Centennial Middle School principal steps down

Centennial Middle School principal steps down

The principal of an Ahwatukee middle school that was the focus of some controversy earlier this year has left her position to take on an apparently still-to-be-decided post in the Kyrene School District.

Superintendent Jan Vesely told parents last week that Michelle Anderson “has made the difficult decision to leave” Centennial Middle School “to seek out new opportunities within the Kyrene School District.

Some black parents earlier this year had demanded that the school board either replace or discipline Anderson for what they called were insensitive remarks she made in a video to students during Black History Month in February.

In what she later said were remarks that “may have been unintentionally hurtful to some of our students,” Anderson said multiple students asked her why the school did not celebrate Black History Month.

“We haven’t because we celebrate all cultures all day long,” she said in the first video, and added that students should organize their own activities to celebrate months dedicated to specific cultures or women.

The Black Mothers Forum accused Anderson of not caring about different cultures.

The Kyrene school board backed Anderson, praising her administration of Centennial and her concern for the welfare of all students.

Then last month, the Centennial yearbook contained a photo of a student who appeared to be wearing blackface.

School officials said “there was no racial motivation on the part of the student,” but that the photo should have never slipped by the people who review the yearbook’s content before it’s sent to the printer.

“The day the photo was taken, theater students engaged in a section on theatrical makeup, based on fictional characters,” district spokeswoman Erin Helm said at the time, adding:

“This student chose a robot from a video game or comic, and the robot is black. That in no way excuses the situation, but is shared to illustrate that there was no racial motivation on the part of the student.”

Helm also said that “multiple people were involved in the compilation and proof-reading of the yearbook” and that the district was attempting to interview everyone involved — a task complicated by the fact that some likely are away for the summer.

Helm did not respond to an email asking whether Anderson’s departure from Centennial was at all related to the two incidents or whether she was asked to step down.

In her announcement to parents, Vesely praised Anderson as “a compassionate leader who cares deeply about every student and every member of her staff.”

“I know how much she has appreciated your support, and she has taken great pride in serving as your Principal. Kyrene looks forward to seeing Mrs. Anderson’s considerable talents put to use in another area of our district,” Vesely added.

Renee Kory, who already is principal of Aprende Middle School in Chandler, will also head up Centennial, Vesely said.

“With a strong team in place at Aprende and two assistant principals serving Centennial this year, Ms. Kory will be able to oversee both schools until a permanent Centennial principal is in place,” Vesely added.

Vesely told parents that Kory “is passionate about middle school education and seeks to promote responsibility, integrity, critical thinking and citizenship among students.”

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