Kenwood Press

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News: 06/01/2009

SVUSD changes course: New Dunbar principal to be full time

Sonoma Valley Unified School District (SVUSD) officials have changed their mind and decided that Dunbar Elementary School should have a full-time principal as opposed to the present half-time situation.

The decision comes at a time when SVUSD is in the process of seeking a new principal, which, when hired, will be the fourth person in four years to hold the previously scaled back position.

“The Board of Trustees and I analyzed the situation thoroughly and felt we needed to do this in the best interest of Dunbar School and the school district,” said SVUSD Superintendent Pam Martens.

Martens said the principal position will be full time and that whoever is hired will also have some responsibility in facilitating a program for children with special educational needs.

The $82,500-$91,500 position is currently being advertised, with paper reviews and personal interviews to follow. Martens said she hopes that someone will be hired by mid to late June.

Martens and other school officials recently met with a group of Dunbar parents to discuss what kind of principal would be a good fit for Dunbar.

Dunbar parents, teachers and staff have strongly pressed school district officials for a number of years to reinstate the principal position to full time. Having only a part-time principal, they argued, hurt morale and negatively affected the learning environment.

In 2003, for budgetary reasons, the district first cut the position of then principal Lauren Ekman to 70 percent principal time, and the other 30 percent teaching.

Eventually the position was scaled back to 50 percent principal, 50 percent independent study teacher. Ekman left the post in 2007 after eight years to take an administrative job with the SVUSD.

Leticia Cruz took Ekman’s place but left after only a year to take the full-time principal job at SVUSD’s Sassarini Elementary School.

Cruz was replaced by Claudia Berkman, who, after less than a year on the job, recently announced she was resigning to seek a full-time principal position outside the district.

To the Dunbar community, the rapid turnover of personnel was confirmation of what they had been saying all along – that a half time principal wasn’t working. A group of disaffected parents and teachers had even begun to look into the possibility of turning Dunbar into a charter school.

The news of the decision to bring back a full-time principal was met with relief and cheers.

“I believe and have always believed that all schools, including Dunbar, need a full time principal,” said SVUSD Trustee Nicole Abate Ducarroz, the board representative from the Dunbar attendance area.

“Not only is it hard to attract a strong leader, but to retain someone with a part time salary is difficult, especially in this economy. It only makes the school stronger to have a full time principal, which in turn, makes the district stronger.”

Parents were also very happy about the news.

“As an outgoing, very involved parent who loves Dunbar,” said Marina Zachau, “it seemed to me, regardless of the state of the budget, and with all that went on this year, giving Dunbar a full-time principal was the only way the district could make good on their ‘we care about Dunbar’ stance. I am excited for Dunbar and I hope that the job flown as a 100% principal draws the kind of candidate the school deserves! Maybe with strong leadership and someone with a vision, they will not need to charter.”

The positive news at Dunbar ends a year that was not without controversy. In March, popular second grade teacher Dawn McIntyre was let go with little explanation. Despite attempts by parents and colleagues to get the decision overturned, a majority of the SVUSD board of trustees let the decision stand.

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