Vice Principal, Lead Teacher Take Interim Reins at San Jose Middle School

No answers have been given yet as to why Principal Chona Killeen is not returning for the 2012-13 school year.

and the are adjusting plans for the top administrative roles now that Principal Chona Killeen won't be returning for the 2012-13 school year.

Superintendent Shalee Cunningham said Monday that Vice Principal Paige Gardner and teacher James Larson will be in charge in the absence of Killeen, whose pending departure was announced Friday via the school's PTA e-mail distribution. The reason for the change remains unclear, and Killeen was not on campus Monday.

"I went to the staff today and let them know the plan for the interim until we figure out the future," said Cunningham, who is in her first year at the NUSD helm. "It's important so that the kids and parents know there is leadership there. We'd like it to be a seamless transition so it won't be costly to the district."

Cunningham said she'd like to give Killeen an opportunity to address the San Jose community before speaking more about the principal role. Another meeting between the staff and Cunningham is set for Wednesday "when we expect to know more and can give a more definitive answer," the superintendent said.

Larson and Gardner have served on many school committees and are "very well respected," Cunningham said.

Killeen was principal at last year when district trustees decided to shut down the school, Novato's oldest and most centrally located middle school, as a cost-saving measure. Killeen received some strong support and many compliments as she led an emotional Hill community through a trying time.

Killeen was later named to replace San Jose Principal Jeff King, who left to pursue work closer to his home in the San Diego area.

Lisa Barnes, a parent at Hill and now San Jose, wrote on a recent Novato Patch story to say Killeen should be credited for her leadership skills at both schools. "She has served my child's schools ... above and beyond the call of any principal — always supporting kids, making them excited to succeed and rewarding them for their achievements."

Ellen Christensen-Denton wrote, "Ms. Killeen has gone above and beyond to help my two children transition to middle school both at Hill and San Jose. Our family is deeply grateful for her compassion for children, and we are sad to see her go and feel lucky to have had the pleasure of her company these past three years."

The district said search committee for a permanent replacement for Killeen will include school staff, parents and district employees.

