West Seattle schools: Lafayette principal won’t stay for 2nd year

Just shared with us by a Lafayette Elementary parent – a letter today to the school community from first-year principal Jo Lute-Ervin, saying she will not return for a second year next year. Text after this:

February 14, 2012

Dear Lafayette families,

I regretfully must share with you that I will not be returning to Lafayette next school year as your principal. My work here at Lafayette has been a privilege and an honor. The progress we have started as a school, academically and as a community, is work that I am fortunate to have led.

As your principal, it has been my responsibility to work with the staff to create a safe, academically challenging and socially fulfilling learning environment for each of your children. My position as principal of Lafayette will continue until June 30th. I look forward to continuing on as a district administrator with Seattle Public Schools for next year. Aurora Lora, the Executive Director for West Seattle, will be reaching out to staff and families in the next few weeks to discuss next steps for selecting a new principal for Lafayette.

I am sure we will be talking about this in upcoming meetings and as I see each of you at school. Fortunately, having such a strong, committed staff, and much parent involvement, your children will continue to be in good hands.

Thank you to each one of you for giving me the opportunity to be your school leader. Watching your children grow, learn and blossom each and every day has been a gift. I will miss the work here tremendously.

Jo Lute-Ervin, Principal

We may not be able to reach the district for comment tonight but will try first thing in the morning. Lute-Ervin started at Lafayette this year after previous longtime principal Virginia Turner moved to Coe Elementary.

46 Replies to "West Seattle schools: Lafayette principal won't stay for 2nd year"

  • 4thGenWestSide February 14, 2012 (5:34 pm)


  • kayo February 14, 2012 (6:08 pm)

    My sentiments exactly! I heard rumors through the grapevine that some parents weren’t happy about a few things with Jo. Personally, I did not have time to develop an opinion and my interactions with her were only positive (warm, friendly, wanted to know my kid’s name). Really curious about the backstory on this!

  • StringCheese February 14, 2012 (6:15 pm)

    Wow. Not even a hint as to why…

  • GreatSoFar February 14, 2012 (6:47 pm)

    Unfortunately, what we experienced under Enfield is merry-go-round principals, which may have place Lute-Ervin in an untenable position. As a former Lafayette parent, I have an inkling about what environment she was working in. Don’t get me wrong! I loved Lafayette and how great it was for my child! I strongly opposed changing a good thing! Studies and common sense show that ya shouldn’t mess with a good thing. Unfortunately, under the Enfield/top-down model, that was kicked to the curb.

    I wish Jo luck and a successful future. I also wish downtown would quit mucking with programs and buildings that are working well.

  • AIDM February 14, 2012 (10:35 pm)

    Doesn’t she clearly explain why in this statement: ” I look forward to continuing on as a district administrator with Seattle Public Schools for next year.”

    I makes sense that they filled the principal position in a well performing school like Lafayette with a temporary principal rather than sticking a failing school with a temporary principal.

  • Momof3 February 15, 2012 (4:35 am)

    Ah, yes, what SPS really needs is more administrators.

  • Parent February 15, 2012 (5:42 am)

    Unfortunately a few top PTA individuals made the principals job nearly impossible with constant bullying, interferment and discrimination.
    I witnessed this first hand on several occasions.

  • SPS Parent February 15, 2012 (7:32 am)

    Hopefully the hiring process will not be a ‘placement’ and will actually be through a ‘hiring process’. SPS has the most rediculous hiring process where they have what they call a ‘pool’ and then hire from outside of it. As frustrating as that is to watch, it is more frustrating to see ‘placements’ in schools vs. actual hiring. Let’s see if SPS can get a good hiring process in order and we can all have great leaders in our schools.

  • Butterfly February 15, 2012 (7:38 am)

    To “Parent”…… Trust me, there has been a lot that YOU haven’t witnessed first hand…. This is a good decision.

  • Side B February 15, 2012 (8:42 am)

    We have a child starting kindergarten next year and Lafayette is one of our options. In reading the comments so far it seems like I should be concerned about the school. Can anyone comment on whether or not there are “hidden” problems.

