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Hart parents want kind principal -- and one who will stay

Longevity, communication important themes during district forum

Thirteen parents and two students gathered in Hart Middle School's multipurpose room Thursday night to give district officials their thoughts on what type of principal the school needs next.

Mostly, they said the school needs someone who will create a caring, safe environment for their children and someone who will heal the tension and hurt feelings caused by principal Terry Conde's sudden reassignment, who had led the school for about five years.

A principal who has experience with "bringing people back together and moving forward," said Lori Carducci, whose child will soon enroll in Hart.

The school board voted to reassign Conde to an unspecified position in February due to undisclosed personnel matters, and while she will remain the principal for the rest of the year, her new position hasn't been announced.

District officials said a new principal is expected to be chosen by late May.

Some parents said they were concerned about why the district didn't publicly acknowledge her reassignment after the board vote.

Assistant superintendent of human resources Dianne Howell said the district often can't comment on such issues due to personnel privacy rules. Many parents said they found out first from a Pleasanton Weekly article, and Howell said the district didn't intend for parents to find out that way.

"We apologize for that," she said. "We're sorry we couldn't be more transparent about it."

Hart parents at the meeting Thursday raved about Conde's tenure but said if their students must have a new principal, they'd like to see someone who keeps staff accountable, communicates with all stakeholders, works as a partner with the PTA and other organizations and makes an effort to know each child on a personal level.

Manish Kulkarni, Pleasanton Partnerships in Education (PPIE) Foundation representative for Hart, said it's essential that the next principal respects and celebrates Pleasanton's diversity.

Noelle Mattison, a Hart eighth-grader who attended the forum with her mom, said she would like for the next principal to continue to encourage school-wide dialogue about important issues, such as bullying, drug prevention and depression.

She said under Conde's leadership, the school showed documentaries and plays that challenged the way students thought about bullying.

"They don't hold back in teaching you things that people would blush about," she said.

The Hart student also said school leadership intervenes quickly when a child is being bullied or when another issue arises, which makes her feel safe.

Parents also expressed concerns about longevity, especially since some of their students had attended Donlon Elementary -- which has had a series of new principals over the past five years. That school now has Sebastian Bull as principal, who has said he intends to plant roots at Donlon.

The district is also searching for a permanent principal for Harvest Park Middle.

District-wide, four of the 15 Pleasanton Unified schools changed principals during this school year, and five schools began the year with new principal, including Harvest Park, whose new interim principal moved schools mid-year.

"I want someone who is going to stay for quite a while," Hart parent Audrey Purnell said.

Parents and guardians who were unable to attend Thursday's meeting can email district spokesman Patrick Gannon at pgannon@pleasantonusd.net with their comments.

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