ST. GEORGE — Moving principals between schools might work for other school districts in the state, but it's a bad idea for Washington County, area high school students are poised to tell the school board Tuesday.
"This idea has caused quite a stir in our community," said 18-year-old Derek Staples, a senior at Dixie High School and its student body president. "We want to get the word out that as students we are adamantly against this proposal."
Washington County Board of Education members discussed the idea of rotating principals between schools at a recent work meeting, said board president Craig Seegmiller.
"We were really just discussing it as a board, trying to see what the pros and cons are. We wanted to be open as a board, so we included the principals in our discussion," he said. "The reality is this is just being discussed. We don't even have a recommendation from district staff. The rumors are way ahead of the fact. Somehow it became a done deal, and it's not."
Last week, Staples presented a petition against the proposal to board members and district leaders.
"We had almost 500 names on it. The faculty did their own petition," said Staples, who also delivered a personal letter to each board member outlining his position. "We've come to the conclusion that the school board is so concerned with numbers and efficiencies they're neglecting relationships."
Staples said he and other student body presidents would attend Tuesday's board meeting to voice their opposition.
"We hope to get something to happen on Tuesday. I know parents are opposed to this and principals are against it," he said. "Until we reach the point that this policy is dropped, we won't be satisfied."
Board member Carole Morris said she has researched the issue at length and thinks it could benefit the district.
"It's standard procedure in most places," Morris said. "Assuming this takes place, that we do it, I really feel it is a benefit to students in the entire district. All principals have strengths and weaknesses, and we're just saying that their strengths can be a benefit to another school. We're just trying to do what's best for the students of Washington County."
Rotating principals wouldn't require any alteration or addition to district policy either, said Morris and Seegmiller. "The responsibility of district staff falls on the school board," said Seegmiller. "Personnel changes are common, and movement will occur naturally. This really isn't meant to be a departure of existing policy. I guess the word 'rotation' seemed to get people's attention."
Don Fawson, who has been principal of Santa Clara Elementary School for 16 years, said the idea created a stir among his staff.
"I don't think, at least for our district, that it's a good idea," said Fawson, who believes he may hold the district's record for being principal longer than anyone else at a single school. "As you look at the whole unstable environment in the state and country, of all the changes in education and the amount of funding, faculties are struggling under this. There needs to be some element of stability."
Principals have traditionally stayed put at one school in Washington County, said Fawson.
"At least, from my point of view, I don't think we've been hurt by that," he said. "There's a feeling in my group (of principals) that most felt it wouldn't be good for them. But it's very, very hard to actually nail down the truth on this because of the emotion involved."
Seegmiller hopes that people will find a way to discuss their different viewpoints.
"If folks dismiss it out of hand or automatically agree with it, it's not really helpful," he said. "I really appreciate thoughtful input. I'm excited there are people who are so supportive of their schools and principals."
Supporting a principal works both ways, said Staples.
"Our high school is 92 years old," he said. "It's important we have someone who is familiar with us, who knows our names, our families. We feel we have that now. We are opposed to any rotation of our principal. We like the personal relationship we have and support the principal/teacher/student relationship."