More superintendents step down: “I cannot continue working for this board of education”

A Massachusetts "rising star"—and leader of color—joins the list of the recently ousted superintendents.

“I cannot continue working for this board of education,” Superintendent Julie Brown said in her sudden resignation from Elk Rapids Schools in Michigan last week, according to Despite a school board meeting packed with supporters, Brown asked that her contract not be renewed when it expires in June.

Brown, who had been rated “highly effective” on her last performance evaluation, accused school board members of overstepping their roles, the Traverse City Record-Eagle reported. “While I love the work I do as superintendent and I know I do the right work in the right way, I will not continue to be in a position of breaching professional ethics and compromising my character and integrity,” Brown was quoted by the newspaper as saying during a school board meeting last week.

The school board voted 5-2 to accept her resignation, which came during yet another week of continued conflict between superintendents and school boards, mayors and other officials. Political clashes have led to the removals and resignations of a number of district leaders in recent months.

In what appears to be an even uglier situation, the contract of popular Everett Public Schools Superintendent Priya Tahiliani—described by some as a rising star in K12 education—was not renewed in a closely divided vote by the Boston-area district’s school committee last week, GBH reported.

Tahiliani had received “broadly positive feedback” on her performance evaluations over the past two years but in January 2022 had filed a discrimination complaint against long-time Everett Mayor Carlo DeMaria, who is a member of the school committee and was among those to vote her out, GBH reported. Tahiliani, who was the district’s first superintendent of color when hired in 2019, accused the mayor and the school board of consistently working against her and criticizing her for filling open district positions with minority candidates, GBH explained.

Priya Tahiliani

On Thursday, students at Everett High School in Massachusetts walked out of class and marched to city hall to protest Tahiliani’s dismissal. “It’s just upsetting to see that they kicked out the one woman of color who has actually been putting in a lot of help for the community,” Everett High School graduate Ezra Rosario told GBH. “She’s been very proactive. But our own mayor is only proactive when it looks good on his own.”

In another controversial personnel decision, Seattle Public Schools administrator Rocky Torres withdrew his name from consideration after being named the finalist for the superintendent’s post at the School District of Lancaster in Pennsylvania. The selection of Torres upset students, staff and community members who had shown near unanimous support for another finalist, Matt Przywara, the district’s acting superintendent and chief of finance and operations.

Lancaster’s board of directors is now “considering its next steps.”

The board of education brings on new talent

In this week’s hirings, Andrea Castañeda was chosen as the next superintendent of Salem-Keizer Public Schools in Oregon. Castañeda, currently the ​​chief talent and equity officer at Tulsa Public Schools in Oklahoma, will replace Superintendent Christy Perry, who is retiring at the end of the school year.

Carol D. Birks
Carol D. Birks

Longtime administrator Carol D. Birks has been hired as superintendent by the Allentown School District in Pennsylvania. Birks, who had been serving as Allentown’s interim superintendent since the fall, was previously superintendent of New Haven Public Schools in Connecticut and the Chester Upland School District in Pennsylvania. She was also chief of staff at Hartford Public Schools, also in Connecticut. 

In Arkansas, Fayetteville Public Schools Superintendent John L Colbert will retire in June after a 47-year career with the district. This week, the school board chose to replace Colbert with John Mulford, currently deputy superintendent of operations for the Springfield Public Schools in Missouri.

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Here’s a rundown of other comings and goings at the top of K12 leadership:

  • Wichita Public Schools in Kansas has named Kelly Bielefeld, the district’s executive director of college and career readiness, as its next superintendent.
  • Also in Kansas, the Leavenworth Board of Education selected has selected Kellen Adams as the next USD 453 superintendent. Adams will start work in Leavenworth on July 1 and take the helm when Superintendent Mike Roth retires on Jan. 1, 2024.
  • Carly Stone is taking over as superintendent of the Brandon School District in Michigan. Stone has been the district’s executive director of curriculum and instruction since 2020.
  • Brad Ceranski, a high school principal and athletic director, will become the new Superintendent of the Fall Creek School District in Wisconsin in July.
  • Kevin Bogatin will become the superintendent of Washington’s Tumwater School District in July, replacing interim superintendent Carole Meyer.
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick
Matt Zalaznick is a life-long journalist. Prior to writing for District Administration he worked in daily news all over the country, from the NYC suburbs to the Rocky Mountains, Silicon Valley and the U.S. Virgin Islands. He's also in a band.

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