Pinckney Elementary principal who resigned receives write-in votes for school board

photo by: Chris Conde/Journal-World File Photo

Pinckney Elementary School, 810 W. Sixth St., is pictured in this Journal-World file photo from Sept. 15, 2018.

Parents of Pinckney Elementary School recently took their support for former principal Kristi Hill to the polls.

During the Lawrence school board election in early November, 26 write-in votes were cast with Hill’s name, according to election data provided by the Douglas County Clerk’s Office. No other write-in candidate received more than two votes.

Aimee Poirier, president of the school’s PTO, said a write-in campaign from parents of students at the school was meant as another show of support for Hill, who resigned from her position in late September. Parents had previously showed support for Hill when they voiced frustration over her resignation to the school board in October. They suggested Hill resigned because of a lack of support from the school district’s administration.

“Because of her demonstrated commitment to our students, unwavering support of her staff and deep understanding of our school district’s assets and areas for improvement, she was thought by many to be an excellent choice for one of the open school board positions,” Poirier said via email. “The Pinckney community lost a lot with Kristi Hill’s departure, but our larger community would have benefited from her professional experience, dedication to the best interests of all students, focus on equity, and caring nature with our write-in campaign.”

Topher Enneking, a Pinckney parent who has spoken about the school’s issues at recent school board meetings, told the Journal-World he felt the write-in campaign sent a message to the school district.

“It could be a signal to the school board and our next principal of the political will of our PTO and our willingness and ability to stand united in mobilizing for solutions for our students,” he said.

Among other things, the parents felt Hill was important to the school because she had fought to address special education issues that arose because of a lack of paraeducators.

Danae Johnson, a parent of a student with special needs at the school, recently told the Journal-World that Hill was a champion for her family. Johnson said Hill helped her family while they were asking the school district to find a way to provide more paraeducators to the school, which would allow the district to provide mandated education services for Johnson’s son.

But Hill ultimately resigned. The board approved her resignation during its Sept. 23 meeting and hired Vicki Weseman, a retired school administrator, as substitute principal.

“That was a big loss for our family,” Johnson said of Hill’s resignation. “She was very much helping us navigate (through the issue).”

The Journal-World repeatedly reached out to Hill for comment about her resignation, but she either declined to comment or did not respond. But Hill recently provided a written statement to the Journal-World about the parents’ write-in campaign. In the statement, Hill said she was honored by the parents’ votes.

“I had never really considered running for a seat on the school board, but this support gives me pause and it may be something I give serious thought to in the future,” she said.

She said she would like the newly elected board to consider addressing issues such as teacher and paraeducator pay and class sizes.

While she did not directly mention why she stepped down, Hill’s comments appear to confirm statements from parents who suggested she was harassed by parents of a student in her school and did not receive support from the school district to remedy the situation.

“Based on my own experience, I would also like to see the board create and enforce a Human Dignity expectation that combines board and state policy pertaining to the bullying, harassment and threats of any Lawrence Public School employee,” she said. “… The job of teacher, para, nurse, secretary, counselor, social worker, custodian and principal is difficult enough without having to defend against bullying, harassment and threats.”

At her request, Hill’s full statement on the write-in campaign is published below.

District spokeswoman Julie Boyle, when asked for comment, said the write-in campaign was “a nice recognition of Mrs. Hill’s years of service to public education and Pinckney school.”

Kristi Hill’s full statement to the Journal-World:

“It is an honor that people who know my work as principal at Pinckney would think highly enough of me to write me in to serve on the school board. I resigned from Lawrence Public Schools for professional reasons, but continue to miss the staff, students and parents at Pinckney. I had never really considered running for a seat on the school board, but this support gives me pause and it may be something I give serious thought to in the future.

I do hope the newly elected board members will look closely at several issues, specifically a top heavy administrative office; low paraeducator and teacher pay, along with large class sizes at all levels. Based on my own experience, I would also like to see the board create and enforce a Human Dignity expectation that combines board and state policy pertaining to the bullying, harassment and threats of any Lawrence Public School employee. A written copy of the Human Dignity expectation should be posted at every district building and enforced by district admin/HR department. The job of teacher, para, nurse, secretary, counselor, social worker, custodian and principal is difficult enough without having to defend against bullying, harassment and threats.”


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