Arlington, VA

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

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