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APS Administrator Will Serve As Williamsburg’s Acting Principal

by ARLnow.com February 4, 2011 at 9:05 am 2,786 98 Comments

Correction at 12:45 p.m. — Ms. Francis was not escorted out of the building, as we reported earlier, according to APS spokesman Frank Bellavia. Francis did show up at the school in the morning, with a television reporter in tow. When she left, she was not being escorted by an APS staffer, Bellavia said. Police were called to the school later in the afternoon to deal with an expected influx of news media, he added.

It didn’t take long for Williamsburg Middle School principal Kathleen Francis to be told she was no longer welcome at the school she led for more than a decade.

Francis sent a lengthy email to parents Tuesday night announcing her resignation and criticizing Arlington Public Schools Superintendent Dr. Patrick Murphy. The email was posted on this web site and quickly started garnering thousands of hits and hundreds of comments.

After she went to school on Wednesday, Francis was unceremoniously escorted from the building, according to a source. Police were on hand at the school to oversee security.

With Francis out of the picture, the school board sent a letter of their own to Williamsburg parents. The letter expresses the board’s support of Dr. Murphy, who joined the school system in 2009. It also revealed that Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services Meg Tuccillo would be serving as acting principal at the school.

The letter concludes by inviting parents to attend a PTA meeting at the school on Tuesday at 7:00 p.m. Dr. Murphy and the chair and vice-chair of the school board are expected t0 attend the meeting.

Francis, meanwhile, is trying to adjust to her new reality. In an interview with the Washington Post, Francis talked about her decision to send the letter. The Post article noted that school staff have been dropping off flowers at Francis’ house, a gesture that brought her to tears.

See the school board’s letter to parents, after the jump.

APS School Talk: A Letter from the Arlington School Board

February 2, 2011

Dear Williamsburg Community:

All of us on the Arlington School Board join the Superintendent in reaffirming that the students, parents, staff and community continue to be our first and highest priority.

As you know, Ms. Francis has resigned as principal of Williamsburg. To ensure a smooth and effective change in leadership for the school, today Dr. Murphy announced that, effective immediately, Ms. Meg Tuccillo, the APS Assistant Superintendent for Administrative Services, will serve as the administrative leader for the school until a more permanent transition team is announced. We are grateful for Ms. Tuccillo’s leadership and support at this time. She is a highly-qualified and seasoned administrator with more than 10 years experience as a school principal, and was previously recognized as an Arlington Principal of the Year. We heartily endorse this decision.

We know that there are many accomplishments at Williamsburg in which all of us – students, staff and the entire community – can take great pride. We also believe that we can’t stand still. All of our schools should be proud of their accomplishments and should continue to strive to grow and improve.

School officials, both staff and elected leaders, do not discuss personnel issues with members of the public or the press for both legal and ethical reasons. However, because we have received many questions from parents related to the recent events, we want to provide you a framework of the procedures and policies we have in place for our schools and leadership team. More importantly, we want to address how we can work together and move forward as a school community to ensure that we provide the best instruction and support for our children.

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 children.

The School Board policies and procedures outline the process for the evaluation of administrators. The specific criteria that are used include: Planning and Assessment, Leadership, Organizational Management, Communication and Community Relations, and Professionalism. In addition, input from surveys of parents, staff and others are considered in assessing an employee’s performance. The School Board always takes

allegations of discrimination seriously and investigates them appropriately. We want to assure you that all School Board policies and procedures were and continue to be followed.

In the coming weeks and months, the Williamsburg community will have many opportunities to be involved in the upcoming deliberations and selection of a new leader for Williamsburg Middle School. Please know that School Board members are also parents, and we all recognize the disruption and tumult that the recent events have brought to your school community. We look forward to working with you to help the school quickly and smoothly transition to support the new leadership.

On Tuesday, the School Board Chair and Vice Chair and the Superintendent will be joining you at the regular Williamsburg PTA meeting at 7 p.m. While we will not be able to answer questions related to specific personnel matters, we look forward to having a productive conversation with you.

Working together, we can ensure the first priority at Williamsburg continues to be our students, staff and community.

Sincerely,

Libby Garvey

Chair

Abby Raphael

Vice Chair

  • Burger

    I can’t see how she thought she would be able to show up to work the next day after publicizing that letter.

  • alebt

    The School Board has unwisely circled their wagons on this. Without an independent investigation, Dr. Murphy will suffer from lingering doubts which will fester throughout the district. The best outcome, whether or not their faith in Dr. Murphy is warranted, is for Arlington parents to know that the Board has systematically and without bias investigated the claims made and is transparent with the results. From their letter, it sounds as if they are waiting to be sued and will respond defensively to all inquiries. I would not want to be at the Williamsburg PTA meeting while they try to sing me to sleep with mumbo jumbo about how “we are all in it for the kids”….so let’s move on nothing to see here.

