Thursday, December 2, 2010

UPDATED: It's the Principal of the Thing

Ann Arbor Open parents received an email today from Naomi Zikmund-Fisher, the Ann Arbor Open principal, saying that she is taking a leave of absence for the 2011 calendar year (January to December) to finish graduate school.

Of course the next question is: who is the interim principal?
The email continues:
For the month of January, Kit Flynn [Ann Arbor Open media specialist] will be filling in as Interim Principal.  Kit has served well in this position many times before and I am very grateful to her for her willingness to step up once again.  We are extraordinarily fortunate to have someone so skilled and so willing to help on our staff.

At the end of first semester, Tamber Woodworth will become the Interim Principal for the remainder of the school year.  Tamber is currently the Interim Principal at Pioneer High School.  As you may have heard, Pioneer Principal Michael White is returning from military duty in January, and Tamber is retiring in June.  This leaves her available to fill our vacancy beginning at the end of January.  The district will then make a decision about an Interim Principal for the fall months.
(Emphasis added.) 
So, hey...what is wrong with this picture?

First, as far as Ann Arbor Open staff goes...
I'm happy that Naomi Zikmund-Fisher has the opportunity to take a leave of absence to go back to school. In addition, I think Kit Flynn is an amazing media specialist (I'm very serious about this) and a very competent administrator--and, as Naomi points out, she has filled in as interim principal in the past.

However, if you're following along, you will recognize that this plan requires--not one, not two, but three principals in one year.

As far as Tamber Woodworth is concerned...I don't know her, but I'm sure she's a capable principal. But she's already announced a June retirement date, and she can't leave her current position until the end of the first semester, when Michael White returns to Pioneer.

In fact, it is the principle of the thing: There is no reason that any school in the district--barring a series of unfortunate medical leaves--should have three principals in one year!

Unfortunately, it doesn't serve our students or teachers well to have three interim principals. I have another idea. Let's find Ann Arbor Open an interim principal who can serve in that position for a full calendar year. I am quite sure that the district can find a worthy position for Tamber Woodworth.

Is that too much to ask?

We should, after all, have some principles, but only one principal.

UPDATE 12/5/2010

Over the weekend, Ann Arbor Open parents got another letter, this time from Tamber Woodworth. It explains her interest in alternative education, and I believe she is sincere. (I also have talked to some friends who thought she did a good job at Pioneer.) The letter also explains:
Unfortunately, I will have to honor a statutory time-limited extension of my retirement, under which I must conclude my employment by June 30.
So, that explains why she needs to leave this June--she accepted the early retirement offer from last spring.

In other words, this letter from the school administration misses the point: it's not about whether Tamber Woodworth can convince parents that she would be a good interim principal. She cannot serve through December because she is required to retire and that cannot be changed.

No school should have three principals in a calendar year.

To share that view with the administration, write:

Superintendent Robert Allen: or 994-2230
Deputy Superintendent for Instructional Services Leeann Dickinson Kelly: or 994-2209
Board of Education (all in one fell swoop!):

Tell them that one interim principal is enough!


  1. Perhaps the larger, and unanswered question here is *why* a principal is taking the full-time leave to pursue a degree that seems more related to a side-career--that of "crisis consultant"--than to her duties as principal? Is this a step toward taking a 'central administration' position with AAPS, as a fulltime crisis manager or some such, and the community at Ann Arbor Open has to sit by and watch it happen with a series of interim principals and the unsettling feeling of not knowing what happens next in terms of school leadership? Is this with the 'blessings' of the AAPS?

  2. I think that is a *great* question--and obviously an unanswered one.
    Will Naomi Zikmund-Fisher return? She does have an interest in crisis consulting and in fact her own blog about it. (She may not even know the answer to that, and in addition, the administrator's contract guarantees her a job in the district but not necessarily at Ann Arbor Open.)

    All I will say is that the administrators' contract (and I believe the teachers' contract too) do give the opportunity to take administrative leave for education, and although it's sometimes inconvenient, it is also--in my opinion--very often a good thing. It allows people to learn new skills and move into new fields, and I think if more teachers and administrators took advantage of this, we might have fewer burned-out teachers and administrators.

  3. Just to further point out:
    Ms. Zikmund-Fisher not only has a blog about crisis management, but also a website advertising her apparent side-job as a crisis consultant.

    It can be found at
    and she advertises all her available services in this domain, her fees, and her qualifying experiences.

    There is a link to the main page of this consultant-business on her principal's page on the AAPS website for AAO. I find this incredibly troubling. I do not know what the official position of the AAPS is on promoting one's 'other' job using links from their school websites, but I find it particularly unseemly given that leave is being taken for the purpose of earning a credential that might well serve to increase 'business' in that (presumably it is "moonlighting" and not "daylighting"?!) linked-to extra career.
    As the letter from Interim Superindendent Allen nicely states, the issues of 'fit' between a principal and an alternative school in particular are of great importance. While I appreciate the importance of crisis response to schools and school districts, I don't know that Ann Arbor Open is particularly well-served as a community by an administrator whose extra-curricular energies are so solidly focused on this domain.

    I do agree, to be clear, that Kit Flynn will be very able to serve the students, teachers, and parents in Zikmund-Fisher's absence, although I believe we will all miss her amazing presence as a media specialist! And I have no reason to doubt that Ms. Woodworth will also do all that she can to make her short time with the school harmonious and productive.

  4. Update: Naomi Zikmund-Fisher has submitted her resignation, according to a letter she sent Ann Arbor Open parents last week.