Willard Vice Principal Under Investigation Resigns

By Riya Bhattacharjee
Friday March 14, 2008

Margaret Lowry, removed from her position as Willard Middle School vice principal last week and reassigned to a staff administrative position, has resigned and will leave the Berkeley Unified School 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 the students to buy marijuana from the other.  

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

On Tuesday, however, Lowry’s name appeared on a list of resignations which the Berkeley Board of Education approved Wednesday.  

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 discounted reports last week 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 as well as pressuring students to inform on other students.  

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 bachelor’s 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.