constant leadership churn at some schools has created instability and tension, Pinellas school board candidate Brian Hawley told the St. Petersburg Times editorial board today.
"Without consistency, you get animosity, conflict," said Hawley, who's running against incumbent Linda Lerner for the District 6 seat.
Hawley noted that in his eight years as a teacher at Largo Middle, the school has had four principals, including most recently, Antelia Campbell.
"It just seems like when they go in and switch around these principals, it’s arbitrary," he said of the recent transfers. "There may be a couple of instances where you have an outcry from parents, or you have this or that going on and it’s just not getting done. But to just flip flop 20 people randomly at schools just seems arbitrary. At a school one of the most important things is consistency and community. How can you do that with a new leader every other year?"
"At Largo, to give you a specific example, over eight years, which is almost my entire teaching career there, we’ve had four different leaders, four different principals. And they’ve all had different expectations, different personalities, different ways of doing things. And really, it’s gotten to the point now where the teachers are pretty much their own body, “It’s oh, it’s just another leader.” … Because there’s no consistency, the teachers feel like we’ve been doing it this way, right, for years now, and now you come in and it’s your first year and you’re going to tell us to do it differently and things don’t go well. Without consistency, you get animosity, conflict."
In Campbell's case, Hawley said all the blame for Largo Middle's problems shouldn't fall on her. The school's demographics have become more challenging. And the district should not have put her in a situation she wasn't ready for. "I don’t think she was prepared for it quite honestly," he said. "And someone has to take the blame for putting a leader in a position like that when they’re not prepared."
Hawley also criticized the district and school board for how they handled the start times issue.
"It seems to me they should have open lines of communication with the parents of the county. That’s not hard to do through the PTAs that are already established at the schools. Look at how violent the outcry was from the parents. It wouldn’t have been hard to gauge that if they had done a little searching beforehand. I can’t image that they talked to too many people beforehand and then cast the vote … "
"There’s ways to do things. And there’s ways not to do things. And you have to involve the constituents. Even if you have an agenda, and they do – and they have tough choices to make, and I sometimes feel sorry for them that they have no good, right choices, they have to make tough choices – but you need to involve the people who are stakeholders and do it in the right way. And explain and be transparent about the consequences, and the benefits of each choice. And I don’t think they’ve done a good job of doing that."