Last week, Berkeley Unified School District produced one of those math brain teasers during this spring’s overhaul of its principal corps. Question: if Berkeley Unified has three elementary school principal slots to fill—at Rosa Parks, Oxford, and John Muir—and fills one of them, how many elementary school principal slots does the district have to fill? Answer: three.
The math works because the principal position at Rosa Parks was filled by the voluntary transfer of six-year LeConte principal Patricia Saddler late last month, opening up the LeConte principal position.
“The Rosa Parks community is very excited about it,” said BUSD Public Information Officer Mark Coplan. “The LeConte community is understandably upset.”
The Saddler transfer left district officials scrambling to put together a LeConte parent interview team to assist in the evaluation of principal candidates, with parents complaining that they were given only two business days notice between the time they were notified of Saddler’s departure to the time a meeting had to be held to choose parent representatives for the interview team. Between 30 and 40 parents attended the LeConte meeting last Monday.
LeConte parents will be represented on the interview team by one member apiece of four school-based organizations: the School Site Council, the Berkeley School Excellence Program (BSEP) committee, the PTA, and the English Learner Advisory Committee.
LeConte School Site Council Co-Chair Jenny Lipow, who is not on the interview team at her own request, said that “the process could have been done with a little more sensitivity so there wasn’t so much angst. They should have let us know sooner that this was being considered.”
Lipow called the late notice “the same old same old in this district; it’s an example of [Superintendent] Michele Lawrence’s high-handedness.”
Lipow said she was “sure this will all work out okay, so long as the superintendent is held accountable. So far in her time as superintendent, she hasn’t been.”
Saddler said she decided to take the Rosa Parks job both because “I’m interested in taking on a new challenge” and “after six years, it’s time for a change.”
Even as she finishes out the school year at LeConte her work at Rosa Parks has already begun. On Monday night she was scheduled to be introduced to Rosa Parks parents, and she has scheduled a series of meetings over the next few weeks with outgoing Parks principal Shirley Herrera. She will also meet with a leadership team from Rosa Parks on the first of June to review school data and to learn their priorities.
Saddler says she is leaving LeConte with mixed feelings.
“I think we accomplished a lot in the past six years,” she said.
Saddler cited the implementation of LeConte’s dual language program (“over some significant opposition”) as well as enhancing the school’s farm and garden program as two of her major accomplishments at LeConte.
Meanwhile, on Monday, three separate teams made up of parents, teachers, and support staff from Oxford, John Muir, and now LeConte will interview nine principal finalists at the BUSD administration offices at Old City Hall. Coplan said that the final decision will be made by Lawrence, and said the principal selected for the individual schools will not necessarily be the candidates interviewed by the individual school teams.
“She wants to make sure that the principal chosen is the right fit for each school situation,” Coplan said.
He added that the decision was made to approve Saddler’s voluntary transfer to Rosa Parks “because the district believes LeConte is in a position to do good education work with a good principal, but Rosa Parks needs a great principal to bring its educational standards up. Pat Saddler is a great principal, and we believe that the pool of applicants is good enough that we can get a good replacement for her at LeConte.”
In addition to the three elementary school principal posts, the district must fill principal positions opening up at Willard Middle and Berkeley Alternative High School.