Firing of Ingraham principal draws fire
Susan Enfield, interim superintendent of Seattle Public Schools, said Ingraham High School principal Martin Floe was ousted because Ingraham's test scores were stagnant and the school was the second-lowest-performing high school in the district.
Seattle Times staff reporters
Ingraham High Principal Martin Floe was ousted because the school's test scores were "stagnant," and the school was the second-lowest-performing high school in the Seattle district, interim Seattle Superintendent Susan Enfield said.
Enfield has drawn sharp criticism from Ingraham parents and the school's entire staff for her decision to dismiss the popular principal from the North Seattle school.
Late Thursday afternoon, about 160 parents, students and teachers showed their support for Floe outside the school-district headquarters.
Eight of them met with the superintendent for 15 minutes.
"We had a cordial discussion, however, we're as mystified coming out as we were going in," teacher David Edelman told the group afterward.
Enfield told the group Floe will stay until the end of the school year, an interim principal will begin in summer and the search for a permanent replacement will start in the fall, said Cindy Nevins, a parent and PTSA president.
When interviewed earlier in the day, Floe would not discuss the reason he was given for being fired and would not talk about school test scores. He said he is appealing Enfield's decision and has hired a lawyer.
On Thursday, Enfield released a breakdown of Ingraham's test scores, which showed that minority students did especially poorly on last year's 10th-grade high-school proficiency exam. For example, only 5 percent of African-American students, 16 percent of Latino students and 3 percent of bilingual students passed the math test.
"It seems like that's reaching for straws, for me," said Ingraham math teacher Peter Colino, who noted that this year's math test has not yet been administered.
Ingraham's test scores hit a peak in 2005-06, a year after Floe became principal, and since then have declined.
But Colino and several parents singled out Floe's efforts to encourage more minority and low-income students to take the school's rigorous International Baccalaureate (IB) program, a series of college-level courses. Colino said the number of minority students taking IB classes has grown substantially.
Parent and PTSA member Deborah Niedermeyer said school parents aren't focused on test scores, but "are more interested in a safe and supportive environment."
Parents describe Floe as a jocular, good-natured man with a self-deprecating sense of humor, who never backs down from a tough question at PTSA meetings and had an open-door policy for staff.
When Floe moved into the job six years ago, parents said, he worked to clean up violence and gang issues at the school. He made the International Baccalaureate program an attractive option not only for the district's top students, but also for private-school students. And he used his charisma to keep kids from dropping out, Niedermeyer said.
"His leadership has really turned the school around," Nevins said. Floe also had unusually strong support from his staff, Colino said. All 103 Ingraham staff members signed a letter supporting him.
Nevins said Ingraham's emphasis on giving all students access to higher-level classes was one of the reasons it made Newsweek magazine's list of 1,500 top high schools in 2009. It ranked 940th.
In a letter to parents, Enfield acknowledged Floe's "work in getting the school to where it is today," but said it is now " time to move forward with new instructional leadership to help Ingraham High School reach even greater heights."
Thursday, Floe described himself as "hunkered down" in his office. He said the outpouring of support for him, and the interest in his dismissal, surprised him.
"There's 900 people thinking I did a good job," he said, referring to the number of people who have joined the group "Friends of Martin Floe" on Facebook.
"I think you can tell, from the community response, the kind of community he has built and fostered," Niedermeyer said. "Golly, we all love him."
Katherine Long: 206-464-2219 or email@example.com
Information in this article, originally published May 12, 2011, was corrected May 13, 2011. A previous version of this story incorrectly stated that all 54 staff members at Ingraham High signed a letter in support of principal Martin Floe. The correct number of signers was 103.
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