A Principal Retires on Principle

A colleague of mine shared this letter from her child’s beloved principal here in Western New York.  Kathleen Knauth’s “early retirement” is another example of how the current education reforms are driving dedicated, child-centered leaders out of our public schools. With Mrs. Kanuth’s permission, I would like to share the letter to the parents at her school. You can follow Mrs. Knauth on twitter at @KathleenKnauth


(Click the scanned images to enlarge)

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April 26, 2013

Dear Parents,

With much sadness, I will be taking an early retirement effective June 28, 2013. There are two main reasons. My philosophy of education and what I deem to be important for children are in conflict with the educational reforms implemented this year. Please allow me to explain the two reasons why, although they are actually interconnected.

During this school year, as your child’s elementary principal, there was little time to interact with your children, problem-solve, assist teachers and visit classrooms (authentic observations of teaching and learning). Essentially all my days were spent typing at the computer writing up teacher observations and evaluations. This was the first year for a complex new system. I knew it would be difficult for me, yet I still wanted to give it a try. I tried. I watched. I typed. We have always evaluated teachers in the Lancaster Central School District. I did not expect that this new system would impose such a drastic change in the job description, and did not expect that it would be so all consuming

New York State is directing us to test and test your children, now starting in Kindergarten and continuing every year after. It is excessive. Along with the more frequent testing, the rigors of the New York State assessments have also increased making me quite concerned for our children with special needs and/or high anxiety. In addition, some of the students who typically perform well academically are quite upset because they were not able to finish many of the sections of the tests in the allotted time. The State Education Department is telling us to expect fewer higher end scores on the tests, even with all of the teacher focus on the test and the extensive test prep.

The students’ scores are used to measure teacher growth and effectiveness and to help plan instruction. The State claims that we need these tests to determine if students are on the path to college and careers. The students get a number that impacts the teacher’s number and impacts the principal’s number. This is not the purpose of public education and I believe this practice is destructive in many ways to the children and to the teachers, and to education as a whole.

I have been so proud of the Lancaster Central School District and the community for the past ten years. The new teacher evaluation system and the increased student testing were not created by the Lancaster Central School District but imposed at the national and state levels. Lancaster has had an effective and thorough evaluation system for years.

The greatest blessing for the children and me has been the fabulous teachers at Hillview and throughout the district. It is my hope that they remain grounded and centered knowing the difference they make each day. Teachers are so much more than a number and so are the children.

I have truly enjoyed serving as the principal of Hillview Elementary School. My goals for parents were to be visible and easily approachable. Another goal was to resolve any and all concerns you had in a timely and effective manner. I hope I met your expectations.

Thank you for sending me children who are simply adorable, mannerly, and ready to learn. I will miss their hugs and their humor. I will especially miss their pure innocence. Whenever I needed a lift, there was a fix right outside my door. It was as simple as looking into the eyes of a child.

The past years have been filled with great memories and many laughs. This Dr. Seuss quote will guide me the next few weeks, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”

Thank you for all of your support and the opportunity to be the principal of such a great school!

With warm regards,

Kathleen Carroll Knauth



  1. This is what happens when you have people with little or no educational background make the rules. Schools are not businesses, children are not commodities. Our emphasis is skewed. We need well rounded children exposed to as many experiences as possible, not pupils who can pass standardized tests which fail to analyze their true abilities and skills. Not everyone needs to be a rocket scientist, we also need plumbers, electricians, cooks, janitors, forest rangers, and even principals and teachers, etc. Farewell to the competent who can retire and good luck to the new teachers – you’ll need more than luck to be successful if you chose to remain an educator.


    1. Please note that those who advocate more and more testing claim that they want to prepare students for college. Yet, by placing the emphasis on teaching to tests, we are denying our students the content knowledge and the research skills they need in order to succeed in college.

      As a U.S. History teacher here in Hartford, CT, I was forced to spend far more time this year teaching to the CT state tests than in teaching History. But, our district doesn’t value history as an academic field, having deleted World History from our curriculum in 2007 (one of Adamowski’s great reforms!). As a result, students never gain the knowledge necessary to succeed in college.

      This entire situation is criminal!


  2. Sad to see where education is going. This is one reason I moved abroad in the first place. I do not think I could go back and teach in the states…Sad.


  3. I am saddened by Mrs Knauth’s decision to leave Hillview Elementary. Both of my children attended that school and to this day (they are 15 and 11 years old) still say that Hillview was a wonderful school. Mrs. Knauth was a wonderful principal and she will be missed.


  4. Early retirement is to have my voice back. As a district employee, we are extensions of SED, and I have been reprimanded. So I am hanging up my principal boots only to put on Ed reform combat boots to fight for my teachers and my students.


    1. Very sad that you are retiring. But, I did also when NCLB was signed into law. I thought things might change with Obama, but it is same and in many ways worse.


    2. My daughter attends this school and when we received this letter my first reaction was “good for you!” My next reaction was utter sadness over the fact that we are losing an excellent principal because of politics. The staff and Mrs. Knauth have always done what’s best for kids and fight for what is right for kids each and every day. It sounds as if it is starting to be a losing battle. They are the ones in the classrooms day in and day out and know that their students are not just a test score. I know my daughter is not just a test score! The commissioner of education says kids need to be college and career ready and have 21st century skills. How can that happen if my child is going to looked at as just a test score? How can her teacher be viewed as ineffective based strictly on her test scores? Where is your accountability Dr. King and Mr. Cuomo? Teachers and principals are trained professionals and should be treated as such. Let them do their jobs! I am scared for what the future holds for my daughter. I’m so sorry to see her go!


      1. Everything will be OK. Staff at Hillview are too strong, skilled and talented at the art and science of teaching. Not a losing battle, it started months back as the reason for the change is so the principal can get out there and help regain local control of our schools. Your principal is not alone, visit Carol Burris or Diane Ravitch on Twitter. Visit the APPR opposition paper written by other principals…


  5. Sadly, this is EXACTLY what New York wants – the veterans, the “antiques” to get out of the way and let the corporate reformers continue the destruction and privatization of public schools. You know, all those years of experience are just weighing us down. (sarcasm intended)


    1. Naturally, they’ll have some Cuomo donor’s kid straight outta TFA to slide into any of these openings because we all know education doesn’t really call for professionals as much as trainers armed with all the right Microsoft, Amazon and Pearson products. I like the combat boots metaphor. We’ve been fighting a war we never declared for how many years now? We need more soldiers and fewer supply clerks. Solidarity on the Eve of May Day and Hell yeah I’m squeezing into that damned Che’ t-shirt in honor of the day. History lesson kids and I don’t care if its on the test.


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