King gets overwhelming support from teachers on co-principal plan

Cottonwood-Oak Creek Superintendent Steve King. VVN/Bill Helm

Cottonwood-Oak Creek Superintendent Steve King. VVN/Bill Helm

UPDATE: In the original story, we quoted "a teacher" as saying "it takes a village to raise a child." The statement was made by Jennifer VanZilen, a parent of two children in COCSD schools and president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Dr. Daniel Bright School.

COTTONWOOD – Not all of Cottonwood-Oak Creek’s roughly 100 teachers spoke Tuesday about District Superintendent Steve King’s desire for a co-principal model at a reconfigured Dr. Daniel Bright School.

But to those who addressed the C-OC board, two principals are unanimously better than one.

C-OC school board rejects superintendent’s two proposed administrative leadership models


Staff Reporter

COTTONWOOD – Close to one dozen educators told Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board members to support District Superintendent Steve King’s plan for co-principals at one of the district’s soon-to-be-realigned K-8 schools.

In the end, the C-OC school board voted 3-to-2 not only against the co-principalship model at Dr. Daniel Bright School, but also against King’s backup choice – a principal/assistant principal model at that school.

“The board still wants to look at financial implications,” C-OC board member Jason Finger said before he, board president JoAnne Cook and board member Janice Rollins voted for one principal – and no assistant principal – at DDB. “We can see about adding things as we go.”

It’s true that much of Tuesday’s realignment talk at Cottonwood-Oak Creek involved money.

C-OC’s board members agreed that they and District Superintendent Steve King need to have a study session to review potential cost savings.

But the educators who pled their case to the C-OC board weren’t talking about money – they were talking about student outcomes.

“Equity doesn’t mean the same for everyone,” second grade teacher Cara Goff told the board. “It means everyone gets what they need. Cottonwood-Oak Creek School District has always been committed to this belief.”

Based on an expected savings by downsizing one principal from the district, board member Janice Rollins suggested an anonymous vote from teachers whether they would rather “support two principals at one school or $2,000 in your pockets.”

“If that’s what the staff wants, I probably could support it,” Rollins said.

Based on 26 bi-monthly checks per year, a $2,000 raise means an extra $76.92 per paycheck.

In February, the Cottonwood-Oak Creek school board approved the realignment of three of its schools – Dr. Daniel Bright (K-2), Cottonwood Elementary School (grades 3-5) and Cottonwood Middle School (grades 6-8) – into two K-8 schools.

Under the board-approved plan, Dr. Daniel Bright and Cottonwood Middle would become K-8 schools, and a portion of Cottonwood Elementary would be used as an early childhood learning center.

Including Mountain View Preparatory and Oak Creek School, the district would have four K-8 schools, which Finger said Tuesday was a “genius idea” by King.

One of those schools, Cottonwood Middle School, currently has an assistant principal. Before the board’s decision against a principal/assistant principal model at DDB, Finger recommended the board look at ways to utilize the district’s one assistant principal at more than one campus.

The C-OC board has not yet scheduled the study session.

-- Follow Bill Helm on Twitter @BillHelm42

Jennifer VanZilen, a parent of two children in COCSD schools and president of the Parent-Teacher Organization at Dr. Daniel Bright, said that it “takes a village to raise a child,” and that Cottonwood Elementary Principal Jessica Vocca and Dr. Daniel Bright Principal Nancy Erickson “have proven that they are both competent and effective administrators of their respective villages.”

Citing the implementation of co-principals in other countries such as Australia, New Zealand, China and the United Kingdom, the teacher also said that co-principals are “more effective leaders and have more job satisfaction and long-term stability with their positions.”

A shared principalship, she said, would mean a “more manageable work load, and more ability to focus on the most important aspect of their shared job: our students.”

Cara Goff, second grade teacher, Dr. Daniel Bright School

“Equity doesn’t mean the same for everyone. It means everyone gets what they need. Moving 1,250 students and 60 teachers [from three schools] to two schools is no small feat, but everyone is committed to that new direction because they know it is best for our students and families.”

Sara Bowers, sixth grade co-teacher at Cottonwood Middle School

With two administrators – principal and assistant principal – at Cottonwood Middle School, “my co-teacher and I have always received the help we have asked for. However, if our students’ only interaction with their administrator is one of disciplinary action, they are not going to feel supported in a place they spend most of their days.”

Rebecca Baker, third grade teacher, Cottonwood Elementary School

“Our students, families and communities deserve to have their teachers and staff coming from a place of strength and confidence. Fracturing of the administrative team at this time would impact staff morale.”

Cherie Heath, sixth grade teacher, Cottonwood Middle School

“We are no longer just teachers, but counselors, supporters and defenders on the front line of these children. We don’t have enough support now, and you want to take more?”

Angela Cox, second grade teacher, Dr. Daniel Bright School

“When making your decision regarding the co-principal model, please remember that this is not about money or consolidation with Mingus. It is about what’s best for our students and families.”


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