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Panel wants Glickert back as arts academy interim principal

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: A newly formed advisory committee at Grand Center Arts Academy voted Monday to ask that an interim principal be appointed – and it was clear that most members of the panel, and the dozens of people in the audience want the job filled by Lynne Glickert.

Glickert, who led the school from the start, learned last month that she would no longer be principal, though she says she has never been given reasons why the Confluence Academy board, which runs the academy, dismissed her.

When Confluence announced her dismissal, it also said she would be replaced by Louise Losos, the former principal at Clayton High School. But after parents registered their strong disagreement with both moves, the board said that Losos would not take over as principal, though it also reaffirmed Glickert’s dismissal.

At the same time, it announced that it would form a committee that would conduct a national search for a new principal and determine whether for the upcoming school year – which begins Aug. 12 – the school would need an interim principal or would be run by its two assistant principals.

The advisory committee – made up of three Confluence board members, four parents and staff members of the academy – met for the first time Monday afternoon. Chairman Paul Tice, treasurer of the Confluence board, said that while the advisory committee could recommend measures to the full board, it was the board that had the final say.

After lengthy discussion and several revisions, the committee voted unanimously to recommend that Glickert be named interim principal. While she is serving, the motion said, the board will look into the feasibility of splitting Grand Center Arts Academy off from the other four charter schools run by Confluence; once that determination is made, the nationwide search for a permanent principal will begin.

Tice said he would bring the motion to the full board to consider at a meeting set for Friday morning.

Compared with a fairly raucous meeting held at the school not long after Glickert’s dismissal was announced, Monday’s meeting was more respectful. Audience members waited until the public comment period at the end to have their say and broke into applause only once.

That occurred when Laura Hoffman, one of the arts academy’s two assistant principals, made an emotional statement on behalf of Glickert and the work she has done.

Nearly breaking down in tears, Hoffman said:

“Our kids deserve the very best. That’s why we’re here. That’s what we have to give them. I probably shouldn’t say this, but for me personally, that means we need Lynne back.”

The audience gave her a standing ovation.

Hoffman’s support was not the only backing Glickert got, from both members of the committee and members of the audience.

Parent Jose Pineda noted several times that with school starting in less than two months, the academy needs a principal who can step in right away and not lose any more time. Glickert is the only one who can take over without the need to learn what the school is all about, he said.

“There is a consensus we need an interim principal,” Pineda said. “If not her, who? That’s the question for the board.”

Pointing to the school’s location, with the Fox Theatre to the south and Powell Hall across Grand Boulevard, he added:

“Look at our location. This is an outstanding, once in a lifetime opportunity to have a school like this in St. Louis. We have to make moves that match that opportunity. Being without a principal is not one of them….

“We may still be here five years from now, but that window will have closed, and we will never have that opportunity again.”

While Tice and other board members gave no indication that they may reconsider Glickert’s employment on an interim basis, he did say at one point that “I don’t think anything is off the table.”

At another point, he added that hiring Losos “was perhaps a naïve attempt” to get a principal on board once Glickert was dismissed.

While the board has said Losos will not be principal of the arts academy this coming school year, she remains under contract, at $110,000 for the school year. Her duties have not been defined.

The first part of Monday’s meeting was devoted to discussing the Confluence leadership structure. It runs five schools. The arts academy’s sponsor is Saint Louis University, but the other four schools are sponsored by Missouri University of Science and Technology. It has put the schools on notice that they need to improve their students’ achievement scores.

Because the schools have two sponsors, they technically are two separate school entities, even though both are run by the Confluence board. Tice acknowledged the arrangement is sometimes awkward. He said the creation of the advisory committee was a recognition that some parents of arts academy students felt frustrated that their voice was not being heard.

But, he added, there are practical problems that must be addressed, including bonds that were issued for construction and renovation, before any consideration is given to splitting the two separate school entities apart.

“They can’t just separate tomorrow,” he said, adding that the process would take many months.

In the public comment section of the meeting, many parents spoke up in favor of Glickert, telling how she treated their children in a special way that they had not seen in other schools.

One mother put it this way:

“You get phone calls about all the bad things that are going on, but you never get phone calls about the good things. Here, we get calls about the good things.”

Another said that her child felt like a tornado had come in and torn the school apart when Glickert’s contract was not renewed as principal.

Erich Vieth, a parent at the school, likened the academy to a “big family, and if you have a big family, you can’t just take a parent figure out and put another parent figure in.”

At the close of the meeting, Doug Thaman, who heads the Missouri Charter Public School Association, said he appreciated the tone and respectful nature of the parents’ comments, and he added that by coming to the meeting and expressing their feelings, they were showing how charter schools really should work.

Dale Singer began his career in professional journalism in 1969 by talking his way into a summer vacation replacement job at the now-defunct United Press International bureau in St. Louis; he later joined UPI full-time in 1972. Eight years later, he moved to the Post-Dispatch, where for the next 28-plus years he was a business reporter and editor, a Metro reporter specializing in education, assistant editor of the Editorial Page for 10 years and finally news editor of the newspaper's website. In September of 2008, he joined the staff of the Beacon, where he reported primarily on education. In addition to practicing journalism, Dale has been an adjunct professor at University College at Washington U. He and his wife live in west St. Louis County with their spoiled Bichon, Teddy. They have two adult daughters, who have followed them into the word business as a communications manager and a website editor, and three grandchildren. Dale reported for St. Louis Public Radio from 2013 to 2016.