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17 Jefferson Parish principals dismissed from their job

Published: Jun. 6, 2012 at 2:13 AM CDT|Updated: Jun. 19, 2012 at 10:22 PM CDT
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Jefferson Parish, L.A. - Holding back tears, parents of students from Terrytown Elementary can't believe their principal is gone.

"They called her last Thursday and said she's laid off. She's a good kind-hearted person who cares for our children," says Donna Lore.

Their principal is one of 17 principals in the Jefferson Parish Public School System who were dismissed from their jobs.

It's part of a new policy that removes the leaders of schools that fail to reach academic goals for 3 consecutive years.

"The academic performance is measured by LEAP and also other factors which consist of about 10 percent of the grade which is enrollment and other factors such as graduation rate and things of that nature," says Dr. James Meza.

Acting Superintendent Dr. James Meza says of the 17 principals, 5 of them were already part of the school systems consolidation plan. In addition, 3 principals retired.

That means, the Jefferson Parish School System has 20 principal positions to fill next school year.

Meza says it could have been more.

"33 of them could have lost their jobs this year, if they did not show high performance. A school has to reach their growth target," says Meza.

The policy targeted principals who had worked at the school for two of the last 4 years. Some though, had been a principal much longer.

"There's a lot of anxiety. There's a lot of apprehension among teachers and employees in our school district. There's a lot concern among parents and the children. We are still hearing that children are crying because their schools were closed," says Munch.

Melodie Munch of the Jefferson Federation of Teachers, believes the changes are too drastic and unnecessary.

"I know the Superintendent of the Board had the discussions about the removal of principals based on criteria, but they were going to keep it to a minimum. From what I'm hearing, I don't think this is minimal. I think it's creating lots of issues for us in the school district," says Munch.

Meza says the principals were notified last October that changes were coming if goals weren't met. He says last week, when test data became public, the principals were dismissed.

"It's about the children. It's not about the principals. The schools have to do better. If a school is a D, more than half of the children are not at basic. Our goal, in the short term, is we want every child to be at basic and beyond," says Meza

Meza says they had to look for new leadership to turn things around.

Parents, though, are upset.

"I put up signs and I've been riding around putting up signs in the neighborhood. It hurts me," says Donna Lore

Meza says he's not concerned about filling the 20 principal positions.

He says a program was started months ago where people were interviewed and screened.

He says about half of the positions have already been filled.

For the principals who were dismissed, Meza says those people can apply for other positions within the school system.