Cleveland HS students protest departure of principal

SEATTLE — Cleveland STEM High School students are protesting the departure of their principal.

Students walked out of class at 11:30 a.m. Friday and gathered at school district headquarters to protest principal Catherine Brown’s departure.

Officials with Seattle Public Schools said they decided to end Brown’s contract — effective this summer — after an investigation.

According to the Seattle Times, Brown’s attorney said Brown’s contract was ended because she told families about a plan to scale back COVID-19 contact tracing in Seattle schools, something district officials ordered her not to disclose.

The current principal of Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Marni Campbell, was appointed to be Cleveland’s new principal, but Campbell has since withdrawn from the position, according to a letter from Seattle Public Schools Superintendent Brent Jones.

“Dr. Campbell chose to withdraw from the position because she did not want to be a distraction or hamper the future success of Cleveland students,” Jones said in the letter to Cleveland High School staff and families.

Campbell will continue to work for Seattle Public Schools, but her position has not yet been decided.

Meanwhile, Brown is currently on leave.

“SPS personnel matters are handled confidentially, and we will not be speaking on (Brown’s) behalf. Principal Brown has served the Cleveland community for 18 years and positively impacted many students, staff members, and families,” Jones said in the letter.

Brown’s attorney believes Campbell stepping down was the right decision for her to make.

“Her grace in the situation should serve as an example. Sometimes you make a decision and you realize it’s the wrong choice,” McNiminmee said.

Students at Friday’s protest believe there is a lack of transparency between them and the school system.

“Just because we are children doesn’t mean we don’t have an opinion,” said Sabirin Abdullaha, a junior at Cleveland High School.

“Let me remind you, you are nothing without your students,” a student shouted to the crowd.

“We will continue to speak up, we will continue to listen, and we will continue to fight until Catherine Brown is back in our building. Period,” one student said.

Seattle Public Schools also released this in response to the students’ protest:

We willingly open the front porch of Seattle Public Schools to hear the concerns of students and staff, who want to express themselves in this matter. We understand that shifts in personnel and leadership can be very difficult on a school community. We are committed to supporting Cleveland high school during this time of transition.

As Superintendent Brent Jones works to determine the healthiest and best path forward for Cleveland High, he is leaning in and listening so he can fully understand the various perspectives expressed.

At this point, Marni Campbell has chosen to rescind her acceptance of the position as the next principal of Cleveland High School.  Dr. Campbell’s desire is to not be a distraction to the healing of the Cleveland community. Dr. Campbell’s strong character and leadership abilities remain valued by Dr. Jones and he looks forward to working with her in another capacity to be determined. 

Regarding concerns about any improper handling of past allegations of sexual misconduct: the circumstances were brought to light, a full review was completed, and the case was settled. At no time was there any finding of improper actions on the part of Dr. Campbell. We are not discussing this issue further, as it has been thoroughly and properly handled.

SPS takes all allegations of sexual misconduct against students seriously. The district’s Office of Student Civil Rights is charged with receiving, investigating and resolving student complaints of discrimination. If you believe that you or your child has experienced discrimination or discriminatory harassment at school, you have the right to file a formal complaint. For more information, please see the OSCR webpage on the SPS website.