    • las

      Agreed. The initial reaction of the School Board was, unfortunately, the wrong one. Rather than standing behind the Superintendent, they should have expressed an interest in investigating the source of the conflict that led to Kathy Francis’s actions. Whether Francis was right or wrong in sending her letter, there was clearly something going on behind the scenes. The School Board members are elected officials; the School Board is responsible for appointing and overseeing the Superintendent; the School Board therefore has to be more sensitive to how the (voting) community perceives this situation and more responsive to the concerns that have been raised. Sadly, they do not yet appear to have figured this out.

    • Andrea

      This may be additional evidence that this administrator has been charged by the school board (or at least a few of them) to “clean house”, pushing out those administrators who have been around a long time, and who may no longer be as effective as their paychecks might suggest.

  • Bluemont John

    I have a question. Someone in the 500 or so comments on the original story said they think Murray has been trying to move APS toward the “Fairfax model.” What is that? And what is bad about it, given that most of Fairfax County’s schools are very well regarded?

    • las

      I don’t know what the Fairfax model is, but the Arlington County schools are also very well regarded; I question why the School Board selected someone like Murphy, whose apparent need to reform the school system to his authoritarian management style was bound to cause unnecessary upheaval.

      • Bluemont John

        Authoritarian? They haven’t even seen authoritarian–until they’ve gone through the schools at the Archdiocese of Boston.

        Arlington’s schools are generally good. Our kids have done well in them. At the high school level, Wakefield appears to be struggling still, in that its average SAT score is below the national average and the state average, unlike Yorktown and W-L, which are way above.

        • CrankyMom

          Diocesan schools have a whole different baseline when it comes to authoritarian school administration, but that’s a whole different culture. I think that if you compare the Wakefield SAT scores to other schools with similar demographics, it looks really good, and it also scores high on various other measures. Overall I think all our high schools do an excellent job of preparing our kids for college and post-high school careers.

          • Bluemont John

            I probably agree with you; I would not give the teachers or administrators all the credit or blame for SAT scores, or even that much. (And be careful mentioning demographics–some of the nuts here will brand you a racist!)

          • Bender

            I don’t know about racist. But your remark certainly raises questions of religious bigotry.

          • local

            I do hope you’re joking.

          • Bluemont John

            Against Protestants? Pretty sure you’re joking.

          • CrankyMom

            I’ve taught in both parochial and public systems, had kids in both systems, and spent my own primary and secondary education in parochial schools. The systems are vastly different and their cultures vastly different. Not “religious bigotry”, just a different system of accountability, and consequently different definitions of what would be more “authoritarian”.

  • TedDanson&Dorothy

    I’d much rather be at a bar than at this PTA meeting with blah blah blah kids blah blah nothing wrong blah blah blah don’t look behind the curtain blah blah blah

    • Lou

      Just pack a flask and sit in the back row. It might be more entertaining than a bar.

      • UhOh

        Heck that’s how I usually deal w/PTA meetings, Parent/Teacher conferences and church on Sunday!

  • Brandon

    It’s painfully obvious the school board is composed of politicians. They wrote a nine-paragraph letter that doesn’t say anything except “We are going to stonewall, cover our asses and refuse to answer questions.” Bravo.

    • local

      This issue involves:

      a) personnel matters for at least two employees

      b) an active lawsuit.

      Two very good reasons for them not to say much. I don’t blame them.

  • 4Arl

    I think this case shows the need for an inspector general who can independently investigate allegations without resorting to the costly process of going to court. It could even serve both the schools and the county gov, both of which have issues with autocratic rule.

    • local

      The problem with that is the principal filed the suit. Unless you take away her right to sue, there’s still going to be a lawsuit. And if either party lost in the inspector general’s findings, they might just sue anyway.

  • Arlwhenever

    Tis’ more instructive to look at what people do than it is to listen to what they say. Time and time again, when their backs are against the wall, and bold leadership is called for at APS, the person who is called on to come in, rally the troops and move ahead is Meg Tucillo. If the School Board has an ounce of common sense it will dump Murphy and hire her as the new Superintendent of Schools.

    • T-scale

      She is the best!

      • I’m for Students

        Amen. The Board needs to fire Murphy and put Meg Tucillo at the helm. Dr. Murphy is a disaster, and it’s about time that taxpayers know what APS staff has known since he came on board. If Murphy is not replaced, the next step is vote out every school board member, starting with Abby Raphael.

        • Josh S

          Calling for voting out school board members is an easy thing to do – actually voting for someone other than the incumbent – that’s something Arlingtonians don’t have much of a track record of actually doing.

          Of course it would help if there were viable alternatives – it doesn’t make sense to vote for “anyone but XXX” if the alternative is worse.

  • Murphy’s Law

    The letter from the two school board members says “[Dr. Murphy] 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.”

    No, the system was already great — but Murphy’s on the way to making it mediocre. It’s time for the school board to admit that they hired a dud for superintendent. Murphy is a gym teacher turned number-cruncher, who doesn’t understand schools, teachers, or students. The county board made a similar mistake in hiring a new manager, but at least they recognized their mistake quickly and got rid of him.

  • Mkt Common

    I don’t have children in Arlington County schools, so I can’t accurately assess Mrs. Francis’ complaints versus Dr. Murphy/Arlington School Board’s responses. I can determine that Mrs. Francis’ distress and discontent are quite real, given the email she sent and the drastic decision to “go public” & resign mid-school year.

