School district must switch principals, parents concerned
A mid-year resignation at Wellington Elementary School has led to a shuffling of principals in the Carbon School District that has parents in the east side of the county concerned.
Last Thursday, Wellington principal Kelly Martinez told district officials that she had accepted a job offer in Las Vegas with the Clark County School District and would be leaving. On Friday, students at Bruin Point in Sunnyside learned that their principal, Melissa Hamilton, would be leaving to replace Martinez.
On Monday, parents learned from district officials that Hamilton would be replaced by Leslie Jewkes, a 30-year veteran educator who now teaches fourth grade at Castle Heights Elementary in Price.
East Carbon and Sunnyside city parents gathered in en masse at Bruin Point Monday morning as district representatives arrived to present and discuss the staff changes. Parents stated repeatedly that they could understand Hamilton wanting to further her career, but were very upset about the manner in which their children where informed of the change.
According to Acting Superintendent Patsy Bueno, the choice to leave was Hamilton's. She reportedly sought the Wellington principal position upon hearing of Martinez's resignation. Her transfer was accepted immediately by the district's executive board. Again, the issue east county parents took is with the manner in which the message was delivered.
"My youngest thought she had lost both her principal and teacher in the same day," said East Carbon parent Tammy Edwards. "We are always told by the district that we aren't the last or the least, but in situation after situation they show us that we are just that."
"There was no twisting my arm to get me over here," said Jewkes, addressing her new staff Monday. "I am all in and I can't wait to be here."
Carbon District Elementary Supervisor Joan Atwood reported during the meeting that the district had heard rumors of Martinez's leaving as early as October.
"Our choice of Jewkes as a replacement was not a knee jerk reaction," she said. "People aren't beating down the door to come to work for the Carbon School District and we were so excited to have such a great replacement in house."
While educators at the district stated repeatedly that leaving students in the middle of year is difficult, that is exactly what will happen at Wellington, Castle Heights and Bruin Point. The district has scheduled a retreat for Jewkes and her new staff this week, hoping give them the opportunity to get to know one another in the middle of the school year.
According to several parents in the East Carbon and Sunnyside area, Hamilton's departure will be made all the more difficult by events such as last week's core curriculum workshop. In a week's time, Hamilton, using Facebook, teacher phone calls, local media and parent link set up a two hour program to inform parents in person just how their children's educational lifestyle was to change. It is this particular type of personal touch that may make Hamilton difficult to replace at Bruin Point. "I have loved working with her (Hamilton) as an educator," said Kara Maynes, a Bruin Point school community council member with two children attending the school. "She has brought the kids so far from where they were. There was a revolving door at our school and we didn't have anybody who cared about the kids. She took an interest in them immediately and changed our kids feel about education and themselves."
Hamilton's interest in local children is far from the only quality which has endeared her to the east county community. In the past year alone, the faculty and students at Bruin Point received two Title One achievement awards, one for significantly closing the gap for children who were not meeting Adequate Yearly Performance (AYP) and one for overall and consistent AYP scores.
"I think a lot of the children's test scores are attributable to her," explained Maynes. "She's made sure that we had teachers who stuck around. They didn't come, stay for a year and then leave for a different job at a bigger school in the district. She made them excited to teach our kids and the whole atmosphere at that school has been different with her around."
While the closure of East Carbon High School is several years in the past and has nothing to do with Hamilton's departure, in the minds of several local parents, the two events are bound by an attitude of indifference from their local school officials. According to Maynes, Hamilton's leaving amounts to another slight from Carbon School officials.
"No, I don't think our kids get a fair shake from the school district," said Maynes. "Losing our high school was very difficult not only from an educational but from a community point of view. Having a state-of-the-art elementary, with a great educator like Melissa made that loss a little easier to take year after year. The though of that slipping away is very difficult."
According to Maynes' 7 year-old son Kyler, Bruin Point students were surprised and upset by Hamilton's announcement. "We were watching a movie before lunch," explained the Bruin Point second grader. "It was almost over when she paused it, and let us know she was leaving."
From allowing herself to be duct taped to the school walls, taking the occasional cream pie to the face and promising the kids movie outings to Price for exceptional behavior and achievement, Hamilton has become somewhat of a hero for the kids at Bruin Point. Their tearful response to her leaving is evidence of that. Hamilton is what Maynes calls a "dream educator," someone who has a record of excellence in a area that often feels left behind.
According to Patsy Bueno, it was Hamilton's call to move to Wellington. She reportedly sought out the position when it was opened to educators after Martinez tendered her resignation on the morning of Jan. 28.