The principalship at Oakland’s largest high school is notorious for its political challenges. It’s no place for beginners. But from what I’ve heard, Skyline High School‘s various factions have embraced Al Sye, a veteran administrator — and the latest in a string of people to inhabit the principal’s office.
Recently, however, Sye became the subject of a central office investigation, and it remains to be seen how long he’ll stay at Skyline, or whether he’ll return for a second year. Chris Dobbins, a school board member who represents the high school, said Sye is off for two weeks, but didn’t say why.
What happened? According to unnamed sources cited in OakBook, an Oakland news Web site, four people anonymously accused Sye of making racially inappropriate comments and touching female colleagues in a way that made them feel uncomfortable.
Dobbins (who faced an inquiry of his own in 2007), told me last week that he supports the principal. He said he couldn’t comment on the details of the investigation, but that he hoped that Sye would remain at the helm of the school, which is undergoing a major academic overhaul under the federal No Child Left Behind Act.
If Sye does leave as a result of this controversy, the school will have to hire its third principal in less than three years. Sye replaced Heidi Green, who left the district last June after being re-assigned to another Oakland school. Green’s predecessor, Amy Hansen, quit in August 2006, shortly before the start of the school year, leaving Skyline without a principal for weeks, if not months.
I used to get all kinds of complaints about the leadership (or the lack of a principal) at Skyline. This year, by contrast, it seems that Skyline’s African-American parent group, its PTSA, its teachers, its neighbors, and its students generally back the new principal and his vision for improving the school.
Wandra Boyd, of the group Concerned Parents of African American Students, says Skyline is not perfect, but it’s the first time in 14 years that she has experienced such unity of purpose there. Boyd told me she hoped the rumor — that Sye is being driven out of Skyline — was just that: a rumor.
What would happen to the school, and the students, if Skyline’s leadership were to change, yet again?
photo courtesy of The Skyline Oracle