Truckee principal, other key district staff, leave
April 30, 2008
Just two years after taking over as the Truckee High School principal, Jay Cunningham is leaving the school district.
The Tahoe Truckee Unified School District Board of Trustees did not renew Cunningham’s contract this year, according to officials with the district.
“I was told it was not a good fit,” Cunningham said by phone.
The district is actively looking for a new principal, according to district Superintendent Steve Jennings. The application deadline for the high-level post is May 9, he said. The job is being advertised on the online job Web site edjoin.org.
Cunningham, a native Texan, said he achieved many of his goals but was not popular among some parents and the school was a tough one to lead.
“I’m a strict discipline person and a strong academic person,” he said explaining that news of his departure was “mixed” among staff.
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The district has a dual-credit program with Sierra College, where certain students are able to take college classes to replace a high-school class. Cunningham said he was not an advocate of the program ” particularly concerning the English classes, and because of that found himself at odds with some within the district.
While not commenting on Cunningham’s specific stance, Board of Trustees President Kristy Olk said the district strongly supports the dual-enrollment program.
Cunningham successfully organized a site council that did not exist under the past principal, populated with staff, teachers and community members, according to parent and vice chair of the council, Paquita Bath. The council helped with school governance, including “a transparent process for how financial investment decisions were made,” she said in an e-mail. She also praised Cunningham for his work on raising academic standards at the school.
Cunningham said those efforts raised students’ state-proficiency test scores 40 points during the 2006-07 school year.
In his first year he worked with teachers to address many students’ deficient math skills at the school, he said. A new curriculum agreement with the middle school had measurable results, he said.
“We decreased ‘D’s and ‘F’s by 40 percent in this school over a year,” he said.
Ultimately the decision to not renew the contract lies with the school board, according to Olk.
“During an employee’s two-year probation period, you can non-re-elect the employee’s contract without cause,” she said.
Short-term contracts with administrators are common within the education business, according to Jennings.
Meanwhile, the district is facing three other high-level vacancies this year, including Cunningham’s departure.
Assistant Superintendent of Business Earl Wammack’s resignation was accepted by the board last month, and his last day was April 30.
Longtime Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources Jo Lynn Wilson is retiring this year as well. Her last day will be June 13, although she said she would be available to help the district if needed after that date.
While Jennings acknowledged that the administration posts are “three of the most critical positions in our district,” he was optimistic.
“I look at it as an opportunity ” it is critical that we have strong people in those positions,” he said.
But the people that currently occupy the posts are, or were, quite qualified, he said.
Cunningham is currently interviewing and will stay in education, but plans to move out of the area, he said.
New school chief Jennings is just settling into his post. His first day was March 31, after being recruited by Tahoe Truckee from Paradise Unified School District.