  • Active WS Parent February 15, 2012 (8:48 am)

    Jo was never presented as an interim principal for Lafayette. Parents didn’t expect anything less than a highly engaged, effective leader. And Jo wasn’t that. Lafayette’s PTA has had a great partnership with the past principal and the teachers for many years. I’m sure they expected to continue that partnership w/ Jo. But, since day one, Jo has constantly made poor decisions with little to no input from anyone. While Jo is a very nice person, ‘nice’ doesn’t effectively lead a large school like Lafayette.

  • Active WS Parent February 15, 2012 (8:51 am)

    @Side B — The problem is the principal – period! If Lafayette can get a great principal for next year who believes in building a strong community of parents, teachers and staff, things should turn back around.

  • WSTroll February 15, 2012 (10:32 am)

    I’d like to know more about the “constant bullying, interferment and discrimination”. Quitting under such circumstances would have been the wrong message to send.

    “When the going gets tough, quit.”

    Hopefully they will hire someone local.

  • Momof3 February 15, 2012 (10:50 am)

    Side B- take a close look at your options. Our little guy had a terrible experience there under the old principal. Very cliquey parents and kids but some families obviously love it.
    If you love good test scores and high pressure- this is the school for you.
    Maybe the new STEM school will be good. Pathfinder is amazing!

  • ClawGirl February 15, 2012 (12:19 pm)

    Side B – I agree with Momof3. Our oldest child attended Lafayette for 2 years under the old principal, and we also had a horrendous experience. We had many issues with the school, but the most significant ones that led us to leave were the (1) risk of getting another abysmal teacher in the future – seems to be at least 1 in most every grade), (2) overcrowding/large class sizes – even in Spectrum, (3) playground issues and the way they were/were not resolved, and (4) how the principal didn’t deal with these issues in a satisfactory manner. Both our kids ended up testing into Spectrum, but we still chose to enroll them both in a private school as we felt Spectrum still wouldn’t solve many of the issues/concerns we had. But had we stayed in SPS, we would have looked closely at Pathfinder as there are many parents who LOVE that school and speak very highly of it.

  • WS pre-K Mom February 15, 2012 (12:51 pm)

    Clawgirl – I am also a mother of a child entering K next year. What are the playground and class size issues? And, what were the biggest issues (for you) with the Spectrum program?

    Our son is small for his age, and is a bit sensitive, so playground issues are really a big deal for me. He has tested into a gifted program at a private school, but we are also looking at public schools that have Spectrum or good math/science programs. We had planned to consider Lafayette, just for those reasons.

    However, it seems from the comments that the experiences at Lafayette were either (1) horrible because of the principal; (2) horrible because of the cliques; (3) horrible because of the chance at a poor teacher/crowding/playground issues; (4) or less than ideal because of principal changes and issues with the SPSD.

    It makes this process a bit overwhelming for a mom trying to find a good school for her child!

  • Bird on a wire February 15, 2012 (12:55 pm)

    Like all schools, Lafayette has a mix in quality of instruction. I happen to like the parent population and my kids are very happy there. By far and away, the kindergarten team is the strongest. My biggest hope is that the rest of the grades follow suit and that we start to see a transformation to mirror their approach.

  • Side B February 15, 2012 (2:13 pm)

    Does anyone have an opinion on how Hope Lutheran compares to the SPS options?

  • kayo February 15, 2012 (2:22 pm)

    I have a kindergartner at Lafayette this year and she is very happy and learning a ton (we love Mr. Bell!) As a parent I couldn’t ask for more. I haven’t been happy with all of the things that have gone on as far as the effort to redraw boundaries specifically targeting my neighborhood. However, on the whole, we are having a positive experience at Lafayette for our first year.

    I would also say that there are lots of friendly folks at the school. I think playgrounds can feel cliquey in general and I don’t think that problem is isolated to Lafayette. I feel very fortunate, in fact, at the amount of parent involvement which really enhances the experience my child is having at the school. It is much more a blessing than a problem. Would you rather be at a school where parents aren’t involved or one where they care passionately about their kid’s education? I know what I prefer, even if at times I see that passion directed in ways in which I happen to disagree.

