Arlington principal resigns, blaming superintendent for 'hostile work environment'

Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, February 1, 2011; 9:10 PM

An Arlington County middle school principal announced her resignation Tuesday in an open letter to the school community that criticized the county superintendent.

Kathleen Francis, principal of Williamsburg Middle School, wrote in the letter, which parents circulated via e-mail, that she will leave the school in March.

"I do this recognizing the regrettable disruption this may create," Francis wrote. She charged in the letter that Superintendent Patrick K. Murphy had created an "untenable and hostile work environment." Francis cited disagreements with the superintendent about a personnel matter and about his evaluation of her work.

Francis confirmed the authenticity of the letter in a brief phone interview. She said she is in her ninth year as principal of the school, which has about 1,000 students in grades 6 through 8. Previously, she said, she served nine years as assistant principal.

Murphy, who has led the 21,500-student Arlington system since 2009, could not be reached for comment Tuesday evening. The school system declined to discuss the details of the case but released a statement.

"We were saddened to hear that Ms. Francis has chosen to resign her position as principal at Williamsburg Middle School in the middle of the school year," the statement said. "Her letter suggests that she is very angry, but we feel that it is unfortunate she has chosen to express her opinion by publicly attacking the professionalism of others."

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