Harrisburg highschool principal eliminated; seek for substitute begins – PennLive

After only about a half-year in the role, Jaimie Foster has been removed from the position of principal at Harrisburg School District’s John Harris Campus.

She was the third person to fill the high school principal role since the start of 2019.

Foster’s removal, which was confirmed by district officials, was announced Monday in a letter to John Harris staff members.

The letter signed by Acting Superintendent Chris Celmer reads: “I’m writing to let you know that we are making a leadership change with our school principal effective immediately. I’m thankful for Ms. Foster’s service and contributions to Harrisburg High School, John Harris Campus.”

Foster was named the high school’s principal in late June, shortly after a Dauphin County judge ordered a state takeover of the district and placed district receiver Janet Samuels in charge.

After being named receiver, Samuels fired the previous principal Barbara Hasan — one of a group of former administrators who were let go after the takeover was ordered with the hope of bringing academic success and financial stability back to city schools.

Foster was moved into the principal role from her previous position as chief academic officer. She kept her $113,850 salary.

When her appointment to principal was announced, Foster said she would be a “champion” for the students and so would “every teacher and every administrator that crosses the threshold into John Harris High School.”

Questions about Foster’s departure sent to the school district’s spokeswoman went unanswered Monday evening.

It was not immediately clear why Foster was removed from the role or whether she is still employed by the district. An attempt to contact her Monday night was unsuccessful.

However, district officials, including Samuels and Celmer, have spoken recently about their plans to evaluate the district’s leadership.

The same was true last month when a message was issued to community members from John George, the executive director at Montgomery County Intermediate Unit who has been contracted to help with Harrisburg’s financial and academic recovery.

“Improving student learning is dependent upon the instructional leadership of the principals. Our academic team will go building by building to make sure that there are proper procedures, processes and leadership in place,” George’s message read.

“Buildings need to be orderly and safe; there needs to be an obvious positive and nurturing culture that is inviting to children, and a focus on teaching and learning. If these things are not in place, then changes will have to occur. This work, as difficult as it may be, will be our focus for the next six months.”

The announcement of Foster’s removal coincided with widespread conversation in the community about regular fighting in district schools, including the John Harris Campus.

According to Celmer’s letter to John Harris staff, Foster’s duties will be handled by the central office academic services team while district officials conduct an “extensive search to identify the next leader for John Harris High School.” Celmer promised that additional details will be announced throughout the week.

The high school website tonight lists Jennifer Jenkins as the interim principal.

“As you know, we are working diligently to build from our strengths and draw on the expertise and skills of our faculty and staff to make several critical improvements,” his letter reads. “We want to work collaboratively with families to address student discipline, academic performance and to provide the structures and supports to help our students be successful.

“I believe new high school leadership will help us make progress toward those goals.”

While Foster’s departure was announced to John Harris staff members Monday, school board member Danielle Robinson said district administrators did not contact her about the decision.

In fact, Robinson said she did not find out about the leadership change until she was contacted by city residents with questions — questions she could not answer because she had not been filled in by Samuels or her administrators.

According to Robinson, that’s just one example of a greater breakdown in communication between Samuels and members of the elected school board. It’s a problem that has persisted despite Samuels’ previous comments that the board members should be liaisons between the administration and city residents, Robinson said.

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