    I know what it’s like to quit in a fit of pique. When I look back on the time I did it, I still assess my discontent and frustration as valid, but I realize imposing those feelings on others by being hasty and punitive in my exit was wrong. Thus I have great sympathy for Mrs. Francis. But I’m still puzzled. Why resign mid-year? If she had the school’s best interests at heart, wouldn’t she at least have waited to the end of the school year to minimize the disruption to students/parents?

    .

    • local

      Maybe she was afraid of getting fired first.

      What surprises me is she thought she could show up for work the next day. That wasn’t a “two-week notice” kind of email.

      • Tabby

        Maybe she didn’t want to be accused of “abandoning” her post.

      • arlingtonVoter

        Oh, she’s no fool. She knew what would happen. But until it did, she was still principal and had an obligation to show up for her job. She had a chance to go on the PA during TA and tell the kids goodbye. They ushered her out later that morning.

        • arlingtonVoter

          I stand corrected. She wasn’t ushered out later in the morning, she left on her own. There may have been a phone call instructing her to abandon her post, but she did go onto the PA system and talk to the kids before she left.

      • Fish stinks from the head

        She resigned effective March 1. She had to show up and then was asked to leave in a phone call to her.

    • Jezebel

      The “hasty and punitive in my exit” phrase is nice. Poetic.

    • CrankyMom

      I think her letter explains her perspective. She says she had hoped to get through the year with a chilly but professional relationship with the supervisor, but he was rapidly escalating his punitive actions and she saw no way to finish out the year with the way things were going.

    • arlmom2boys

      The most distressing issue of this whole fiasco is: Nobody has mentioned the affect that this has had on the WMS STUDENTS. While Kathy has been spending her time documenting every little grievance, who has been “minding the store” at Wmsburg? How can she claim to be dedicated to the students when this personal issue has been looming like a mushroom cloud? Why would she drop this bomb-shell in the middle of the school year? The 6th, 7th and 8th graders at this school are the true victims.

      • 4Arl

        On the contrary, this is a valuable lesson for the students that you can’t teach in a classroom or get from a textbook. When is it worth it to stand up for principles? (no pun intended!)
        Sure, she could have quietly retired at the end of the school year. But then the issues she is resigning about would not get the attention that they have. What better way to teach kids about what whistleblowers go through, the process of management and political double-speak, and ultimately how the citizens judge the validity of the claims?

      • CrankyMom

        The kids will be fine. It’s the parents who are going to have a heart attack over this. As far as I could tell (as a Williamsburg mom), Kathy was a vigorous and positive presence at the school up until she left.

        Her letter addresses your question. She says that, having been overruled on the personnel issue, she wanted to just get back to work this year, but the superintendent was, out of sheer malice, administering progressively more severe sanctions against her which would have required a level of documentation and detail inconsistent with being the hands-on administrator she wanted to be. In her view, the children were hurt more by her being prevented from doing her job.

      • another WMS parent

        as a parent of a williamsburg student who has had several challenges this year, i can assure you that kathy francis was responsive each and every time — and very quickly, i would add. she has definitely had the students’ needs in mind all the time in my experience at the school.

        and what little i know of her from my interactions, she has always been a calm, quiet presence. this letter makes me think that she felt as if she truly had no other avenues.

  • Parent of 2

    The Sun-Gazette is reporting that there are two investigations in progress: an “internal investigation” and an EEOC investigation.

    http://www.sungazette.net/articles/2011/02/04/arlington/news/nw84t4.txt

    The EEOC will be limited in scope, and I certainly have no faith that the internal investigation will be thorough or fair. They need an impartial outside firm to handle this.

    • CrankyMom

      An “internal investigation?” What a joke. This is the superintendent who is being accused of wrongdoing here. Who is going to do the investigation? They all work for him! And since the school board quickly announced that they have “full confidence in Dr Murphy’s leadership,” I’m not holding out any hope of unbiased analysis from that crowd.

  • charlie

    the school government is being investigated. the EEOC investigation will NOT have a favorable outcome. Gym Teacher needs to call a headhunter NOW.

  • arlingtonVoter

    Abby Raphael is up for election this year, unless no one decides to run against her. Given that she came out so unwaveringly in support of Murphy without any hesitation, I’d think there might be some opposition. Filing deadline is March 1. I’m just sayin.

    • LivingInOz

      The scariest part of all this, is that Abby Raphael came out with full support for the APS super. of schools before any investigation…. not surprising, given that they walk the W-L track together on a regular basis. Cronyism alive and well, the Arlington way.

  • mrlogical

    Why does your revision above take the form of a “correction” and not merely an update? You initially cited a source that said that the principal was escorted out. Your correction says that a school spokesman said she wasn’t. If video surfaced showing that she was not escorted out, or if the woman herself had made a statement saying that she wasn’t escorted out, I would understand this being a correction. But a school spokesman denying that that happened is hardly definitive evidence.

