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27 professionals in D-11 will be reassigned

April 11, 2013

On the heels of February’s decision to close three schools, Colorado Springs School District 11’s board on Wednesday approved the reassignment of 27 principals, assistant principals and other key leaders for the 2013-14 school year.

As with the school closures, the slew of personnel changes did not sit well with parents and students, who crowded into the meeting to ask board members to reconsider the proposed changes.

“I’m very disappointed. It would appear that they didn’t take any of our concerns into consideration,” Cheryl Dingwell-Keckritz, a parent of a Coronado student, said after the vote, which passed 6-0 with one member absent.

Contingents representing David Engstrom, principal at Coronado High School, and Kirsten Cortez, principal at Penrose Elementary School, spoke passionately in favor of their leadership.

Cortez, who has headed Penrose for six years, will transfer from a principal to a teacher, although it is not clear where she is being moved.

“She did not deserve what happened,” said Maryann Wanner, a teacher at Penrose. “She is an amazing leader and has made us a family. And she cares so much about the children.”

Natasha Crouse, a teaching and learning coach at the school, said moving forward with the personnel recommendations “would be a detriment to the leadership in D-11. We recommend she (Cortez) be reassigned as a principal in one of D-11’s elementary schools.”

Many Coronado parents who addressed the board asked, “Why now?”

“The timing could not be worse,” said Tia Warren, who has had children in D-11 schools for 13 years. “The last thing Coronado students need is a new principal. We need stability and reassurance. This seems to be an involuntary transfer, and the Wasson alternative school need not be created at the expense of Coronado.”

Engstrom will head the new Wasson school, which is being shuttered as a high school and will become Roy J. Wasson Academic Campus, an alternative school and location for college and adult education programs. The board also chose the name of the new campus at Wednesday’s meeting. The name will take effect Aug. 1.

Speakers also questioned why they learned of the proposed changes in school leadership in The Gazette on Tuesday. They also asked why there was no opportunity for public input before the recommended moves were placed on the consent agenda for Wednesday’s meeting.

Superintendent Nicholas Gledich said the leadership team carefully considered the needs of staff and schools. The moves, he said, provided for career growth as well as leveraging strengths of different staff to improve conditions.

Affected principals learned of the proposed changes in the past two weeks and met with their staffs late last week. Some schools notified parents, he said, while others were doing so this week.

Board member Sandra Mann asked Gledich how the district could improve the way it communicates with parents about such decisions, which drew applause from the audience.

Gledich said he would direct the human resources department to look at the issue.

Board President Janet Tanner assured the audience that concerns were heard.

“Even if your wish doesn’t come true, know that this board wants to listen,” she said.

Several parents and teachers left the meeting in tears.

“It doesn’t make sense. I know you put great care into this, but it seems like where the cards were tossed up and wherever they fell is what happened,” said Angela McKibben, incoming PTA president at Coronado.

The board also approved the $800,000 sale of nearly 10 acres of land in University Park, a neighborhood adjacent to Austin Bluffs Open Space. The property had been designated 11 years ago by developer Classic Companies as the site of a future elementary school. But student enrollment is not high enough in the area to warrant building a new school, the district determined.

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