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Sacrificial lamb? Waubun district may fire principal

Waubun High School Secretary Carolyn Spickard praised Principal Helen Kennedy for her hard work and dedication to the district for the past nine years.

"She's compassionate, understanding and strongly needed," Spickard told the Waubun-Ogema-White Earth School Board Thursday.

Under the federal School Improvement Program and based on recommendations from the Minnesota Department of Education, the board may have to replace the principal by next year.

"Firing Mrs. Kennedy would be the worst possible mistake that you can do," Spickard said.

School board members emphasized that they're put under a tough situation by having to replace Kennedy in order to transform Waubun High School after it was named one of the worst performing schools in the state.

"What may or may not happen to Helen is something that's dictated to us," Board Member Mark Rothschadl said.

The board hoped to receive a quality review report by the end of this week to vote on either a transformation or turnaround model.

But the Cambridge Group consulting firm that visited the school last month didn't have the report ready by this week, Superintendent Mitch Anderson said.

He added that the number one concern with schools from across the country -- that will receive federal funding under the School Improvement Program -- is the idea of replacing the principal under both, the transformation and turnaround models.

"I agree with everything you stated ... it's a tough situation," Anderson told Spickard.

The turnaround model requires evaluating and rehiring no more than 50 percent of the current teachers.

And although the transformation model requires new teacher evaluations, the district can retain all current teachers.

The school board will call a special meeting once they receive the quality review report to vote on one of the improvement models.

Last month, the board voted to advertise for a principal position just so they're ready for any recommendation they receive.

So far, the board received about 20 applications. A committee will narrow the applicants down to five before the board can interview the final three.

"The sooner we get someone positioned, the better off we are," Board Treasurer Joe McArthur said.

Meanwhile, current principal Kennedy didn't attend the meeting Thursday because she was out interviewing for jobs, Spickard said.