Some parents of Ames School students are speaking out and organizing in support of Ames School Principal Colleen Lieggi, who resigned under pressure last month.
The parents started a “We Support Our Principal” Facebook page and some have even gone door to door seeking signatures on a petition in support of Lieggi. At last week’s school board meeting one parent said they had gathered about 105 signatures.
On April 16, two Ames parents spoke out in support in Lieggi during the public comment portion of the school board meeting. They asked the school board to rescind its acceptance of Lieggi’s resignation.
Brooke Schwarz, the parent of an Ames fourth-grader and the former president of the Ames PTA, delivered an impassioned and emotional statement in support of Lieggi.
“Over the past few days I’ve been approached by many Ames parents about how devastated they are to lose Colleen,” Schwarz told the school board. “Parents feel that the Board of Ed let the Ames community down and that our voices were not heard. If they had been, Colleen’s contract would have been renewed.”
Lieggi has been under fire since last fall, when the Landmark reported that she played a role in a 2011 attempt to fire a part-time teacher at Ames. Lieggi reported to police that her daughter had said the teacher touched her inappropriately. Lieggi also reported sexual abuse allegations against a Riverside family and her ex-husband. Riverside police and other law enforcement authorities investigated and determined that all the allegations were unfounded. The teacher ultimately resigned after the school board agreed to pay her for the rest of the year and she agreed not to sue the district.
Schwarz, who has two other children who have graduated from Ames, suggested that the school board had been intimidated by Lieggi’s opponents and that Lieggi’s reputation was smeared in an unfair campaign to get rid of her.
“I can’t understand why the board would allow this poor little smear campaign to happen,” said Schwarz. “There’s been inflammatory articles and opinions about Colleen and they got exactly what they wanted.
“Now on top of all that our school has lost its principal and Colleen is out of a job. After 12 years of putting her heart and soul into Ames School, I can’t believe that this is all she has to show for it.”
Schwarz and other Lieggi supporters say that she has been a wonderful principal at Ames, boosting test scores, developing innovative programs and fostering a compassionate environment.
“She has so much energy and passion and creativity that she brings in every day,” Schwarz said. “She has inspired a staff of truly gifted and dedicated teachers, and fostered an open and supportive environment where teachers, students and parents work together.”
Vicki Manchen, another Ames parent, also spoke in support of Lieggi at the school board meeting. Manchen said that many Ames parents were shocked that the school board essentially forced Lieggi to resign instead of renewing her contract.
“We were blindsided by the action, Colleen resigning,” Manchen said. “We thought we were safe.”
Jennifer Kaiser is another Ames parent and former Ames PTA president who is disappointed by Lieggi’s departure.
“She’s filled Ames with gifted, talented teachers,” Kaiser said. “She has fostered an open and supportive environment where the parents and the teachers and the students all work together.”
But not all Ames parents are sad to see Lieggi go. Some are happy that the situation that had hung over the school like a dark cloud for six months has been resolved.
“It’s unfortunate that the petition came about,” said Ames parent Randy Brockway, who was elected to the District 96 school board two weeks ago and will take office on May 7.
“I was hoping that the door would have been closed with her resignation and the healing would begin. Me and my wife are ready to move on and put this thing behind us.”
In school board elections two weeks ago two incumbents who had at one time voiced some support for Lieggi were defeated and replaced by candidates who ran, in part, because they were disturbed at how the school board was handling the Lieggi situation. The three newly elected board members are not supportive of Lieggi.
But even current school board members appear to have little interest in reconsidering Lieggi’s resignation.
“It has been accepted,” Kodama said. “I don’t expect it to be revisited, but I’m just one member on the board.”
School board Vice President Art Perry said much the same thing.
“I don’t expect to revisit that issue,” Perry said. “I don’t expect that on either side there would be any revisiting it.”
Kodama said that the board has known throughout the last six months that some parents strongly support Lieggi.
“I appreciate the comments,” Kodama said. “I appreciate the willingness to express their thoughts and their concerns openly. We definitely heard their position before, throughout the process, their support for Colleen.”