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Five Principals Exit South San Francisco District

Two veteran principals are retiring, while three others are taking new jobs.

When the school year ended last week, students and teachers at five South San Francisco schools had to say goodbye to their principals, who won't be returning next year.

The district is losing two veteran educators, Principal Beth Orofino of and , to retirement.

“You always get a little concerned when you are losing some of the veterans,” said Bob Thompson, assistant superintendent of personnel. “The people that are leaving have done some great things.”

With the baby boomers retiring, Thompson said it’s not unusual to have a few retirements each year.

Three other principals are taking new jobs, he said.

Principal Adele Berg will resign to coordinate the Regional Occupation Program for the San Mateo County Office of Education.

Rona Jawetz, principal of , is also leaving to take a county position, and Michael Coyne, principal of , is returning to the classroom, Thompson said.

He said it is odd to have this many principals leave at once.

“My guess is that they are moving into positions at County Office of Education where people are retiring too,” he said.

Thompson said the exodus of principals should not be seen as a sign that there is something wrong with the district.

“I think folks are just looking at opportunities,” he said. “It’s not an issue where people are saying, ‘gosh I need to go somewhere else.’”

So far, the district has only filled one of the vacant principal positions. Milissa Banister, a former assistant principal at , was hired as principal of Skyline Elementary School, Thompson said.

The district is also hiring for three assistant principal positions, two at El Camino High and one at .

The search for school leaders comes as the district . The district is also looking to replace Thompson, whose retirement is effective June 30.

Board President Maurice Goodman said Thompson’s retirement shouldn’t slow down the hiring process, and the goal is to have all principal positions filled by next school year.

“The challenge will just not be to fill their shoes but to rise to the expectations that our parents and community has to educate the kids,” Goodman said.

Although the perception is that the district is experiencing a high turnover rate, Goodman said there are just a lot of high profile people leaving.

“We can’t speak to why people make the decisions that they make,” he said. “All we can do is wish them well.”

Goodman said the district could fill the gap created by the vacancies by bringing talented and experienced individuals to lead the schools.

“This is a great opportunity for us to build our capacity as a district and increase the experience,” he said.

