Parents, staff to speak out for reassigned Washburn High principalby Tim Post, Minnesota Public Radio
ST. PAUL, Minn. — A half-dozen parents, and current and former staff of Washburn High School plan to speak out Tuesday night at a Minneapolis school board meeting about the recent reassignment of principal Carol Markham-Cousins.
Cousins was moved to a new position within the district after officials said several events during the year had created distractions at the school.
"We're sad and stunned by the turn of events that took this passionate, committed principal and reassigned her to some unnamed role." said Rich Renikoff, whose son attended Washburn.
Minneapolis Public Schools reassigned Markham-Cousins to work as a principal on special assignment. The district says she assists associate superintendents on a number of projects.
Renikoff maintains that's not good use of Markham-Cousins, who was hired to turn around Washburn High School in 2007.
"It would be wonderful to think they would go back and admit they made a mistake and reinstate her," Renikoff said. "We're sort of passed that now. So what we're trying to do is make sure that this committed professional is not reassigned into some place that's like retired on the job."
District officials have said no single event was the cause for Markham-Cousins' transfer, but haven't discussed the issue in detail because of student and employee data privacy rules.
Markam-Cousins herself has not publicly commented on her transfer.
Renikoff thinks the dismissal came in part because a group of Washburn parents wanted Markham-Cousins to offer more rigorous courses at the south Minneapolis high school.
But Renikoff maintains that Markham-Cousins was concentrating on providing more strenuous classes for all students, through her "Honors for All" program, as a part of the school's turnaround.
There were other high profile incidents that took place this year at Washburn.
In January, four students hung a dark-skinned doll in a stairwell. Some parents and students thought Markham-Cousins took too long to respond to the incident and then didn't punish the students who hung the doll severely enough.
After the incident Markham-Cousins said the delays were caused because she broke her arm, as well as a problem with the school notification system. And she said she dealt with the student who hung the doll with restorative justice, using the incident as a "teachable moment." Markham-Cousins' supporters point out that she was commended by Minneapolis Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson for her handling of the incident.
Another incident occurred April 8 when 250 students walked out of class to protest rumors that Washburn's athletic director Dan Pratt's job was in jeopardy. District officials said Markham-Cousins transfer was not related to the protest.
According to district officials, Pratt is being investigated for a personnel matter, but will not discuss details because of privacy issues.