Pasco County parents petition to keep principal Chris Dunning (but he's going anyway)
It took maybe an hour after the news came out Friday for parents to start protesting the reassignment of admired Seven Springs Middle School principal Chris Dunning.
"It goes without saying how much we love Chris Dunning at SSMS...and we, meaning staff, parents and students," community activist Heide Janshon wrote in an email to superintendent Kurt Browning. "The news we all got today is shocking and crushing. We do not want to lose him."
Other messages soon followed, with the words "stunned" and "saddened" prevalent. At least one person suggested the move to Ridgewood High was "politically motivated," noting Dunning and his wife were vocal opponents of the superintendent's plan to rezone their Longleaf neighborhood into different schools next fall.
A petition to keep Dunning at Seven Springs, where he's worked since 2012, quickly appeared online and gained more than 600 signatures by early Monday.
But Dunning told the Gradebook he intends to make the move to Ridgewood, effective Wednesday.
"It is wonderful to know I had an impact at this school," Dunning said, noting the strong support he has and the status as Pasco County's top performing middle school. "It is awesome to be going out on a high note."
He said the timing of the move, though difficult because of all the things currently under way including testing and schedule setting, actually is beneficial for a leader transferring into a new site. The business of spring gives him time to review Ridgewood's methods and culture while making change is not the first order of the day, he said.
When summertime comes, Dunning continued, he can make informed decisions for the next academic year. Ridgewood faces several challenges, including having less than a quarter of students performing at or above grade level on state math and language arts tests last year.
Ridgewood will be Dunning's first high school experience. He didn't expect it to be a hindrance, though, observing that his first job in a middle school came when he opened Paul R. Smith Middle in 2006.
His appointment must be approved by the School Board before it takes effect.