Several Bellaire High School students, parents, alumni and teachers showed up at Thursday’s Houston ISD school board meeting to call for the reinstatement of their principal, accusing the district of not being on time in removing him from his position at the school. morning the students started. academic tests throughout the state.
Michael McDonough was abruptly removed from his position as principal and reassigned to unspecified duties on May 5, just as students sat down to take the state’s STARR standardized tests with Advanced Placement and IB tests still pending.
The cardinal red was everywhere in evidence Thursday night as speaker after speaker told Superintendent Millard House II and the board that they want McDonough restored to his post. Several have threatened a possible walkout at his June 12 graduation if he is not reinstated and there to hand out diplomas. Several also said that McDonough was the main reason they chose to stay with the district and that the students and teachers might as well leave if he is not their principal.
Bellaire High School had come under fire after a report of bullying and reports that members of the baseball team had taunted and made racist statements (monkey sounds and use of the “N” word) directed at a black player on the team. Westbury High’s opponent during a game. At a subsequent NAACP Houston meeting, several people called for baseball coach Nick Ozuma to be fired. Ozuma and assistant Robert Manuel have also been reassigned while HISD conducts an investigation into the allegations.
“Our class has been through a lot in the last few years,” senior Madison Hartzog told the board. “Now, in the midst of STARR, AP, IB testing, as well as final exams, end-of-year activities, and major milestones from the last year, you have eliminated our principal. Everyone has noticed his absence. Please bring him back. We need him back on campus. Class of 2022 deserves to have him there to finish out the year.”
Other students spoke of McDonough’s “positivity,” his frequent wandering in the halls and his attendance at extracurricular events, saying he knows everyone’s name on the campus of more than 3,000 students.
Levi Fox, a budding statistician, conducted his own survey of 382 older adults and said that more than 99 percent of those who responded said they would be willing to protest McDonough’s removal. “Bellaire is a family. We support Mr. McDonough in spirit, strength and numbers.”
Teacher Jennifer Blessington, a 17-year-old teacher (and young adult author) who spent the past six years at Bellaire, noted, “Bellaire is a diverse Title I public high school. Forty-five percent of our student body is economically disadvantaged Just in raw numbers we serve more needy students than most HISD campuses I can tell you that our beloved principal empowers us to serve these children because he knows they deserve the best.
“On my first day at Bellaire, he told us that Bellaire is the school for teachers who like to swim deep,” he said.
“The removal of our principal has been disruptive and has disrupted the continuity of learning for our community. The day he was removed, teachers received annoying emails and robocalls throughout the school day with children in front of us. Children were asking us what was happening; we had no idea how to respond. We haven’t even been given the courtesy of a staff meeting. I can’t understand why this district that claims to want to increase enrollment and attract top talent would eliminate one of the most effective leaders on one of HISD’s most effective campuses. We need a quick and fair resolution.”
The Rev. James Dixon, president of the Houston chapter of the NAACP, was one of the speakers Thursday, saying he understood the concerns of speakers who preceded him, but praised the board for its “independent investigation” into the matter. Dixon said he was the first black quarterback at Waltrip in 1981 and faced the same conditions the Westbury player experienced. He asked that everyone “let the results of the investigation speak for themselves.”
But most of the comments echoed what social worker Marnie Hylton had to say:
“As a school social worker at the high school level in HISD, I am appalled at the timing of his removal. This is the end of possibly the most difficult year on record for students across the city in terms of readjustment, motivation, connection, loneliness , depression, anxiety, fights on campus and suicidal ideation,” said Marnie Hylton. “It was in the middle of STAFF, AP and IB exams. It was a few weeks away from graduation. It was also in the middle of Teacher Appreciation Week.
“From what I can see, there was no consideration for teachers who received this news in the middle of instruction. This is not acceptable. It seems clear to me that the decision to remove Principal McDonough at this time did not consider the effect on students. ”