Olentangy Valley News

Principal's resignation sparks frustration

By ThisWeek Community News  • 

The planned resignation of an Olentangy elementary school principal has sparked outrage among some parents of children who attend the school.

Now, some of those parents say they question the legitimacy of the district's principal evaluation process -- and they want to work to have the resignation reversed.

At a meeting last Thursday, March 14, the school board accepted the resignation of Wyandot Run Elementary School Principal Christine Armbrust, effective July 31, 2013. She has served as the building's top administrator for two years.

Armbrust herself submitted the resignation for approval. She will continue to serve as principal for the remainder of the school year.

But parents and teachers at the school said they don't believe Armbrust wants to resign. They said she is being "forced" out by other district staff members who disapprove of her administrative style.

Ten parents and two teachers addressed the board at the March 14 meeting, giving impassioned testimonials on Armbrust's job performance. Many others filled the meeting room in support of the cause, urging board members to table the resignation.

When the resignation was approved, the protesters stormed out. One resident shouted, "This is a disgrace!"

Board member Adam White cast the sole vote against accepting the resignation. Referencing parents' testimonials, he said, "She must be doing something right."

Armbrust distributed a letter to Wyandot Run families March 8, stating her intention to resign from the school and saying she did so "with mixed emotions."

She did not elaborate on the reason for her resignation in the letter, but said she enjoyed her time at Wyandot Run.

"I want you to know that it has been a wonderful two years getting to know your children," she wrote. "I have loved spending each and every day with them! It has been exciting watching them begin to develop into the leaders of tomorrow. Thank you so for that opportunity!"

Armbrust did not return calls or emails from ThisWeek asking for further comment.

School board President Kevin O'Brien said it's not the place of the board to reject a letter of resignation submitted voluntarily. He pointed out Armbrust didn't attend the meeting or ask for further consideration.

As for her merit as a principal, O'Brien said the school board is responsible for hiring and firing just two district employees: the superintendent and the treasurer. In all other personnel matters, it relies on the judgment of administrators.

He said Armbrust had been the target of criticism among the district's top administrators. She has undergone formal evaluations this school year.

"I think there's been a lot of performance-coaching that was going on in terms of the administration spending time with her and working with her," O'Brien said.

"We have to rely on their judgment and their professional skill."

Superintendent Wade Lucas declined to offer specifics regarding the administration's evaluation of Armbrust's job performance.

At the school board meeting, residents spoke for more than 30 minutes about Armbrust. They said her leadership has had a transformative effect on the school.

They said she has an "old-school," hands-on approach and is highly accessible.

Mitzi Amon was emotional as she described how her son, who has Down syndrome, struggled at school before Armbrust arrived. Now she said he has the right support staff to meet his needs and has made friends.

"All she did was remove obstacles and provide leadership and fairness to us and our family. It's been a perfect two years for my child," Amon said.

Brenda Eddy said Armbrust quickly and effectively intervened to stop a bullying situation on her child's school bus.

Jacci Snyder said after a student was diagnosed with cancer, Armbrust raked leaves for the family.

Other parents said she is an ever-present positive force in the hallways, in the lunch room and at pickup and drop-off times. Several said she makes them feel their child is safe at school.

"It concerns me that we're creating a culture in Olentangy where leadership and excellence is not recognized and appreciated. It's torn down," said parent Thomas Kipfer.

Before coming to Olentangy, Armbrust served as principal of St. Michael School, a K-8 parochial school in Worthington, for 25 years. Her employment was terminated in 2010, leading to similar protests from parents.

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