Lowry Resigns Following Removal as Willard Vice Principal

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Tuesday March 11, 2008

Posted Wed., March 12—Margaret Lowry—removed from her position as Willard Middle School vice principal last week—has resigned and will leave the district at the end of the school year. 

The district last week completed its investigation of Lowry for improper conduct involving two special education students at Willard. Parents of the students alleged that Lowry gave money to one of them to buy marijuana from the other.  

Lowry had been put on administrative leave during the investigation and had been placed on special assignment with the district’s central staff last week.  

On Tuesday, however, Lowry’s name appeared on a list of resignations for the Berkeley Board of Education to approve today (Wednesday).  

Although no resignation date is mentioned in the packet, district spokesperson Mark Coplan told the Planet that Lowry will resign at the end of the school year. He added that Lowry had resigned on her own account and was not asked to leave. 

School board president John Selawsky last week discounted reports that Lowry was attempting to set up a drug sting using the students. 

“Our investigation concluded that she did not put any child in harm’s way and that the allegations of her running a sting operation are inaccurate,” he said. 

Selawsky said Lowry would be reassigned to work on developing summer programs. 

“I don’t believe she will be working with children,” he said. “We want to reassure the public and parents that we are taking the allegations against her very seriously.”  

Selawsky said that the district had investigated Lowry for “heavy-handed use of authority and cutting corners on due process.”  

Berkeley Adult School Vice Principal Thomas Orput—who was vice principal at Willard before Lowry took over the position in 2006—will be interim vice principal at Willard for the remainder of the school year. Neither Orput nor Lowry have been available for comment. 

The Planet also reported several other complaints against Lowry from current and former Willard parents. They alleged that Lowry repeatedly mistreated students, forced students to write false statements by threatening to expel them and pressured students to inform on students to provide her with information.  

The parents told the Planet that although they had filed official complaints with the district almost a year ago, they had not received any response.  

District Superintendent Bill Huyett told the Planet in an earlier interview that the district would try to resolve the complaints. Neither Huyett nor Selawsky was available for comment Wednesday. 

Lowry’s resume—acquired by the Planet through a public records act request— confirmed that Lowry was assistant principal at Oakland’s Skyline High School from 2003 to June 2006. She also served as principal of Skyline’s summer school program from 2003 to 2006. 

After receiving her bachelors degree in science and her teaching credential from CSU Hayward in 1989, Lowry taught at James Logan High School in Union City from 1989 to 2002 and then joined Castro Valley Adult School as assistant director where she remained for a year. 

John R. Yeh, of Miller Brown Dannis, attorneys for the Berkeley Unified School District, said the school board would decide today (Wednesday) whether to disclose records of investigations involving Lowry in response to the Planet’s request. 

He said that the school board had “the discretion to determine, ‘on the facts of a particular case, [whether] the public interest ... served by withholding the records clearly outweighs the public interest served by disclosure.’”