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Monday, June 4, 2007

Principal Transfers Protested

By Andrea Schoellkopf
Copyright 2007 Albuquerque Journal; Journal Staff Writer
    Parents at some of the schools affected by the administrative shakeup in Albuquerque Public Schools are rallying around their principals in hopes of keeping them.
    Last month, the district announced it was moving principals and assistant principals at 26 schools, citing a need to help academically struggling schools and fill retirement vacancies.
    Andrew Barrett is being moved to Kit Carson Elementary in the South Valley, which is more than twice the size of 250-student MacArthur Elementary where he is now.
    "Andy has special ed skills that are needed in the Rio cluster," associate superintendent Nelinda Venegas said.
    Parent leaders called a community meeting last week, hoping to find out more about what had happened. The only district administrator present was the principal of Valley High, who is cluster leader of the North Valley schools.
    "Besides just saying 'here's your new principal,' we couldn't really get any answers," MacArthur parent Sandra Sanchez said.
    In the South Valley, Barcelona Elementary parent Leticia Ramos was part of a group of parents who carried signs of protest two weeks ago over the removal of 20-year principal Cecilia Martinez-Sanchez.
    "We called to APS to try to keep Mrs. Sanchez in Barcelona," Ramos said. "We were not responded to."
    APS spokesman Rigo Chavez said Friday the schools were asked to notify parents through a newsletter that "possible changes would be coming.
    "As long as those principals had accepted their new appointment, (the superintendent) didn't see a need to meet with those communities," Chavez said.
    Superintendent Elizabeth Everitt may consider holding community meetings after school resumes in August, he said.
    "At this point, (APS administrators are) not going to reconsider any of the possible moves," Chavez said.
    Martinez-Sanchez, a South Valley presence who once headed the Rio Grande Cluster, is being moved to the year-round Mary Ann Binford Elementary on the West Side to replace a principal who was promoted.
    "I'm always open to a change," she said. "I can do good work anywhere."
    Venegas pointed to Martinez-Sanchez's 20 years at Barcelona.
    "We would like her to share her expertise in another area in another school," she said.
    The latest addition to the shakeup: Jefferson Middle School assistant principal Michael McNamara will replace longtime Principal Ivy Langan, who has taken a job heading the district's Vision Quest alternative middle school.
    "She did not accept right away," Venegas said.
    Two other unidentified principals have since been told they may lose their jobs at the end of the next school year because their schools are in their fifth year of not meeting standards— a designation called Restructuring 1 by the state Public Education Department.
    Jefferson parents, learning late in the month that their principal would be leaving, are scrambling to rally as well.
    "This is a political move by the district, and it's got nothing to do about what's best for the kids," parent Gordon Monaghan said. "It's got nothing to do with engendering community involvement with these schools."
    Monaghan said parents suspect the reason Langan's transfer was not announced sooner is that the district expected backlash from University-area residents. They are planning a demonstration at the June 6 board meeting with other affected schools, along with a letter-writing campaign.
    Barrett has been at MacArthur for 12 years and helped add early childhood education and infant care programs to the tiny North Valley school. He said he's "overwhelmed" by everyone's support, receiving letters from students and gifts from families.
    "Parents are doing various things trying to persuade the district to change their mind," Barrett said. "I appreciate all their efforts."
    In 1998, the community— which included Barrett as the principal— rushed to defend the small school after APS administrators proposed converting it to an alternative middle school.
    Parent Sandra Sanchez said there's still the same feeling that the district may be trying to take the school apart.