Another principal change for Lafayette Elementary

(WSB photo of Shauna Heath making an entrance aboard a fire engine at Lafayette’s first assembly of the year)
Seattle Public Schools just announced that another elementary principal from West Seattle is being promoted to management downtown – this time Lafayette Elementary‘s newest principal Shauna Heath, after just a few months. Here is what was sent to Lafayette families late today:

>Dear Lafayette Elementary community:

Today I’m announcing a leadership change at Lafayette. Your principal, Shauna Heath, has been appointed Executive Director for Curriculum and Instruction. In her new role, Ms. Heath will oversee Early Learning, College and Career Readiness and core content areas.

I know Lafayette staff and families went through a principal search process last summer, and I understand it is a hardship to have a leadership change mid-year. But we need Ms. Heath’s leadership to help all of our nearly 50,000 students. Congratulations to Ms. Heath, and I know she will be missed at Lafayette.

Birgit McShane has been appointed interim principal. This is effective Jan. 7, and Ms. Heath will be available to ensure a smooth transition. Ms. McShane is a long-time educator and retired principal. She is a graduate of Seattle Public Schools and spent more than 30 years as an educator in the District – including serving as the principal at Graham Hill Elementary and Daniel Bagley Elementary — before retiring in 2006. She also recently served as interim principal at Leschi Elementary when the principal was on maternity leave.

We will move quickly to form a hiring committee. Carmela Dellino, Executive Director of Schools for West Seattle, will attend the Jan. 17 PTA meeting, along with our Human Resources staff, to gain parent input regarding desired qualities of their principal. We will also meet with Lafayette staff next month.

We will also draft and send out an electronic survey to gather additional input from families. We hope to post the position by Jan. 21. A team of staff and family members will interview candidates, with a first round of interviews completed by the end of February. Our goal is to have someone in place by the end of March.

I recognize that leadership change creates a distraction in the school. But I am confident the Lafayette staff will ensure strong teaching and learning continues during the next several months.


José Banda

Lafayette is the second local elementary this year to see its principal moved up into district management; Carmela Dellino – mentioned in the memo above – became executive director of Southwest Region schools after serving as Roxhill’s principal until earlier this year. Heath’s predecessor at Lafayette, Jo Lute-Ervin, was there just one school year, as the successor to Virginia Turner, who had led the school for seven years before that. Lafayette is the most populous public elementary in West Seattle, with about 550 students at last count.

P.S. Thank you to the WSB’ers who forwarded this announcement to make sure we had seen it. Meantime, turns out the announcement about Heath is part of a larger districtwide leadership announcement – read on for the superintendent’s memo on that:

As we head into the New Year, I am pleased to announce several appointments and leadership changes in our District, specifically to Teaching and Learning.

Our core work at Seattle Public Schools is based in Teaching and Learning, and I want to thank all of you for your continued hard work, especially in light of key leadership positions that have been unfilled. I am confident the team announced today will bring stability to the department and carry out the work we need to do through the end of the 2012-13 school year.

Michael Tolley is now the sole Interim Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. I want to thank both Michael and Marni Campbell for co-sharing this responsibility this fall, while still continuing to do their work as Executive Directors of Schools. Now Michael will focus on Teaching and Learning, and we will create a solid plan for the Southeast region in Michael’s absence. Marni will return to her Executive Director of Schools duties full-time.

We have a search firm in place to recruit for the Assistant Superintendent position and I hope to have it filled permanently by the end of the school year. I know having this position vacant has been difficult, and I want to thank the entire Teaching and Learning staff — from Central Office to our principals, teachers and support staff — for your dedication this year.

Additional leadership appointments include:

· Curriculum and Instruction: A hiring committee interviewed finalists in November, and I am pleased to announce Shauna Heath as our new Executive Director of Curriculum and Instruction. Shauna has been the principal at Lafayette Elementary since the start of the school year. She joined Seattle Public Schools from the Kent School District, where she served as principal of Sunrise Elementary. Shauna will oversee Early Learning, College and Career Readiness and core content areas. She will report to the Interim Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning.

