In 2013, Frank Porter Graham Elementary reopened as Frank Porter Graham Bilingüe: a whole school focused on dual language education. Students are taught in both English and Spanish, while learning the same subjects as other elementary schools.
But without the person who has led the school since its reopening, many parents and staff are concerned about how the transition will affect students and the school's culture. After one Principal of the Year award and over six years as principal at FPGB, Emily Bivins is leaving Frank Porter Graham Bilingüe.
The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education has started their search for the person who will become the next principal.
At the Board of Education meeting on Thursday, members of the School Improvement Team as well as family members from the school showed up to voice the qualifications they believe the next principal should have to be the most effective at running the school.
Mary Prada, a mother and teacher at FPGB, said she is worried about the future of the school.
“Dr. Bivins has a legacy, and now it’s in jeopardy that that legacy will disappear,” Prada said.
Alana Argersinger, a representative of the Gifted Program Advisory Council at FPGB, said the school is the only magnet school in the district, as well as the only full bilingual school.
"To lose that perspective would be devastating to the culture that we have built throughout the years, that Emily has helped built," Argersinger said.
Argersinger told the board what qualities she thought a successful replacement for Bivins should have.
“Our conversation with you is not necessarily to rehire Emily, but to hire somebody that has Emily’s expertise and then some," Argersinger said. "And then some meaning a bilingual administrator in our school. Somebody that can capture and talk to the cultural differences that happen in our school."
The School Improvement Team at FPGB is an organization made up of staff members and parents elected to advocate for their school to the district and the Board of education. Courtney McLaughlin, an SIT member, said communication between schools and parents is necessary for a successful transition between principals.
“We strive for parent involvement in all decision-making spaces," McLaughlin said. "We strive to be transparent with our families about the policies or anything coming down the pipeline that would impact their involvement and their students at FPG.”
McLaughlin also voiced concerns that parents were being shut out of the search process. She said that so far in the search, the SIT members have not been able to communicate effectively with HR and properly represent the parent and students of the school.
McLaughlin said the SIT members of the school want to be more involved in the hiring process so they can represent all the parents, children and staff members that will be directly affected by a new principal and may not normally be able to have all their voices heard.
"We need more engagement from the district as far as what these next steps are on a very holistic level and not just a blanket policy statement,” she said.
At the meeting, the board did not discuss a timeline for hiring a replacement, but McLaughlin said SIT wants parents to have input on any transitional plan the board creates.