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Superintendent Responds to Principal’s Letter to Parents

by ARLnow.com February 2, 2011 at 2:16 pm 6,685 49 Comments

Arlington Public Schools superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy is responding to a lengthy resignation letter sent to Williamsburg Middle School parents by the school’s principal. The letter, first reported by ARLnow.com, accused Dr. Murphy of harassment and discrimination.

Dr. Murphy’s letter to parents toned back some of the language used by the school system last night, when officials described the letter as “regrettable,” “unfortunate” and “very angry” in a statement to the Washington Post.

“We will continue to respond with a high level of professionalism and cannot discuss Ms. Francis’s actions now or in the future,” Dr. Murphy wrote. “However, we deny that there has been any discrimination.”

APS School Talk – A Letter to the Williamsburg Community

February 2, 2011

Dear Williamsburg Parents:

By now we know that you have heard that Ms. Francis has chosen to resign her position as principal at Williamsburg Middle School. I want to assure you that the students, parents, staff and community have been and will remain my first priority during this period of transition.

While I understand that many parents may have questions, it has always been the practice of the Arlington Public Schools that we do not publicly discuss Personnel issues. Therefore, we will continue to respond with a high level of professionalism and cannot discuss Ms. Francis’s actions now or in the future. However, we deny that there has been any discrimination.

At this time, we are exercising our responsibility to make sure that we provide the best educational learning environment for your student. Our primary focus is to take appropriate and immediate steps to put a highly qualified team of administrative leaders in place at the school to ensure that we provide the best instructional support and leadership for our students, their families and the school staff.

Please know that the students at Williamsburg and their well-being will remain our primary focus as we work to ensure that they receive a high quality education in a positive learning environment.

As this process evolves, we will involve the Williamsburg community and keep you apprised of our deliberations and decisions.


Patrick K. Murphy, Ed.D.


  • BallstonDude

    Sounds like the lawyers got final cut.

    • CW

      Yeah, “apprised” is always a dead giveaway.

  • BallstonDude

    Who allegedly got escorted out of WMS?

    • Lou

      Me. But that was years ago.

  • Rover

    Blah blah blah “deny” blah blah blah “no comment” blah blah blah “students” blah blah blah…

    • WheresTheBeef

      Dead on. Blah Blah Blah “where’s my lawyer?” Blah Blah Blah “what about the children” Blah Blah Blah……..

  • JimPB

    Rather than verbal assurance of professionalism, which I am unable assess, I would have liked to have seen an independent review board whose members were appointed by, that would operate under and that would report directly to the ARLCoPS school board.

    • mehoo

      A court will be taking care of that function soon.

    • charlie

      got access to Gitmo?

  • Rick

    I’d like “student”‘s views on this

    • Bluemont John

      Student: OMG, ur kidding me that dude is f-in ridic cuz hes like a total d-bag for rilz.

      BoredHouseWife: Would that you would exercise proper grammar when posting, forsooth.

      Sorry–couldn’t resist.

      • GMO

        I lol’d.

      • BoredHouseWife


        • Bluemont John

          Aw, golly. Thanks. (And let the record show the BHW is a good sport.)

      • local

        Awesome. And kudos to BHW for laughing too.

    • Alex

      I’m a student at Williamsburg Middle School, in 7th grade. I just want to say that this has been the main subject of the whole school for the past two days! Everybody feels extremely bad for Ms. Francis. She is so nice! She sometimes comes to our TA to see how we were doing, she cares about our opinions, she was always cheerful Students and teachers try to figure out who is going to be the next principal, but nobody wants her to go! It’s not her fault!!!!!

      • T>.

        I agree with you Alex. I am also a 7th grader at this school. This subject has been all throughout the school, mostly because we respect Ms.Francis. We have facebook, and everyone is literally favoring Ms.Francis. She was a great principal, always greeted us with a smile, and literally would try to recognize our names, even there are like 1000 kids in the whole school. Today on the morning announcements, she broadcasted her retirement, and everyone was quiet sad. I have to tell you, WMS improves year by year. We are sad that our principal is leaving, I’m a staight A student, and WMS taught me a lot more that other people. I made a lot of friends and had a lot of fun, so please just keep your damn opinions to yourself, if you don’t know Ms.Francis.

      • martin

        hey did we have math homework

  • Stanley

    I can give you the students view on this. It was welcomed news.

