School district looking for new Washington Middle School principal

Washington Middle School in Green Bay, seen May 3, 2017. (WLUK)

GREEN BAY (WLUK) -- There is a new plan to try to turn around Green Bay's Washington Middle School.

In a news conference at Howe Elementary School on Thursday, district leaders announced they will be replacing Washington Principal Dennis Christensen and looking for a consulting firm to partner with the district on turning around the school’s academic success.

This new plan comes eight months after former Washington teacher Kerstin Westcott first publicly raised concerns about safety at the school.

District leaders say Christensen has stabilized safety concerns at the school. However, they think a new leader is needed to speed up an academic turnaround at the school, which the state identified as meeting few expectations for the ’16-’17 school year.

“I think one of the important pieces is to recognize is this is a way different skill set and a very different individual than what we've ever had in there,” said Michelle Langenfeld, the district’s superintendent.

Langenfeld says a nationwide search for a new principal will start immediately. Langenfeld wants someone with experience in turning around academic success at an urban school. She says the district has put together a request for proposals for a consulting firm to partner with the new principal.

“The lead partner usually comes in and works side-by-side with the principal, as well as the staff, providing that coaching and support,” said Langenfeld.

It's a process that Fort Howard Elementary School started in 2013. Langenfeld says the turnaround is still going on, but the school has gone from underachieving to exceeding state expectations.

“I would assume that if this is as extremely successful as we anticipate that we will be replicating it as well,” said Langenfeld.

“I have zero confidence in the ability of our district to make substantive changes for our struggling school,” said Elliot Christenson, a parent of a child at Lombardi Middle School.

Christenson started an online petition this summer to have Superintendent Langenfeld fired. It had 166 signatures as of Thursday evening.

Christenson says he heard no real action out of the district's news conference on the new plan for Washington.

“The principal is not moving tomorrow,” said Christenson. “The principal is going to move at the end of the year. What if they change their mind? This is an announcement for four months from now. There is nothing happening.”

Principal Christensen will finish out the school year at Washington. The district says he agreed to take an associate principal position at Lombardi for next school year.

Before this school year, the district unveiled a new discipline and intervention model for dealing with student misbehavior. Additional staff was also added to Washington, including another associate principal.

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