· Early Learning PreK-5: Kimberly Kinzer will now serve as Director of Early Learning, with a focus on Pre-Kindergarten through 5th Grade. In this new role, Kimberly will build a strong early learning foundation, overseeing Head Start, Special Education PreK, WaKids, the Families and Education Levy’s PreK-Elementary implementation, and the Race to the Top’s Start Strong component. Her goal is to ensure students are prepared for kindergarten, to align the District’s assessments, and to create solid transitions from grade-to-grade.

· College and Career Readiness: Janet Blanford will now serve as Director of College and Career Readiness for grades 6-12. Janet will focus on making sure our secondary learners are prepared for college, career and life. She will oversee Career and Technical Education, counselors, course approval and course catalogs, the high school steering committee, the Families and Education levy’s middle and high school grants, and the Race to the Top’s Stay Strong component.

These three individuals will work closely together to provide strong leadership for the District’s Curriculum and Instruction Department. They will collectively be responsible for leading the district-wide implementation of the Common Core State Standards (CCSS) and taking the Multi Tiered System of Supports (MTSS) to scale among many other initiatives.

In addition, our Executive Directors of Schools will now report to the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning. This gives the Teaching and Learning team more direct access to our principals and schools.

48 Replies to "Another principal change for Lafayette Elementary"

  • Chris W December 20, 2012 (5:47 pm)

    This is exhausting.

  • Heartbroken December 20, 2012 (5:59 pm)

    I love Ms. Heath. I’m heartbroken. Our community really benefited from her strong leadership.

  • WSMom December 20, 2012 (6:10 pm)

    Congrats to Ms. Heath – (can’t imagine why she’d want to leave after the Halloween fiasco).

    Seriously though, SPS? No transition time? most normal job transitions do at least 2 weeks? At least throw us a bone and pretend you care about how our school functions after giving us 4 principals in 3 years.

  • cruzer December 20, 2012 (6:19 pm)

    Birgit McShane is about the BEST principal any school could wish for!

  • WTF December 20, 2012 (6:26 pm)

    Congrats on the career move, but STOP taking our good leaders out of our schools and putting them “uptown”. Stop it. Just stop it!

  • Admiral Resident December 20, 2012 (6:37 pm)

    I’m sorry to see Ms. Heath go. In just the few short months she was at Lafayette, it was abundantly clear that she was a strong and knowledgeable leader who would’ve done great things at our school. The new job sounds like an excellent opportunity for her, perfectly in line with her passions and strengths – so I am happy for her. But, man, what a blow to Lafayette!

  • A December 20, 2012 (6:40 pm)

    PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE give Gatewood a new principal.

  • Laura December 20, 2012 (6:57 pm)

    Heartbroken, I am right there with you. I’m devastated. Happy for her, but so sad for us.

  • Goodguy December 20, 2012 (7:01 pm)

    The District made a good choice in hiring Shauna Heath. Too bad for Lafayette though… our teachers and kids really needed that quality and stability. I suppose there’s no use getting upset when there’s work to do. Anybody know of a great principal who needs a change?

  • WSTroll December 20, 2012 (7:20 pm)

    This shows that the superintendent has poor leadership abilities.

  • Enough already, Mr. Banda! December 20, 2012 (7:57 pm)

    When will the district give our kids the stability they deserve? Is the district unable to make decisions in a timely manner so that we aren’t put through the ringer again? We need a strong administrator at Lafayette that will make a commitment to our school, that will advocate for our kids and our community, and go to bat for the staff and teachers at Lafayette! I am angered by this decision and the timing of it. I want the district to show concern for our kids and the environment at our school, I want to step forward and make progress as a community but feel hamstrung by these decisions. Enough already, Mr. Banda!

  • Watchdog December 20, 2012 (8:28 pm)

    Another reason why I choose private school!

  • kayo December 20, 2012 (8:32 pm)

    Wow. That was fast. I don’t care how steady a hand the interim principal might have. This is hugely disruptive to the community at the school. The parents worked hard to recruit a principal like Ms. Heath. I would be pretty frustrated if I was still a parent there.

  • Jill Loblaw December 20, 2012 (8:54 pm)

    Please hire a new principal at Schmitz, they are in need of a strong leader.

