Districts consider firing principals, staff at struggling schools



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Posted on March 1, 2010 at 11:21 PM

Updated Tuesday, Mar 2 at 12:08 AM

MARYSVILLE, Wash. - Several school districts across the state are facing some tough decisions. To qualify for desperately needed federal grant money, schools may be shut down, lose their principals, or even half their staff.

Tonight in Marysville, administrators at two schools are feeling the heat. Judy Albertson, principal at Totem Middle School, is losing her job, despite the support she has from parents.

"I think that to judge her on a criteria of three years when she's only been there two years is unfair and I dare say possibly illegal," one parent told the school board.

Principal Chris Sampley will get to keep her job at Tulalip Elementary, but only because she's just got the job five months ago. Both Tulalip Elementary and Totem Middle School are on a list of struggling schools that do not meet the federal standard of improvement.

"In three years if we don't do what we're suppose to do and we don't achieve the gains we're suppose to achieve, I may be on that list again," says Sampley.

"It feels so terribly unfair," says Marysville Superintendent Larry Nyland. Nyland says it's the only way to qualify for hundreds of thousands of dollars in grant money.

"It allows us to extend the student day, it allows us to do tutoring after school, it allows us to provide more professional training for teachers," says Nyland.

President Obama is offering up $900 million to 5,000 struggling schools across the country, only if they agree to make drastic changes.

"If a school continues to fail its students year after year, it doesn't show any sign of improving, then there's got to be a sense of accountability," President Obama said Monday.

"If this process has a flaw it's that it puts an overemphasis of blames on teachers and principals at these schools," says Dan Voelpel of the Tacoma School District.

Tonight, the Tacoma School District fielded questions on its decision to close Hunt middle school and overhaul three others.

"Not knowing what is going to happen next year is very very frightening," says Brenda Garcia-Brown, who is a teacher and a parent.

The school districts making these changes have until March 10 to submit them, and even then, the grant money is not a sure thing.