    I’m certainly not objecting to correcting a story to make it more accurate, I’m just curious why this source was trustworthy enough to quote in the first place, but not trustworthy enough to remain in the article after something as minor as a denial from a spokesperson.

    • CrankyMom

      good poiont, i’d like to hear what Miss Francis says happened.

    • Sounds like they saw something and misinterpreted what they saw. I went with it because I was hearing the same thing elsewhere. But ithe school system is emphatic that that is not what happened.

      • Undereducated

        Let me see if I understand, you reported eye-witness information that you corroborated with other sources, but then retracted the information based on an emphatic statement from a School Board spokesperson? That’s Owellian!

  • Anon

    Ms. Francis is asking with a remarkable lack of professionalism – both in her initial letter and in showing up Wed. with a reporter.

    • Lou

      You sure she asked the reporter to follow her around?

      • fred

        The reporter could not have been following her onto school property without her permission.

        • Lou

          She asked the reporter to follow her onto school property? You know this?

    • CrankyMom

      I’m not sure she “showed up” with a reporter. I was told by students at the school that the reporter was trying to talk to her outside the school and holding a microphone in her face. The kids aren’t the best sources, but, if true, that would suggest to me that the reporter ran up to her in the parking lot.

  • Rodrigo Escobar

    Let’s please get rid of this myth about how amazing Arlington schools are.

    They are solidly mediocre. You have a combination of one of the best educated and wealthiest population’s in the country – a large percentage of the students are going to perform well on standardized tests and go to college pretty much regardless.

    Having spent several years in APS, it’s amazing the variation in quality teachers and administrators. There are some seriously deficient teachers that have been there forever and some bat shit crazy school administrators. From group projects to an obsession with interactive lesson planning, Arlington students are being coddled and left mostly unchallenged. We’re spending hundreds of millions to renovate facilities but ignoring what’s going inside.

    Compared to other schools i attended, Arlington by far had the best facilities and technology, even before all these fancy renovations and ipads. That being said, I learned far more from having consistently good teachers, with only a chalkboard to work with, than i did doing a group project based around some interactive video lessons. Bad teachers were fired at the end of the semester, if not before.

    Furthermore, this kind of bullshit on an administrative level never occurred. It appears as though a bunch of over-qualified but under-performing, gossipy and immature adults have somehow been put in charge of our schools. It’s not entirely their fault — school systems across the country are becoming more and more obsessed with finding new ways to spend money, further expand the bs teacher certification process and extol the limited value of an EdD and coddle students into thinking the world will be as un-challenging and accommodating as our school system. Arlington, per usual, is at the forefront of this trend.

    • Bob

      Well put, Rodrigo. APS has a lot of flair and sparkle, but no great achievements beyond what should be expected as the baseline given the population pool they pull from. Give me a great teacher with four walls and a chalkboard any day over a mediocre teacher with a fancy new LEED-certified classroom with digital wallboards and iPads! The taxpayers of Arlington DO NOT get their money’s worth for all the investment… QUIT BUILDING ALL THE DAMN NEW BUILDINGS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

      • arlmom2boys

        Welcome to the 21st century, sir…times have changed a bit since you used your slide rule.

        That fancy computer and blackberry cell phone that your employer provides you are WAY too expensive. Tell them to give you an IBM selectric typewriter and a desk phone with a dial on it because you want them to save their money.

        • Rodrigo Escobar

          What in God’s name do students need Ipads for? Can’t wait to hear the excuse “My book ran out of batteries.” bringing those textbook images to life is the stupidest thing i’ve ever heard.

          Ask any college professor – their freshman, even from affluent school systems, can’t write worth shit. This is not something that buying ipads or spending $100 million x 3 on renovating facilities addresses. Math hasn’t changed much. Haven’t seen a new theory in basic calculus in quite some time. Seeing computational modeling in high def rather than a old TI calc doesn’t really make it that much more interesting, it makes the students thankful for Apple’s latest software update that allows their little ADD wired brains to multitask apps.

          We’re spending all this time coddling and making everything so damn accommodating that kids are coming out with a very twisted view of the challenges ahead.

          Focusing on improving already decent facilities and spending money on all the latest technology is wasteful and misguided. It don’t make err kits rite no better.

          • Josh S

            And actually, the overspending on overhyped technology in the classroom has been around for many, many years. Especially in this community, you can’t even argue that – oh, we have to prepare the kids for the working world – hello, most of them have better technology at home than anything the teachers can show them. But study after study have shown that kids learn no better with computers than they do without. As Rodrigo points out, elementary and secondary schools are for exposing kids to a basic set of knowledge identified as necessary for taking one’s place in society. And for the development of critical thinking skills so that one can work with that knowledge. These things are just as easily accomplished without bells and whistles as with them.

      • Westover

        We need new buildings because we are RUNNING OUT OF SPACE for all the young kids born in the last fifteen years. I could care less about a LEED building, as long as it is clean and safe for the kids. But we need a lot more classrooms for this new Baby Boom.