  • Ex Shauna Fan December 20, 2012 (10:19 pm)

    This really makes me sick. I believed in Shauna. At the first parent meeting last spring she said she was here to stay. She said she had done the district job before and she wanted to stay in the school. What lies! Nice of her to step on the very community in which she lives on her way to the top. Shauna – What happened to your three year plan, your blue ribbon school, do the impossible, blah, blah, blah crap?

  • Caprial December 21, 2012 (5:14 am)

    Ex Shauna Fan; You are spot on. Absolutely nothing she has promised or said was true, or ever going to be true.

  • Westseattlemom December 21, 2012 (5:47 am)

    This is why families move to Mercre Island and the Easy Side. When will SPS actually SHOW they are putting the childen first? I’m disgusted with the school district. I’ve been a parent at Lafayette for 2 years. What an awful experience. I’ve given my time and talent to the school, if it weren’t for the awesome teachers we’d be leaving! Has the district noticed our school went from a nationally ranked 10 school to an 8? It’s because of the leadership of the district; moving boundaries so that families a block from the school go to Schmitz but kids bussed from miles, appointing an unprepared principal in 2011, changing the exsisting principal to take away our ability to have a district advocate, raising the school population to an unstainable level, what next?

  • pam December 21, 2012 (6:48 am)

    Sounds like the school district is back to their ‘old’ tricks – thinking people work better when there is chaos. That was Olchefske’s like of thinking, perhaps one of his minions is now in charge.

  • Bonnie December 21, 2012 (7:13 am)

    Just don’t take the principal from Arbor Heights because we love her! But really, I feel bad for the kids at Lafayette. How many principals in how many years? That is awful.

  • PSITWTG December 21, 2012 (7:59 am)

    Go Bulldogs!

  • HEW December 21, 2012 (8:25 am)

    I hate to say it but I doubt they’ll be able to find a “top-notch” principal halfway through the year. All those principals are probably COMMITTED to finishing out the year with their students and families. Good luck finding someone who has the strength and ability to come into this school.

  • maplesyrup December 21, 2012 (9:49 am)

    I supposed it’s better than being forced out.

    But really, they couldn’t wait until she finishes the year?

  • Disgusted December 21, 2012 (10:53 am)

    This is why we chose private school for our child instead of Lafayette. Shame on Ms. Heath. Ex-Shauna fan said it – way to teach the kids about commitment, follow-through, and keeping your promises. All good qualities, until something better comes along, that is. Choose your role models carefully, kids.

  • wsmom3 December 21, 2012 (11:23 am)

    This is maddening. How are our kids supposed to trust these ‘educators’ when they are only looking out for their own best interests? Another new principal? How are families supposed to feel committed to this school when the person in charge is not even committed? I believed Shauna when she said all those things last Spring. Now I feel completely betrayed. Add to that having our teacher gone for 3 months with no explanation, we are at our wits end with this school and the ‘district’.

  • Heidi A December 21, 2012 (11:26 am)

    I think it’s great that we will have another influential person in central admin who knows and has children in west Seattle schools.

    Congratulations, Ms Heath. I don’t know you, but based on Comments from friends who do, it sounds like you will do a fantastic job advocating for our children.

  • Evergreen December 21, 2012 (12:33 pm)

    Her reasons may not be obvious. I would give her a chance to explain her decision.

    But as a public school parent in another school, I totally get your feelings of betrayal and frustration. This district sucks, pure and simple. It is the teachers that hold it all together, and for that I am thankful.

  • Lafayette Community Member December 21, 2012 (12:52 pm)

    I have a great idea. Run the school without a Principal. Use the salary to spend on an 2 additional teachers.

  • West Seattle Native December 21, 2012 (12:58 pm)

    If you look at her resume you will notice that she
    does not stay in one place for too long.
    She leaves before it really starts to stink.
    My prediction: He will be gone within two years.

