Staff and parents at MLK Elementary fighting to keep principal


UTICA, N.Y. (WKTV) - Some staff and parents at an inner-city Utica elementary school are fighting to hang on to their principal.

The state, citing poor test scores, says he must go. At the center of the struggle: students who are failing at an alarming rate and need help.

"I haven't been able to sleep since we had the meeting that our principal is going to be taken out of this building," says kindergarten teacher assistant and grandparent Mildred Blackshear.

She is organizing efforts to keep Martin Luther King, Jr. Principal Mark DeSalvo in that position.

"I'm saying as a grandparent first that we need this man and we want him here. The community, they're standing behind. This man is dedicated to this building, he wants to be here. He cares about the children, he cares about the community," says Blackshear.

"They have their own emotional connection with Mr. DeSalvo in whatever way, if they were employed in the building, parents in the building, and that's unfortunate that it had to turn out this way," says Director of Curriculum and Instruction for the Utica School District, Lori Eccleston.

"When a school is considered a priority school, which is in the bottom 5% lowest performing schools in the state, it's really out of our hands," says Eccleston, pointing out that the state's Priority School Requirements dictate DeSalvo's removal from his current job as MLK Principal.

Eccleston sites state ELA and math test scores which have consistently gone down over the past five years.

"It started out somewhere in the 80s, low 90s and it went down into the teens so it's out of our hands as to the fact that he has to leave. We do hope for the best for those kids at Martin Luther ing, they deserve the absolute best."

Blackshear plans to speak at a school board meeting Tuesday night. Eccleston says where in the district DeSalvo goes next is up to the school board, which will consult with DeSalvo.

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