Staff and students demand answers from district
Pine Creek High School in Colorado Springs has been in a state of chaos and confusion for the past two and a half weeks, ever since its principal, Tracie Cormaney, was placed on leave by the Academy School District 20. The district has not given any explanation for the decision, citing confidentiality of personnel matters. However, staff and students believe that Cormaney’s leave is related to an ongoing investigation into a program that provides appreciation gifts to teachers and staff.
On Friday, Feb. 9, 2024, about one third of the staff and two thirds of the students staged a walkout in protest of Cormaney’s removal. They gathered in front of the high school, holding signs and chanting slogans in support of their principal. They demanded answers and transparency from the district, and called for Cormaney’s reinstatement.
“We felt like we had to stand up for her because we love her,” said Pam Krzeczowski, Cormaney’s assistant. “Tracie is the glue that holds Pine Creek together, since her absence the building lacks charisma and positivity and the halls are flooded with a constant worry of the unknown.”
Gift program under scrutiny
According to the staff who participated in the walkout, the district is investigating a program that allows teachers and staff to receive appreciation gifts from a fund that is replenished by donations from parents and community members. The program has been in place for several years, and has been approved by the district’s finance department.
“It’s about a purchasing policy, we have followed financial procedures and policies,” said Krzeczowski. “We have done nothing wrong and I can wholeheartedly say that as a person who has been interviewed.”
The staff said that the gifts are not extravagant, but rather tokens of gratitude and recognition for their hard work and dedication. They said that the program boosts morale and fosters a positive culture at the school.
“It’s not like we’re getting iPads or laptops or anything like that,” said Kelley Stewart, a counselor at the school. “It’s things like coffee mugs, water bottles, pens, notebooks, things that we use every day in our jobs.”
The staff also said that Cormaney has always been transparent and accountable about the program, and that she has never misused or abused the funds.
“Tracie has always been very open and honest with us, she has always shown us the receipts and the balance of the fund,” said Stewart. “She has always been very careful and ethical with the money, she has never taken anything for herself or favored anyone over others.”
District remains silent
The district, however, has not confirmed or denied that the investigation is related to the gift program. It has only issued a brief statement, saying that Cormaney is on leave pending the outcome of an investigation, and that it cannot comment further due to the confidential nature of the matter.
The district also said that it has assigned five support staff to Pine Creek High School to ensure that learning is not interrupted during Cormaney’s absence. It did not specify how long the investigation will take, or when Cormaney will return.
The district’s silence has frustrated and angered the staff and students, who feel that they have been left in the dark and treated unfairly.
“Arriving at work one day with zero communication about your building leader being removed and placed on leave creates a sense of resentment, frustration, and insecurity in the workplace,” said Stewart. “We deserve to know what is going on, we deserve to have a voice, we deserve to have our principal back.”
The staff and students said that they will continue to protest and advocate for Cormaney, until the district provides them with answers and justice.
“The mental anxiety and stress level in the building is tremendous, students have been in counseling in tears, and teachers have been in tears in the classrooms,” said Krzeczowski. “We will not give up, we will not back down, we will fight for Tracie until the end.”