By Elizabeth Perry
Sto-Rox Junior/Senior High School Principal Kimberly Price has resigned.
The Jan. 26 move seemed to come as a surprise to school directors at Sto-Rox and their approval of the resignation was met with tears by Student Director Makayla Borda and by Price herself.
“I urge you to take a look again at our student board member, Makayla, and her reaction and just know the impact and the legacy you’re leaving here in the few months you’ve been there,” Board President Cameron Culliver said.
Price was hired in May 2022, after the resignation of Sam Weaver. Price said in her resignation letter “her current load on the principal position is not sustainable.”
“I am deeply saddened by this, but I am burning out,” Price said.
Price said she regularly faced workdays of between 14 to 16 hours. Most of her time was spent dealing with student conflicts and needs.
“The level of trauma that most of our kids have been through shows itself in so many different behaviors that our kids are struggling and I find that most of my day has to be about responding to behaviors and responding to needs,” Price said.
She described not just fights, but incidents where students break down into tears and can’t function, or are cussing something out. In those cases, she said, the students are not trying to hurt people, “they’re trying to get out some anger or some frustration.”
“We have to be there for the kids first, but we still have to improve our learning and it’s very difficult to do both,” Price said.
The only way to achieve the educational goals she wanted to implement was to put in time after school hours.
Prior to the vote on Price’s resignation, Director Samantha Levitzki-Wright urged staff to reach out to her with their concerns.
“I don’t want to bleed teachers, we have phenomenal teachers,” said Levitzki-Wright, who worried that if burnout was an issue with administration at the top, teachers all the way down to the cafeteria workers must be experiencing similar pressure. So far this school year, the district has lost 22 teachers.
Treasurer Lucille Young said to Price, “I think personally that we have to be unselfish in our moves, and I know you have to do what you have to do, but we have to start thinking about the legacy. You know that it’s not just about us.”
Young had comforted student Makayla earlier in the meeting, handing her a tissue. “When I took her the tissue I whispered this is part of growing up, but sometimes people grow up too fast and a lot of our kids have grown up too fast the wrong way.”
The board unanimously accepted the resignation.
After the meeting concluded, Director Kimberly Spriggs told Price she wished the principal could have expressed her frustration and sense of burnout before. “It’s not too late to back out.”
Young hugged Price. “I appreciate you, and I wish you well. And I wish you’d come back real fast.”
Director Adrienne Roberts embraced Price and told her she had to do what was best for herself and her family.
Paula Dugan, a Health and Physical Education teacher who has been with the district for 30 years, said just that day, she had been forced to call security four times to intervene in an argument between two boys.
“It’s not that they’re not responding. It’s just that there’s so much to respond to,” Dugan said.
When asked what the solution to the problems Price highlighted could be, Dugan said, “I don’t know. That’s part of the problem.”
Dugan said it’s a “struggle.”
“There’s no one person who can fix it,” she said.
In December, Assistant Principals Michael Duca and Pam Clawson left their positions. Duca returned to his work as an English teacher and Clawson continued on as a Life Skills teacher. In their place, the district hired Raelyn Day and Will Cross.
“Both of the (vice) principals who began with me, they also became weary of the workload, and it was just incredibly difficult to sustain, even if they worked 10-hour days, which is kind of normal for this type of job, that wasn’t getting everything done that needed to happen,” Price said.
Price said another set of hands or another person to respond to student behaviors was necessary to do the job. She also said social workers to help deal with situations would be incredibly beneficial as well.
The district did vote to approve the employment of three “interrupters” through the Lee Davis & Associates Consulting firm to interrupt and de-escalate violent situations in schools. The agreement is reported to run from Feb. 1 to June 30, 2024 and will cost $150,000, which will be paid by Allegheny Health Department/Department of Human Services.
Use of the “interrupters” should help, but there need to be more resources overall, Price said. Price will continue at Sto-Rox for 60 days and then go on to work as Coordinator of Performing Arts for Pittsburgh Public Schools.