The Franklin County School District will be looking to hire another principal for next year, after Chip Clatto, who has overseen the kindergarten through 12th grade Franklin County School since his hiring in September, announced earlier this month he would be resigning, effective June 30.
In a sharply-worded three-page letter sent March 12 to Superintendent Traci Moses and the five school board members, Clatto’s reasons for his decision, and his description of the scenario that led up to it, were aimed squarely at Moses.
“Let me state categorically, this letter is not intended to disrespect you in any way but to point out that you have stifled my ability to lead effectively (either intentionally or unintentionally) since you have taken office,” he wrote. “Unfortunately there have been too many occasions over the past four months where I have felt disrespected by you both in private and in the public domain, and that you have not trusted my expertise and professional judgment.”
In his letter, Clatto drew a sharp distinction with the previous administration of Superintendent Nina Marks, who he said “gave me the autonomy to make the changes we needed to make our school the best it can be.”
Clatto said in his letter that between September and November, the school’s administration and leadership team, “came together to study and decide how to implement and pay for new academic offerings.” Listed in the letter as examples are a middle school Honors Academy and Innovation Lab, state-of-the-art learning commons, elementary STEAM (Science, Technology, Engineering, the Arts and Mathematics) Lab, and high school MakerSpace Lab.
Possible offerings, he said, were two greenhouses and aquaponics systems, high school Advanced Placement courses, and new multi-disciplinary science and technology curriculums, that would include biomedical science and engineering pathways for college credit.
Clatto makes explicit in his letter that he possesses the “vision, experience and track record” to succeed in this ambitious plan. He noted that due to open enrollment next year, in which the law will allow parents much more choice between area school districts as to where they will enroll their children, “we need to create the ‘wow factor’ to not only keep our current students but to potentially attract students from surrounding districts.”
Clatto argues that Moses’ decisions to curtail some of his proposed projects, largely due to costs, flies in the face of “overwhelming support” throughout the community for them.
Clatto wrote that his “warm and friendly relationships with board members” soured after the November election, “and now, some find it hard to even carry on a prolonged conversation with me.”
Since Clatto’s letter, interviews with members of the school board have indicated a prevailing view of both respect for much of Clatto’s work as principal, coupled with a deep-seated concern about the manner in which he has clashed with Moses. Some have said that Clatto lacks a clear understanding of the school system’s structure, one in which the consolidated school principal is both legally, and traditionally, subject to the superintendent’s authority. There does not appear to be signs that a majority of them plan to seek for Clatto to reverse his decision.
In November, Moses, a fourth grade teacher at the Apalachicola Bay Charter School, received nearly half the vote countywide, in a three-person race to capture her first term as superintendent.
While she has not spoken publically about Clatto’s assertion she disrespected him or undermined his authority, Moses has made clear at regular school board meetings and workshops that she intends to be a deliberate and careful steward of the district’s resources, and that she sees her responsibility as encompassing careful scrutiny of all aspects of the district.
In his letter, Clatto acknowledges this contrast of their leadership styles, but takes issue with what he describes as Moses’ “style of micromanaging and disregard for there to be a need to have separation between school district and site-based school administration.
“There cannot be two principals,” he wrote.
The letter cites examples, such as comments Moses allegedly made in closed down meetings, or directives she issued to Clatto regarding letters and posters that appeared at the school, that the principal says demonstrated the undermining of his authority. The letter says Moses “made school personnel changes without consulting with me or my assistant principal, prior to you making your recommendations to the board.”
The school board will hold a workshop Monday evening, with its regular monthly meeting slated for Thursday, March 30, at the Willie Speed board room at the district offices on the campus of the former Brown Elementary School in Eastpoint.