Broward Schools

Broward teachers say they were shut out of selection process for new principals

 

mrvasquez@MiamiHerald.com

The Broward school district’s plan to shuffle low-performing principals — a strategy that angered principals when it was unveiled earlier this year — has now sparked outrage among some parents and teachers.

Their complaint: Once the district removed the principals it deemed underperforming, it allowed some of them to fill the same positions elsewhere, and in at least two cases it appears the district guided the hiring process so that displaced principals were the favored candidates for the job.

At Pines Lakes Elementary School in Pembroke Pines, a group of veteran teachers are furious that they were not allowed to ask questions of the principal candidates during the selection process. Third-grade teacher Cheryl Scura said her own job application interviews at the school 12 years ago were noticeably more rigorous than the one endured by the school’s new principal, Susan Sasse.

“It’s, like, scripted,” Scura said.

Sasse’s appointment — along with the appointment of another controversial principal, Marvis Ward at Norcrest Elementary School in Pompano Beach — were unanimously approved Tuesday by School Board members. Superintendent Robert Runcie has primary responsibility for personnel decisions, and board members are generally reluctant to veto his choices except in extreme circumstances.

Compared to principal reassignments in previous years, Runcie said the district tried to involve the community more when deciding on this year’s principal openings, though he acknowledged that “it may not have been perfect. We’ll continue to work on that.”

Board member Nora Rupert, however, complained that Ward’s selection was not handled in a way that satisfied the community. For example, Ward was asked only generic questions during the interview process, not specific questions about the school’s students or its particular needs.

“I don’t know, really, where the process broke down,” Rupert said.

Last week, Jeanne Proia, president of the Norcrest Elementary PTA, protested by e-mail that parents were effectively shut out from having a say in Ward’s hiring.

“Although we requested additional information about Ms. Ward, as well as additional candidates, those requests fell on deaf ears,” Proia wrote. “This process was completely flawed.”

Ward could not be reached Tuesday for comment, and Sasse — the new principal at Pines Lakes — did not return a telephone message left with her mother.

Until now, Sasse was principal at Gator Run Elementary School in Weston. At Pines Lakes, Sasse will encounter a more working-class school where roughly 64 percent of students last year received free or reduced-price lunches, versus about 12 percent at Gator Run. The Pines Lakes teachers are not sure that Sasse even wants the challenge of this new environment, given that they believe she was forced to leave Gator Run.

“Why are we getting her if she’s been rejected?” asked teacher Cindy Sakoff, who has taught at Pines Lakes since the school opened in 1978.

The district has not released the names of the principals it has forced to switch schools, meaning it is possible that Sasse — and Ward — made their switches voluntarily.

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