    • Westover

      Honestly, my kids are young enough to have not been in Arlington Schools that long, but I have yet to meet a teacher we did not like and thought that they all have put a lot of effort into keeping the kids interested in learning. Arlington Schools are some of the best in the world because the PARENTS and the TEACHERS care, not due to the technology. Truth is, the technology is there to attract the good teachers more than it is there to teach the kids, and it does get us great teachers.

  • Captain Krunchy

    Who knew middle school could be so dramatically news-worthy exciting?! … back to my 1 dog/no kids household that puts over 50% of its taxes into an overpriced school system with lots of fancy new buildings…

    • borf

      Yes, back to it.

  • Arlingtonian

    I am not necessarily excusing the Superintendent, but how can one argue age and gender discrimination when the leadership of APS when Ms. Hobbes, the head of HR who makes these decsions with the Superintendent, is an old woman?

    • local

      People discriminate against their own kind too sometimes. And Hobbes isn’t the only one making those decisions – she still answers to the Superintendent, and follows APS policies that might be discriminatory somehow too.

      BTW, “old woman” = kinda harsh.

      • Parent

        LOL. She was at the meeting last night and remarked upon this comment that she IS an old woman and proud of it. The meeting was worth attending. I was one of few parents there who were neutral to unfavorable on Francis’s performance as a principal but I left the meeting with somewhat more sympathy. Her not having authority to hire and fire explained some of the more puzzling personnel issues I’ve observed over the year. There are definitely two sides to the story and I’m not the most involved parent, but I can say, contrary to many of the statements last night, that:
        1. My kids are unaffected by this drama – slightly amused by the adult drama but more concerned with their immediate teacher, exams, homework. I wonder if those that were “traumatized” by this are picking up on their parents’ moods…
        2. I was unimpressed by the School Board members’ performance overall but give them some credit for taking some knowledgeable parents’ suggestions regarding the scope of work of the independent investigation and the investigatory authority needed for this. They were reluctant to involve parents in the process and there was no mention of a public selection panel for the investigation, but overall I think they’re moving in the right direction. Sort of – still observing.
        3. The Superintendent and Mrs. Hobbs get kudos for showing up – I don’t know when they found out Ms. Francis would be there but he kept on message and kept to script. I’m not sure he made much of a case for himself – except for noting that he should actually introduce himself to the students and give them some kind of a message he seemed remote and uncharismatic. And he seems to have his mind made up. Mrs. Hobbs did not act like an old lady. She was very sincere. However little voice in my head was whispering “Dolores Umbridge.” I hope I’m wrong.
        4. Some of the comments made me want to stab myself in the eye – does no one out there have any management experience? After an employee uses the school’s listerv to send out a letter like that how could she possibly remain in her position. Francis objected to being removed but she must have had an idea that could happen. I may end up having my personal opinion more on her side than I expected but I understand WHY the Sup did this. It may or may not turn out to be the only thing I agree with him on.
        5. I was impressed by Mrs. Francis’s composure and her statement was very interesting to me – explaining further how she came to her decision and explaining the “safety issue” to calm parents’ fears. She also gave a very strong endorsement to Meg Tucillo, which was very classy. Did she do the right thing? Did she really run out of options? I don’t know, but she made some very strong points.
        6. There are some batshit crazy people out there and nothing like a public meeting to draw them out. Wow.

  • fred

    I am confused by comments here that wish the letter from Murphy and the Board was precise – and that they have a trial by public opinion. This is exactly the thing we do not want. This isnt something for YOU to decide. This isnt something to be dragged through the media – or through the public.

    That’s what Francis did. That was a poor decision. That typifies the poor decisions she has made.

    Professionalism dictates appropriate behavior. Professionalism does not use the court of public opinion. Professionalism does as little as possible in public to harm or accuse the other party. Professionalism provides the information that is necessary – not more.

    The peanut gallery here is REALLY NOT HELPING. These are kids. And yes, the Board is elected officials. It is there job to run our schools. And while it is certainly their job to be accountable to the public, it is not there job to bring every decision before YOU and make sure the decision is okay WITH YOU before they proceeding.

    This is a very unfortunate situation. The situation at WMS has been unfortunate for a long time. So please stop making the situation worse with idiotic allegations and demands that the school system abide by your view of the world – and realize that in the end of the day it is the students getting the short shift.

    Finally, we have been involved in the Arlington School system for a long time. The Arlington School system is FANTASTIC. Placement excels. Advanced courses excel. At statewide and national competition APS excels. Teachers and principals across the county are some of the absolute best. The parents and PTAs that support the schools are some of the most involved. Problems are readily addressed and the solutions are positive.

    I remember the last day of school last year. The principal and the vice principal (not of WMS) were out on the street corners handing out frozen pops to the kids. The kids loved it. There was SUCH as strong sense of community. There is a real sense of joy at being a part of APS.

    I wish the peanut gallery here could see what a special thing we have going here – stop throwing rocks – and star being a part of, being involved in, volunteering for – that truly incredible thing called APS.

