Lindsey Apkarian has been relieved of her position as principal at Laguna High School, the district’s continuation school, and reassigned to classroom duties at Analy High School.
Apkarian said the reassignment, which includes a considerable cut in pay, came as a complete surprise.
“I was very surprised, actually shocked,” Apkarian said. “But I was told that I was not a good fit, and that’s the only reason I was given. It’s pretty disheartening to say the least because I have worked in the district for 14 years.”
Apkarian began in the district as a teacher at Analy and then became a vice principal at Analy, a position she held for nine years. She’s been the principal at Laguna for the last two years.
“So that’s 11 years in administration — never a bad review or any administration or anyone I couldn’t get along with. So yeah, it was surprising and extremely, extremely disheartening after so many years of dedication to the west county community.”
Apkarian said she hasn’t decided whether to accept the position at Analy.
“I would be back at Analy, so I mean, that’s a wonderful option in itself because I love teaching and Analy is a wonderful school, but obviously I have worked on quite a few plans with my staff here at Laguna going forward to make changes, working on raising graduation rates and improving attendance. We spent the whole fall to create our vision and plan going forward.”
Laguna, like many continuation schools, was flagged by the state as a low-performing school in 2018 — primarily because of its low graduation rate and attendance problems.
In California, a graduation rate of 67% or lower marks a school as a “low-performing” school and entitles them to CSI funds — CSI stands for “comprehensive support and improvement”— to create a plan to fix the school’s problems. Apkarian said the staff at Laguna has created a plan to address Laguna’s issues, and she was really looking forward to implementing it.
“We started a rewards program for attendance to recognize kids that had improved attendance all around,” she said.
She also said the school wanted to use more project-based learning to keep students engaged and on-track to graduate.
But the numbers aren’t looking good. In 2018, Laguna’s graduation rate was just 60%. In 2019, its graduation rate was 55%.
On the surface, it would be understandable if the district decided on the basis of these numbers to re-assign Apkarian. But Apkarian said the drop in Laguna’s graduation rates was due, not to an actual change in Laguna’s graduation rate, but to a change in the way those rates were figured by the state.
Continuation schools are allowed, for example, to keep students for a fifth year of high school to help them graduate, but despite that allowance, their numbers suffer if students don’t graduate in four years. Students on the five-year plan are counted, in their fourth year, as if they were drop-outs.
Toni Beal, superintendent of the West Sonoma County Union High School District said she couldn’t comment on personnel matters, but she did say that they had begun advertising for a new person to fill the position.
“We are currently advertising for an Alternative Education principle position, This position will be responsible for leading Laguna, the district independent study program and the new Microcollege/ Honors Pathway programs,” Beal said.
Apkarian said her hope for Laguna High School is that the district will listen to Laguna’s teachers when making plans for the direction of the school.
“I think the staff at Laguna needs a voice because they’re obviously one of the biggest pieces of the puzzle, as to what do you do for students, how do you educate them in the best way possible. They’re the ones in the classrooms, and that conversation hasn’t happened yet,” she said.