Town Square

Jordan Middle School principal resigns

Original post made on Oct 17, 2007

Suzanne Barbarasch, the principal of Jordan Middle School in Palo Alto, announced today that she would resign her position, effective Dec. 7.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, October 17, 2007, 5:03 PM


Posted by Parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 8:19 pm

Isn't it very unusual for a principal to resign in mid year?

Posted by past jordan parent/jordan alum, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:15 pm

Hooray, hooray! Ding dong, the warden's gone. Jordan's administration has felt like a prison to parents and kids for the last 6 years -- now they'll have an opportunity to hire a nice principal who actually likes all the kids, including the boys.

Posted by jordan survivor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:19 pm

So, does this mean that students can ACTUALLY come OUT at lunch now?

Posted by beentheredonethat, a resident of Fairmeadow
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:30 pm

Another cover up by government officials. Or worse, our elected school board members were caught unawares by this resignation. Given the remarkable benefits assigned to principals of our schools, something is going on that is not reported by our small media.

Posted by Fed up, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:33 pm

I've seen some of the "boys" that don't get to go out at lunch. Are you talking about the ones that spread graffitt all over the bathroom walls, or willfully defy even the simplest request from a teacher or aid?

We're talking here about little spoiled brats, about 5% of the Jordan population (some boys, some girls), whose parents coddle every ignorant move that "little Johnny makes". They all cost us big in terms of lost education time.

Keep the brats in if they can't act like something other than Neanderthals. It's tiring, watching 5% of the kids screw up education for the other 95%, all with the enthusiattic support of their irresponsible and clueless parents.

Posted by jordan parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:33 pm

I suggest Sharon Ofek -- my son had her for a summer cooking class before she came to Jordan. She's warm, kind and likes kids!

Posted by jordan student who excelled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:35 pm

jordan survivor, you should be so lucky to have gone to jordan. When do you get out of jail?

Posted by jordan survivor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:36 pm

Fed up-
That's pretty funny actually. You've got it all wrong! Take an A for effort though.

Posted by jordan survivor, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 9:40 pm

jordan student who "excelled"-

I got out of jail a couple years ago. It was called Jordan.

Posted by jordan student who excelled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 10:30 pm

Why didn't you leave? It's a free country. Jordan wants students who want to be there, not just hanger's on

Posted by Newer Jordan Parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 17, 2007 at 11:17 pm

In our “one year plus a couple of months" at Jordan, we haven't been at all impressed with the “leadership" there. We had a particularly disquieting experience this year; one that really highlighted a complete lack of common sense and caring of the principal and her staff. I was pleased when I saw this news, and think this could be a real opportunity for the Jordan community.

Posted by jordan student who excelled, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 17, 2007 at 11:45 pm

so, what did your kid do? What kind of trouble did he get into?

Posted by OhlonePar, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2007 at 12:16 am

Principals don't resign mid-year. In part because there are no jobs that start until next summer. So, yes, something's up.

If anyone knows, help our "small media" out and drop an e-mail or phone call to Arden Pennell. Give her or him sources--I'm figuring her because women often get put on the education beat. Arden seems to have the oomph to keep going after stories. Liked the one today on the third-high-school focus group. Looks like we've got a strong-willed super.

Posted by Optimist, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 9:14 am

Heard him speak recently and our new superintendent rocks! Let's give him space to do some good work. And let's give him a strong board to work with.

Posted by Former Jordan parent, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 9:15 am

My daughter was at Jordan at the time the principal came. The flavor of the school dramatically changed within months of her arrival and it was not for the best. My daughter told stories of lines at bathrooms, eating lunch in the wet outside, and other new rules that she instigated. I remember talking to the office staff at one stage and she interrupted the conversation with her side on the problem without even me realising who she was (agreed that that may have been my problem not hers).

I am not surprised that there is still bad feeling about her and I can understand why some of the former Jordan students feel that they were spending time in jail.

Posted by Jordan alum parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 18, 2007 at 9:19 am

"So, does this mean that students can ACTUALLY come OUT at lunch now?"
LOL! As a parent of a Jordan alum who started with Principal Lupe Garcia, that about sums it up. Barbarasch transferred from an East Coast school (Boston?) and brought her cold-weather administrative habits with her. There was no reason to take away the lunch privileges students once had. Her distrust of children was in stark contrast to Lupe Garcia's genuine enjoyment of them. Put Mr. Garcia on the hiring committee for the replacement.

Posted by Arden Pennell, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Oct 18, 2007 at 9:28 am

Hi all,

As OhlonePar mentioned, I would appreciate hearing parent and student feedback about Barbarasch. Please feel free to call me at (650) 326-8210. Or e-mail at

Arden Pennell
Staff Writer, Palo Alto Weekly

Posted by another former Jordan parent, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2007 at 9:48 am

Certainly no warmth or friendliness was expressed to me, one of the many, many parent volunteers at Jordan. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.] I don't know about nowadays.

