Principal change sparks continuity concerns

brantin@thestate.comJune 24, 2014 

ISTOCKPHOTOS.COM

Some Richland 2 parents are expressing concerns about a lack of leadership continuity following the latest principal turnover at a district middle school.

The school board is expected to name a new principal at Kelly Mill Elementary Middle School, possibly as early as Tuesday, but the selection will mark the school’s fourth principal in as many years.

Outgoing Kelly Mill principal Jeff Temoney was named Spring Valley High School’s new principal last month after one year at Kelly Mill. And while district leaders stopped short of making any tenure commitments, they’ve pledged to ensure stability in the leadership at Kelly Mill and other schools in the coming years.

Some parents, however, argue the district didn’t give enough consideration to maintaining consistency when making the recent change at Kelly Mill Middle and worry the school could suffer as a result.

“They don’t have a superintendent turnover every year. They don’t have a school board member turnover every year. Why would you have a principal turnover every year?” said Myra Cunningham, whose child attended Kelly Mill the past three years and will attend Ridge View High School next year. “It’s just unheard of. They are just not paying close enough attention to the negative implications.”

Kelly Mill opened in the 2004-05 school year under principal Michaele Lemrow, who served in that position until her retirement in 2012.

Katie Wall Barber was named Kelly Mill’s principal for 2012–13 before being named principal at Pontiac Elementary the following year. Temoney replaced her at Kelly Mill.

While pubically posted principal openings, such as at Kelly Mill, normally involve a lenghy interview process, in-district transfers typically follow the recommendation of the superintendent, officials explained.

“The decision to offer the principal position at Spring Valley High to Temoney was a difficult one,” Richland 2 superintendent Debbie Hamm said. “I made the recommendation only after giving it lengthy consideration and after determining that Temoney was the best person for the job at Spring Valley High.”

Chadd Middleton, a member of Kelly Mill’s School Improvement Council, said he applauds such advancement, adding he and many others also were impressed with Temony, who had done some “great things” at the school.

“I was very impressed with Mr. Temony’s approach ... with his ideas and how he was able to relate to the staff,” said Middleton, whose children have attended Kelly Mill three years and will be in the seventh and eighth grades this coming year. “I was happy for him.”

But Middleton said when making such decisions about moving principals, the school district must give equal consideration to the needs of the school.

“The needs of the Kelly Mill parents weren’t addressed,” Middleton said. “It seemed that the district’s need superseded the needs of the parents.”

School officials said maintaining that balance is not always easy.

Since the 2004–05 school year, the number of schools and centers in the district has grown to 38 from 25, while student enrollment has increased to 26,185 from 20,277.

“In that same time the organizational structure of district departments has stayed the same despite rapid growth and increasing demands,” Hamm wrote in a recent letter to the community.

District officials noted that only one other school – Longleaf Middle School – had undergone as much turnover in recent years after a prinipal tranferred to the district office and was replaced with an interim principal for one year before the district selected a full-time replacement two years ago.

Hamn said a new organizational structure within the district “will help increase flexibility and responsiveness to these constantly changing needs.”

And while some parents had hoped for stronger assurances against controllable turnovers, they said they aren’t confident such measures will be taken.

“I’d hate to pull my children out and go to another school because things keep turning over at Kelly Mill, but that is a consideration just because of the inconsistency,” Middleton said.

Richland 2 officials said the district had received about 85 applications for the Kelly Mill principal’s position and confirmed that nearly a dozen people had interviewed for the job. However, they would not say whether any current Kelly Mill staff members were among those interviewed.

The school board could choose a new principal as early as Tuesday, at its 7 p.m. board meeting at Polo Road Elementary School, 1250 Polo Road.

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