A veteran principal has been dispatched to Kenderton Elementary to bring order to the North Philadelphia school, which has been roiled by fights, academic problems, and reports of children wandering the halls.
The School District said R. Victoria Pressley, who has been a principal in the city and in Chester, will become the school's top administrator Tuesday.
Most recently, Pressley was the executive vice president for curriculum, instruction and assessment at Universal Companies, which runs several charter schools in the city.
District officials said the move to replace a first-year principal with an experienced one was in the works before the troubles at Kenderton were reported by the Inquirer and the Daily News this week.
"We realize that something significant has got to change, and we are working to do that," Cheryl Logan, the district's chief of academic support, said last week. "The issue is, building management impacts classroom management."
She added, "The research says: Give the most challenging assignments to people who have done that work before."
Logan said she expected most Kenderton problems would go away once Pressley got aboard. "She knows what she's doing," Logan said.
The district sent letters to parents Wednesday inviting them to two forums at the school Thursday to meet the new principal.
"Pressley's top priorities will be academic achievement and school safety," H. Lee Whack, the district's deputy chief of communications, said in the letter, adding that Pressley is committed to working collaboratively with the Kenderton community.
Shereda Cromwell, chair of Kenderton's school advisory council, attended the morning session Thursday and said parents were impressed with Pressley.
"The reception was very warm," said Cromwell, who has three children at Kenderton. "People felt like she was coming in with a lot of new energy - a breath of fresh air."
Cromwell said Pressley even brought a parent from McCloskey Elementary, where she had been a principal, to talk about changes she made at that school in East Mount Airy.
"Parents left the meeting very excited and feeling positive," Cromwell said.
The district has maintained that troubles at the K-8 school this fall stemmed from an abrupt change in management.
In 2013, Kenderton - a troubled former district school - was converted to a charter and turned over to Scholar Academies Inc. to operate as part of the district's academic turnaround program.
When Scholar Academies announced in June that it was leaving Kenderton, the district began talks with Mastery Charter Schools to become the manager.
Kenderton returned to district control when Mastery said it was not able to handle the full population of 450 students.
Officials said the district had only 90 days to assemble a staff and get the school in Tioga ready to open. A first-year principal was assigned to the school.
Kenderton parents have said the start of the school year was marked by turmoil, and several went to the School Reform Commission this month to outline their concerns.
"Our school needs help," Cromwell told the SRC.
"We understand that this school year and the transition has not been easy," Whack said in the letter to parents. "We remain committed to seeing the children at Kenderton succeed, and we will continue to work closely with Kenderton Elementary and Principal Pressley to provide added support."
Pressley, who grew up in Philadelphia and attended city schools, has held a variety of education posts.
While at McCloskey, she was named a 2013 winner of the Christian R. and Mary F. Lindback Foundation's Distinguished Principal Award. She had received a Rose Lindenbaum Improvement of Education Award in 2012.
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