Posted by Danny, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2007 at 12:24 pm

Admitting I know nothing about Jordan or Barbarasch, these comments make me feel as though she was akin to Dolores Umbridge from the Harry Potter books.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 12:26 pm


First, principals do leave mid-term, if opportunity presents itself in ways that are hard to refuse. Some leave education altogether. I would look before leaping to conclusions, or even suggesting them.

With respect, the negative comments on this thread are an insult to a fine principal, who is highly respected by staff, who did much to improve curricular structure, and didn't take any gaff from the relative *few* parents and students who thought the world was their oyster. I think the negative innuendo here is coming from the latter group, some of whom I had the displeasure of encountering directly, with all their hubris, disrespect, and near sociopathology.

Middle schools are notoriously difficult places to teach, and administer (ask around). It's in middle school where puberty begins to take hold (in fact, we're beginning to see a lot more pubescent behavior in the earlier middle school grades than we used to, just 10 years ago).

Another thing that present difficulty in middle school is that it's usually the first place that students are amde accountable (in ways that have more weighty consequences than in elementary school) for their behavior.

Put these last two variables together, and then add the additional ingredient of a *few* parents who have brought up what can only be described as spoiled, inconsiderate brats, leaving the mess they have made at home to cause mayhem in the classroom.

That said, god help the teacher or staff member, oro counseler who attempts to let these *few* parents and students know thata they need some retroactive training in basic human relationships, personal responsibility, etc.

Last, about any middle school of Jordan's size. It's an *institution* (about 1200 students, I think). There is no way that all parents are going to get "equal time" with a principal.

The fact is that Jordan runs fine, and most parents and kids are happy.

What happens around here is that a relative few parents and students can make a LOT of noise if they're not happy. I've seen parents at Jordan (and other schools) defend their kids in the face of a mound of evidence against them - in terms of class disruption, pure disrespect for other students and staff, etc. etc. Some of these people leave campus in a huff after their third or fouth "counseling session" with their kid, threatening to sue.

YOu have to be there to appreciate the hubris. Much of the negativity I see on this thread sounds JUST like the *relative few* moaners I have encountered in this district, whose kids can do no wrong, and who think that teachers and staff are there to socialize their spoiled brat kids, and make up for the limits that they - as parents - have egregiously failied to impose at home.

Lupe was a good guy, but he had his limitations, too. So does Susan. So do I. So does everyone. I suggest we take the negative comments about ann outgoing principal here with a grain of salt, because they go against the grain of what most students, parents, teachers, and other staff would say about this fine person.

Ms. Pennell, please get the OTHER side of the story, before writing a slam piece against a fine principal.

Posted by PA mom, a resident of Crescent Park
on Oct 18, 2007 at 1:19 pm


Her name is Suzanne, not Susan.
If she is so "highly respected by staff" why do they leave the office when she enters? Why won't they sit with her at graduation?
In 5 years of having kids at Jordan, I have not heard a single parent say anything positive about her so it is not a just few parents who dislike her. [Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
The two ass't principals - lots of good feedback, well liked by staff, students and parents.

You are correct that Jordan is a good school, but many great staff member have left since Suzanne started.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 1:58 pm

PA mom,

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

I personally know more than 20 staff members at Jordan who would laugh dismissively at what you just wrote

And yes, I did misspell Suzanne's name.

Posted by Newer Jordan Parent, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 18, 2007 at 2:03 pm


Are you a parent at Jordan, or have you been? It sounds to me like you are the one jumping to conclusions.

I can assure you that I am not one of those parents you are talking about. I don't make waves. I don't ever look for special treatment. I volunteer my time extensively, for both Jordan and my elementary school. I like Jordan, and am very supportive of community/neighborhood school -- wouldn't consider anything else. I don't have a "problem child" (and frankly, although I'm sure there are some, I don't think that most of the kids at Jordan would fall anywhere close to that category!)

I can just tell you that my personal experience with her was not great. I'm talking just the basics of being courteous and having some common sense. And there was nothing in her actions or her words that showed any connection at all to what I've seen her and others from Jordan talk about re being so concerned about building community and about the children.

That is my personal experience. You may (or may not) have a personal experience of your own. But please don't draw conclusions about other parents or their children just because it doesn't fit your own beliefs.

I think the tone of any organization is set by the leader, in this case the principal, and I'm hoping that whoever steps into this position next can really tap into the strong community feelings that all of the kids and the families bring with them when they enter Jordan.

Posted by Jordan survivor, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Oct 18, 2007 at 2:39 pm

[Portion removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]
She suspended almost 1/2 of the boys in my class at Jordan (I actually counted) I was lucky to dodge it, its time to bring in someone who treats the children with even the smallest bit of respect, and will provide a nurturing learning enviornment, not one in which boys are frightened to go to school everyday because of the people who are supposed to be teaching, not turnng school into a game of cat and mouse.I think everyone is happy to see her go.

Posted by RWE, a resident of South of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 2:51 pm

Newer Jordan Parent,

Do you have ANY idea about what a pressure-cooker environment a middle school is? I don't think you can appreciate the weight of dealing with 1200 pubescent and pre-pubescent kids in a district as demanding as this.

fyi, this principal has been at Jordan by YEARS longer than any of her predecessors, going back 2-3 principals. Think about that. Then, think about why middle-school principal tenures tend to be relatively shorter than other principal tenures.