Patty Maher March 19, 2012 at 09:24 PM
If the announcement is she won't be back next year, what does it mean that Paige and James are in charge in the interim? What interim? Today?
Azella Buban Metzger March 19, 2012 at 09:26 PM
yes, what does this mean?? Is she coming back to finish out the year, and Larson and Gardner will be in charge after that, or as of now???
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) March 19, 2012 at 10:25 PM
As the superintendent said, a lot more will be ironed out by Wednesday.
Kathleen March 20, 2012 at 01:21 PM
If any of the kids knew about most of the comments on here over the weekend there is no chance of her retaining their respect. She was our principal at Hill, she is a good person in my eyes and she should have been able to leave with dignity instead of being replaced before she's gone. I would love to know the real story because it now sounds like there was a small group of people on a witch hunt.
Teacher Parent March 20, 2012 at 01:58 PM
There were alot of comments made over the weekend that were spot on. I worked at Hill middle school and what parents saw vs what teachers saw were really two different people. I am sure more will surface, but this was not a witch hunt. Just an organization doing its job. We ask teachers do resign every year, what makes it any differwnt with an administrator?
Ms. Lynn Poster March 20, 2012 at 04:31 PM
Ms. Killen had very big shoes to fill with the departure of the former Principal Jeff King.. Mr. King was like a rock star those kids, I have never seen middle school kids hoot and holler for their Principal they way San Jose students did. He was out in the halls and classrooms everyday, interacting, pushing behavior and academics non-stop.. My son says he never sees Ms. Killen, they only way you see her is if you need something or are in trouble, she does not leave the office. San Jose is a very diverse school and the kids need a very strong leader and strong personality and Ms. Killen is not that.
LP March 20, 2012 at 04:57 PM
Sounds like there's more to this story if she isn't even coming back to finish out the year. Unfortunately we will probably never know the full story because NUSD does not comment on personnel matters.
Michaela Francis March 20, 2012 at 06:47 PM
It appears that institutionalized bullying is alive and well at SJMS. To those teachers who felt that Ms. Killen sided with the students, your right as that is her job to look out for the students. You are adults, and supposed professionals, although clearly you act as moronic prepubescent middle school girls, clearly picking on the new student. Shame on you!
S Samson March 20, 2012 at 07:49 PM
The silence from NUSD on this matter is deafening. It should not take nearly a week for NUSD to respond directly - sending messages through a school tour (for incoming parents), the PTSA (which should not be involved in personnel matters), or the Patch (no offense) is not appropriate. The Director of Human Resources at NUSD needs to be accountable for this horrendous handling of a very important matter - and should completely admonish teachers who have reportedly commented so eggregiously on this matter, even if under cover. Where is NUSD Leadership?????
Patty Maher March 20, 2012 at 07:54 PM
Dr. Cunningham did send to parents, via the San Jose Middle School eNews, a message about two hours ago. (I uploaded a screen shot of the English version of the message.) The link to the letter in its entirety is: http://library.constantcontact.com/download/get/file/1101785753998-758/SJMS+(3-19-12).pdf.
Teacher Parent March 20, 2012 at 08:39 PM
s samson, every issue has two sides. It is apparent that you do not want to hear a negative point of view in this manner. It appears Mrs. Killeen was unfit for the position or something else transpired, however, the district has made a decision. You need not blame everyone else for the injustice YOU feel.
Nicole March 20, 2012 at 08:50 PM
Ms. Killen was the principal for my son at Hill. What a great principal she was. I agree that there has to be more to this story. I cringe at the thought of a new principal. The new principal at Lu Sutton leaves a lot to be desired. I will have children going to San Jose and can only hope that they do a better job of picking this principal.
Patty Maher March 20, 2012 at 09:00 PM
Julia, I believe the reason your comments are being deleted is because you are accusing Chona of being a criminal. That's libel. Brent can't let that stand. All news organizations are very careful to use terms like "allegedly" because you can't call someone a criminal unless he or she has been convicted of a crime. By all means, say you had issues with Chona, or anyone for that matter, but avoid crossing that line. Brent isn't deleting negative comments; he's only deleting ones that could be considered libelous ones.
Chip Tingle March 20, 2012 at 10:18 PM
S Sampson, I applaud your post!
S Samson March 20, 2012 at 10:43 PM
Dear Teacher Parent: 1. We are all "teacher parents" 2. There are never 2 sides to a story, there always are as many sides as there are people with opinions - which is why the delay in information from NUSD is/was troublesome. 3. My latest post was directed at NUSD who should have controlled this situation from the first indication of a change at the school 4. I am saddened at your posts and the extreme negativity of their context - the posts indicate a charactieristic of the type of teacher that I do not wish my child, nor any child, to taught by.
Teacher Parent March 20, 2012 at 11:08 PM
S Sampson: Let's not get into the debate of what type of characteristics I have as a teacher. Just because I expressed an opinion that is not favorable to you, you decide to attack my character. Classy! .
Edwin Drake March 20, 2012 at 11:51 PM
Stepping back: The strident overtones to this issue prove how mismanaged the NUSD is. It is a dysfunctional district which stirs up anger any time it touches anything. It should be completely revamped. A decent organization, with transparency and respect for all, would NEVER raise ire like this. Whichever side you're on, the level of apparent anger only shows how the NUSD divides parents and students, so administrators can do whatever they please. The students and parents need to start coming first.
Brent Ainsworth (Editor) March 21, 2012 at 03:25 AM
Thanks for all the input here. I've deleted several comments that I considered name-calling or too personal. I encourage readers with strong feelings to convey those thoughts with as much respect for others' feelings as possible. Let's keep the discussion going.
Cindy Harris March 21, 2012 at 04:10 AM
Received an email today postponing the incoming 6th grade parent info night: "Do to the fact that the 6th grade parent night for tonight, Tuesday, March 20, 2012, was not advertised at the elementary schools, we have postponed the meeting until after the April break. We will be sending out flyers in the Friday Folders to inform parents when the new San Jose incoming 6th grade parent night will be held. Thank you for your understanding and sorry for the inconvenience. Sincerely, Paige Paige Gardner Assistant Principal San Jose Middle School 415-883-7831 pgardner@nusd.org"
Retired teacher March 21, 2012 at 03:26 PM
This is the way the Novato district "cleans house" when a new superintendent comes in. If Ms. Cunningham is anything like John Bernard, there may be no reason for Ms. Killeen's firing. Comparing her to Jeff King, who was flown in from San Diego on an interim basis (all expenses paid) to clean up a troubled school, is unfair. He was paid to be a rock star.
S Samson March 21, 2012 at 04:07 PM
To set the record straight for Ms/Mr. Teacher Parent, I did not attack your specific character nor "attack" any ones. I merely mentioned I am not a fan of the "type" of character represented by the posts (and please go back and re-read your posts as an independent reader - you may be surprised at the tone of your posts and how your posts have been extremely negative to a colleague on this public media platform. By the way, tonight is Open House at SJMS.
Patty Maher March 21, 2012 at 04:13 PM
Open House for San Jose is next Tuesday (March 27). There was supposed to be a meeting tonight for incoming sixth graders' parents, but that was cancelled.
S Samson March 21, 2012 at 04:39 PM
Thanks Patty. Misread the calendar! Yes, OH is next Tuesday Mar 27. :)
Novato Chess Club April 04, 2012 at 02:07 PM
I think Lynn Poster summed it up --Jeff King was a tremendous Principal...period!
Ilya Perry May 31, 2012 at 07:46 AM
Actually my daughters are at San Jose Middle now and my oldest daughter and son had Ms. Killeen as a principle at Hill Middle School. At first I didn't like how she dealt with things at Hill with my son. But I have seen her grow and flourish with these kids. My children told me she left but she was back the following week doing her job. Also the children mentioned that her father was sick or dying so I feel that she is being judged and not given a chance to even speak. If she is leaving because her family is I'll it's her right! If she is leaving because she is being fired stop picking and why don't you dig deeper before guessing why she was fired in the first place.


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