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Drake ends school board campaign for TJ principal job

Liz Drake - Courtesy photo
Liz Drake
— image credit: Courtesy photo

Liz Drake, a candidate for Federal Way School Board position 3, has been appointed interim principal at Thomas Jefferson High School.

The announcement was made official Tuesday following a vote by the school board.

Drake will replace Dr. Marsha Denton, who has been reassigned to an administrative position at the district’s central office.

Drake retired from a nearly 40-year education career after serving as principal of Todd Beamer High School from 2008 to 2010. Drake previously worked as a high school principal in Pennsylvania. She has been a principal and teacher in England at all grade levels.

With the appointment, Drake has ended her campaign for school board. She addressed the public audience at a forum for school board candidates Oct. 12 at Federal Way High School’s little theater.

“I have this really strong love for being a principal and being in a school. All of you who supported me and all of you that were there for me, don’t feel that I just dropped it on a whim,” Drake said. “It was a very, very earnest decision. I had my first day today … it was pretty much the best day of my career. It was wonderful. I really know it was the right decision.”

In the August primary election, Drake led a field of three candidates with nearly 48 percent of the vote. Danny Peterson is now the sole active candidate in the race for position 3, although Drake’s name will still appear on the ballot.

If Drake wins the election and declines the office, the school board will appoint someone to the position, which is being vacated by Amye Bronson-Doherty.

“TJ is a place that really needs a strong leader right now,” said Peterson at Wednesday’s forum, praising Drake and her new job.

Controversy at Thomas Jefferson

Thomas Jefferson High School has seemingly been aswirl in one controversy or another dating back to last spring. A technological glitch resulted in students starting this school year without schedules, and parents have been vocal about the effects of the district’s reformed academic policies.

With the beginning of the 2011-12 school year, another issue sprang up regarding the leadership of TJ principal Dr. Marsha Denton. A series of “anonymous” letters floated through the community regarding issues with Denton’s leadership and management style. Federal Way Public Schools superintendent Rob Neu was finally forced to make a change. He announced during the Oct. 11 board meeting that Drake would take over as TJ principal for the remainder of the school year.

“As you know, recent events at Thomas Jefferson High School have stirred up a lot of emotions and concerns over the direction of that school. The most recent events, related to the scheduling and the school climate, have warranted I think some further review on my part,” Neu said. “Having done that, despite the best efforts of Dr. Denton, the environment at TJ has not improved to the satisfaction of students, parents and staff, as well as myself.”

Neu said Denton will be moved to the Education Service Center and will take over the role of Director of Research. The superintendent said Denton will be well suited to this role with her previous experience as Director of Assessment and Research at the Issaquah School District.

Drake will fit right in and be a positive contribution to TJ, Neu said, because of her ongoing commitment to Federal Way schools.

“As you know, Liz was recently running for school board, and through that campaign and her work at Todd Beamer, it’s obvious her heart and passion is with the students,” Neu said. “She agrees with me that this would be the best fit for her talents.”

Board members Angela Griffin, Suzanne Smith and Amye Bronson-Doherty voted unanimously to approve Drake’s appointment as interim principal at TJ. Board president Tony Moore was absent due to illness, while board member Ed Barney was absent due to travel.

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(Mirror reporter Greg Allmain contributed to this report)

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