It's also a FACT that many teachers and principals DO leave mid-year.

And, you're right, most kids at Jordan (or their parents) DO NOT fall into the category of "problem" that I was describing, above.

That siad, just because she didn't welcome you with a hug, or warm and fuzzy glow on her face in one or another situation, doesn't mean that she is performing at low levels. In fact, quite the contrary.

It amazes me how some parents can walk into a 1200 student middle school, and forget that are inside a WORKING institution, with staff, schedules, building maintenance, after-school hours schedules, district reporting (*massive* amount of reporting), committee creation, problem student meetings, etc. etc. etc. and 1200 students - all with individual needs - and still expect principal, teachers and staff to attend to their concerns with perfect attention and decorum. Please, do get a *comprehensive* clue about this environment (large middle school) before casting aspersions.

Try leading any middle school around here for a week (in other words, walk in a middle school principal's shoes), then get back to us.

MOST parents appreciate the work that this principal has done. The VAST majority of teachers at Jordan have appreciated this principal's leadership, superb organizational chops, ability to extract improvements for the Jordan population, and her ability to institute an extremely fair atmosphere of accountability

btw, I did have kids at Jordan, when Suzanne was there. She is an exemplary principal; right near the top in this district.

I get around this district more than most; she's one of the best.

Posted by know the facts, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 18, 2007 at 2:55 pm

Jordan survivor, I know the class you're talking about. These boys were suspended because of egregious and disrespectful behavior that was committed over and over again, after many warnings and counseling sessions. The boys involved were unrepentant, and refused to follow even the simplest requests to respect the time of other students.

If Jordan was a private school, most of those boys would have been summarily dismissed (expelled) from the school).

In fact, the remaining kids in that class were HAPPY to see this disruptive crown disappear for a time, so they could enjoy their day without encountering rudeness and enndless disrespect (including swearing, violating the rights of other students, and so on).

Posted by been there, a resident of College Terrace
on Oct 18, 2007 at 2:58 pm

Suzanne Barbarasch is a fantastic principal, one of the most caring people I have known in the PAUSD district. She helped my kid though several rough patches, often on her own time.
She is to be praised, not slandered by those who were at the deserved receiving end of a normal disciplinary process.

Posted by Jordan Teacher, a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 18, 2007 at 3:15 pm

Many of the comments here are so insanely wild that they don't deserve attention. Some of you clearly have no idea what you're talking about.
Others are like PAMom-- you may have heard a negative comment from someone at some point, and you're blowing it up all out of proportion.

I would, at any time in the last six years, have been proud to sit next to Ms. Barbarasch on any occasion, graduation or otherwise. I have served with her on district-level committees and seen her fierce advocacy of students and parents, working tirelessly to serve her population and do what's best for them. Hers is often the voice of reason in an otherwise frenzied environment.

She has ruffled some feathers because she's a strong woman with big ideas, and some people hate change, even if it's an improvement. She has led Jordan longer than any other principal (since its re-opening), and has given us stability and continuity, in addition to curricular improvements, TEAMing, and a host of other things. I may not have agreed with every little thing, but I agreed with most, and overall she's been great for our school. I didn't agree with everything that Garcia or Brummett did, either; and neither of them lasted long enough to make a big difference. Who in the corporate world has a boss who is perfect? Who in any private or public sector has a boss who is perfect? But you're lucky if you have someone like Suzanne who cares and who is smart and savvy and passionate about what they do.

Thank goodness for Ms. Barbarasch-- I will be sorry to see her go, even though I respect and support her decision to move on.

And I know for certain I am not the only Jordan teacher who feels that way--

Posted by julie, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 4:21 pm

Well it appears that you are the only teacher who feels that way--- the silence is deafening ---.

When my son was at Jordan I and many others felt that Ms Barbarasch had a distinct bias against boys.

maybe she will fit at an all girls school

Posted by julie's estranged husband, a resident of another community
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:05 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by JOHN, a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:18 pm

SUZANNE baraberash was very biased to boys
i agree everyone should celebrate to this day.

Posted by Mark C., a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Oct 18, 2007 at 6:32 pm

As a parent who sent 3 kids through Jordan in the last 5 years, I have nothing but good things to say about Ms. Barbarasch. I met with her about my son and she was extremely helpful and supportive. The problem with Jordan is the parents who constantly criticize a school with some of the top test scores in the state. I would suggest to these parents (you know who you are) that you be proud of this school and cease your endless petty complaints.

Posted by another Jordan teacher, a resident of Midtown
on Oct 18, 2007 at 8:31 pm

I want to thank RWE, Jordan teacher, Mark C, and "been there" for being the voices of reason and saying what I was thinking as I read the thread. In different ways, you are all right on.

The silence from teachers is not deafening - we are professionals who are a) busy working and b) too dignified to respond to such catty business.

The best of luck to SB.