Parents and students packed the North Kirkwood Middle School Cafeteria Monday night to express their concern and skepticism about the resignation of Kirkwood High School Senior Class Assistant Principal Cathy McGrath.
During the public comment section of the regular meeting of the Kirkwood School Board, multiple students spoke about the positive impact McGrath has had on their lives and questioned why such an effective and beloved educator would suddenly leave her post.
McGrath’s resignation letter is dated Feb. 16. (See attached document.) Jeff Townsend, KHS athletics director, will replace McGrath next year as senior class principal.
“I believe that the forced resignation of Ms. McGrath is extremely unjust,” Will Haenni, Kirkwood student council president, told board members as he read from a written statement he submitted into the public record. “In her four years with the class of 2012, she has delivered superb results and developed strong relationships with all of her students. … She truly is the cream of the crop when it comes to being a principal.”
Haenni called on the board to make the right decision and keep McGrath in the Kirkwood School District. Like many in the audience, he donned a T-shirt that read, “We Support Ms. McGrath” above the word “Bullying” circled and marked out. The message behind the T-shirts was that McGrath was bullied out of the District.
“This was politically motivated, this was fear and intimidation,” Antona Brent Smith, one of the concerned parents who presented to the board, told Patch. “You don’t need to have this level of fear in Kirkwood and that’s wrong.”
The resignation came as a surprise to parents and a group approached Kirkwood Superintendent Tom Williams about the decision. The group included KHS parent Carolyn McClure who told Patch that Williams said there were certain aspects about the resignation he could not share with parents because it was a personnel matter.
After reviewing performance evaluations shared by McGrath, McClure and others sent out an email that encouraged parents and students to attend Monday’s meeting to show their support for McGrath and voice their concerns to the board.
Williams commended students for how they expressed their feelings and views Monday night.
“I think every board member and every administrator here respect that and listened with an open mind,” he said. He offered to follow up with anyone individually to discuss the matter further.
School board member John Glunt presented in defense of the District’s actions regarding McGrath’s resignation. The meeting was Glunt’s last as a member of the board.
“I believe strongly in the process this district goes through, and I want you to know that while you’ll never know all the details, I feel very, very comfortable with the process and I walk away tonight very comfortable with this decision,” he said.
Patch received the following statement on behalf of McGrath about Monday night's outpouring of support:
"I am overwhelmed by this response from students, parents and colleagues! I appreciate everyone's support and am blessed to work with such an awesome group of students and parents!"