  • HEW February 15, 2012 (2:22 pm)

    Lafayette is all around a good school, but all schools do have issues, whether it is with the principal, parents, teachers, or district administration. In this case it seems as though there are a lot of different factors that came from each of those areas. Together those issues that each group of people brought with them created a combination that results in a stressful work and learning environment. Although, Jo might not have been the best fit for Lafayette from the start, but maybe the Lafayette community wasn’t as welcoming to Jo coming in after a principal that had been there for so long as they should have been. You have to look at all the factors that contribute to a quality school, and they do include the parent community as well. I’m curious how welcoming they’ll be with the next principal coming in….?

  • Parent February 15, 2012 (2:36 pm)

    Thank you Active WS Parent, WStroll and Butterfly – you proved my point perfectly.

    Enjoy the lovely sunny day!

  • Fly Girl February 15, 2012 (2:42 pm)

    I find it highly suspect that the Lafayette (the school with the most successful Spectrum program) is announced to be “in limbo” for leadership next year on the eve of announcing the bright new STEM principal. Since school board members previously admitted that the start up of the STEM school at Boren would be hard to fill the first couple years, now by planting uncertainty within Lafayette’s base I feel there is a purposeful manipulation happening to drive parents to committ to the STEM school and leave the uncertainty of Lafayette’s situation. It seems there WAS a plan to convince parents to choose the new school AND solve the overcrowding problem after all. Sorry, no sale…some of us love our neighborhood school and will work to keep it the great school our kids love.

  • WSTroll February 15, 2012 (3:50 pm)

    Seriously, I am curious about the bullying/interfering/discrimination accusations.

    Bullying? Like “give me your lunch money”? Is there a bullying problem at the school or are we supposed to believe that a grown woman in a position of leadership is actually being bullied by stay at home moms.

    Interference? Isn’t interference part of the job? I would expect every parent to try to interfere in some manner. I know I plan to, regardless of the principal.

    But discrimination? Because she is female? Do we still do that? Aren’t most principals female now-a-days? Was the last principal also discriminated against? Is that why she left? Why DID she leave? I know the mommies in Queen Anne are very happy with her.

  • GreatSoFar February 15, 2012 (4:22 pm)

    WSTroll, discrimination because Lute-Ervin is african-american.

    Bullying – with last year’s assistant principal, there was no bullying. But she left.

    Overall, it was an excellent school in our experience, through 6/11.

    Flygirl, conspiracy theory…yeah, I get it. It IS interesting that a group of Lafayette parents was opposed to the whole Boren STEM chimera, while a Schmitz Park contingent pushed it the hardest (along with people downtown, I’m sure).

  • Suertuda February 15, 2012 (4:43 pm)

    I cannot help it but wonder how Lafayette has not been able to hang on to a principal in the last few years… bad luck? overbearing parents? inept staff? school district mismanagement? Whatever it is, I feel bad for the students.
    And please do not get offended, I am just as puzzled as anybody else…

  • Lafayette Mom February 15, 2012 (4:47 pm)

    Side B

    Lafayette is a very good school, but it has increased in size by 25% due to school administration errors. My child has been in the spectrum program and we are very happy with the teachers. Like any school some teachers are better than others, but I have heard good things about non-spectrum teachers in every grade. No school is perfect private or public. There is a strong parent group which is one big reason it is a good school. Parent volunteers make a huge difference to any school.

    Hoping for a principal with vision….we can accomplish so much more.

  • Nitro February 15, 2012 (4:53 pm)

    Hope Lutheran is great. Teachers, principal and great parents make school wonderful. Class sizes are good and the students they have a good engaging curriculum for learning. I encourage you to check it out and see if you think it will be a good match for your child!

