CHEYENNE – Laramie County School District 1 has created a number of new positions, and has hired from within to fill some of them.
Hobbs Elementary School Principal Derede Darden is among those internal hires, and will be leaving Hobbs at the end of this school year. But some Hobbs parents are frustrated with her pending departure. They voiced those concerns Monday night at the Laramie County School District 1 Board of Trustees meeting.
Darden will begin her new role as a district student support administrator over the summer, but parents said they are frustrated with the lack of information they’ve been given regarding her move.
“We have some right to know what happened here,” Hobbs parent Kim Shumway said to the board.
She said she was concerned because Darden had not sought out the new position; she had been approached by superiors who encouraged her to take it. Given the changes at Hobbs over the past few years, Shumway said she did not understand why the district would ask Darden, who is relatively new to Hobbs, to take a new role, leaving Hobbs students in limbo.
She said when she asked LCSD1 Superintendent Boyd Brown this question, he said he was not aware of the changes that had happened at Hobbs before Darden was offered the position.
“To me, that is not OK either,” Shumway said. “If you’re our superintendent, you have an obligation to know what our children have been through before you take a brand-new principal away from us again.”
In 2016, longtime Hobbs Principal Randy Hurd left the school in the middle of the year. In 2017, the district redrew the elementary school boundaries, which had a significant impact on Hobbs. Before the boundary revisions, the school was overpopulated, according to school facilities documents from that time. But after the boundary revisions, some Hobbs students were forced to leave the school.
Darden has been in her position at Hobbs since Hurd’s departure, first in an interim position and recently as the permanent principal. Parents like Shumway worry the school will have to rebuild the progress it has made since the changes if Darden leaves.
Brown admitted he had not been aware of all of the changes at Hobbs, but said he would have offered the job to Darden anyway.
“I think she’s the best person for the position,” he said.
Because Darden’s accepting a new position is considered a personnel matter, neither Brown nor the Board of Trustees were able to provide Shumway or the other parents who attended the meeting with details regarding the move. This created some confusion, as Shumway referenced a supposed complaint that had been filed against Darden, and wondered whether that was the reason she was being moved into a different position.
Brown told the Tribune Eagle that Darden being offered the new position had nothing to do with a complaint, and that if there was a complaint, it was not uncommon for staff and faculty to have occasional complaints filed against them.
He said Darden’s being appointed to the new administrative position was simply because she was best suited for the role.
In an email Darden wrote to the Wyoming Tribune Eagle, she said there had been no complaint filed against her, and that she was excited about taking on the new position beginning in the fall.
“Working with striving learners, parents and staff is my passion, which is why this position is a good fit for my strengths. ... It was a difficult decision to leave Hobbs, as I have absolutely enjoyed my two years working with students, parents and staff members,” she wrote in the email.
The new positions
LCSD1 was able to create a number of new positions for the 2019-20 school year through funds provided through the federal Every Student Succeeds Act. The positions are meant to meet three goals laid out in the federal legislation: provide a well-rounded education; support safe and healthy schools; and support the effective use of technology.
LCSD1 Director of Instruction Stephen Newton said the new positions are thanks to a significant bump in federal funding the district is receiving. The funds come from block grants allocated to districts under Title IV of ESSA. Last year was the first year the district received the funds, and it was awarded roughly $300,000. This year, that number increased to roughly $800,000, and next year, that figure will be more than $900,000.
In response to the new funds, the district created the new administrative roles, set to go in effect in the fall. Those positions include three district student support administrators, a workforce partnership facilitator, an English Language Learner facilitator and two parent engagement facilitators.
Current Arp Elementary Principal Don Brantz and current transportation director Merle Smith will join Darden as student support administrators in the fall.
Brantz has been in the district for 27 years. He said he thinks he will be able to do some innovative things in the new role, though it is difficult to leave his current school.
One other position, the workforce partnership facilitator, has been filled. The district has not yet hired the remaining positions, but Newton said it is not unlikely that those hires also will come from within the district.
The Board of Trustees approved the appointments of Smith and Brantz to the new positions, effective July 1, but decided to postpone the vote on Darden’s appointment until its March 18 meeting.