OPINION: Leschi Elementary Protests Black Principal’s Sudden Removal

On April 28, Leschi Elementary’s new principal, Lisa Moland, an African American woman, was abruptly removed from her position without explanation by Seattle Public Schools (SPS). The following is a letter by members of the Leschi Building Leadership Team (BLT), Racial Equity Team, and SEA Union Representatives who are protesting her removal, citing a history of SPS being disproportionately hard on Black administrators.

by Members of the Leschi BLT, Racial Equity Team, and SEA Union Representatives

Dear Denise Juneau, Seattle School Board, Clover Codd, Manal Al-ansi, Michael Strarosky, and Anthony Ruby,

On behalf of the Leschi Staff and Community, we are writing to document and express our grave disappointment with the lack of communication, professionalism, and equity utilized in the decision to abruptly remove Principal Lisa Moland from Leschi Elementary after less than one school year as principal (due to COVID-19).

The process for this decision-making has been demeaning, disrespectful, belittling, and racist to our school community. This includes an upsetting Building Leadership Team meeting with Mr. Ruby (minus Ms. Moland) on May 1, 2020, during which Mr. Ruby refused to engage with us. The meeting, scheduled for thirty minutes, was reduced to a five-minute statement by Mr. Ruby without any time for questions. Overall, there has been no space for, and no consultation with, those most impacted by the decision to remove Ms. Moland: namely staff, families of students, and community partners.

Educational research shows Black leaders are excluded from leadership and removed quicker than white leaders and receive less coaching and mentoring to deal with the macro- and microaggressions associated with working in this system — specifically in Seattle Public Schools.

Principal Lisa Moland shares the news of her removal with Leschi Elementary students and families at a school Black Lives Matter vigil on June 5, 2020. (Photo: Sharon H. Chang)

Removing Ms. Moland from Leschi Elementary after less than a school year has left the Leschi school community wondering: why is the district changing our administration during a worldwide pandemic with no explanation or communication?

Relationships are core to education, particularly in Communities of Color. Relationships take time to develop and are built on trust and communication. Building trusting relationships with students, families, and staff in order to achieve the goals set for our district is core to our current strategic plan. Changing the entire administration team within a year is difficult for families, students, staff, and community partners, especially during a crisis such as COVID-19.

We request a timely response to the following unanswered questions:

  • Why was Principal Lisa Moland removed? Honoring personnel confidentiality, how can you still give an answer to this question that supports SPS leadership strategy?
  • Why was the Leschi Community not provided the opportunity (again) to interview for the new Principal position and be a part of that decision?
  • The Leschi Community is diverse. How was a principal from a predominately white school selected? What criteria was used?
  • Will the Leschi community have an opportunity to interview for Assistant Principal? When? If not, what is the reasoning?
  • How is Superintendent Denise Juneau’s strategic plan, including the goals of Safe and Welcoming School Schools & Culturally Responsive Instruction, being supported by removing a Black principal from Leschi Elementary?
  • How has Mr. Ruby demonstrated proficiency in supporting these two measures, specifically at Leschi?
  • How have Culturally Responsive strategies and respect for the Leschi community been demonstrated during this process?
  • There have been no state standardized tests conducted under Principal Moland (due to COVID-19). What data (student growth or otherwise) was collected? How was data used to make this decision?
  • According to Policy 0030 passed by the School Board, the Racial Equity Analysis Tool should be used in making highly impactful decisions in SPS. According to the SPS website as of 5/1/20, it should be used to “…guide the development, implementation and evaluation of significant policies, initiatives, professional development, programs, instructional practices, and budget issues to address the impacts on racial equity.” Is Mr. Ruby familiar with this tool? When and how was it used in this decision? Please provide dates and those involved.
  • Staff are uncomfortable with Mr. Ruby and previously witnessed unprofessional conduct toward Principal Moland and other staff members. What steps will be taken to repair this situation?
  • Will Mr. Ruby remain the director for Leschi Elementary? If so, what is being done to ensure he equitably works with the next principal?
  • How will families, staff, and community of Leschi Elementary be engaged with respect going forward?

We expect and look forward to communication and engagement with the entire Leschi community, students, families, community partnerships, and staff going forward.


Members of the Leschi BLT, Racial Equity Team, and SEA Union Representatives

Correction: A previous version of this open letter stated that former Principal Jo Lute-Ervin was removed from Leschi Elementary. The Emerald was informed this is not accurate and reference to Lute-Ervin has been taken out. We apologize to our community for the error. 

Featured image: Teresa Stout, Leschi Administrative Secretary (left), and Gerald Donaldson, Leschi Family Support Worker (right), are part of the community team protesting Principal Lisa Moland’s sudden removal. (Photo: Sharon H. Chang)