Families outraged after board decides to fire Phoenix charter school principals

Parents and students rallied outside Benchmark Elementary on Tuesday after receiving the news that the principals were going to be let go.
Published: Apr. 25, 2023 at 8:10 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Parents at a north Phoenix charter school are outraged after they learned the school’s two principals would be fired, citing a lack of transparency and no warnings from the school board. Now, some are opting to pull their kids out of the school entirely, and others claim the possible replacement isn’t a good fit.

Parents and students rallied outside Benchmark Elementary on Tuesday after receiving the news that the principals, Wendy Brady and Maria Etchebarren, were going to be let go. Brady has been at the school for over 20 years and even opened the library. “It’s hard because you have to be the one holding the tears back because you’re the role model,” Etchebarren said. “We don’t have answers.”

On Monday, the two educators were called into a meeting with the school’s corporate board and were shocked to hear they needed to be out by Wednesday. “I asked if it’s a budget issue let’s talk about it. Why can’t we have a plan of action? So that’s where we are confused,” said Etchebarren. “Everyone is happy. Our numbers are up, and we thought we were in a good place.”

The board released a statement about the firings.

The board told parents and teachers the replacement would be former Wyoming Superintendent of Public Instruction Brian Schroeder. However, a Wyoming news outlet recently reported that Schroeder is being sued for using state money for a political event called “Stop the Sexualization of Our Children.” Parents have strong opinions about bringing Schroeder in, and not everyone is on board. “I think the good thing about this school is they have kept politics out. The new person they plan to bring in doesn’t necessarily seem ideal, fit my family ideals,” said parent Merritt Trier.

Some parents say it’s time to switch schools, while teachers are calling it quits. Fourth-grade teacher Julie Prado, who’s worked at the school for 13 years, is among the staff members looking for a new job. “Family doesn’t do this to family,” she said. “I’m always open to change when it’s done properly. That was not the case here.”

Parents currently have a petition hoping to get the board to reverse their decision.