Teachers, Parents Protest Principal Moves Before School Board

Three Chester W. Morrison Elementary School students sang a tribute to principal Lynn Hanke in f...

Three Chester W. Morrison Elementary School students sang a tribute to principal Lynn Hanke in front of Menifee Union School District board members Tuesday.
A large crowd of teachers and parents of students in the Menifee Union School District spoke out Tuesday in opposition to an administrative decision to relocate four principals within the district for the next school year.

Tuesday's board meeting did not include an agenda item regarding the moves, which were announced last week. But during the public comments portion of the meeting, 12 adults spoke out against the moves, in addition to four current students.

The previously announced moves involving school principals:

-- Daphne Donoho is scheduled to move from Callie Kirkpatrick Elementary to Oak Meadows Elementary.
-- Manny Valdes is scheduled to move from Oak Meadows Elementary to Chester W. Morrison Elementary.
-- Lynn Hanke is scheduled to move from Chester W. Morrison Elementary to Callie Kirkpatrick Elementary.
-- Ed Resnick is scheduled to move from Hans Christensen Middle School to Menifee Valley Middle School.

Most of those who spoke out in opposition to the moves said they felt "change for the sake of change" was a bad idea, citing the success of students and staff at the schools involved.

"I feel a mistake has been made," said Xavier Padilla, a teacher at Hans Christensen Middle School. "A problem occurred at another school; why create an issue at this school because of it? I came to this school because of Mr. Resnick and what I knew he would do at Hans Christensen. Believe me, he is not done at this school."

Padilla was a school counselor at Menifee Valley Middle School, where Resnick was an assistant principal, before both transferred to Hans Christensen when the school opened in 2009. Padilla's reference to a problem "at another school" was in regard to the departure of Menifee Valley Middle School principal Robert Voelkel.

District officials will not comment on the departure of Voelkel other than to say he resigned to pursue other opportunities. Some of those who spoke, however, referred to MVMS as the only school of the five affected by the move in need of stability.

"I feel like this move is a reaction to something in a sort of a panic state," said Tina Donisi, a teacher at Hans Christensen. "You need to decide what is the core of the problem? Please focus on that and not this shifting of people."

Christina James, the parent of a student at Chester W. Morrison, presented Board President Ron Ulibarri with a petition containing 187 signatures protesting the removal of Hanke as principal there.

"Why are you making a last-minute change at a school that has just earned Distinguished School status?" she asked. "How can we keep Ms. Hanke? Our students really need her. Right now, we're in a really good rhythm at our school. Please don't change that."

Ulibarri and board members Jerry Bowman, Reg Bennett and Randall Freeman each thanked the speakers and acknowledged the speakers' passion about the situation.

"Thank you for sharing," Ulibarri said. "We will definitely take your comments into consideration. These are tough decisions, and I know the staff does what it feels is best for the district."

District Superintendent Dr. Steve Kennedy said he is "sure there will be more discussion" on the subject, but he did not indicate whether there is a possibility any of the personnel decisions would be reversed.

"It's a challenging thing for us as staff because there are lots of details we must consider that we're not allowed to discuss because they are personnel matters," he said.

"One of our goals is to establish a level of organizational trust. There's not a bad principal among this group, but we also want to capitalize on their strengths and give them opportunities for growth in new situations.

"Every time you're dealing with people's level of comfort, it's a difficult situation. We want to make things better for everybody, and sometimes it's hard to improve without change."

Among the four students who spoke were three students from Chester W. Morrison who actually sang their comments in a tribute to their principal, singing "Thank you, Ms. Hanke." They presented Ulibarri with a petition signed by students.

"I haven't told my children about this," said Lisa Lawrence, the mother of two students at Callie Kirkpatrick. "I hope I never have to tell them. Please reconsider."


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