  • Active WS Parent February 15, 2012 (5:54 pm)

    @ Momo3 — “high test scores and high pressure”??? I’ve seen a few other people talk about the high pressure and just don’t get it! My child is not in Spectrum and has no stress with overwhelming school work. Most teachers do a great job of splitting the class into different reading levels to help teach at more individual levels. I think parents at Lafayette want smart, well-educated kids. What’s so wrong with that? The district and state are the ones that push the constant test taking, not the teachers! And, as for overcrowding – why the blame the school for something they have no control over? The school is doing the very best they can do with the issue. Schmitz Park and Gatewood are also over-capacity thanks to neighborhood schools being closed a few years ago.

  • Dano February 15, 2012 (6:28 pm)

    “Greatsofar”…… You are VERY uninformed, and frankly, VERY wrong in your statements.

  • Suertuda February 15, 2012 (7:08 pm)

    Thanks for the correction Tracy, I thought Ms Turner was there for two years. My mistake.

  • Public School Advocate February 15, 2012 (9:42 pm)

    @Lafayette Mom, what specific “school administration errors” has caused Lafayette’s enrollment to increase by 25%?

  • Ella February 16, 2012 (12:44 am)

    As a close observer of the chaos at Lafayette since Jo took over from Virginia – I am relieved by this decision. Jo is probably a nice person, but a completely ineffective-disconnected leader. She made rash, irrational decisions in quick fire fashion, which clearly displayed her being out of touch with ground reality at Lafayette. The supposedly stay at home moms that someone referenced above are the ones that probably are the reason kids from this school will succeed. It’s the stay at home or working “only” moms-dads (who can’t find time for their kids) who thought things were ok at Lafayette since Jo took over.

  • B's parent February 16, 2012 (5:39 am)

    Apparently I’m one of those ignorant parents (oops, yes, I work, but that doesn’t mean I can’t find time for my kids ) who “thought things were OK at Lafayette since Jo took over.” Yes, messing with the morning dropoff routine really bothered some folks. But other than that, what are all the rash, irrational decisions that we are talking about here? Which of those decisions were related to the kids’ education (and were directly related to local leadership decisions, rather than district decisions)? My child seems to be doing fine this year, just like previous years. So what “chaos” should I be bothered by that is directly related to the principal and her decisions?

  • Anonymous February 16, 2012 (8:03 am)

    I think part of the problem was how the changes affected the routines of some of the parents, not the students. Student safety was an issue with the morning drop off and afternoon pick up routines. Having a change is going to take some time to get use to, period, no matter what the change is. So instead of bullying the principal into putting it back the way it is, give the changes some time to take affect and see how they impact the students. In Lafayette’s case, it seems as though the learning was not impacted, just a few parents’ daily routine. Who’s to say the same changes won’t occur with the new principal next year? We all know that those who it affects the most, yell the loudest.

  • Working but not checked out February 16, 2012 (9:07 am)

    No comment on the principal here…just an appreciation for your comment, “B’s parent”.

    Being tuned into and caring about your kid and their school and education is not tied to working in our outside of the home, working part time, or anything else. As a volunteer and active parent at Lafayette, and as a working mother, it’s so frustrating to see divisive generalizations thrown around like the one put forth by Ella. It takes a village to make our kids and schools successful, and there are many creative and powerful ways for all parents–male, female, stay at home, working away from home–to contribute.

    Those contributions, not solely the ones of Ella’s “stay at home moms”, are the ones that help kids, teachers, or principals succeed at Lafayette or at any school.

  • Coach February 16, 2012 (10:52 am)

    Ms. Lute-Ervin’s decision to leave is, without a doubt, a good thing for the school and for her. She was not invested in Lafayette for the long term, having been assigned to the school without any input from her or or the school. She was a bad fit from the start, as anyone who was paying attention would confirm.

  • Parent February 16, 2012 (11:02 am)

    Again, thanks to WStroll and Active WS Parent for proving my point. You can’t seem to help yourself.

    This is the type of constanct berating Jo dealt with every day from a core group of PTA individuals at Lafayette. I don’t blame her for not wanting to stay here. The disrespect and disdain she encountered from the first PTA meeting was shocking and those individuals should be embarassed (although I don’t think they possess that humility).

