After 10 years overseeing the world language programs in Albemarle County schools, Cyndi Wells is moving to Cale Elementary to be its next principal, effective Monday.
“It’s an honor to have this opportunity to serve the Cale community full-time,” Wells said in a statement. “I long have admired their accomplishments.”
Wells is taking over for Lisa “DeeDee” Jones, who led Cale for 12 years and left to join the division’s alternative learning program. Cale is one of the most diverse schools in the division.
Cale is the only Albemarle school to offer a dual-language immersion program in which students are taught in Spanish part of the school day. Wells has also overseen the development of foreign language program at four other elementary schools.
Division officials said in the announcement that a survey of Cale staff and parents called for the next principal to have a deep understanding of bilingual education, instructional leadership and community building skills. They noted that Wells is an advocate for multicultural education, embraced Culturally Responsive Teaching and has worked with families from diverse backgrounds.
“Her extensive experience as an educational leader makes her an ideal fit for Cale,” Deputy Superintendent Debora Collins said in a statement. “Her knowledge of the structural foundations that enrich learning for young children, both in aligning curriculum to student needs and helping teachers to fulfill their highest potential, will be immediate assets for Cale.”
At Thursday’s School Board meeting, a Cale parent and Southwood resident spoke out about the selection process for Wells.
“I am here tonight to let you know that I am upset that no one from this Southwood community, to my knowledge, was included in the panel for the interview for the potential principles,” said Sandra Juarez. “The Southwood community comprises 40% of Cale, and we deserve a seat at the table.”
In the 2017-18 school year, students from the Southwood, Stagecoach and Maymont neighborhoods made up 36% of Cale’s enrollment, according to division data.
Parents were invited to participate on a school-based interview panel, according to a letter sent to Cale families last month. However, Assistant Superintendent Clare Keiser noted that there was limited space on the panel.
Division spokesman Phil Giaramita said members of the Cale community and staff were included in the selection process but could not say if there was any interest from Southwood families in participating on the panel. Keiser, who could answer that question, was not available Friday.
The school interview is one component of the selection process, according to the email. Candidates also interview with schools Superintendent Matt Haas and his leadership team. Ultimately, Haas recommends a candidate to the School Board.
Juarez said she was disappointed that the School Board did not promote assistant principal Ben Allen, who joined the school in 2016.
“Ben Allen has been one of the best things that has happened to my family,” she said. “For the past three years, I have felt incredibly included in the school, and he has shown me that he has invested in our family and our community. He has built our roof alongside my husband, and also has taken time out of his afternoon to explain test scores for my daughter.”
Friday’s announcement said that Allen has been promoted to associate principal, a position with broader responsibilities. Giaramita said not all schools have associate principals.
“The decision to have someone in this position generally is based upon a school’s enrollment and the complexities that go with that,” Giaramita wrote in an email. “In the case of Cale, its enrollment is 680, which makes it the second largest elementary school in the division to Brownsville.”
With Allen as associate principal, Rosaura González-Muñiz will become assistant principal. She previously was the assistant at Stone-Robinson Elementary School.
Wells said she’s a proud member of the Cale community. Her daughter attended the school, as well.
“I’m looking forward to leveraging the rich diversity of the school’s languages, backgrounds and experiences,” she said. “I know every child has the potential to achieve at high levels. Every teacher has a contribution to make to that outcome. Every member of our support staff, in the way they assist and interact with students, can make every day we are together more impactful and joyful.”