This post is quite Philly specific, but I feel it needs to be discussed. Did Saliyah Cruz, the successful, dynamic principal of West Philadelphia High School, lose her position this week because she was simply too successful (not to mention received good press), and was stealing the spotlight from her boss, Arlene Ackerman? For those not familiar with the story of West or Saliyah Cruz, West Philadelphia High is a large, comprehensive neighborhood high school (meaning no entrance requirements) that was in total chaos a few years ago. Since Cruz has become principal, West has come off the "persistently dangerous" list, the climate has improved dramatically, and everyone truly involved in education (not those in the "echelons above reality") has been convinced that West was on the road to great things. In fact, Cruz had accomplished that Holy Grail trifecta of principals: She had the loyalty and admiration of her staff, her students, and their parents. West also had another unique and stunning accomplishment--its well regarded car club had progressed stunningly far in the Progressive Automotive X Prize (even beating out MIT). But, according to Ackerman and her minions, West's PSSA scores had not come up enough and Cruz had to go. It is true that West's scores are not good, but reading had improved, and let's face it, climate has to be good before real learning can take place. Cruz and her staff had improved climate--real learning gains would have followed. Sadly, Cruz and her team will not be given this chance. First, West was named a "Renaissance School"-- and the parents diligently went through the district mandated process to pick a "provider" (read outside company). But, when it came time for the School Reform Commission to approve West's choice, politically connected people (including a city councilwoman) literally whispered into the ear of the SRC chairman and had the vote tabled. Many people feel this was a violation of Pennsylvania's Sunshine Act, but, hey, it's Philly.
What is the REAL reason that West was put into more turmoil and is now losing its dynamic and dedicated principal? Well, people, it certainly is not for the good of the children as Arlene and her people would have you believe. I think that the real reason Ms. Cruz finds herself exiled from the community that had come to love her is that she was too successful. She is successful and beloved, and getting good press--and, in addition to all of that--she was making a real difference in the lives of her students. In Arlene Ackerman's cock-eyed world, this can simply not be tolerated. In Arlene's bizarro world, she will defend you practically to the death if you are the principal of another geographically named high school and you allow the climate to deteriorate to the point where one group of students prey upon another group of students and beat them practically senseless. If your incompetence and inaction as a principal lead to a federal civil rights lawsuit, you can keep your job for months and Arlene will defend you until it is discovered you have no principal's certification. But, if you are a dedicated, dynamic principal like Saliyah Cruz, and you put your heart and soul into your job every single day thereby making the lives of hundreds of children better, you will be replaced! This is Arlene's world, and unfortunately, many of the schoolchildren of Philadelphia must live in it.
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