  • WhereTheBeef

    He denied the discrimination charges but stayed silent on the harassment charges………hmmmmm????

  • UhOh

    Is the superintendent just doing what Dr. Smith wouldn’t and cleaning house or is there something fishy going on down there @ the Super’s office? This story needs to be investigated. Contact WaPo Brigid Schulte-the one who just did the all important front page article about the 3 year old who was “removed” from her APS montessori class for having too many accidents. Brigid-we finally got a real news story for ya.

    • Alexandra

      Shulte (an APS graduate if I’m not mistaken) had several errors in her potty training story that made the problem even bigger than it was.

    • Alexandra

      It’s good to have leaders who can shake things up, but if the shaking is too violent, no one can rely on the infrastructures, they’re afraid to be creative, and they quickly change to a self-preserving, CYA mode. Everyone begins focusing on systems, and thresholds, and international metrics, instead of kids.

      We may lose some under-performers thanks to the new data-driven house cleaning, but we’ll also lose many bright, innovative, caring, authentic individuals who know data only tell part of the story, and who’ll seek fulfillment in a more upbeat environment more conducive to teaching and learning our kids.

  • Undereducated

    Let’s see, rooky Sup. allegedly creates hostile work environment for 30 year veteran principal. My money says the School Board has Murphy kicked to the curb before Francis waves her last Swan Song goodbye to students. The only remaining concern is how much will Murphy’s Golden Parachute set back the taxpayers. But what do I know; I’m Undereducated.

    • Bluemont John

      Maybe Michael Brown will rent out his basement to Bad Patty.

    • TomInArlington

      Naw…School Board wouldn’t act that fast–if at all.

      If Supt is to go, it will come in the form of a non-renewal when the guy’s contract is up. SB would need to determine if this is indeed a pattern of behavior. As it stands now, the outgoing principal has undercut her crediblity by this very public resignation. Better to have resigned quitely and pursued the EEOC issues she mentioned. IMO.

  • Easy way to figure this out> do an anonymous survey of all administrators as is done of them Is Murphy a position climbing bully as many believe? Or a competent educator? I trust the school board, whom we elect, wants to know the truth. What I am hearing: Francis is speaking out about what many who work in the system have been feeling. No need to trust that – investigate it, anonymously>

  • voyeur

    No surprise but Ms. Francis has been terminated effective immediately per a letter from the school board. (not sure if they used the word terminated but no more access to school parent listservs)

    • voyeur

      Well, not terminated, but replaced by Ms. Meg Tuccillo, the APS Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services. Hope they can get back on an even keel.

  • TLOL

    Dr.Murphy forced Ms.Francis to leave school today.

  • L

    I’m not going to take an opinion on what sort of principal Ms. Francis was and is, but I find Murphy repulsive. I’m a student at one of the high schools, and I attended a school board meeting recently to help present my school’s opinion on a new policy the board is considering. Not only did Murphy appear to be barely listening, but he gave credit only to the student presenting, as if this was not a joint opinion that had been carefully discussed by committees as well as agreed on by almost every member of the school!

    I remember he told us that, as superintendent, the offending policy was being suggested because his job was “consistency”, which strikes me as bizarre. A career as superintendent of schools has many more responsibilities than keeping things consistent — keeping their students creative and alert, for example, are far more important. I don’t think he has a clue about what students think, believe and need in their schools. If I’m going to support anyone in this, I support Kathy Francis.

    • Another Student

      Well said!! I agree!

    • I’m for Students

      Amen. Many teachers have grave concerns about Dr. Murphy. Replace him with Meg Tucillo and APS will rise again.

      • APS Parent

        Great idea!

  • Undereducated

    Certainly, a person in the Sups. position doesn’t act without the approval of the School Board. If a Sup acts without the Board’s approval, they are toast; if they act at the direction of the SB and it blows up in their face, they are toast. Five words of advice for Murphy, MONSTER – Your Calling is Calling. But then, I’m Undereducated.

    • Bender

      A person in the Sups. position doesn’t act without approval?

      Sure they do. School administrators are quite often autocrats. They have also absolute power and they like to exercise it, especially since they often think that, because they are so “educated” themselves, they are smarter than everyone else. That is a problem with government bureaucrats generally, but it is especially a problem in academia.

      • Bender

        That should be —

        “They have almost absolute power . . .”

        (where’s the edit function in these comboxes???)

