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Skyline’s never-ending principal search

By Katy Murphy
Monday, July 6th, 2009 at 6:25 pm in high schools, leadership changes.

Skyline High School’s principal selection committee can’t rest just yet.

I’ve just learned that Lauren Klaffky, the former Oakland High assistant principal picked for the job (see the OUSD personnel report here), has had second thoughts about leading Oakland’s largest high school.

I spotted the job listing on EdJoin this afternoon, posted June 30. OUSD spokesman Troy Flint confirmed that Klaffky will not take the Skyline post after all. He said she “had a change of heart” about the position.

I don’t know the back story, other than that some Skyliners weren’t satisfied with the pool of candidates. Now, of course, the pool is likely to be even smaller.

For those of you unfamiliar with the high school’s leadership history: Amy Hansen quit in August 2006, just before the school year began, leaving Skyline without a principal for weeks; Heidi Green resigned at the end of the 2007-08 year; and Al Sye was fired this year.

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  • Skyline Teacher

    Well, I suppose it’s better she didn’t take it if she wasn’t sure; it’s not the kind of job you can just ease into.

    Still, word was she’s very popular and respected at OHigh after only a year there as an AP, so maybe it’s our loss.

    At this point, I think we’re all just going to keep on keeping on whatever happens. There are some big shifts happening at the school next year and maybe it’s better if teachers have to shoulder the responsibility to make sure they come off. Certainly, waiting for a savior is not a good strategy for improving such a large, complex institution.

  • TheTruthHurts

    This is sad to see, especially at this point. I hope someone steps forward before the fall and has time to bond with staff and get to know parents/students quickly.

  • harlemmoon

    Maybe we should create a Blue Ribbon Committee to study this, too.
    People, it’s no accident that principals aren’t lasting there.

  • Gordon Danning

    I was on the Oakland High principal selection committee. The underlying problem is that Oakland does not attract enough applicants for principal jobs. We had only 3 applicants – one of whom was from Life Academy and really wanted the job there, and one of whom was Ms. Klaffky, who was a good AP, but is very inexperienced — far too inexperienced, in my opinion, to be principal at a large high school like OHigh or Skyline. We at OHigh were fortunate in that we liked the third candidate and we got her. But, Skyline was not so fortunate. We were told that Oakland underpays its principals — something like $20,000 less than many districts. So perhaps the district needs to increase principal pay. Katy, can you find out how much we pay principals, vs. the going rate?

  • Katy Murphy

    Yes, I started looking into principal pay a couple of weeks ago and got some of the information yesterday. I’ll blog about it soon.

  • http://perimeterprimate.blogspot.com Sharon

    I was told that that principals for Oakland’s small secondary schools (350-400 kids) are earning nearly the same amount as principals of our large comprehensive high schools with 1700-2000 students. The unique challenges, issues and dynamics at the larger schools should necessitate that the leaders of those schools get paid more.

    Since many Oakland parents and students prefer the range of classes and students activities offered at the large schools – and believe a small school setting would be much too limiting – OUSD needs to keep its remaining comprehensives strong and intact so it can offer ALL types of families the “choice” they prefer. I suspect that these schools may have been given short shrift in recent years since so much administrative attention was given to developing and opening the small schools. By the way, a recent report by the New School’s Center for New York City Affairs revealed that the opening so many small schools caused “collateral damage” to the existing large high schools there.

    One side effect of the small high schools here is the dramatic shrinking of the pool of AP’s who are acquiring the necessary experience that might allow them to successfully move up to principal positions at large school sites. OUSD used to have six comprehensives with about 18 AP’s learning the ropes; now we have half that number.

    The district desperately needs to re-evaluate how much it pays the principals who manage the large schools, so it can improve its ability to attract strong candidates.

    And aside from the money, good assistant principals and upcoming leaders who actually like working in Oakland need to be properly wooed. The district needs to increase its focus on identifying and nurturing its strong potential leaders . I doubt much of this was done in recent years and I hope the new superintendent will make it a priority. A strong organization knows that doing this is an important part of keeping itself strong.

  • BLT

    Mr. Danning, while I enjoy the fact that you are sharing information, I don’t believe it is professional to go into detail on this blog about your opinion of Lauren Klaffky’s qualifications, or lack thereof.

  • Pepe

    Sharon,

    It has been my experience that the principal of a small school has as difficult a job as a principal at a larger school. Generally the leaders of larger schools have much more support(APs, counselors, etc.) to deal with the larger numbers. The principal at my daughter’s small school did everything, including taking care of many responsibilities that are normally delegated at larger schools.

    While you bring up a good point about training future principals, I don’t think the answer is to pay principals of larger schools more. After comparing OUSD with others nearby, I would agree that we under-pay our principals across the district. Unless someone is absolutely dedicated to the youth of Oakland, I don’t know why any talented administrators stay here.

  • Alice

    Ms. McKlaffky name was withdrawn from consideration as the principal for Skyline HS by Roberta Mayor at the last board meeting after questions from Director Chris Dobbins.

