Juana Briones principal announces departure | May 18, 2012 | Palo Alto Weekly | Palo Alto Online |

Palo Alto Weekly

News - May 18, 2012

Juana Briones principal announces departure

Announcement follows tensions over contract renewal of popular librarian, other issues

Juana Briones Elementary School Principal Matthew Nagle announced Tuesday, May 15, he will leave the school at the end of the school year to work on projects in the Palo Alto school district central office.

Nagle, who is finishing his third year as principal of the 415-student K-5 campus, broke the news in an email to parents and staff Tuesday afternoon.

The announcement followed tensions at the school apparently precipitated by Nagle's controversial recommendation not to renew the contract of a popular school librarian. The dispute led other staff members, with support from a number of parents, to come forward with complaints, sources said.

In his email, Nagle said he had "nothing but gratitude" for his three years as principal at the school.

"I know that the district will find another principal talented enough to lead this school into the next year and beyond."

Nagle was hired to lead Juana Briones in August 2009, replacing principal Michael O'Neill, who resigned in late July after two years at the school to take a job on the East Coast.

Nagle had been an elementary school principal for seven years, having previously served at Blackford Elementary School in San Jose and Marshall Lane Elementary School in Saratoga.

— Chris Kenrick


Posted by Terry, a resident of Midtown
on May 15, 2012 at 11:19 pm

Seems like there are lot of "administrators" working in the Palo Alto School District. Would be nice if Palo Alto Online could report just how many non teaching folks collect salaries in the Palo Alto School system. Hint, hint.

Posted by JB Parent, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 16, 2012 at 8:48 am

As a JB parent, I sure feel in the dark. Yes, there have been tensions over this decision not to renew the librarian's contract -- she's popular because she's been such an exceptional librarian, and the decision didn't make any sense -- but I thought it was ultimately the board's decision not the principal's.

Regardless, this situation should never have come to this -- we're talking about two good people, and THEIR management should have stepped in long ago so things didn't come to this.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2012 at 9:45 am

A couple years back, the Fairmeadow principal also switched to a position at the district offices.

A question: Could it be that those fine principals just can't take all of the over-involved, strident parents that have become so numerous in Palo Alto schools in recent years?

Posted by Another Parent, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 16, 2012 at 11:25 am

I like Mr. Nagle. He is friendly, approachable and always responsive. It's sad to see him leaving the school.

I agree with "Parent" above. PAUSD seems to have more than it's fair share of opinionated and articulative parents, who tend to blow things out of proportion. It has been proved again and again it would affect personnel issues here, for good or for bad, but mostly for bad IMO.

Posted by Jim H., a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on May 16, 2012 at 11:30 am

Is this a new position in the district, or is he replacing someone that's leaving? What is the specific role being filled? Hopefully, the district office is not where all "retired" school administrators go to spend their time on the taxpayers' dime.

Posted by Old Town Paly Resident, a resident of Old Palo Alto
on May 16, 2012 at 1:37 pm

to Parent and Another Parent above...I am a single Mom working full time plus and yet I am also one of those parents..the one you named above as opinionated and articulated...GUESS WHAT? ANY parent who is taking an active role and part in their children's education and overall well being within PAUSD is seen that way and frankly TOO BAD!! Parents have right to know what's going on and also the why of it all. You two must not have children in the school system at this time....believe me, things have changed. From Teacher to Student relationship to Parent to Teacher relationship...there is a loss of personal attention due to the technology and what the internest can offer for information about our children (Infinate Campus) Parents have to be more involved!! Over involved strident parents you stated? PLEASE! Hmmmm how involved are you two with your kids education? Or Today even? If you do not have kids within the school system (which I bet you don't) then comment elsewhere for your words are unfounded.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2012 at 2:28 pm

@ Old Town Paly Resident

You are right, you seem to be one of the parents I was talking about. For starters you assume too much and you are wrong about me. You see, I still have a child in the school district, the last one. This child is in high school. I've been a parent in this school district for close to 20 years now.

And yes, it is good to be an active, involved parent, who knows what is happening at school. I am one. I still volunteer several hours a week. And I've seen first hand the parents I am talking about.

They are not just involved, active and knowledgeable, they are arrogant, presumptuous know-it-all types who look down on school teachers and staff, parents who try to call all the shots and who manage to make perfectly good people quit.

