Emily Lilja Palmer started work this week as the new principal of Minneapolis’ Washburn High School, replacing Rhonda Dean, who abruptly resigned from her position in June.
Palmer has been principal of the district’s Sanford Middle School since 2013.
Writing a farewell to Sanford families on the school’s message board, Palmer said she has been proud of leading the school and had no intention of vacating her post but was “strongly encouraged to look at Washburn when the opportunity came up, and it turns out to be a very good fit.”
In a letter sent to Washburn families, she wrote, “I am thrilled to join the Washburn community, and look forward to being a part of Washburn’s continued academic, artistic and athletic growth.” Palmer couldn’t be reached for an interview Friday.
The 1,649-student school is among the district’s most successful schools academically, with more of Washburn students hitting the state’s proficiency goals. In 2017, 42 percent of Washburn students met or exceeded state standards in math tests, while 62 percent met or exceeded state standards in reading tests.
But the school recently found itself at the center of a contentious budget debate, after the district planned to cut $1.6 million, or 13 percent, from Washburn’s budget. That prompted parents from Washburn and other schools to persuade the school board to restore $6.4 million in cuts to middle schools and high schools — a decision that raised questions about equity.
Washburn, which has 53 percent white students and 38 percent low-income families, got $766,815 in restored funding and $241,800 in one-year targeted assistance.
Forty applicants applied for Washburn’s top job, which pays $139,518.
Palmer’s Minneapolis Public Schools career began in 1993 at Anthony Middle School, where she taught English for nearly a decade. In 2003, she took a four-year stint coordinating and teaching in the commercial and fine arts program at Patrick Henry High. Before joining Sanford, Palmer was the assistant principal of Richfield Middle School for six years.
Meanwhile in May, Southwest High School named Michael Favor as its new principal, succeeding Karen Wells, who served as an interim in the last year. Favor has more than 25 years of experience as an educator.