Lewis & Clark principal will remain at her school

There will be a new principal at McBride Elementary School next school year, as Principal Karla Thompson will move to the St. Helens School District office in an unspecified role.

Lisa Rawlings, a former McBride principal and the district's current director of curriculum and instruction, will be moving back into the principal's office at the school, Superintendent Mark Davalos announced Thursday, June 26.

“The School Board and I are committed to increasing achievement for our students and we believe that our results can be better,” Davalos wrote in a memorandum addressed to the community and staff at McBride, adding, “I believe all students can learn and at a much higher rate than we are currently experiencing.”

The word got out late last week Davalos had decided to reassign Cathy Carson, principal at Lewis & Clark Elementary School, to trade offices with Thompson. But after close to a dozen people testified in opposition to the principal swap at a school board meeting Wednesday, Davalos released a statement Thursday morning saying Carson would stay at Lewis & Clark.

“After hearing the wishes from the audience and discussion about the needs of our students, we have agreed to reinstate Cathy Carson as building principal at Lewis & Clark,” Davalos wrote. “Neither administrator will move from that site.”

At the school board meeting, Jennifer Habel, president of the parent-teacher organization at Lewis & Clark, praised Carson as an effective and popular administrator.

“It is our feeling that uprooting principals would cripple the progress of both Lewis & Clark and McBride,” Habel added, speaking on behalf of her group. “Each of these administrators have plans for their respective schools.”

Several staff members also spoke against the move.

Lewis & Clark teacher Caleb Orr said he was “blindsided” by news of the reassignment.

“This does not seem to be a change that needs to occur at this time,” said Orr.

Carson herself declined to comment for this article. Thompson did not respond to a request for comment.

Davalos said Carson's "reinstatement" would be reevaluated next spring.

In a controversial move, St. Helens reconfigured its elementary schools in 2012, converting them into K-6 schools. Before the 2012-13 school year, McBride served kindergarten through second grade, while Lewis and Clark had third- through fifth-grade students. Columbia City School, which closed after the 2011-12 school year as part of the reconfiguration plan, served sixth grade only.

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