Campbell Park principal will leave campus
Christine Hoffman, the embattled principal of Campbell Park Elementary will leave campus while an "administrative review" is conducted, district officials said Monday.
Hoffman created an uproar last week when she sent an email to her school staff about classroom rosters for the coming year and said "white students should be in the same class" with no explanation or context. She later sent out a second email to staff apologizing for "poor judgment," and a letter went home to parents Friday with an invitation to meet with parents Monday morning and afternoon.
Hoffman requested the transfer off campus and will not return, said Lisa Wolf, a district spokeswoman. In her absence, an assistant principal will take over, assisted by a member of the school district's Transformation Zone team. Hoffman will be at district headquarters. It's unclear if she'll be reassigned to another school.
Parents and community activists have been calling for Hoffman to resign. Pressed by parents to do so Monday, two eyewittnesses said that Hoffman refused and said "I am the best thing that has happened to Campbell Park."
Hoffman met with parents Monday morning, and was joined by her supervisor, Patricia Wright, and Antonio Burt, director of the transformation zone. At the first meeting, this morning, about 10 parents showed up, some with students in tow, eyewitnesses say.
As parents trickled in, the questions were the same, said both Denise Ford, a 53-year-old community member, and Ebony Johnson, a 37-year-old mother to a fifth grader at Campbell Park.
Parents asked why Hoffman wanted white children separated from their children, and Hoffman responded that she wanted students to be comfortable, Ford said.
Ford said parents asked if there was a bullying issue at the school and were white parents complaining about their child not being comfortable. Hoffman responded no to both questions. They also asked why Hoffman didn't want Asian, Hispanic and bi-racial children to be comfortable.
When parents asked why she believed that, Ford and Johnson said Hoffman abruptly left to do morning announcements.
"The parents said that as black people we are used to being the only black person in the classroom and no one is making sure we are comfortable," Ford said. "The parents were not accepting of any excuse. We accept your apology, but you have to go."
Johnson, who took her daughter Miracle to the first meeting, plans to return for a second meeting at the school today from 3:40 to 4:40 p.m.
"You have so many Caucasian white parents who knew of this school being a low-graded school," Johnson said. "If white students wanted their children to attend another school, they would’ve placed them there. They did not. So who is Mrs. Hoffman to decide to separate the whites from the blacks?"
Pinellas school superintendent Mike Grego met with Maria Scruggs, president of the St. Petersburg branch of the NAACP, at Greater Mt. Zion AME Church around 8:30 a.m. Scruggs said two other parents joined that meeting.
"The community and parents did not feel comfortable with Mrs. Hoffman remaining at the school," Scruggs told Grego. She said Grego did not say what the district intends to do.
"He definitely does not support it," Scruggs said. "He can’t explain it. (He's) obviously very disturbed by it but could not offer any explanation because it certainly was inconsistent with practice."
Scruggs said the NAACP branch would deliver its official statement at a general membership meeting beginning at 6:30 p.m. Tuesday at Enoch Davis Center.
The Gradebook has reached out to Grego for comment. Hoffman directed all questions to the school district's communications office.