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Center Point-Urbana parents submit petition to reinstate primary school principal

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Dick whitehead

Dick Whitehead addresses the crowd outside of Tuesday's meeting.

URBANA, Iowa (KWWL) - More than 150 parents and community members attended a special meeting of the Center Point-Urbana school board Tuesday, to show their support for a principal who recently announced her resignation.

Ann Wooldridge, who has been the principal at CPU Primary School for 11 years, submitted a resignation to the school district in mid-April. In a monthly newsletter sent to families Friday, Wooldridge said she disagreed with the district's decision to shrink the number of classes for incoming second graders. 

"The reasons for my resignation are rooted in a mismatch of student learning needs and necessary teaching resources," Wooldridge said in that newsletter.

The district is planning to go from five second grade sections to four in the fall. Superintendent Matt Berninghaus said the reason is that enrollment has slightly declined, and going to four sections will satisfy a district policy that calls for 20 students per section in grades K-2. 

Wooldridge also said in the letter that next year's second graders have been severely impacted by COVID, and staying with 16 students per class instead of 20 is the right move to maintain student engagement.

"As a parent and a community member, our kids are more than a number. I know they (the district) have to look at the numbers and what's going on, but Ann Wooldridge is an amazing educator, she's a wonderful principal...her resigning instead of retiring one year from now is a powerful statement about issues she sees that could harm kids in the long run," Mandy Skinner said, a parent of three kids in the district, including a kindergartener.

The group formally submitted a petition with over 550 signatures Tuesday night, asking the board to deny Wooldridge's resignation, and allow her to come back in the fall of 2022 "under her conditions."

Wooldridge declined to do a formal interview with KWWL, but she did say she wanted to come back if her conditions were met. When asked what conditions those were, she said, "That there is transparency about what's going on."

About 50 of the parents stayed deep into the night, through two closed sessions that did not relate to Wooldridge's resignation. 

At the conclusion of the meeting, board member Kristeen Opfer addressed the group.

"We want you to know that we appreciate each and every one of you being here tonight. We do hear your voices, we do value your input. We have received your petition and we will follow up in the very near future," Opfer said.

"I think this will help center the conversation in the community about what's really good for kids, and I think that's a win-win proposition," Dick Whitehead said, who is the official spokesperson for the group.

Whitehead served as Center Point-Urbana Superintendent from roughly 1983 - 2004. He is the person who brought Center Point and Urbana together into one district.