Wednesday, May 30, 2012

Is there really a mystery in Rani Goyal's resignation from Helix High? She “worked with the teachers to help them better their own practices”

I'm not sure what happened at Helix, but I know what's happened at three of the four schools where I taught. Here's what I've seen time and again:

A principal comes in with plans to improve teacher performance. At first you just hear griping, and there's no problem if the principal just picks on teachers who aren't part of the ruling teacher clique.

Heaven help the principal who dares to ask for change from politically powerful teachers. That's when the secret teacher meetings and the petitions start. Pretty soon you have a school where teachers refuse to behave professionally. It rarely gets as bad as Castle Park Elementary, which had eleven principals in eleven years, but it's a remarkably common scenario. The fact is, even if the principal is excellent, he or she has to go, because the teachers simply refuse to function properly as long as the principal is there.

Helix Mystery: Head of Charter High School Quits After Less Than 2 Years
Rani Goyal resigns as executive director despite legacy of accomplishments at La Mesa school.
By Ken Stone
La Mesa-Mount Helix Patch
May 30, 2012

A dozen days before graduation and less than two years after taking the school’s top job, Rani Goyal resigned Friday as executive director of Helix Charter High School.

No explanaton was given publicly.

“As I’m sure you’re aware, we are limited by confidentiality laws that affect our ability to comment on personnel issues,” Helix spokeswoman Jennifer Osborn said late Tuesday night in reply to a Patch query.

“I know you understand that it is not an unwillingness to answer questions, but an inability to do so.”

Osborn shared a memo dated May 25 from the Helix Charter school board to “Helix Community Stakeholders” with the subject line “Change in Executive Director Position.”

The note said:

This letter is to notify the Helix community that, effective today, Executive Director Rani Goyal has resigned from employment. We wish her the best in the future and want to thank her for all her efforts and contributions to the School and the community.

With the goal of identifying and securing a future leader for HCHS who will carry on Helix’s legacy of educational innovation and excellence, the Charter Board will immediately begin seeking an extremely qualified pool of candidates from which to select its future Executive Director.

Please be assured that it is the Charter Board’s goal to ensure that our students and families experience little to no disruption of the day-to-day routine of the school.

All end-of-the-year activities will proceed as usual, and Helix staff members will assume various roles to make sure this happens. Further information concerning contact information for high level operations decisions will be forthcoming.

Thank you for your continued support of our School.

Goyal resigned just days before senior boards—portfolio presentations and interviews with community members—that began Tuesday and senior awards on Thursday.

Graduation is June 6.

Goyal was hired in the summer of 2010 in the wake of a battle with the Grossmont Union High School District over its charter status after a series of teacher-student sex incidents.

She succeeded Doug Smith, who resigned after 21 years as part of a settlement between the school district and Helix Charter High.

“We need to start focusing on the positive,” Goyal told Patch in an October 2010 interview. “Let’s focus on the present and the future and where we’re going.”

Brian Kick, chater board president at the time, called Goyal a perfect fit for Helix because of her past experiences as an instructional leader.

Goyal took over the top Helix job in early September 2010 after serving as principal for three years at Temecula Valley High School in Riverside County.

“I worked with the teachers to help them better their own practices,” she said at the time—having started a schoolwide intervention program, curriculum teams and increased training for teachers.

At Helix,” she said two years ago, “the board wants me to lead the school in a direction that promotes student achievement.”


Anonymous said...

Politically powerful teachers doesn't even begin to describe the "Good ol' Boys" club of Helix. There's a specific group of teachers who enjoyed the power and privilege of being the former principals cronies and fail to adapt to change. They are blinded by their own hurt egos to see that Ms. Goyal was the best thing that happened to Helix in a long time. The staff at Helix has gone and ignored the students and the parents, and showed that the charter board will forget democracy in order to please the Good ol' Boys.

I'll always be a fan of Helix, having been a student there through recent tough times. But I sincerely hope that the teachers that I love and respect pull their act together in the interest of the students.

Anonymous said...

It is easy to claim conspiracy without knowing all of the facts. There are always two sides to every story so until all of the facts are known to automatically jump up and blame the teachers is a very irresponsible thing to do. To get this type of response without knowing all of the facts makes me think that the person making the comments is more than an former student of Helix-perhaps a disgruntled employee? As far as ignoring the students and Parents at Helix I have yet to see a surge of letters to the Editor about Ms. Goyal's resignation. Life goes on.

Maura Larkins said...

Dear Anonymous #2:
I have the feeling that you know more than you are saying. I've often wondered why, time and again, the truth doesn't come out about an organization until a "disgruntled employee" exposes it. For example, Rodger Hartnett exposed the truth about SDCOE, which has been involved in Helix High. The "gruntled" employees obey, and demand that others obey, the code of silence. The manner in which Ms. Goyal was removed creates an impression of some big and awful secret, even if no such secret exists. You obviously support her removal, but you refuse to say why. We'd like to know what in heaven's name is going on at this increasingly infamous campus.

Maura Larkins said...

A whole lot more open discussion of problems is needed at schools. Parents and teachers, teachers and teachers, and, of course, teachers and administrators need to sit down and talk a lot more than they do.

Anonymous said...

The situation is totally unfortunate, but Dr. Mike Lewis will do an outstanding job as the new Director of the school.

Anonymous said...

The fact is, Rani Goyal was a disaster from start to finish. Perhaps a well-meaning lady, but not up for the job...she was way over her head. Her performance was so sub-par, she wasn't allowed to finish out her 3 year contract. She would not have been let go unless she failed across the board. Good luck to her.