About two hundred parents packed a Higley Unified School District board room Thursday night to complain about high turnover of teachers and what they believe is poor district leadership.
Parent Michelle Rigby started an online petition Saturday requesting anyone unhappy with Superintendent Joyce Lutrey’s performance to sign and demand her immediate resignation. If Lutrey doesn’t resign, the petitioners want the Higley school board to let her go. Rigby said the petition had 451 signatures as of Thursday.
Rigby, who has three children in the district, spoke to resounding applause and a standing ovation from the audience, saying the superintendent is misrepresenting the district. She called into question Lutrey’s doctorate degree. Lutrey defended her degree, saying she recently completed her doctorate. But Rigby said Lutrey has been using the doctorate title for several years now.
Stacey Christensen, who has four children in the district, asked Lutrey to step down from her position.
“We are asking you to act responsibly and do the right thing and stand aside for the sake of our children and let us as a community move forward from this point and reclaim the trust of our administrators, teachers, staff, parents, and community,” she said.
Earlier Tuesday, Lutrey told the Tribune she had heard about the petition, but that she hasn’t been able to think about it too much because she has been “swamped” with hiring new principals and teachers.
“Anyone who would like to schedule an appointment with me, I would really welcome that,” Lutrey said. “If parents have complaints, I do my best to respond to as many of them as I can, in as timely a manner as I can.”
She declined to comment further about the parents’ concerns.
During the board meeting, associate superintendent Denise Birdwell said that 80 teachers are leaving the district this school year; 97 left last school year. Six administrators are also leaving the district this school year. She said the district has begun to track information on why staff is leaving.
“We want to give ourselves a brutal look,” she said.
Twenty-seven percent left to work in another school district according to an exit survey sent out to former staff.
Another parent, Michelle Dalton, said a superintendent is needed who is “honored, revered, and trusted.” She also asked for Lutrey to step aside.
Several other parents spoke out against too many young teachers and unqualified principals being hired.
In the past few months, Assistant Superintendent Lynn Weed and Gateway Pointe Elementary School Principal Pam Nephew announced their departures at the end of the year. Both are going to the Chandler Unified School District.
Higley High School Principal Robert Mileham said in February he also will leave at the end of the school year.
The district created an associate superintendent position for Birdwell at the end of February to keep her in the district. Birdwell, the district’s former assistant superintendent of human resources, was offered a superintendent job in Casper, Wyo.