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Thursday, June 1, 2017

FCPS official will consider parents' concerns about leadership at Mason Crest Elementary School

Region 2 Assistant Superintendent Fabio Zuluaga (left) and Region 2 Executive Principal Jay Pearson speak to parents at Mason Crest Elementary School. 
Fabio Zuluaga, the Fairfax County Public Schools assistant superintendent for Region 2, told several dozen parents at a meeting at Mason Crest Elementary School May 31 that he would address their concerns about the principal selection process for the school.

Zuluaga agreed to review the resume of Sherry Shin, the parents’ choice for the principal position, and ask the FCPS assistant superintendent for human resources to see if the requirements for principal candidates could be interpreted more broadly to thus allow Shin to apply for the job. He also agreed to delay the June 6 application deadline for a week or two.

The announcement last month that Brian Butler, Mason Crest’s much-admired principal, has accepted a new job in the FCPS central office and that assistant principal Diane Kerr is retiring set off alarm bells for parents concerned that the school’s quality could decline.

Under the leadership of Butler, Kerr, and Shin, Mason Crest developed an international reputation as a highly successful, award-winning Professional Learning Community (PLC) school. Parents are worried that a new principal not as experienced with or as committed to the PLC model might not carry on with that approach. PLC schools stress teacher collaboration and teamwork in taking collective responsibility for all students.

Many parents and teachers would like to see Shin given an opportunity to apply for the position of principal, as they trust her to continue the PLC approach. However, FCPS rules require candidates for principal to have three years of administrative experience. Shin has only been assistant principal for two years. That means she can’t even be interviewed for the job.

At the meeting, parents urged Zuluaga to reconsider that rule. “The process is flawed. It excludes people who could be a good match,” said one parent.

Shin would provide continuity at a time when the other top leaders at the school will be new, said another parent. “Continuity with our team is an overwhelming priority.”

Shin has three master’s degrees and meets nearly all of the qualifications for the job, so that should be equivalent to the three-year requirement, someone else suggested.

Zuluaga promised to follow up on those concerns. Mason Crest is a “super organized and highly effective school,” he said. “I understand the anxiety.”

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