Parents blame principal for teacher exodus from Saratoga elementary school
SARATOGA SPRINGS Some parents say the Division Street Elementary School principal’s leadership may be to blame for a high number of staffers leaving for other schools next year.
A few dozen parents turned out to a school board meeting Thursday night, and several voiced concerns about Greer Miller, who has been at the school for about 10 years, saying she acts unprofessionally toward parents and dismisses their ideas.
“In PTA meetings, I’ve seen her respond to parent concerns with disrespect, disregard and anger. And I’ve actually seen her kind of storm off instead of staying to deal with the issue,” Judy Soukup, who has been involved with the school for two years, said Friday.
Soukup, a mother of three, said she has held her tongue on the issue for more than a year but finally decided to come forward and ask district officials to replace Miller.
“I think there are some things she is very good at, but I think she’s not very adept in social situations.,” Soukup said. “She’s not good at putting parents at ease.”
Parent Nicole Bullard said district officials should determine whether Miller is a good fit for her job at the school, and if they decide she is, perhaps she could benefit from leadership coaching.
“I do think that she has a lot of positive talents and skills that she can provide in an educational environment,” Bullard said, adding that Miller is intelligent and has the “right goals” in mind. “But I believe that the message she employs in trying to achieve those goals is counterproductive.”
Miller did not return a call Friday afternoon. As a tenured employee, she cannot be summarily fired.
Soukup said 13 staff members are leaving this year, two to retire and the others to transfer elsewhere, mostly to other schools in the district.
“Many of those teachers took the same job at a different campus in the district,” Soukup said. “I think the number of people leaving makes a statement all its own.”
District Superintendent Michael Piccirillo said he believes the actual number is lower and said some of the staffers Soukup mentioned haven’t been transferred yet. But district officials are concerned about the transfers, too.
“It concerns us when a large group of teachers moves out of a building, and we want to understand why and take action to remedy that situation for the future,” Piccirillo said.
He said the district will have an outside company conduct exit interviews with the employees who are leaving or transferring to other jobs.
“We’ll do it as soon as we can,” he said. “At our July 25 meeting, we would hope to have some information.”
However, the district may not be able to make that information public, since it is a personnel matter, he said.
Parents have met with district administrators before, Soukup said, including meetings she attended in January and February.
“I feel like they heard us and they were trying to address the situation,” she said.
One sticking point between Miller and parents is her rules on parent visits during lunch. Before the most recent school year, parents weren’t allowed to eat lunch in the cafeteria with their children. When one parent requested it in a meeting, saying it was fun to get to know the child’s classmates, Miller responded “venomously,” Soukup recalled.
“She said, ‘We are not here for that. We are here to educate your child,’ ” she said
Parents are now allowed to eat lunch at school, but are limited to two visits per family a year, with no more than two adults visiting each time, which Soukup said is stricter than other schools.