Dozens of people showed up at Washington Woods Elementary School to rally for a reinstatement of Stacy McGuire as Westfield High School principal. McGuire recently was reassigned to director of alternative learning, a newly created position.
The rally took place for an hour prior to the June 23 Westfield Washington Schools Board of Trustees executive session, which was closed to the public and media, in which school board members were trained by an outside consultant about the performance of the role of the members as public officials. The executive session originally was scheduled for June 18, the same evening as McGuire’s father’s funeral.
Rally attendees chanted “Bring Back Stacy Mac” as school board members entered the building. However, school board members Bill Anderson and Rebecca Ogle were greeted with cheers and applause. Anderson and Ogle are the two members who voted against the personnel change.
McGuire was not present at the rally, but her mother, Carolyn McGuire, was. Several past and present WWS staff and students also were present.
Carrie Larrison, who previously worked as a guidance counselor at WHS and recently retired, led the rally. She said although the attendees would love to have McGuire reinstated as principal, the issue encompasses far more than McGuire’s reassignment.
“Since I just retired, I’m a little safer than the others in speaking out,” Larrison said. “This is a bigger issue.”
Larrison said she had received emails from past staff about how they were treated poorly by current administration. She also received emails from elementary teachers who felt oppressed and were told they were “not team players” if they spoke out against certain decisions made by WWS’ central office.
WHS Dean of Wellness and Westfield City Councilor Jake Gilbert also spoke at the rally.
“It’s just a terrible time to change for anybody, and it can’t be results based because our high school has amazing results,” Gilbert said. “We are the No. 1 in Indiana in graduation rate and No. 2 in college readiness, No. 4 in AP, No. 9 overall. It’s a great school system.
“We know the position (director of alternative learning) may be important, but we have a 98.7 percent graduation rate and there’s already two alternative schools available, so why we would need to move an effective leader from the high school without considering anyone else clearly doesn’t add up. Even if it’s an important program, there are a lot of questions about how are we going to pay for this.”
Gilbert said he knew teachers were recently told that budgets would soon get very tight and that it was uncertain whether staff would receive raises in the coming year.
“We’ve already been on lean times these last four years with all the adds at central office, so we are not really sure what’s going to happen, but we know with adding this position and all the things that go with adding a new school is going to cost a ton of money that we apparently don’t have, so why would we move someone right now?” Gilbert said. “We just want answers and transparency. We want to be respectful and honorable to all the leaders of our school district, but we want to know. All we are asking for is more transparency.”
Gilbert said the district just extended McGuire’s contract in October.
“So, what has happened between then and now that has caused this?” he said.
Gilbert said the group believes the school board did not have complete information about McGuire’s reassignment.
“We want to make sure they have complete information now so they can make the right choice, and they can still fix all of this,” he said. “We can all win here.”
The group is currently working on creating a coalition and a website in which teachers can anonymously report their thoughts and concerns with current administration. Both efforts are led by local developer Birch Dalton.