West Marin principal resigns

03/29/2012

Anne Harris is no longer serving as the principal of West Marin and Inverness Schools, where she has worked for the past six years. Harris has been placed on administrative leave until the end of the school year. Former principal Jim Patterson will assume the post in the interim, beginning Monday.

The superintendent of Shoreline Unified School District, Stephen Rosenthal, spoke with a confused and frustrated PTSA on Tuesday. “I know this news has shocked the community, and when I met with Anne it was a very difficult discussion,” he said.

Rosenthal said he spoke with Harris about her resignation after he and the board had received comments from teachers and community members.

“I have been in discussion with the board on several items for a while,” he said. “Yesterday I spoke to Anne. I had spoken to her on several occasions as to things that people were feeling. It was agreed upon that it would be best for her to resign. She did so. And we talked about it we found it would probably be best if I put her on leave for the rest of the year.”

The superintendent’s comments did little to satisfy concerns of parents, many of whom were visibly upset by the suddenness of the announcement and a perceived opacity surrounding the process that led to Harris’s resignation.  

“It does feel very strange,” one woman said. “I’m a manager and I understand personnel issues and I understand the need to have confidentiality, but in a school, it’s a community, and to have someone in a leadership position, who’s pretty respected in the school from what I can tell, leave that suddenly—unless there was something so egregious, that a child was hurt or something—that is just really outrageous. It’s hard to understand.”

John Hope, a parent of two students, was even more blunt. “You think you’re going to come down here and—What do you think’s going to happen? You’re just going to come and say, ‘Hey, that’s it’?” Hope asked Rosenthal. “What are you doing here if you can’t give us some sort of answer about it? We appreciate your time but we’d like some answers, too. It’s totally ridiculous.”

“I know it’s very frustrating,” Rosenthal said. “I hear your frustration and your anguish. But I think I need to sort of stop the conversation now because I cannot cross over some lines. We’re getting really close.”

Parents were also upset by the apparent dishonesty in the way the announcement was relayed to students: Rosenthal said teachers told kids that family issues were responsible for their principal’s departure. When someone asked whether Harris’s exit was in fact related to the recent controversy regarding a teacher, the superintendent remained tight-lipped.

“I know there are lots of rumors that have been flying and will continue to fly,” he said.

The PTSA was drafting a letter expressing their concerns to be presented to the school board.