HAYWARD -- As a part of a restructuring plan aimed at improving academics, several heads of Hayward schools are being chopped and parents are rallying to support some popular principals.
"We're just all at a loss," said Mary Granados, a volunteer at Fairview Elementary and president of the school's PTA. "We're wondering why, parents are wondering why. They didn't have us in the loop at all."
In a closed-session vote at the March 7 board meeting, trustees approved the superintendent's plan calling for the demotions of principals at Cherryland, East Avenue, Fairview, Schafer Park and Strobridge elementary, and Winton Middle and Hayward High schools.
There were also a number of high-level administrative changes aimed at providing "more accountability and oversight to schools," said Superintendent Donald Evans, who was hired last fall.
That involved reducing the number of top administrators directly responsible for schools to two -- one for elementary education and one for secondary.
In choosing which principals would go, Evans said multiple criteria were used with test scores being key.
"It involved really looking at the number of years they've been at the school and academic performance at the school over the last several years," Evans said.
He added that other factors such as grievances and complaints were also incorporated.
Among the seven schools that are losing principals, four saw Academic Performance Index drops last year. The other three saw improvements, with Hayward High and Schafer Park faring considerably better than the district average.
Zarina Zanipatin heads Schafer Park, where API scores rose by 28 points last year, the fourth-largest gain among the district's 20 elementary schools.
Schafer Park -- like most of the schools in the district -- has not been making No Child Left Behind benchmarks and remains in Program Improvement status, but Zanipatin said the school has had "consistent growth over the past five years." She said she was caught off guard when she heard she was losing her job.
"It was quite shocking," she said. "I didn't have a clue. I would have appreciated it if someone said, 'Hey, we have some concerns,' or 'Hey, they may be considering you.' But nothing like that was shared."
Personnel matters are decided behind closed doors, and those involved are prohibited from discussing details. Other affected principals who were reached declined to comment, but parents have been spreading the word that they intend to go to Wednesday's school board meeting en masse.
"We're trying to get the board to rescind the pink slips," Granados said. "We feel we have been neglected in the process of making decisions in which kids, education and the future of Fairview is at stake."
Paul Gonsalves, a counselor at Hayward High, said losing Principal George Bullis will be a major setback. He wrote a letter to the board touting Bullis' work.
"We're finally getting this together and they are pulling the plug without reason," he said.
Evans said that for replacements, the district is looking at assistant principals -- "the best and brightest within the district" -- as well as outside applications.
He said the hiring will involve a "round table" discussion that will include representatives from outside district administration.
"Of course the community and staff will have a say in who comes to their school," he said.
The Hayward Unified board will meet at 6:30 p.m. Wednesday at Hayward City Hall, 777 B St.
Contact Eric Kurhi at 510-293-2473. Follow him at Twitter.com/erickurhi.
Read his blog at IBAbuzz.com/hayword.