Friday, August 12, 2011

MORE LEADERSHIP TURMOIL AT FLAGSHIP ARTS HIGH SCHOOL: LAUSD Principal Choice Rejects Post; New Search Starts Three Weeks Before Classes Begin

by Ryan Vaillancourt, Staff Writer, LA Downtown News |

Photo by Gary Leonard.

Friday, August 12, 2011 4:41 PM PDT - DOWNTOWN LOS ANGELES – The $232 million performing arts high school on Grand Avenue has had two principals in its first two years. Now, three weeks before classes begin, the school finds itself without a permanent leader.

Los Angeles Downtown News has learned that the high-profile New York arts school administrator who had been tapped for the job has decided not to take the position. It is the second time she has walked away from the LAUSD’s offer to lead the attention-grabbing school designed by Wolf Prix.

The latest rejection of the job by Kim Bruno, the principal at the lauded LaGuardia High School of Music, Art and Performing Arts in New York City, comes after a recent courting process that included in-person interviews in Los Angeles. She was not the only candidate, but she was the district’s top choice.

The principal position is due to be re-posted on Monday, said Dale Vigil, the local district superintendent for the region that includes the arts school, recently re-named the Ramon C. Cortines School for Visual and Performing Arts.

In late July, a selection committee consisting of parents, teachers and other stakeholders in the school at 450 N. Grand Ave. named Bruno their top choice to replace Luis Lopez, who was suddenly ousted in June. They also selected second and third candidates.

LAUSD Supt. John Deasy and Vigil approved the recommendation, but Bruno ultimately rejected the district’s offer, Vigil said. The district has appointed interim principal Chiekko Rupp, a retired educator, to open the school in September and remain there until a permanent leader is chosen, Vigil said.

It is unclear why Bruno, who could not immediately be reached for comment, backed out. When asked what could have caused the rejection, Vigil said, “You’d have to talk to her. I was very supportive of the committee and that’s who they wanted.”

NO PRINCIPAL YET AGAIN!: from cartoonist Doug Davis in the LA Downtown News in June 2009
HS#9 1

This is the second time Bruno appeared to want the job before changing course. She verbally committed to taking the position in 2009, when the district wanted her to be the school’s first principal. After visiting Los Angeles, she canceled, citing “professional reasons” in an email to Downtown News.

Vigil said the selection committee could choose to make an offer to one of the candidates who were ranked below Bruno. More likely, he said, the district will start over and re-post the position Monday.

Whoever ultimately takes the job will be the third principal in three years at a school that has been roiled by political and administration-related conflicts. First year principal Suzanne Blake was fired after one year, though no reason was ever publicly given. Parents who claimed Blake had done an able job and was adored by students staged a protest outside the district’s headquarters in July 2010.

Blake’s replacement, Lopez, was fired in June. Again, there was little explanation for the move.

Vigil said the school nevertheless has stability because four assistant principals, who oversee the campus’ four arts-related academies in music, theater, visual arts and dance, are all returning. Still, the district will look to quickly find a permanent principal.

“We’d like to have someone in place before September is out,” Vigil said.

Greg Schiller, a science teacher at the school, and a member of the selection committee, said he knew the group’s recommendation was “held up in human resources.” That was the last he had heard about the process, Schiller said.

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