Parents of students at Hollywood School in Brookfield protested last week the recent decision by District 96 administrators to have Hollywood’s principal act as interim principal of Hauser Junior High, saying the district failed to take their children’s needs into consideration when filling the position.
Victoria DeVylder has been acting as the principal of both Hollywood and Hauser since January, when she was chosen to replace former Hauser Principal Joel Benton, who resigned under circumstances never fully revealed by the district.
The dual position requires her to split her time between the two schools; she now spends only two half-days a week at Hollywood. Two teachers at Hollywood, first grade teacher Jenny Barhorst and second grade teacher Janice Johnson, fill in for DeVylder in her absence.
At a school board meeting April 18, a handful of parents spoke out against the situation, arguing that the decision was made without their knowledge or input and that having only a part-time principal at Hollywood puts their children at a disadvantage in the district.
Laura Tracy, who has four children attending Hollywood, said that the Hollywood parents were the last to know about the decision to appoint DeVylder interim principal at Hauser. A school assembly was held and a letter was sent home announcing the decision to the Hollywood community, she said, a full week after the announcement was made to Hauser parents.
Although Tracy said she didn’t believe this lack of communication was necessarily DeVylder’s fault, she felt the parents should have been kept better informed.
“The situation was handled poorly, but it’s not that she handled the situation poorly,” Tracy said. “We understand that things change, but some things have fallen through the cracks.”
Beyond the communication problem, Tracy also said there were concerns among parents about the school’s ability to run as efficiently without a full-time principal. For example, she noted, summer school registration forms were sent out at Hollywood later than at the other schools in the district.
Tracy said she also thought the situation could overwhelm faculty and staff members who have been asked to take on more responsibilities, especially in the area of disciplining students.
“When discipline issues come up, the principal is available to deal with them immediately,” she said, “but the teachers are teaching. They can’t just leave their classrooms.”
In response to those concerns, DeVylder asserted in a separate interview that the past few months had been going smoothly at both Hollywood and Hauser and that staff and faculty at Hollywood assured her they were dealing well with only having her at the school part-time.
“Everyone’s working hard to make it work,” she said.
Of Barhorst, Johnson, and Hollywood School secretary Diana Pescador, she added, “I think they’re proud of what they’re doing. They tell me, ‘hurry up and come back, but we’re doing fine.'”
She also stressed that the situation was only temporary, and that Hollywood would have a full-time principal again in the fall.
“[The parents’ concerns] are understandable,” she said. “Do you get the same level of service when someone is there every day as when they are not there every day? Well, no, but in terms of what happens in the classroom, yes. What’s missing is a central administrator. We’ve put that on hold for now, and we’ll start it up again when I come back.”
However, DeVylder’s return to Hollywood is not certain. In March, she announced she would be seeking the position of full-time principal at Hauser. She is now on the short list of seven candidates the school board is interviewing for the position. According to Tracy, the possibility that Hollywood could be left entirely without a principal so close to the start of the next school year also worries parents.
“We just feel like the children, parents and staff deserve a dedicated principal,” she said. “We want to make sure we get a qualified candidate.”
In the event that the board does choose DeVylder as the new Hauser principal, Superintendent Jonathan Lamberson said he was confident the district would be able to find an appropriate replacement for her at Hollywood before the fall.
“Hollywood School is a gem of an administrative opportunity, the kind high quality administrators would love to be associated with,” he said. “Without question, we will have applicants attracted to the position. We definitely want to see a full-time principal at Hollywood, and that will be the case for next year.”