Struggles at Smiley Middle School

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Below is a letter from a parent of a student a Smiley Middle School.  The letter below protests the removal of both the principal and the assistant principal from Smiley Middle School. The principal was hired at Smiley just after a charter school, Envisions Leadership Academy, was collocated at Smiley. (Envisions Academy would fail spectacularly and then rise again with a new name as another under-performing DPS charter school.) During this crisis to Smiley’s culture, the school’s principal provided strong leadership, helping to heal the community.

The letter was addressed to the principal at Smiley as well as to the Board of Education.

Over the last several years Park Hill parents have had to make active choices for their childrens’ schools. The parents currently at Smiley and those coming to Smiley next year made the active choice to be there.  We choose our neighborhood school, we choose the IB, we choose to ignore the charter-of-the-day next door.  And we chose Smiley because of the principal.  We trusted the administration to honor our choice.

But again, the administration, inside and downtown, doesn’t honor these choices.  The parents are betrayed — we have been used.  The administration is not a partner at this school and does not own their role at this school.  Can a school be successful without this partnership?

Andrew Rotherham, a leader in the charter movement, states that the single most important factor in making a successful school is intentionality –everything matters, nothing can be left to chance.  And yet, this change of administration, both principal and AP, defies this one, most important intentional action.  DPS administration throws a stone into the pond, unaware or uncaring of the ripple effects that their action causes.  And after so many stones being cast, the parents not only bear witness to the effects, but can predict them, and can scream them out loud, but no one hears.  The administration has walked on, casting stones in other ponds, and walking away from them too.

Does it matter who initiated this loss of the principal at Smiley?  Not really — both inside and downtown administration are complicit in not fulfilling their compact with the parents who made Smiley their choice.  And so it goes- we make our choices but they are empty because we cannot trust that the school we choose is going to be the same school when we walk in the door or the same school two years later when our child is there, trying to finish and get to the next choice.

What else will the administration do to Smiley?  Parents live in the realm of the unknown, only sure that we don’t know and we are not going to be told, included or considered. We have learned not to trust. What other insults await? IB and Singapore math at Stapleton.  Overflow students from the far northeast, where money goes for half a dozen new administrative hires repair the tidal wave of damage, money that could go into classrooms. And at Smiley, cuts so deep that we loose our school adviser; our art, music and PE are reduced to puffs of air- breathe in once, then their gone. Cast those stones and move on.

The administration will deny this is so and refuses to own the effects their actions on our school.  But even when the administration denies it, everything matters.  Everything matters — in every school, successful or trying to be successful — everything matters. The parents know this and we did our part.  We can only conclude that the administration doesn’t know or doesn’t care….

One thought on “Struggles at Smiley Middle School

  1. Imani

    Your expression of your frustration is well said. Sadly, the stones the admin casts turn into tsunamis, which 900 Grant hopes will wipe out the traditional neighborhood schools. We need to band together to stand against these powers.


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