Dismissal of a popular Capuchino High School assistant principal roiled the school community as parents, students and residents gathered district administrators to share their collective outrage.
Those dismayed by the looming departure of Assistant Principal Joe Hudelson from his post flooded a PTO meeting Tuesday, April 18, to give a piece of their mind to Principal Shamar Shanks and Kevin Skelly, superintendent of the San Mateo Union High School District.
Noting his constant presence at extracurricular events as well as responsiveness to the needs and concerns of parents, many praised Hudelson’s commitment to improving the school community.
“This is hard to take because he was the heart of the school,” said Laura Davis, parent of a former Capuchino High School student who remains active in school events.
Much of the admiration heaped on Hudelson came at the expense of Shanks, who some said did not show the same dedication to accessibility, transparency or communication as her colleague.
Though unable to share the reason for Hudelson’s apparent pending exit at the end of the school year due to a policy precluding public comment on personnel matters, officials strived to assure the crowd their concerns were heard.
“I will be making some changes based on what you are telling me,” said an emotional Shanks after nearly an hour of receiving often harsh reviews of her job performance.
Hudelson, who declined comment on this article, came to the district in 2014 after working in a similar position at Moreau Catholic High School in Hayward. He also previously worked as chair of the English department at Serra High School and an English teacher at Archbishop Mitty High School in San Jose.
In his role at Capuchino, he oversaw facilities, athletics, teachers as well as student discipline alongside his administrative colleagues and helped coordinate extracurricular activities as well.
Cheryl How, who helps run the drama club, lauded Hudelson’s contribution to performing arts at Capuchino High School.
“We still can’t believe it is going to happen,” said How, in reference to Hudelson’s departure.
Though offering scant details, Skelly said Hudelson will not be fired but also will not return to his administrative post. Instead will be offered a district teaching position or is free to seek a job elsewhere.
While acknowledging the deep appreciation school community members held for Hudelson, Skelly threw his support behind Shanks in preserving her top spot at the school.
“I respect your view that you have issues with Ms. Shanks,” said Skelly. “But as a sum total of her work, you have an outstanding principal.”
He pointed to the various successes Shanks has under her belt resulting in an improved school culture from when she was hired nine years ago.
Critics of Shanks also referred to another assistant principal leaving the school at the end of the year as an indictment on her leadership style, seemingly resulting in frequent staff turnover. Skelly though said Capuchino has seen fewer administrative changes in recent years than other district schools.
“I see a team that has worked well together for some time,” he said.
Following the meeting, Shanks said while she found the nature of the conversation challenging, she was encouraged by the emails she received from school community members expressing their support for her.
Looking ahead, she said she plans to take the feedback and will attempt to adopt some of the suggestions from the audience as she examines her own performance while working with fellow administrators to identify Hudelson’s ideal replacement.
“I actually feel empowered,” she said. “I have something to work with moving forward and I think there are some amazing things the school does, some amazing people at the school and I think we can always get better.”
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