Staff Resignations Sweep District


Eve Lazarski

A wave of staff resignations has recently impacted the Wauwatosa School District.

Annabelle Wooster, Editor

A wave of resignations has recently hit the Wauwatosa School District. West principal, Ebony Grice, announced her resignation on February 24th. Just ten weeks into the 2021/2022 school year, Jefferson Elementary principal, Jennifer Schultz resigned with two other staff members. Additionally, Whitman Middle School principal, Clint Grochowski, is on leave. With the abrupt departures of district staff members, many students started to have questions.

“I didn’t know why her time at West was so short and I wondered where she was going next,” said Connor Neikirk, a junior. 

Michael Meier has acted on the school board for 18 years and links the resignations to a disconnect he has observed between central administration and school specific administration. 

“[From] what I understand about the departures [and] information that has come to me as an individual board member, [the recent staff resignations] had to do with employees feeling they weren’t supported by central administration in the Fisher building,” Meier said. 

As one of the longest serving school board members, Meier feels that this situation is unique and unfamiliar. 

“I have not seen this happen ever before, as a school board member or as a parent,” said Meier.

The Wauwatosa School District experienced a multitude of changes during the pandemic, making it difficult to determine exactly what is causing the recent departures.

While the recent resignations could be a result of staffing changes and COVID-19 related adaptations within the district, Meier believes there is more to the issue. 

“I can’t blame COVID. The people who left were good people, extraordinarily dedicated. And if they felt the need to leave like that in the middle of the year, the school district is doing something terribly wrong,” he said. 

During the summer of 2021, Dr. Demond Means became the new district Superintendent after the retirement of Dr. Phil Ertl. When he took on this position, he was tasked with a specific agenda. 

“Dr. Means was charged by the Board of Education to analyze every aspect of the District. Specifically, Dr. Means was tasked with determining where the District has opportunities for growth and improvement,” said School Board Member, Steve Doman. “As with any significant organizational change, subsequently, there have been changes and new learning taking place for all leaders.” 

Regarding Jefferson, Meier believes the resignations came after a refusal to lend support to staff members who requested behavioral help. That then caused the principal and at least two other staff members to resign mid school year. 

“We need to exercise professional judgment…at the administration building [when] the classroom building principal calls for help. [But] that judgment was made to not send help for Jefferson. So that was a mistake, an error,” Meier said. 

The district has since addressed the open positions at Jefferson and on March 14th, 2022, Stephen Kern became the new acting principal. 

Wauwatosa West has recently advanced in the current process to fill the principal position that is temporarily being held by interim principal, Nick Hughes. On April 4th, an email was sent to West students and families describing the current state of the search for a new principal.

“We will be hosting listening sessions on April 12 and April 14 in the Steiner Center and there is also a survey for those who may not be able to attend these in-person sessions,” Hughes stated in the email. “I encourage everyone to participate in some manner.  Hiring a new principal is an exciting time for the school community as we approach the 2022-23 school year.”

Though school specific staffing issues are being addressed, Meier thinks there is room for overall improvement. 

“Since the election of 2005, there have been 39 races [for board positions]. One of the 39 races was won by a person who had been a parent of a West High School student. So I wonder if somehow we lost diversity of thinking within the board and I wonder if the board would make different decisions about behavioral fixes if there was more diversity on the board. There are no people of color on the board. So there’s another example,” he said. 

Meier emphasized that the board’s main job is to hire the superintendent. What follows is a period of waiting for outcomes and figuring out how to adjust to new changes. 

“What the board really does is hire the superintendent. We did that. And now we have to support him in providing the staffing that he needs. And I think it is on the way. I think the right decisions are being made to fix things. But we’ll have to see what the outcomes actually are.”