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Glickert will return as interim principal at arts academy

This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: This article first appeared in the St. Louis Beacon: Lynne Glickert, whose dismissal as principal of Grand Center Arts Academy prompted a storm of protest from angry parents, will be back at the school for up to one year as interim principal while a national search begins for a permanent one.

In an announcement by the school late Wednesday afternoon, Sonya Henry, chair of the board of Confluence Charter Schools, said that the decision not to renew Glickert’s contract, which was attributed to “philosophical differences,” had not been made lightly.

“We’ve reiterated with Ms. Glickert our concerns and will work more closely with her throughout this interim period to address them,” Henry said. “But together, Ms. Glickert and the board also recognize that as an organization we can collaborate more, and in doing so we can improve the school, its leadership and governance.”

In the statement, Glickert, who had maintained all along she would welcome returning to the school despite the board’s refusal to renew her contract, thanked the board for the renewed opportunity.

“There is still much to be done to get GCAA ready for school on Aug. 12,” she said, “and I look forward to getting back to work. I can assure the board, the GCAA staff, parents and the incredibly talented GCAA students that I am committed, as much as I have ever been, to continue building on the many successes of this young school.

“I will work to build on this foundation, especially as the school board evaluates governance going forward. GCAA’s successes to date are not mine, they are ours; we did this together. I am eager to work with all stakeholders as we continue the challenge but joyful work of inspiring excellence in the visual and performing arts, while deepening our commitment to core academics.”

Glickert will be paid $106,080 for her job as interim principal, up from her previous salary of $104,000.

Rhonda Holt, the president of the school’s Parent Association, which had been active in protesting the earlier decision about Glickert, said in the statement:

“I would like to thank the board for listening to our concerns and responding to our community by reevaluating the best way to successfully meet the needs of GCAA’s distinctive educational programs and school culture. We remain committed to addressing the need for transparency in charter school governance and look forward to working with the board and our sponsor, Saint Louis University, through the newly created GCAA Advisory Committee.”

Doug Thaman, who heads the Missouri Charter Public School Association, said in a statement:

“This decision by the Confluence board shows that they were responsive to the strong reaction over their original decision from parents and the greater GCAA community. Although this has been a stressful time for all stakeholders it really demonstrates the ‘democracy in action’ aspect of the charter school model.

“This is not a board who has given up their role of governance but a board who has embraced their role as representatives of the school community.  We applaud them for their diligence and commitment.”

The Confluence board, which runs the arts academy as well as four other charter schools in St. Louis, had informed Glickert on May 31 that her contract would not be renewed. Parents, staff and others were told of the decision at the same time that the board said it was hiring Louise Losos, former principal at Clayton High School, to be principal.

But when the news broke, angry parents and students denounced both decisions. The board met quickly and announced on June 6 that while it had reaffirmed its decision that Glickert would not be back, it had also decided that Losos would not serve as principal after all. She remains under contract with Confluence, at $110,000, but her precise duties have not been defined.

As part of its reaction to the criticism over Glickert, the board set up an advisory committee made up of board members, parents and staff members of the arts academy. At its meeting on June 17, it passed a motion that Glickert should return as interim principal.

It also asked the board to study the possibility of splitting Grand Center Arts Academy off from the other four Confluence schools and resolving that governance question before searching for an interim principal.

At a full board meeting last Friday, that motion evolved into one to study whether one person should be hired who would have responsibility over all five schools, rather than splitting the academy off from the others. The board went into closed session to discuss the idea of an interim principal and who it might be, but after 45 minutes Henry said no decision had been reached.

Another closed meeting was held on Monday, when the moves that were announced Wednesday presumably were made. Under Missouri’s sunshine law, the results of votes taken during a closed meeting have to be disclosed within 72 hours.

At last week’s board meeting, it was announced that three students had given notice that they would be leaving the arts academy, but other parents had said they would wait until they saw the outcome of the situation involving Glickert before deciding whether their children would return in August.

Glickert is the founding principal of the arts academy, which just completed its third year. It began with grades 6 and 7 and has added a grade each year. By 2016, it plans to have students through 12th grade.

After starting in quarters in the Third Baptist Church in Grand Center, the school moved into renovated space across from Powell Hall in 2011.

Glickert has said she was shocked when she went in for what she thought would be her performance review to be told that she was out of a job. She signed an affidavit asking the board to discuss publicly the philosophical differences that were cited as the reason for her dismissal, but Confluence responded that it would not deviate from its policy of not discussing personnel matters in public.

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.