Class president at Marietta High: Bring back our beloved principal

Credit: Maureen Downey

Credit: Maureen Downey

Livi Simone Grant is a full IB diploma candidate and president of the senior class at Marietta High School. She has been awarded a Presidential Scholarship to attend Florida A&M University, where she will study business administration and broadcast journalism with a minor in Spanish in the fall.  

I asked Livi to address the reassignment of the Marietta High School principal, a move that upset parents and students and led to a tense school board meeting this week. Speakers charged racism in the transfer of Forrestella Taylor, the first African-American to lead the school, to a newly created central office post.

Teachers rose to attest to Taylor's effectiveness as a leader. Still, a board motion to reinstate Taylor failed 5-2. Taylor becomes the district administrator for accountability and program support for Marietta City Schools, beginning July 1. Taylor will "provide oversight in our accountability practices," said superintendent Emily Lembeck in a statement, because of "the increase of district requirements from the Georgia Department of Education." 

Before her position as Marietta High principal, Taylor was the principal of Marietta Middle School for two years and the ninth grade assistant principal at Marietta High from 2011 to 2013.

  A petition seeking Taylor's return has already drawn 1,072 signatures. The petition says the principal decreased suspensions, fights and drug offenses and improved instruction at the high school.

Despite the outcry from students, parents and teachers, neither Taylor nor the school district has explained the rationale for the reassignment. What we don't know: Was it a promotion for a job well done or a reassignment due to some problem or clash?

Clearly, parents and students believe Taylor was yanked without justification and do not view the reassignment as a reward. Because school districts are limited by privacy laws, the statements from Marietta City Schools, including the following one I requested and received today, don't give details.

If this reassignment, indeed, was welcomed by Taylor and ought to be celebrated, she is the only one who can confirm that and end the public controversy. So far, Taylor apparently has not done so, so parents and students will continue their efforts to bring her back to the high school.

Marietta City Schools sent me this statement today: (In a followup phone call, the district spokeswoman said no official ever declared Taylor was not "a good fit" for Marietta High.)

As such, Ms. Taylor will have the districtwide responsibility of implementing and evaluating a variety of systems associated with District measures, in addition to providing ongoing support to K-12 district programs. This includes, but is not limited to, the coordination of MCS' strategic plan reporting procedures and the management processes associated with the Student Learning Objectives (SLOs) in collaboration with the Assessment Department – something for which Ms. Taylor has proven skill set.

With that background, here is what the senior class president wrote:

By Livi Simone Grant
I have always believed that what is done in the dark will eventually come to the light.
I am still looking for that light — that light which reveals truth. I, along with other students, teachers, parents, administrators and ministers from Marietta are seeking truth to why Forrestella Taylor, the first African-American to serve as the principal for Marietta High School, was reassigned (after less than one ear on the job) to a position at the Central Office.  
From my understanding, this new position is not one she was seeking. However, it is one that she has been assigned after the Board of Education voted 6-1 in an emergency meeting  to remove her from her duties and responsibilities as principal for MHS for the 2016-2017 school year. This meeting was closed to public comment.
It was determined by this same board that Mrs. Taylor is not a “good fit” for Marietta High. While I am sure a board can call an emergency meeting, I am  confused to what constituted an “emergency” and why it was closed to the public and the many of us who support Mrs. Taylor. I believe the board acted with input from some quarters, but the opportunity should have been provided for all to speak, not just some since this board serves the greater community.  
I know there are legitimate reassignments within school systems, but this does not appear to be the case with Mrs. Taylor who has made a real difference at MHS. She is passionate about her work, encouraging to students, and demonstrates a leadership style that is collaborative.  
As a student leader, through student government and other organizations, I have learned so much from her about effective leadership.  By watching Mrs. Taylor in action, students have learned to choose to do what is right, not popular.
I cannot speak for all MHS  students, but I can confidently state from my interaction with my classmates there is deep concern about what is happening to our principal. There is overwhelming support for her from our school and the overall community, as shown by the standing-room-only crowds at board meetings this month. 

The board should reverse its decision and reinstate Mrs. Taylor to her rightful position, a position in which she is committed to the service and betterment of every student at Marietta High School.

The board should do the right thing.