Outrage at Almond | April 11, 2008 | Mountain View Voice | Mountain View Online |


Mountain View Voice

News - April 11, 2008

Outrage at Almond

Decision over new school principal has parents up in arms

by Casey Weiss

Parents at Almond Elementary School say interim Principal Joe McCreary's kindness and leadership were just what the school needed.

So when McCreary was not chosen to be the school's permanent principal last March, the parents, who say they have grown increasingly frustrated and removed from the district, demanded a meeting with the Los Altos School District board.

That meeting came Monday during the district's board meeting, when about 80 parents and teachers came to express their aggravations with administrators. Parents from Almond, which has 162 Mountain View students, said the selection process was not transparent enough, and they still do not understand why McCreary was denied the position.

Instead, the district appointed Terri Stromfeld, currently the principal at Oak Ridge School in San Jose, as Almond's new principal.

"Nobody knows why they had to fix something that wasn't broken," said Mountain View resident and Almond parent Kathy Bonte.

The multi-tiered selection process includes applications and interviews with teachers, parents and administrators. After considering input from these community members, district Superintendent Tim Justus makes the final decision.

Justus did not return phone calls seeking comment, but LASD Board president Mark Goines told that Voice that "even though Mr. McCreary is loved by staff," administrators were looking for someone with more experience.

McCreary was originally a sixth grade teacher at Covington Elementary School in Los Altos and took over as Almond principal last year after former Principal Jeffery Baier received a promotion. Parents said they were told that if McCreary did a good job and connected with the school community, he would be asked to stay. Instead, after applying for the permanent position, he was offered his previous teaching job at Covington.

McCreary was not available for comment.

"He has proven himself as a great leader," said Vivi Chan, who has two students at Almond. "How can you demote a person after they have proven themselves?"

Parents, who have set up a Web site protesting the district's decision, say this is the last straw after the district recently changed boundaries and tightened transfer policies. They feel removed from the district administration, and said that even after the board meeting, they still do not understand why Justus chose a principal from a school with different demographics and lower test scores than Almond.

"I wouldn't take Joe McCreary, or any Los Altos principal for that matter, and suggest that they would be a great principal at an inner-city school," said Almond parent Doug Smith in an e-mail. "Their experiences don't translate." He said parents should have been a bigger part of the decision-making process.

In an interview with the Voice, Goines agreed the communication process was inadequate, but added that Stromfeld had a lot to offer the district. She previously worked in Palo Alto schools, which have a similar demographic and parent group as Los Altos.

Goines said it is now up to the Almond community to work with Stromfeld

"It is not just what you lost, but what you gain," he said. "I think in the end the children will benefit, but it depends on the community pulling together."

E-mail Casey Weiss at cweiss@mv-voice.com


Posted by Doug Smith, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2008 at 9:16 am

My complete comment was:

- There is also the question of relevance -- I wouldn't take Joe McCreary (or any Los Altos principal for that matter) and suggest that they would be a great principal at an inner city school. There experiences don't translate. So when we are asked to welcome a principal from a school with significantly lower test scores, why would the board be surprised that we're skeptical? Understanding HOW to work in the Los Altos environment is critical. Joe's 1 year of experience in this environment is probably worth 5-6 years of working someplace else. We face different challenges here. Check the test results for yourself...

Web Link

Web Link

Please note that this doesn't mean we wouldn't accept a teacher from a lesser-scoring school. In reality, we're in the very top 1% of the state, so we'd almost have to choose someone from a lesser scoring school. But the question would be, what has the measured impact of that individual be. In this case, it doesn't seem to be trending to the positive.

Posted by LASD Parent, a resident of another community
on Apr 11, 2008 at 12:09 pm

I agree with Mr Goines that the communication process was inadequate.

However, I disagree on his statement that "...it depends on the community pulling together".

The Los Altos School District benefits from a terrific community providing countless of hours of volunteer time, extra programs only possible via the community dedication and generosity. In fact, a sizable extra source of revenue for the District comes directly from that same community (donations to Los Altos Education Foundation, PTAs...).

Year and year the community "pulls it together" and there is no reason it won't continue.

However the onus is really on the district and the board to reconnect with its community and rebuild some bridges badly damaged by its (often poorly communicated) decisions over the past year.

There is also some urgency for the District and the Board to rebuild these bridges as the District faces a pretty dire budget situation and will need all the community support to go pass these budget issues.

Posted by Un-intimated Parent, a resident of another community
on Apr 12, 2008 at 7:57 am

Here are two articles from the Palo Alto Daily News on the same subject:

April 9, Los Altos school board vows improved communication

Web Link

April 11, Almond principal: I never sent out furor-sparking letter

Web Link

Apparently a Board member sent to the Palo Alto Daily News, a letter that was never vetted by the principal nor even sent to the parents. the "letter" suggested that the parents stop their protests.

This type of communication is straight out of the Soviet Era Politburo's playbook.

What's next? Televised "Confessions"?