Tuesday, May 12, 2009

After Less Than Two Years on the Job, San Pedro High School Principal Decides to Toss Away the Notebooks and Help His Family After His Father Died and His Elderly Mother Needed Care; The School Only Has One Year Remaining to Prove It Deserves Accreditation

By Diana L. Chapman

After a short, strenuous, stressful, painful and straining stint, San Pedro High School Principal Robert DiPietro announced he will leave the campus shrouded with issues, such as overcrowding and borderline accreditation problems.

He took over the leadership reins in Aug. 17, 2007, and will finish June 30, 2009.

Family crises took a toll in his short time at the port school, nestled in Los Angeles Harbor, where he attempted to salvage an entrenched campus with 3,500 students and bring it back to performance level it should be at -- much higher than it was scoring when tests results became the same as many inner-city high schools.

However, his father died last year and his mother has no one to care for her. DiPietro told school officials that he would return to New York to aid his family.

Due to the late night notice, he could not be reached for comment. Other school officials could not be reached for comment either.

His leadership, however, was fraught with turmoil, much of which he inherited when he accepted the raucous post – believing he could make a difference.

An except from a profile he wrote about the school, shows some of the issues that broiled over into his newly-acquired post: “The San Pedro High campus built in 1936 as part of the Work Progress Administration was constructed to service 1,400 students. Today we service approximately 3,600 students encompassing all three of the high schools. The 3,100 students attending the regular school are served by seven counselors for a student /counselor ratio of 500-1.

“One college counselor serves the 3,600 students combined from the three schools.”

DiPietro recently held a meeting with Linda Del Cueto, who is in charge of the Los Angeles Unified School District region that includes San Pedro High and some 90 plus other schools, to address that the campus had only one year left to prove it deserves accreditation.

Despite a heated exchange from parents at the meeting, DiPietro and Del Cueto listened, saying later the parents needed a chance to vent over issues that have been building for years, such as the lack of teacher cooperation, their failure to return phone calls and emails from parents – and leaving parents out of their child’s education.

When parents asked why teachers who were obviously not qualified to teach continued to do so, DiPietro reminded them that due to the unions, to remove a teacher takes a minimum of at least three years.

Earlier, the principal had indicated that his personal life weighed a great strain on him – and was taking its toll, much less adding the responsibility of some 3,500 students.

The exact date of his departure was not clarified, and whether the district is search for a new administrator has not been revealed yet.


Anonymous said...

The best replacement for the position would be the Assistant Principal, Ms. Jan Murata. She knows the school and has the respect of both students and staff. She has excellent "people skills" and integrity. Unfortunately, it will more likely be someone who is displaced from a local or central office.

Neal Kleiner

neal kleiner

Russell Jeans said...

Actually, the best replacement for the principal would be a highly motivated person with the knowledge, skills and abilities whose primary goal is to successfully make SPHS into an institution of academic achievement equal to the best institutions any public school system has to offer. Obviously, SPHS also has student retention issues that need real action in which the district needs to apply resources and strategies beyond what is ordinarily expected.

I actually know someone who meets the above standards to be a principal at Pedro. Unfortunately, he is retired and doesn't come from the education sector. But, I would hope anyone who is chosen certainly has in mind what I think outlines the task for a principal at Pedro every day they spend their time there.

Russell Jeans said...

Diana, I just want to slightly modify what I wrote above. The common connotation attached to "highly motivated", where the person is a high achiever and results oriented, is not exactly where I wanted to go. My original thought was to say that the principal needs to be a motivator, getting others to achieve the results Pedro needs to be a top notch public education institution.

Good leadership gets the organization to do more than it has. In this case, Pedro needs someone who expects the best in academic achievement, not just to do better than they have. I know the district has it's systemic failings, but a "spark plug" with a strong personality and the characteristics I outlined before will be the principal that we all want for Pedro.