In a 4-3 vote last night, the Ypsi School Board voted to hire a new high school principal. And, as this newly hired principal, Justin Moore, coincidentally comes from the same school district in Champaign, Illinois as our new superintendent, Dedrick Martin, there have been charges of cronyism. The following clip, concerning Moore’s somewhat questionable qualifications, comes from the AnnArbor.com article linked to above:
…(Ypsi School Board) Trustee Andy Fanta said he researched Moore through calls to Champiagn Unit 4 school board members, district representatives and newspaper articles. Fanta’s findings led him to voice concern over Moore’s level of experience and minimal progress in student achievement at Centennial, from which he resigned after 18 months.
Fanta said the two board members he spoke with reported Moore was not experienced enough to do the job.
“I’m perplexed by why we would bring someone in that would need experience and to use our flagship school in our district – the one that everyone focuses on – as a training ground for an individual,” Fanta said…
Fanta further questioned how much progress Centennial High School had made academically and in testing. The school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress last year, although district officials confirmed improvements were made in state achievement tests and academics in a phone interview with AnnArbor.com last week.
Fanta also said he didn’t have enough information about the circumstances of Moore’s resignation, which came within months of an administrative restructuring at the school.
“This man was not successful in his term leading Centennial High school, which is the flagship high school in Champaign,” he said. “They’ve replaced the whole leadership staff at Centennial High School, so why would we do this?”…
Fanta’s concern is shared by many in the community, who feel that we need a principal with more than 18 months experience. The following letter comes from my friend Maria Cotera, who, you may recall, recently fought Dedrick Martin on his administration’s plans to close two neighborhood schools in Ypsilanti.
Dear friends of Ypsilanti schools,
Yesterday was another dark day for our district. In a 4/3 vote, the board agreed to let a beloved and effective high school principal (Jon Brown) go to make way for a young friend of our new Superintendent. Over 20 high school students spoke eloquently on principal Brown’s behalf, and they also defended their arts programs and band program which are apparently threatened with cuts. Not surprisingly, a majority of the board (Bates, Horne, Jackson, Brumfield) backed Martin. Someone needs to step up and replace some of these trustees as soon as possible or our district will continue to suffer the consequences.
More and more I realize that this is an issue that is larger than the closure of our beloved school, Chapelle, and its impact on families in our district. It’s a question of accountability and of the responsiveness of our public officials to the people whom they serve. This latest turn of events highlights the importance of an organization the reaches across schools, community organizations, neighborhood associations, churches, and city government. Such an organization is not about saving one school, but about ensuring that the people have a say in how our most important asset, our schools, are envisioned and managed. The Board meeting was packed with high school students and their parents, and I was struck by the fact that it was a whole different set of students and parents at that meetings around the school closure. Imagine if Chapelle and East Middle parents had been there in solidarity? It may not have changed the outcome of the meeting, but it would have sent a message: don’t mess with our schools.
So I guess I’m calling for us to think creatively about how we can bridge multiple divides: between north and south ypsi, and east and west; between elementary, middle, and high schools, between churches, community orgs, and the schools, etc. This is the only way we are going to take back our schools from an essentially unresponsive board and a clueless administration.
So, is it time to organize opposition, and recruit a slate of candidates who will hold Martin accountable?
[Note: Video of Ypsi High students speaking on behalf of departing Principal Jon Brown can be seen in the coverage of the Ypsilanti Citizen.]