KC Mom June 07, 2011 at 02:24 PM
I think it is a big deal for five principals to be leaving at once. While they are for a variety of reasons such as retirement or to pursue other opportunities, it is still indicative of a challenging administrative environment in SSFUSD that led to a frustration level that caused these talented individuals to look elsewhere and say, "Now is the time to leave." Especially telling is the choice of one principal to probably take a huge pay cut to return to teaching, despite the difficult economic times. People do not leave their jobs because of the actual jobs - they leave their jobs because of their supervisors. Having five principals leave at once is indicative of a need for a change at the upper levels of the District. If the administrators are frustrated enough to look elsewhere, imagine how the teachers who have to deal with juggling the demands of the administration, parents, and students on a much more one-on-one basis must feel! Sadly, I think the current climate is one where more people would leave if they could. SSF is a GREAT city, and our students deserve leadership that can change the District culture to one where talent wants to stay, and administrators, teachers, and students alike can thrive. Having gone through the SSFUSD from elementary school on up, I have experiences with three of the five principals leaving. While these principals have earned the opportunities they are moving on to, it is a definite loss for students in the SSFUSD.
SSFHS84 June 07, 2011 at 03:12 PM
There are not, "just a lot of high profile people leaving." Those that are retiring are doing so earlier than they had planned, and those that have accepted new positions are doing so because they are no longer able to work in a district where there is absolutely no support. Let's also not forget the blood bath that happened last year when many other administrators were fired and the entire cabinet replaced. Of course there is something wrong with this district!
Anon June 07, 2011 at 03:53 PM
The community is acutely aware of the reasons why the principals left - it's because of Adolfo Melara's lack of leadership and his ineptitude. The community is far too smart to fall for this article - as a mom, again, I am appalled and disgusted. Si se puede - recall the board - and let's do what is best for our children.
A Ticked off Employee June 07, 2011 at 05:09 PM
The board is not leading, nor is the incompetent cabinet. On a side note, there is only two people at the district level who are B.A. (Before Adolfo). What about the fact that all the members at the district are all men but one, who happens to be from Stockton? Aside from the fact that she is the only person at the district who is new and competent, how does the board not see this as a problem? Someone said something about bringing in more cronies from Stockton. Stockton is one of the armpits of Northern California, their comprehensive high schools are respectfully at an API of 626, 650, 620, 655 (not including their specialized academies) averaging at 637.75. Hmm, and we keep trying to get more Stockton people and move the district in the same direction as Stockton? Why would we do that when clearly this district is performing much higher? To continue on my rampage, looking at other districts across Northern California, we are not performing nearly as well. But we have great teachers, great principals, and we are continuing to lose them to other districts. This is the reason why they are leaving, because the right hand does not know what the left hand is doing, and in other countries, the left hand is the one you use when you go to the restroom!! Adolfo Melara, a man who has Napoleon's complex, is a bully, and the reason he does this is because he cannot lead. Talk to him. He can't answer questions or have intellectual conversations. Adolfo, get out of dodge!!!!!!!
sayitright June 07, 2011 at 05:37 PM
Most of you guys are just speculating. This has nothing to do with the Acting Superintendent. They are leaving for their own personal reasons and gains. Some are retiring because if they don't retire they will loose money from retirement. Some are leaving and will make more and most likely pursuing something that they want to do. One of the staff who left did not get what she wanted. Those of you thrashing the Acting Superintendent, especially those working for the District, don't you feel ashamed that you are participating in the downfall of your District. Adolfo Melara, remains calm and professional with all this negative publicity he's getting. He is still carrying on his duties and handling every criticisms in a very professional (educated)manner. The Board Members should give Adolfo Melara credit for this. Most of his detractors are "Educated" per say but acting very unprofessionally at this point.
proudwarriorteach June 07, 2011 at 06:10 PM
Dear Sayitright, It is not speculation when those leaving the district are dear friends whom you have worked with for decades. I am sorry that you have been misled as to the Napoleonic complex of acting superintendent; however I have witnessed his mysoginistic attitude first hand, so therefore it is not speculation. Luckily, those who have crossed his path and were "let go" or who's services were no longer needed" found other jobs. For many years South City school district was led with integrity and compassion for all parties involved; unfortunately through the boards decision to force Ms. Olds into early retirement things have changed. I wish the board would accept their mistake in hiring Mr. Cohen and remove all traces of his leadership from that office. We are losing more people everyday, who say "they just can't take it anymore." (and yes I have heard this so it is not speculation) So please, I beg of you attend this evening's meeting as well as Thursday's and voice your concerns, ask the difficult questions and let's get this district back on track.
A Ticked off Employee June 07, 2011 at 06:16 PM
People who work in this district are scared for their jobs. Good administrators have lost their jobs because of personal feelings that Melara and Cohen had towards them, totally unprofessional reasons. If you were to ask those who are leaving, it is not because of personal gain, it is because they can no longer do their job the way they have done them for many years. Have you noticed that until recently, teachers, administrators and classified employees have committed their entire careers to this district? This is not the norm, however it has been in this district. To say that people are leaving for personal gain, you obviously do not know those people personally. Adolfo might be a nice guy, but realistically, he is not qualified to do this job. And it is not all his fault, the board, who has no education experience, other than being students themselves at one point, continue to allow someone who really shouldn't be there, remain. I don't think people are being monsters, I do believe that people want their voices to be heard. Wait until tonight- I believe the board has opened themselves up to a huge can of worms, that they are not ready for, nor will they be able to answer questions without fumbling. It should be interesting.
Resident June 07, 2011 at 06:26 PM