    We finally had a principal who cared about the kids and worked to do what was best for the school. PTA couldn’t handle that Jo didn’t ask for their permission. Turner let PTA do what ever they wanted; hence the problems with Spectrum, some teachers and PTA not understandingd their boundaries.

    Quick definitions for WStroll:
    Bullying – intimidator, tormentor, persecutor
    Interefere – impede, obstruct, hinder
    Discrimination – prejudiced against, treat differently or unfairly

    And like most bullies; you can dish it, but can’t take it.

    To be fair, there are lots of great families at Lafayette. Just steer clear of the PTA.

  • N.A. Neighbor February 16, 2012 (12:34 pm)

    Thank you, Parent, for reconfirming to me that the folks that try to stir up ugliness on blogs in topics that they really don’t know anything about are generally not the ones I want to listen to. You can’t seem to help yourself.

  • lafayette parent X February 16, 2012 (12:52 pm)

    It’s got nothing to do with race. Parents are equally upset with the new vice principal too. So please stop it.

    Further, I’d like to ask you all to stop with the divisiveness. Working moms want the best for their kids as much anyone and can still be up to speed with what’s happening at the school.

    Conversely, the PTA is not a mean girl clique with an agenda- other than the agenda of helping the school and making sure our kids get the best possible education and environment. I’m thankful they’re involved- consider what happens in schools with absent PTA organizations.


  • former lafayette parent February 16, 2012 (2:19 pm)

    Side B — My child has spent time at both Lafayette and Hope Lutheran this year, so I can speak to your question. I know of many families who have had great experiences with Lafayette, but ours was not great. We had some concerns with my child’s classroom situation and the current principal made it very clear that helping address the concerns of individual students/parents was not something she was willing to do. Hopefully that changes with whomever the new principal is. Hope Lutheran has been an amazing experience for us. Loving teachers, committed principal, supportive parents. I have nothing but great things to say about Hope.

  • Mary February 16, 2012 (2:24 pm)

    I am a Lafayette parent who was at a different elementary last year. Please stop all the negative, over-generalizing comments. I am part of the PTA and I work. Calling the PTA racist is absolutely wrong and inappropriate. I did not witness or hear about anything terrible from the PTA or Jo. All I saw were people trying to do their best for our kids. The school we were at last year seemed to run about the same–Lafayette is not the hateful place it has been portrayed here. I am disappointed by another change in leadership and I would like more information, but placing blame on either party is not helpful. Stop being petty and let’s focus on the kids.

  • WS pre-K Mom February 16, 2012 (3:39 pm)

    I am a full-time working mom and a full-time parent. I am VERY involved in my child’s education and over the past months have taken many days off from work to figure out this Kindergarten process (recently including an extra day not previously planned because Lafayette cancelled their evening Open House without notice).

    I have met a few lovely parents from Lafayette, and a few teachers too, who love the school. But if I only read these blog comments I would get the impression (perhaps wrongfully) that because I work I would not be welcome at Lafayette and should take my son to some other school, along with my time, dedication, committment and money.

  • george February 16, 2012 (4:29 pm)

    PSA – the school board closed schools amid “forecasts” of decreased enrollment in the West Seattle area. Many of us felt that was in error as we were seeing more and more families moving into the area. It was admitted recently that “bad data collecting” was responsible for the over crowding, but very few of us accept the school board’s excuse for not doing their due dilegence.

  • Public School Advocate February 16, 2012 (11:44 pm)

    @George, I am certainly familiar with the issues with poor enrollment forecasting, etc…which has contributed greatly to overcrowding within the district, especially in West Seattle. Based upon Lafayette Mom’s comment regarding “school administration errors” I thought “school” may have been in reference to Lafayette specifically and the school’s leadership did something to cause a unique situation. Doesn’t appear to be the case.

  • george February 17, 2012 (10:39 am)

    Yes, that could have been taken both ways.

    Always entertaining to see all the infighting from the sectors @ Lafayette. Rather insightful about the school. Don’t see it from the other school pops. I wouldn’t touch Lafayette with a 100′ pole.

Sorry, comment time is over.