The parents of Lodi Middle School have spoken. They want a principal with experience working with students at this grade level, one who plans to address gang issues and can manage what parents call some very strong staff members.
Parents were invited to a meeting with Odie Douglas, assistant superintendent of secondary education for the Lodi Unified School District, and Cathy Nichols-Washer, district superintendent, to share what they would like to see in a future administration.
Patricia Lingerfelt, the current principal, is out on medical leave until further notice. Jim Jordan, a longtime district employee, has come out of retirement to serve as interim principal in her place. Both Lingerfelt and vice principal Lurdes Rosales will resign at the end of the school year.
The pair stepped down in the wake of a conflict in December 2011 when Rosales placed P.E. teacher Jon Lapachet under citizen's arrest.
About 20 parents attended the meeting, which turned into an opportunity to air concerns rather than just list characteristics they want in a principal.
Lenora Swearingen, whose son is in eighth grade, said there was a history of problems with some strong staff members at the school.
"They are equally part of the problem," she said. "(The principal) has got to be somebody who can work with them and build that trust."
Her son is aware of the arrest and resulting resignations, but says teachers don't bring up the topic at school, said Swearingen.
"I'm very happy with my son's education. I'm not so happy with what's going on at the top," she said.
Valerie Tingey is both a parent and a crossing guard for the school. She wants to see an administrator who is consistent with discipline.
"In Lodi, this is the school to be in," she said, adding that her child has had a good experience at the school.
Rosie Estrella, a bilingual aide for the school, translated for the Spanish-speaking parents, who wanted a principal who was bilingual, familiar with their culture and would be strong against gang-related activity.
There were two Lodi Middle teachers present. One was Paige Blevins, who has taught math off and on for 22 years. Her son will be attending Lodi Middle School next year, though he was also accepted to Elkhorn School.
"It's easy to place the blame on one side or the other. But this is a good place. Just be patient and we'll find the right mix for our school," she said.
Misti Traylor, vice president of the school's PTA, said an incoming principal could not completely fix the main problem the school is facing. That problem is a small percentage of the teachers at the school.
"Even with a new administration, there are still some weeds in the patch that need to be plucked," she said.
Parents also submitted their ideas in writing. They were invited to join the interview panel for the principal and vice principal jobs. Douglas will collect the forms in a few weeks.
Earlier on Wednesday, staff met to discuss the same topic. Students will have an opportunity to share their ideas on Feb. 29.
The position has been posted for several weeks and will close on March 2. The interview panel will make a recommendation to the Lodi Unified board of education on April 17. Current district employees as well as applicants from outside the district will be considered.
Contact reporter Sara Jane Pohlman at firstname.lastname@example.org.