    • Captain Krunchy

      Fred, I don’t think you have to worry about our little “peanut gallery” here “helping” or “not helping” any particular situation… As enjoyable and useful as arlnow.com is as a local news/business-promotion website, I don’t think anyone of reasonable intelligence and/or decision-making authority (no, not necessarily mutually inclusive) is using our entertainingly juvenile bickering and snidery (word of the day) as the basis for their actions in any given situation… Like most online user comments sections, most of us are just killing time because we are overpaid and under-challenged at work, or we’re just waiting for the next pizza/cupcake/bar place to open in Clarendon!… All in all, it IS entertaining to read grown adults getting themselves into tizzies over middle school, where my biggest concern was ensuring I got to sit in the last row of the school bus. My how times have changed!…

    • Undereducated

      What a nice story, I especially like the part about the frozen pops.

      • Bob

        I hope those pops were a gift, and not paid for my with tax dollars!!!!!!! =P

    • alebt

      @Fred: I am not sure exactly what comments you are referring to. I do know this forum can be a little juvenile at times. But, I have benefited from the airing of different viewpoints on many topics. To your point, a precise response from the School Board does not need to preclude a course of action or air dirty laundry. Their “imprecise” response does. It precludes from consideration that the possibility exists the policies were not followed and/or the man they hired is not that man today. In order to assure the taxpayer that they are serious about investigating the allegations no matter how they came to light; an independent investigation is needed because it is the core of the leadership that has been indicted. This was not a long time disgruntled food service person who resigned in this fashion. Ms. Francis’s position and seniority demand some credence be given to her claims even if it turns out at the end of the day she was absolutely wrong.

    • Fish stinks from the head

      Fred, when a leader of a school is trying to remove a teacher due to safety concerns and is not being backed by HR or the Super, I think you would be concerned. Was the teacher making unwanted advances on kids, dealing drugs or drinking on the job? The teacher was tranferred to anther school. Where? Who is this teacher? What was the safety issue? Lots of questions need to be answered before I make a judgement on her decision. She did not leave her post mid year due to one small comment in a meeting. This has been going on for TWO years and she finally decided enough was enough. The parents in 22207 are tough and demanding and I hope are going to get to the bottom of it. We have enough connected lawyers in this area to peel away the onion and get to bottom of it.

  • Rodrigo Escobar

    step out of the cave.

    Having attended several different schools, I found Arlington to be the most fun and accommodating, with endless resources — but also the least challenging despite taking every Honors & AP class available. I hate sounding like the woman who just wrote the book about “Chinese Mothers” but your kids have more potential than what you’re seeing.

    That A on the report card is as meaningless as the teacher certification process used to determine who is in the front of the classroom. Sure getting a 4 or 5 on the AP history exam is great, but if you’ve ever taken the test you know what a joke it is. Every kid should be able to pass that before graduating. Push your kids harder because most decent colleges, much less life in general, are far more challenging than anything APS will throw at them. Though, maybe i’m not putting enough value in learning how to use an ipad.

    • arlmom2boys

      @Escobar
      Where were the “other” public schools you (recently)attended that were more challenging than HB, Y’town or W&L? If it’s Thomas Jefferson, you’ve got a point. And you probably should have just stayed there.

      How many years have you you been an active participant in your childrens education in the APS?

      The entire tone of your opinion is elitist to say the least:

      “That A on the report card is as meaningless as the teacher certification process used to determine who is in the front of the classroom. Sure getting a 4 or 5 on the AP history exam is great, but if you’ve ever taken the test you know what a joke it is. Every kid should be able to pass that before graduating. Push your kids harder because most decent colleges, much less life in general, are far more challenging than anything APS will throw at them.”

      1. A’s are NOT handed out like candy in our high schools. The students work hard, study hard and earn them.
      2. The AP History (or any other AP exam) is a standardized NATIONAL test. Find out how many HS students nationwide pass it vs how many APS students pass it.
      3. The typical Arlington parent is RABID about pushing our kids harder and demanding only the BEST teachers. Our HS graduates are accepted at the top universities and make the dean’s list every semester.

      May I suggest that you take a sabbatical from work and spend a year teaching HS in Arkansas, Alabama or Mississippi. Then come back and tell me how “unchallenging” the APS high schools are.

      • Rodrigo Escobar

        Hah. Solid path, don’t like my criticism to attack credibility and standing. Sounds like a PTA meeting!

        1) A’s are handed out way to easy. Had friends in APS working on dioramas in HS, even better… it was a group presentation. Pretty sure they got an A. Of course it depends on the class and teacher but on average Arlington grades in a way that does little to push kids to their potential both in terms of what is graded and how it’s measured. Yes, kids are overly stressed and worried about grades but that’s not what we’re measuring. Stress is often from poor instructors and structure, not because students are being pushed beyond their capabilities.

        2) This idea of comparing Arlington to other school districts “in Arkansas, Alabama or Mississippi” as a metric for the success of our schools is inherently flawed. What do those states have to do with educating our kids?

        Yes, if we were in competition, perhaps an academic superbowl, the focus would be on beating Little Rock or Mobile but that’s the mentality that has put us in this all too cozy place to begin with! Yes, compared to other places Arlington has ‘better performing’ schools but that doesn’t mean they’re doing a good job. The parents here are some of the highest educated, wealthiest and involved of anywhere in the world – before they even show up to school our students are ahead, but how far forward is their APS classroom experience taking them?

