Ambitious new school at Marygrove hits another snag as interim principal leaves unexpectedly

A high-profile new school in Detroit has lost its second principal since it opened in September.

Adrian Monge had been serving as interim principal of the School at Marygrove after Nir Saar, the founding principal, was removed from his post in October for reasons that remain unclear. Monge resigned last week. She will be replaced by Christa Reeves, who was previously the principal of Bagley Elementary School of Journalism and Technology and an assistant principal at Cass Technical High School.

Halfway through its first year, the school is still in the early stages of an ambitious plan to build a “cradle-to-career” school on the campus of the shuttered Marygrove College. After enrolling only ninth graders this year, it plans to add 10th grade classes next year. Once crews finish work on a new $15 million early childhood center on the site, the school ultimately plans to enroll students from prekindergarten through 12th grade.

The concept is the result of a partnership between the Detroit Public Schools Community District, the University of Michigan, Marygrove College, the Kresge Foundation, and others. (Kresge is also a Chalkbeat funder.)

Frequent changes in the principal’s office are a challenge for any school. That’s perhaps especially true for a school like Marygrove, a high-profile project which is attempting to pull off an unusual, project-based curriculum that blends social justice and engineering.

Superintendent Nikolai Vitti said the school won’t be affected in the long run by Monge’s departure.

“[Monge] did not feel that she was the right fit for the high school principalship,” he said in an emailed statement. “She was originally recruited to eventually serve as the K-8 principal. We respect and understand her decision. There were no outstanding issues, concerns, or questions regarding her leadership or separation.

Adrian Monge

“The changes in leadership have been unexpected and unfortunate but we have no question or doubt that The School at Marygrove is currently successful and will continue to grow into one of the best schools in the country.”

An event was held at the school yesterday to give parents a chance to meet the new principal.

Monge previously served as principal of Detroit Achievement Academy, a charter school that enrolls students in grades K-7. She declined to comment on the reason for her departure.

“I am working to support a smooth transition for the school and continue to root for the success of our students, staff, and the Marygrove project as a whole,” she said in an emailed statement.

Saar, the founding principal, was placed on administrative leave this fall pending an investigation into his conduct. The district said at the time that the behavior in question did not negatively impact students. He has not appeared on a periodic list of fired district employees.

Vitti said parents he had spoken to were more concerned about consistency in the classroom than in the principal’s office.

“Leadership matters but for parents and children it’s students’ experience in classrooms and at the school that matters most.”