  • wsmom3 December 21, 2012 (1:42 pm)

    Yes, Evergreen, you are right. We may feel better once we hear her explanation. It would have been nice to have received a letter from her yesterday, when this announcement from Mr Banda was made. Also would have been nice if the district had sent a physical letter instead of an email, since many of us didn’t even get the email and had to hear it through the blog. As always, thank WSB for being on top of the news. But hearing it here first sort of puts a bad taste on our mouths.

    • WSB December 21, 2012 (1:54 pm)

      WSMom3 – for what it’s worth, they didn’t send it to media before it went to parents; I didn’t see it until about 5:30 pm, after three parents all forwarded it to us over the course of more than an hour – it apparently first went out to parents in the 4 pm vicinity. Usually I am glued to the keyboard and would have had it up faster, but I happened to be in transit from the Design Commission downtown plus a meeting in the north end related to some technical work for our site – finally saw it while still in Green Lake and published it from the car. I hope you have been able to follow up with the district regarding why you didn’t get it – to make sure something didn’t go wrong with the list. I too am an SPS parent and for example realized recently that SPS had an e-mail address I seldom use any more, and that’s where correspondence regarding our son’s school always went (since it’s the e-mail address I originally gave them nine years ago!), so now I check that box more often …

  • BrassyMomma December 21, 2012 (1:51 pm)

    While I’m proud of her new appointment, it is frustrating we cannot keep a good leader in our school consistently. Children need the leaders to stay longer and keep our communities close-knit. It’s hard enough watching my son being moved from school to school to school by the other parent. Now he’s in a great place and loves his teachers and the staff…then this has to happen.

    Children need consistency.

  • A December 21, 2012 (2:02 pm)

    Watchdog – wish I could afford private, believe me. Being a part of SPS makes me cry, really. And so true WSMom. It’s great reason to move and we are always considering it. Seattle Public Schools are the absolute worst. Jill – trade you principals. I hear Schmitz has a great principal!!

  • kayo December 21, 2012 (2:27 pm)

    We left Lafayette after one year and I am adding this as another reason I am glad we got out. I just feel really bad for the staff, parents and kids at Lafayette. There was hopeful excitement about Ms. Heath after the principal debacle last year and to see her already leaving has to be a big disappointment to many. It sucks that parents have to explain to their kids that their new principal is leaving less than a year after the last principal left. It was very confusing to my kindergartner last year. As someone else noted, it is setting a bad example to make promises and commitments and then leave after just a few months. Ambition is great, but not at the expense of a school community that is struggling to find good leadership.

  • Caprial December 21, 2012 (4:36 pm)

    What totally gets me are the lies she’s told from the beginning. Her plans for us, blah blah blah.
    She’s all about data, well data can be manipulated any way you want it to look the best for you. So I doubt she’ll be accurate with that.
    She was telling lies today actually…..interesting.

  • Deblynn December 21, 2012 (6:53 pm)

    As a former Lafayette parent, I gave up on SPS. I moved my kids to Issaquah and it was the best choice I ever made. It was a huge impact for my husband and I but it was worth it for my kids. We felt safe, my son still rode his bike to school in middle school. No police cars surrounding the school at the end of the day! I realized that I wasn’t willing to sacrifice their school experience while SPS was trying to get their act together.
    Good luck Lafayette families!
    This sudden change in leadership yet again is a slap in the face to the families at Lafayette. But I am sure this decision has been evolving for many months.

  • Disgruntled Dad December 21, 2012 (7:16 pm)

    All these comments about leadership are completely off-base. Leadership takes time and energy, neither of which can be accomplished in four months. Ms. Turner did her time, Ms. Lute-Ervin was forced out by the overbearing parents at Lafayette and Ms. Heath is a ladder-climber. SPS needs to promote a Vice-Principal to the Principal role so we can have some stability at Lafayette. We need somebody on their way up and not somebody on their way out the door. I think Ms. Nordhaugen deserves a serious look this time around. She is passionate about the kids and works well with the staff. Go Leopards!

  • J December 21, 2012 (8:11 pm)

    Good luck getting anyone to apply for a leadership position who might read these comments. Seems like a snake pit.

