New principal sought for Hyattsville Middle School – again
BY PAULA MINAERT — For the second time in two years, a search is on for a principal for Hyattsville Middle School. Students return to school on August 22.
Principal Susie Long announced her retirement June 6 after serving for only one year.
“We were incredibly surprised when she left,” said Mary Resing, vice president of the HMS PTA, adding that parents had not anticipated her departure, as they had that of Gail Golden, the previous principal. Golden left in 2010 after 12 years at the school.
Resing said that the communication to parents about the selection process this year was weak. “We at the PTA didn’t know what was going on, and if we didn’t know it seemed no parents did.”
So PTA secretary Ellen O’Neill sent a letter expressing concern that parents were not being kept informed about the selection process. In response, school system representatives met with parents, teachers and staff on June 28.
At the meeting, Pamela Shetley, from the school system’s human resources department, said that Superintendent William Hite already had been concerned about the low parent response to a survey asking community stakeholders to give their input on the skills and attributes needed in prospective principals.
PTA president Errick King said, “There wasn’t anything from the school sent to all parents, saying we want you to be part of this process. The PTA should not have been responsible for contacting parents; the school should. We at the PTA don’t have access to all parents.”
Lack of communication overall was the major issue that surfaced at the meeting. Parents and teachers both said that communication from the HMS administration over the last year was poor.
Beth Brittan-Powell, the mother of an 8th grader, said, “There was a lack of communication by the administration to both the students and the parents. I also feel there were times when partnering with parents would have been extremely beneficial. For example, letting parents know about the lack of order during class changes that prompted tape down the middle of the floor and one-way signs on stairwells. My son was frustrated about the lack of communication during the year.”
When everyone broke into small groups, several teachers, who did not want to be identified, said the administration needs to make its expectations clear, be more involved and respect the staff.
“[Teachers] weren’t informed of things and they were on their own. They didn’t feel they got the normal support they expected,” said King. “And the faculty did express concern that administrators weren’t there during the whole day.”
Assessing the meeting, O’Neill said, “Good things came out of this process. We are reassured about the county’s investment in the process. Even more important, it brought together parents and staff. We weren’t aware that each group felt marginalized. Going forward, we now know we should be working together to monitor the transition. We now have a list of priorities and the staff and the PTA should hold the principal accountable to that.”
As well as communication, meeting participants listed the following, among other things, as important things to look for in a new principal: a vision for this school; a proven track record; tech savvy; a commitment to fully integrating the arts; ability to keep the whole school together; willing to be totally accessible to parents and staff; creates a safe and orderly environment; strong community involvement; have an administrator present at all after-school activities.