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An abrupt departure in a district plagued by instability

Photo: Kevin McCorry/WHYY

This article was originally published in The Notebook. In August 2020, The Notebook became Chalkbeat Philadelphia.

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On the first day of classes, principal Saliyah Cruz addressed the inaugural freshman class at one of the Philadelphia School District’s three new innovative high schools, the LINC, or Learning in New Contexts.

Cruz was hired in January to start the school from scratch and build a model to re-imagine the high school experience and create more options for kids in North Philly lacking the grades for magnet schools.

Standing in the auditorium before the freshman class and the staff she hired, as well as Superintendent William Hite and Mayor Nutter, she explained the school’s "behaviors of success."

"You have to deal with people in an honest way. You have to deal with people in integrity. People have to believe in you," she said. "People have to rely on when you say you’re going to do something, that you’re going to actually follow through and do it."

Less than two weeks later, in a shock to all involved, Cruz informed students and staff that she’d be leaving the school for a position outside the District.

In an interview at the school Wednesday, she wouldn’t confirm the details, but other reports indicate a leadership position in the Baltimore public school system.

"The kids and families have been amazing. The teachers have been amazing," she said. "So walking away from that was really, really hard."

Cruz, who lives in Delaware, said she decided to take the offer, which came unsolicited, over the past weekend.

"Going back and forth with it, wrestling with it, talking about it with my family, ultimately, I decided [to leave], you know for, for lots of reasons," she said. "As much as I have enjoyed being back in Philadelphia and as much as I know my departure is a challenge for people, I made a decision to pursue another opportunity."

After a stint teaching at Lincoln High School in the late 1990s and early 2000s, Cruz served as principal of West Philadelphia High School and Communications Technical High School.

She then left Philadelphia for a principalship at a middle school in Delaware. Coming back to Philly this year to be founding principal of LINC, she took a pay cut. Although she’ll get an increase in her next position, she said pay wasn’t the key factor in her decision to leave.

"In terms of money, it’s not that much difference," she said.

Read the rest of this story at NewsWorks

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