  • KK December 22, 2012 (7:44 am)

    “That nothing is static or fixed, that all is fleeting and impermanent, is the first mark of existence. It is the ordinary state of affairs. Everything is in process. Everything—every tree, every blade of grass, all the animals, insects, human beings, buildings, the animate and the inanimate—is always changing, moment to moment.”

    Pema Chodron

  • Mary December 22, 2012 (9:40 am)

    I second Ms. Nordhaugen’s promotion!!

  • Public School Advocate December 22, 2012 (11:21 am)

    This situation highlights the importance of strong leadership in our community schools. Test scores, special programs, family socio-economics, parent involvement, a PTA’s ability to raise funds, etc…don’t mean a thing without an excellent leader.
    You may not always agree with decisions that are made yet that doesn’t mean you throw in the towel and abandon your mission. You work though those, continue to support one another and work on what’s possible. And please, if you are going to make a complaint, please follow with a suggestion!

  • Public School Advocate December 22, 2012 (11:33 am)

    I also wanted to share this poem I was given recently. I believe it’s apropos for this situation and for what we are all feeling in our community, especially our schools.
    Turning to One Another
    A poem from Margaret J. Wheatley
    From Turning to One Another, simple conversations to Restore Hope to the Future
    There is no power greater than a community discovering what it cares about.
    Ask “What’s possible?” not “What’s wrong? Keep asking.
    Notice what you care about.
    Assume that many others share your dreams.
    Be brave enough to start a conversation that matters.
    Talk to people you know.
    Talk to people you don’t know.
    Talk to people you never talk to.
    Be intrigued by the differences you hear.
    Expect to be surprise.
    Treasure curiosity more than certainty.
    Invite in everybody who cares to work on what’s possible.
    Acknowledge that everyone is an expert about something.
    Know that creative solutions come from new connections.
    Remember, you don’t fear people whose story you know.

    Real listening always brings people closer together.
    Trust that meaningful conversations can change your world.
    Rely on human goodness. Stay together.

    • WSB December 22, 2012 (11:36 am)

      Thank you, PSA. I would love that to be a motto for online discussion (and in-person) in general. Concerns and complaints are important. But so is moving to “here’s what I would like to see” once you’ve vented. I will try to honor it myself … TR

  • Goodguy December 22, 2012 (12:05 pm)

    I think she really did understand what the numbers mean, and that they say a lot– good discussion about this kind of statistical analysis in an old book, Freakonomics. I imagine she was applying statistical ideas to help shore up weak spots and help teachers share best practices within the school, and the District wanted this capacity for all schools in the District. Of course it’s a free country and she has the right to do what she wants, and it’s now up to us to attract a great principal to the school.

  • Goodguy December 22, 2012 (1:40 pm)

    But apart from technical things, what I thought was really great as a principal was her background with special needs students — she has background/experience helping kids across the spectrum of learners from those who struggle with personal challenges to those who learn easily and need help advancing/developing. I really appreciated that. Also, she had a collaborative leadership style– she asked around, then made decisions, then communicated what/why to everyone.

  • Caprial December 22, 2012 (5:05 pm)

    She should have been more transparent.

  • Dano December 23, 2012 (11:55 am)

    I have been teaching at Lafayette for over 14 years.
    Starting January 7, I will be working with my 10th principal in that building. This includes all the “interim” principals plugged in at various times.
    As soon as the district determines who will be the “permanent” principal, THAT person will be my 11th.
    Over the years, the ONE consistent thing hasn’t been the administration….. The kids, or families….. It has been the teachers.

  • spparent December 24, 2012 (2:29 pm)

    Sadly, one thing that is more than ever evident to me after teaching in this district for 20 years is that the administration (principals included), makes decisions based on what’s best and easiest for the administration, not kids or the people in daily contact with them. This is a great career move, but definitely not best for the kids at Lafayette.

  • my head's spinning January 1, 2013 (3:31 pm)

    As a former Lafayette parent and a SpEd parent, I can feel for the L families. This is what SpEd families have gone through for years. The leadership in our department (one that is supposed to protect vulnerable students) has just been a stepping stone for the climbers, all who think they are Superintendent material. WTF, w/ the latter’s time span averaging less than 3yrs w/ big $$$, who wouldn’t?!

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