Posted by mom, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 16, 2012 at 4:59 pm

Dear Parent (aka overly pious and judgmental),
You don't know Old Town Paly Resident and you're being a jerk to her. Perhaps you are one of those people who should first examine the beam in your own eye. Yes, there are overbearing parents, but too often that charge is leveled at parents in a power play to dismiss them when dealing with a child's needs or a family's needs if a particular situation is too bothersome.

What's with all the snark? That's what's poisonous! You complain about other people while being so snarky yourselves.

No one has explained why Mr. Nagle is leaving Briones. I don't think this story is an accurate portrayal of what is going on at the school. Briones is a nice community. Both the librarian and Mr. Nagle are well liked. I can only think of one family that has been "strident" enough to make anyone leave (or others with issues related to that family), but they were there when he took the position.

Mr. Nagle hasn't said anything at all about why he is leaving, but from what I know, the real issues aren't stated here. It's more likely, given what I've heard, the fit with the faculty wasn't working. Again, if that's the case, I think that's an issue for THEIR management to mediate.

Matt Nagle is a good guy. The school librarian is great. Briones parents (with only a few exceptions) make an unusually supportive, nice community. (They were very active, by the way, in the principal selection process, far more so than any of the other schools who have had new principals in recent memory, so anyone taking the job would have known that "involved" parents came with the territory because parents told the district in fine detail. Also, Briones principal serves both Briones and the OH.)

Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2012 at 5:14 pm

@ Mom from Juana Briones

Wow.... I came here and asked a question. I was immediately rather nastily attacked by Old Town Paly Resident, who made erroneous assumptions about me, and then you jump in to attack me some more accusing me of being snarky when i am defending myself??

I really have nothing else to respond to you.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Fairmeadow
on May 16, 2012 at 5:20 pm

I thought I was onto something when I mentioned strident parents.... It seems there are some here today.

Posted by eh, a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 16, 2012 at 9:24 pm

When an administrator is forced to leave their current position after the date of march 15, they are entitled to a job the following year. Often, school districts will move them to the district office in a "special projects" role. This is not a new practice nor specific to Palo Alto.

I have no inside knowledge and not making assumptions, just sharing with the uninformed how school districts work.

Posted by Another parent, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 16, 2012 at 10:15 pm

I think this thread proved my point precisely.

Old play gal: You are wrong. I have kid in Juana Briones. I'm active in school activities. Actually I would say I'm among top 1% of parent volunters, if you know what this number implies.

You have no idea of it, and you attack me with such a force. Nothing can prove my point better.

And to be complete, Juana Briones is a very good community, for both staff and parents. Again my evaluation is based on my involvemensitu so carries some merits. My mild comments above is more on PAUSD overall situation.

Posted by parent, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 17, 2012 at 2:10 am

Most parents do not feel that the termination of the librarian was the cause of his resignation. However, maybe now we will stop loosing so many teachers, the number of teachers that have left, not because of retirement or relocation has been substantial for the past several years. We will have to fill many teacher spots for next year as well as find a new principal.

Posted by Been there, done that, a resident of Greater Miranda
on May 17, 2012 at 6:13 am

To JB, Parent and Another Parent: I agree with you. It just takes a few harsh, judgmental, know-it-all, arrogant parents to drive out the good folks, not only teachers and principals, but PTA workers as well. I loved Juana Briones, the teachers, the parents etc. The tenor started changing, and the strident know-it-alls who never learned to "play well with others" drove me out of the volunteer work I did.

A couple examples are apparent on this thread.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2012 at 8:34 am

Being principal is a tough, political, middle management job, balancing the demands of teachers, parents, and the district management. That is why we pay principals so much. Who knows what the details are in this case, but, if you can't deal with "a few harsh, judgmental, know-it-all, arrogant parents", don't take the job in the first place. When I was in school a long time ago, some of the teachers could barely read and write themselves, and the "principal" job in one small school was a part-time role for one of the more experienced teachers. Now that everyone wants to send their little genius to either the Stanford or Harvard Law Schools, or both, we have to have politicians as principals.

Posted by JB Alums, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 8:42 am

My kids both went through Briones in the last decade, starting in its hey-day as an "overflow" school through a few years ago. The kids were a very diverse and sometimes transient group - something like 18 languages spoken at home. The teachers were generally quite experienced and able, though I was surprised to find the second grade teacher had taught my kid a lot about artists but hardly anything about spelling. And the principal, Gary Dalton, presided over the whole thing with a benign and capable presence. The parents were supportive and generally a very nice group - everyone pitched in. My sense is that it was lower key than some of the other schools (in tune with Barron Park) but still quite engaged and just friendly. We found it quite welcoming when we moved there. Barron Park is moving up in the world a bit, I think, with new houses and some Google people, so things might be changing.