  • Sue

    My son will be a senior at Skyline this fall. Some of our principals in the last three years have been good, some seemed to be floundering and in over their heads. My son’s successes came from his teachers stepping up and working their tails off. He a full-inclusion Spec. Ed. student (high-functioning autism is his medical diagnosis) and probably the most disabled kid in the ASIP program. His GPA over the last year was 3.67.

    Skyline teachers have been shouldering the responsibilities. At least that’s how I’ve seen it the past three years, so give yourself a pat on the back from me, Skyline Teacher.

    Good job, and thank you!

  • Gordon Danning

    BLT – Thanks for the opportunity to clarify my point. I did not mean to convey any information regarding my opinion of Ms. Klaffky’s PERSONAL qualifications. Rather, I meant only to convey my view that NO ONE with only two years’ administrative experience is qualified to be the principal of a large comprehensive high school.

  • Katy Murphy

    After reading Alice’s comment, I checked again with Troy Flint, the OUSD spokesman.

    Flint said Roberta Mayor did withdraw Lauren Klaffky’s name before the appointment became official, but at Klaffky’s request, and before the board meeting in question.

  • turner

    Looks like Roberta Mayor is still a powerful person at OUSD. What does she do now that we have Tony Smith? And how much do we pay her? $250k?

    I ask only because it seems silly to me to have at least $750k budgeted in salary to three individuals while layoffs are being considered.

    turner

  • Katy Murphy

    Roberta Mayor is no longer at OUSD. The decision Alice referenced happened before July 1, when Tony Smith started. Mayor was the interim superintendent.

  • turner

    Thanks, Katy.

  • walton barnaby

    Not only does OUSD underpay its principals compared to nearby districts, but it also does a less-than-perfect job of honoring an incoming principal’s request for bringing in or hiring specific vice principals to do the work.

    When a high school is graduating half of its freshmen, the leader needs to be compensated and given a deep bench of administrative support. Having one solid AP and two useless AP’s does not work.

    Mayor wasn’t willing to make hard calls with respect to SHS and whenever she intervened because of a parent or teacher complaint, kids got hurt. Sye would not have been hired had Mayor not intervened during the last hiring process. Here we are again.

    Principals of big schools in OUSD do get paid more than small-school principals. 20% is my guess.

  • Skyline Teacher

    “Sye would not have been hired had Mayor not intervened during the last hiring process. Here we are again.”

    Walton, what are you basing that on? Sye was the unanimous pick of the selection committee from an extremely slim and inexperience application pool — very similar to what is happening this year.

    Are you just going on hearsay, or is this Wendy’s line?

    Honestly, I think they should leave the position to a current AP until they find a rock star with a successful background in a school like this one. If the AP thrives, then he — there’s only two, both male — can keep it.

  • oak261

    I agree with the AP suggestion. It is very late to be soliciting competitive candidates. One of the two AP’s, Mr Chen, knows the school very well, since he has been there for several years.

  • Catherine

    Katy, Is the any update on who the new Skyline principal will be?

  • Katy Murphy

    I hear there’s a committee meeting at Skyline tomorrow night, and that it’s possible the new principal will be chosen and/or announced then or soon afterward.

  • Ms. McLaughlin (from down the street)

    In English class, we call this “situational irony.”

    Until just a few months ago, Oakland High School HAD a caring, dedicated principal who’d been there for two years, gotten to know the school community, and was in a prime position to further excel as a leader. When Ms. Scott first arrived, by the way, she’d had to hit the ground running after [name your own melodramatic interpretation of that mess] just before the 2007-2008 school year began.

    We also had Ms. Klaffky, whose pragmatism and good humor helped defuse many an explosion at O-Hi.

    Both of these gifted ladies cared deeply about the children’s education and well-being. They made the safety of the school and our surrounding community a top priority. They were also decent, empathetic people who respected and supported the teachers. However chaotic their own day’s challenges (which were obviously formidable), they would make time to listen to faculty concerns, help get problems solved, and in the process, offer thanks and encouragement.

    Any school would be fortunate to have such tireless and talented administrators, no?

    AND THEN THE MARTIANS ATTACKED! That’s the only explanation that makes any sense.

    So now Ms. Klaffky has left Oakland altogether. (Best of luck, Ms. K, and many thanks. You’re much appreciated by those of us who know a gem when we’re fortunate enough to see one.)

    And Ms. Scott has been treated dreadfully, much to the shock and dismay of most of the faculty, who were neither consulted nor informed about these goings on before her departure was announced. Even more disturbing is how little information, much less opportunity for input, was granted the parents around here. My neighbors whose children attend Oakland High have been shaking their heads sadly at the news, and on the first day of school, the remaining adults up there can expect to be asked repeatedly, where in hell’s that nice principal?

    That is, of course, unless somebody does the obviously wise thing and begs Ms. Scott to please, please come back. With sugar on top, a huge raise, and a Welcome Home party at which much joy, relief, and sanity will finally be had by all.

    If it ain’t broke, folks, how about we don’t break it? Protecting and educating these children is challenge enough without turning our blessings into “problems.”