A veteran Minneapolis and parochial school administrator will see Washburn High School through the end of the school year as principal.
Craig Vana will start Monday, filling the post left open by the district's abrupt decision this week to remove Carol Markham-Cousins as principal in favor of an unspecified role elsewhere in the district.
Vana was a popular and visible principal for five years at Edison High School in northeast Minneapolis, where he has lived for 40 years, His trademark was standing out on the school steps each morning to greet busloads of arriving students. He's also been a principal at Folwell Middle School, and an assistant principal at Southwest High School.
Vana will serve while the district searches for a new Washburn principal in a process that asks staff and parents what they seek in a leader, a protocol that's been developed and used to fill recent vacancies. He said he was asked by Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson to take the job. Associate Superintendent Theresa Battle notified Washburn families of the change in letter dated Friday.
Vana's personality is likely to have a calming impact on a school roiled this week by protests. Student concerns over the future of Athletic Director Dan Pratt, whom the district said was being investigated for a "private personnel matter." led to a walkout on Monday. Reaction by Markham-Cousins and other building administrators to another planned protest Tuesday led to a sit-in by perhaps one-quarter of students on Wednesday. The removal of Markham-Cousins was publicly announced Thursday.
Battle's letter said that the change was challenging for Washburn and the district, and asked for cooperation through the end of the school year.
Vana worked in a number of central office positions after Edison, heading secondary schools as an associate superintendent. overseeing teacher and instructional efforts, and working on career and technical education and high school reform. He's been heavily involved in the council that advises Minneapolis on job training, and supported the city's summer employment program. He also spent 17 years as a teacher, administrator and coach in parochial schools, chiefly at St. Charles Borromeo in Northeast.
Vana said his priority for the remaining seven weeks of school will be “just to be as supportive as I can of staff and students to be sure we have a great spring and a culmination with graduation and looking forward to the future.”