Posted by JB Parent, a resident of Green Acres
on May 17, 2012 at 10:25 am

Just to set the records straight, his leaving had nothing to do with parents. We were losing good teachers and that had to stop.

Posted by Facts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2012 at 12:09 pm

To JB Parent,
I am a teacher and clearly you know nothing about the situation.
I can set the record(s) straight.
If you want more of the story just let me know.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 2:16 pm


Please do tell...

Posted by Anon, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Lets just hope its not too late to retain some of the teachers.

Posted by Anon, a resident of Barron Park
on May 17, 2012 at 6:31 pm

Juana Briones doesn't have the last remaining good teachers in the world. "Losing good teachers" is grasping at straws - there are many excellent teachers at Juana Briones and they are not leaving. Note that some who are leaving or have left did not do so due to the principal. I worked with Mr. Nagle personally on many projects, from minutiae to big picture issues, and he is responsive and competent. I think what we've witnessed here is a political contest run by a disgrunted noisy few who found a way to drown out (or shut out given all the secretive campaigning) the truth: a great majority of teachers, staff, and parents are happy at Juana Briones and supported Mr. Nagle as the principal. They may feel like they've "won", but unfortunately, Mr. Nagle's departure doesn't address the more serious issue of a small minority of parents, teachers, and staff who actively used children as pawns for their own personal gain at the expense of the entire community.

Posted by Facts, a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on May 17, 2012 at 6:49 pm

JB Parent never asked me to reply, but I was getting ready to name the veteran teacher who is leaving and her vocal, negative minority of staff/parents who spread rumors, lies, and innuendo to take Mr. Nagle down.

After reading this last post, which has pretty much summed up the situation, I don't think I have to. I have it all written, ready to go, but I am believing more of what he told us about "behaving like the community we say we are."

Posted by mom, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 17, 2012 at 8:06 pm

Why don't you name names and let people respond to your innuendo? I have witnessed a really positive effort by quite a few parents, very grass roots, to help retain the librarian. Nobody was negative, and in fact I heard words to the effect of not making it negative, because the same parents are also positive about Mr. Nagle. If there were negative people and staff, that's a surprise to me.

I have heard some negative things by teachers who have left or retired within the last few years, but as a parent, I can't speak to them because I'm not a teacher there and haven't experienced it (and so haven't passed them along, gossip is pointless and damaging) because he's always been good to the parent community.

I personally think this is all a crying shame, and think the administration should be providing leadership to help good people do their best.

Posted by mom, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 17, 2012 at 8:08 pm

P.S. If you name names, it's only fair that you also name yourself, so that we can believe you when you say you are also a teacher and the accused teacher knows who is accusing him/her.

Posted by a parent, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 17, 2012 at 8:11 pm

Are you really with the Briones community? What campaign against Mr. Nagle? This all came as a total surprise.

There is obviously more to this. Mean-spirited speculation isn't helpful.

Posted by Just observing, a resident of Ventura
on May 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm

Wow! You guys have some issues. Especially those of you who didn't realize there were issues. Juicy reading, though!

Posted by Who is "Facts"?, a resident of Ventura
on May 17, 2012 at 8:29 pm

[Post removed by Palo Alto Online staff.]

Posted by anony, a resident of Ventura
on May 17, 2012 at 10:13 pm

Any insiders who are following this thread will know who "Facts" is. Tacky. Unprofessional. Spreading rumors about "veteran teacher who is leaving and her vocal, negative minority of staff/parents who spread rumors, lies, and innuendo"? I know it's hard to stay quiet when a family member is under attack, but still...

Posted by Just moderating, a resident of Juana Briones School
on May 18, 2012 at 6:02 am

Anony, I agree with you. But you just did what you said was unprofessional and tacky. Just saying.

Posted by Future Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2012 at 11:09 am

Didn't know teachers were leaving. Hopefully this fixes that quickly. Glad the district took action.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Barron Park
on May 18, 2012 at 3:29 pm

Funny how now everyone at school is talking about this "tension" between the teachers and the principal. Now its all coming to light.

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