You don't know what you are talking it is very clear. The idea that these people leaving is just what happen is absolutely ludicrous. The Acting Superintendent maybe the pawn of one or more Board members may be true. The fact that they let student cross the stage who haven't earned that right is shameful. It was not a last minute things as it was protrayed, the Board has pulled the reading of Borad Policy - Second Reading - BP 5127 - Graduation/Promotion Ceremonies/Activities for I believe the last three board meeting which would mean this has been in the works for six weeks. I thought we are suppost to be raising the education level of our children, what happened to that. Now the Class of 2011 will always be know the class of non-grads. Every student who went across stage people will wonder is she a non-grad, is he a non-grad, how do you really know who should have gone across stage. I really feel sorry for all the students who should have had their night to shine but instead where over shadow by this dark cloud. We all need to attend the Meeting tonight and the one on Thursday to watch the Board, we don't need a hand puppet for a Superintendent or an unqualified like the last one they pick.
KC Mom June 07, 2011 at 06:48 PM
Bringing up Barbara Olds as a prior Board leader (a great one I might add) is a great point. While external members, like the new member from Stockton, may have great things to add, let's not forget that the best Board leaders may be those who have years of experience within SSFUSD and know the strengths and weaknesses of the District intimately. Barbara Olds was a FANTASTIC principle at South City High School when I was a student there -- she was supportive of and inspiring to both the students and teachers, and we thrived under her guidance. When she moved on to the Board, she brought the same sort of leadership to the District board. We need that again...
Kathryn Barg June 07, 2011 at 09:32 PM
I am just glad to hear someone value educators who are leaving rather than pushing them out. Katherine Barg
A Ticked off Employee June 07, 2011 at 10:03 PM
I will add one last comment to the postings: for you parents of the non-grads who were allowed to walk. Your students were certified as having fulfilled ALL requirements as required by the state of California, therefore you should demand that since the board certified your non-grad, they should not have to attend senior summer school, and therefore should be awarded their diploma! If they said they did it and the board is putting their name on it, then your student deserves to be handed it!! Good luck to all in South City...I hope this district makes it through this incredible mess. To the school board, good luck hiring good, qualified administrators. If they are smart and they do their homework about the district, they will not accept a position here.
Kristy June 08, 2011 at 02:36 AM
Lies, evasions, tap-dancing and more untruths. Kind of like the meeting tonight where not one, but two administrators walked out because they couldn't stand to listen to the spin the board put on things. (read: out and out lies) Nice. If the board members won't accept responsibility, why would they expect the kids to?
outraged1 June 08, 2011 at 05:47 AM
I think Mr. Thompson is disillusioned if he thinks the resigning principals are just looking for opportunities. Wake up! There is something wrong with the district! Administrators do not like the direction our district is moving and it's having a trickling effect on everyone else - we are losing good, valuable people here. Why are you trying to hide the truth or play dumb & blind to what's happening ? What happened to being open and transparent? This district is losing so many "family" members, it's pathetic, yet we still keep the "black sheeps" ! Please, wake up & smell the roses!
pikaki June 08, 2011 at 08:59 AM
Someone please hire decent leader for our district. We have lost great principals and this is affecting our childrens education.
SSF Citizen June 08, 2011 at 02:10 PM
Principals aren't the only people who are leaving. Lets get the full picture as to what is going on in this district. The trickle down affect is causing many qualified and dedicated educators to leave the district as well. Who do you think the principals give it to when they're getting it from above? That's right, the people below them; teachers, staff & faculty. How many teachers have to leave out of sheer frustration before someone writes a story on it?
Lois Poblitz June 08, 2011 at 06:09 PM
I so agree with you, SSF Citizen. There has been a "quiet" exodus of teachers for years in this district. It is difficult to teach while under fire from some administrators, being accused of student abuse, and literally having spies for them. Those spies were given great power and administrators covered up. It is sad to see what has happened, especially in Special Education. For three years I went to Sacramento to write test questions for the students not taking STAR. I had to plead to get my students to walk across the stage at Graduation. I thank, with all my heart, for the help of Mike Coyne. I am glad he is going back to the classroom, where I am sure he will do more good than having to deal with this district. We had some good Special Ed leaders, but I question the tactics of this new one. TEACHERS are the ones that work 24/7 and my hat goes off to those that won't be part of corruption. SFFHS still holds a special place in my heart.........it's the stabbing in the back that hurts!
Charles June 09, 2011 at 04:34 AM
These Principals that are retiring and moving to County Office of Education is what you call "Double Dipping or Padded Pensions" ..... That's the real reason!
C June 09, 2011 at 05:05 AM
The two retiring principals are doing just that - retiring. The two who are going to the County Office of Ed resigned from the school district. Therefore, no "double dipping or padded pensions."
Maria C. Morales-Hernandez June 17, 2011 at 07:23 PM
I think everyone is forgetting an important fact here, which is our children! Forget the back stabbing, forget political differences and whose hiding what! What about our children's education? Let's focus on what we can do to fix the problem rather than blaming and pointing fingers! And as to acting Superintendent, Adolfo Malera--my hat goes off to him for keeping his cool and doing the best he can under all the problems that were left on him! Let's figure out a way of fixing the problem, does it really matter who is doing what to make it worse? Or whose fault it is? NO. In my opinion all the educators, adminatrators and the school board memebers (the people "in charge") get off your high horses and fix the problem! Stop with the insults and blames, do something about it. We all need to come together and work together so that our children may have a chance of a good education!
Francisco June 26, 2011 at 03:05 AM
According to the Colt Quarterly, El Camino's school newspaper, Ms. Berg is leaving because she disagrees with the new "one fits all" education standards. But who am I to speak, I just graduated last year.
Ahmad Jamil December 08, 2012 at 06:23 AM
Hello. Is Adolfo Melara a bad admistrator Heard he works at a charter school now Want information on him as I have relatives that go to that school

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