        3. AP US History exam is a joke. once again, saying it’s nationalized or comparing APS results to other places with shitty schools is a worthless in determining how successful our schools are. Except for international students, (Tho i’ve found they often know more about our history than native born), If you can’t get at least a 3 in US History you have no business moving on to a 4 year college.

      • Josh S

        I’m guessing that having “RABID” parents has something to do with:
        A) binge drinking
        B) high percentage of medicated kids
        C) high and growing percentage of college freshman who describe their mental health as “poor”
        D) Accusing others of being “elitist” when they question the status quo

  • Parent of 2

    I agree that APS is a great school system, which is why I’m so concerned. I’m not sure whose comments are bothering you, but I’m not buying the argument that the Board can somehow act in secrecy when dealing with such matters as a teacher that was allegedly dangerous and a superintendent that is hostile and retaliatory when a subordinate disagrees with him.

    The School Board works for us, the citizens of Arlington. If the Superintendent they hired is behaving the way Ms. Francis reports, than they have a lot of explaining to do. So far, their response looks like a lot of wagon-circling.

    That’s why they really have to get an independent, impartial report from an outside firm. An “internal investigation” by APS employees is not going to convince anyone.

    • Parent of 2

      The previous comment is responding to fred. Sorry, didn’t get posted in the right place.

    • LivingInOz

      Yes, Yes, Yes…… this is paramount in this situation.

  • MC

    Board is right not to comment on specifics, but wrong not to call in an independent investigation, unless they are worried that it will turn up damaging evidence that will hurt them in the law suit. As a taxpayer, am I more worried about limiting the County’s legal liability (and attendant costs to taxpayers) or seeing that tax funds are spend wisely in the schools? It is a false choice: the law suit should never happened, the fact it did shows a failure by the Board.

  • duran nor duran

    Comcast sucks, WMS is falling apart and the courthouse taco bell is gone forever….
    #firstworldproblems

  • NancyDrew

    I’m curious about the lawsuit(s) that have allegedly been filed; especially the ones mentioned in the first article regarding the shredding of documents. I checked the circuit court case information and didn’t find anything filed under Francis or APS. Does anyone have any information on this?

    • Insider

      The case involving the shredding of the documents has not yet hit the courts. The initial testimony about the shredding of documents was given during a juvenile court case involving a students, and the school board and superintendent were informed that documents in the school were being shredded.

  • duran nor duran

    Time to call the hardy boys.

  • Fish stinks from the head

    Murphy is a terrible Super. I have many relatives working for APS and they all know he is a joke. Terrible in meetings, not a good speaker or leader. Remembers NO ONES names. The APS School Board made a mistake in hiring him and need to correct it fast. Gym teachers need to coach kids on the field not run a school system. Good luck Arlington Schools, my kids are going private!

  • JamisonFarms

    Wow! Remember the previous Superintendent? The one everyone hated on because of the whole boundary issue thing? He’s probably lookin’ might good now (and is probably laughing his head off saying “suckers! Ya got what ya deserved!”

  • Teacher

    @Fish…I totally agree with you. Murphy is terrible! I’ve taught in the county for almost 2 decades. He by far is the worse we’ve had. With things the way they are in the county, I’m contemplating an early retirement. APS has really gone downhill!

  • VoteTheBumsOut

    Anyone concerned about this office staff member (referenced in Francis’ letter) that was transferred to another school? Apparently the staff member was transferred to an elementary school in South Arlington – how awful! If HE was verbally abusive to middle school students how do you think he’ll conduct himself around elementary students – who are far less likely to stand up to him. This is absolutely terrible that the APS leadership has failed us!

  • oneteacher

    They picked Murphy after paying $100k to a consultant to conduct a “nationwide” , “exhaustive” search and finally found him 1/2 mile from the ed center and within a mile of three board members. Maybe to find a new WMS principal they should cut out the middleman and just knock on a couple of doors across the street. This debaucle is just a little glimmer of the disarray that is APS.

  • worried

    I’m a parent AND a teacher in APS with knowledge of what has been going on at WMS. First- the staff member in question was not a teacher OR administrator. The situation was not a good one, but I’m not sure “safety” was really a concern. Second- every workplace, whether a school, government office, big corporation, or fast-food restaurant, has these kinds of issues. They’re just not as public. Third- there is no perfect teacher, administrator, or superintendent. Education is a messy business involving lots of personalities, learning styles, and mandates and extremely affected by the dramas of everyday life. What happens at breakfast and on the school bus and on “Glee” affects what goes on in school. Francis had some serious lapses in judgement throughout her career, as has Murphy. As have most of us… though admittedly most of us don’t have the power and influence that they do. Finally, I do believe that Murphy’s hiring is a direct result of the nationwide obsession with accountability and testing. I believe that obsession is diverting energy and focus away from the true purpose of education. The kind of culture that results from an obsession with making sure the test scores of 6th graders (not the SAME kids, mind you, but just kids of a certain age) at a particular school continue to rise over time until they reach perfection is not a healthy one, and in fact gives rise to the kind of behavior we’ve seen over the past week from supposed grown-ups. I feel bad for the kids, because despite everyone’s professed concern for the kids, we as the grown-ups in their lives (including teachers, administrators, parents, superintendents, school board members, state legislators, federal legislators) are not giving them the education they deserve.