  • DrCuban

    all the adults I know in the APS system are hoping that this is the end of Arlington’s relationship with Murphy, Ed.D.
    One could only hope that the School Board has the swiftness that the County Board had when they realized that Mr. Brown wasn’t the right fit.

  • John Fontain

    That letter reads like it comes straight from the heart, er, I mean straight from a PR firm hired to perform damage control.

    Serious allegations have been leveled against Murphy. If he is genuinely interested in showing they are unfounded, the Board should hire an independant party to examine the allegations whose report should be made public.

    • UhOh

      I agree. APS stating that they don’t deal with personnel issues publicly is inappropriate w/these very serious allegations. I’d also like to know more about Mrs. Francis and her past indiscretions (if there are, indeed, any). Perhaps Dave McKenna can investigate Dr. Murphy and APS-he seems able to simplify the complexities of incompetency quite effectively.

      • WheresTheBeef

        Dave McKenna from the City Paper. The genius behind the Dan Snyder Story. Yes, we need him on the case NOW!!

  • Recent WMS Parent

    Kathy Francis, while not as “warm & fuzzy” as other principals, was an outstanding leader for WMS! Our experience with Ms. Francis was nothing but positive. She was commited to her students and unwaivering in her commitment to the school. Shame on Dr. Murphy for forcing such an action from such a professional and outstanding educator!

  • annoyed

    I don’t like WMS. Don’t particularly love Francis. But I feel she must have been desperate in order to send the letter. I am very concerned about the number of teachers and people in the APS who seem to be confirming the hostile environment Murphy is accused of creating. If nothing else, an investigation into his behavior and the running of the APS is imperative. However, we parents received an email from Libby Garvey and Abby Raphael which leads me to believe they have no intention of looking beyond this one incident.
    “Part of our role as an elected School Board includes hiring and supervising the
    Superintendent. Almost two years ago, after an extensive search process which
    involved staff, parents and the community, we were pleased to appoint Dr. Murphy
    as the new Superintendent for the Arlington Public Schools (APS). Since then,
    he has been dedicated to working with the School Board, staff, parents and the
    community to help Arlington move from a good school system to a great one. He
    has worked closely with us to serve the many diverse segments of our community,
    and we have full confidence in Dr. Murphy’s leadership and commitment to our
    This doesn’t sound like they have any concerns to address. They go on to say we will be kept appraised and will have many opportunities to be involved in the selection of a new leader for Williamsburg and they hope to have productive conversation at the meeting planned for next week. They look forward to helping us transition quickly to new leadership. Sounds like they fully support him and intend to just move on.
    Time will tell.

  • joe_gop

    Glad my kids are out of Williamsburg and last one only has a short time left in the Arlington School District. This Dr. Murphy is a disaster and not good for this school district. A lot has been done to make this a top district and our property values have risen. I hope he doesnt screw it up

    • Recent WMS Parent

      I, for one, plan to clearly communicate my concerns about Dr. Murphy with the Arlington School Board. I hope everyone else will do it as well. Perhaps if enough of us make our voices heard…

      • Undereducated

        For the life of me I can’t understand why the SB would hire a gym teacher turned bean-counter for the Sup position. Must have been because they didn’t have to pay moving expenses. At least now they will have a chance to hire a Sup. that has actual Sup. experience. This whole fiasco is a real black eye for the School Board and the Arlington Public Schools. But then, what do I know, I’m Undereducated. Oh, and TomInArlington, Murphy is already under the school bus. All that is left is some facesaving by the SB.


    It’s a shame to see such a kind-hearted woman depart from her career in this way. She always gave students the upmost respect that they deserved, and in return has been humiliated and discriminated against by Dr. Murphy. Anyone who says that her email was unjust in anyway is absolutely mistaken. Ms. Francis has every right to defend her reputation, because she was an excellent principal. Although there may have been some issues at Williamsburg, it was definitely not due to her leadership.

    p.s: Bluemont John I am offended

    • Undereducated

      I’m with Student. Ms. Francis was alway professional and courteous in my dealings with her. And there was never an event I attended that she wasn’t also at. This whole affair was mishandled, but not by Ms. Francis, but by the Sup. and the SB. What poor judgement on the part of those clowns. To Ms. Francis, “you go girl”.

      • sad2

        Yes, she was always at everything. Tonight at the Science Fair at Williamsburg, I caught myself sort of looking for her blond head bobbing above the crowd and I almost cried.


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