    • CrankyMom

      Williamsburg is in an odd position because many of its feeder schools (Nottingham, Jamestown, Tuckahoe) do not have sufficient subgroup populations to count in the AYP determinations. Consequently, those schools have no incentive to focus on lower-performing subgroups. However, once they hit Williamsburg, the subgroup scores count, and Williamsburg is left scrambling to make up for that neglect. The way AYP is determined is ridiculous. Williamsburg’s SOLs are quite good, but to the extent they could be better, I think the elementary schools must bear part of the responsibility.

      • CrankyMom

        BTW, I agree with you that the obsession with test scores is creating an unhealthy learning environment for all our kids.

    • Parent

      +100. Voice of reason.

  • idunno

    2 sides to every story
    wouldn’t kf called the police if a staffer was really threatened???? way to go pm!!!

  • idunno

    oh and if kf was really so concerned of the students then why did she opt to go go mid year???
    more like she threw the entire wms community under the bus????

    • CrankyMom

      How about this: if the superintendent was at all concerned about students, why did he engage in a steadily escalation of attacks and harassment against a widely respected middle school principal which got to a point where she felt she could no longer do her job? I’m playing a bit of devil’s advocate here, but the way she tells it, she had no choice because his punitive measures were preventing her from doing her job, and she felt that the school was suffering because she wasn’t allowed to focus on her job as principal.

  • APSnumberone

    I have no idea whether she was a good principal or not. I do know this. Someone does not throw away their entire career with a cavalier gesture. This principal must have been driven to the point that she felt she had no other choice by this very intellectually limited, overly authoritarian dolt of a superintendent. I have heard him speak in several different public forums and he says words with no meaning–he speaks in generalities with no specificity. He doesn’t have a clue how to lead. The County Board did the right thing and admitted that their managerial choice was a “bad fit,” and replaced him with a proven insider. Come on School Board–READ this principal’s letter and hear what she is telling you. You made a mistake; we all do. Buy out his contract and let him move on. We need a real leader, and we don’t have one. And while you are at it, please DO something about our long overcrowded north Arlington schools–enough studies and dialogues–change boundaries, build additions, add a new school, but for goodness sake do something ASAP!

    • Murphy’s Law

      Amen.

  • Curioser and Curioser

    –I have heard him speak in several different public forums and he says words with no meaning–he speaks in generalities with no specificity.–

    Untrue.. he seems well-versed in “learning cottages”, which will be rapidly spreading over the playgrounds at a school near you.

    To me this all goes back to the School Board, and frankly the Single Party system in the County. The Arlington County School Board is ineffective. They spend hundreds of million refurbishing schools that are at capacity within a couple years of opening (see W-L and Yorktown, and many of the other recently redone schools). They can’t see a demographic trend if it smacks them in the face with a sledge hammer. So what are we stuck with– palaces that have every bell and whistle, but not enough space- and with school board cronies steering the yacht.

    I remember when I tried to vote in the School Board Primary “Caucus” — must have been 2008– at W-L. Now we all recognize that there is only one party in Arlington, so the Primary (Caucus), in essence serves as the general election. I was greeted by Board Member Favola shoving a piece of paper in my face — yes, a loyalty pledge…. I stated that I’m an independent, who cares about the direction of the school system, and who would like to take part in the nominating process, since there were a number of candidates from which to choose. However, I do not wish to lie and state that I’m going to be loyal to the Arlington Democratic Party or any other party for that matter.

    Ms. Favola, not so politely instructed me that the only way my vote was to be registered was to sign the loyalty pledge. So, I left without voting, because I was not going to sully my morals by lying on some BS form that they put together for an elected position that shouldn’t have party affiliations in the first place.

    But at the end of the day, that’s just the control exerted by the Democratic Party in Arlington. Until residents finally open their eyes, and recognize that single party control of any sort is counter-productive– unless your goal is to have everybody’s buddies running the County– then we will continue to have this continuing debacle of a government and school governance system- with botched hirings at the highest levels. (They’re batting 1.000 at screwing up the top non-elected roles in the last couple years!!!)

  • Jim Davis

    Pass the popcorn!
    Arlington CO leadership has some ‘splaning to do!
    I hope the courts see things as they are put things back the way they were at WMS. Most kids want that. Most parents want that.
    PS: Politcal correctness taken to this extreme is indeed bad for all…especially those very people in which the system is designed to protect.
    Dumb.

  • Pam Ouzts

    Really, I say this with a smile. But I’ve always referred to where we live as The People’s Republic of Arlington. I’m a staunch conservative who would much rather be in Evergreen, CO and hope to get there one day in the near future. But if I must live in the DC area – Arlington is the best.

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