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High school principal transfers within district; interim named

Michael Zinn

Michael Zinn

photo

Jane Stegall

LILBURN — Fifteen months after Michael Zinn was named principal at Berkmar High, he’s requested to transfer within Gwinnett County Public Schools.

The announcement was made on Wednesday by the district, which said Zinn requested the transfer for personal reasons. Jane Stegall was appointed interim principal, effective immediately. The announcement came on the sixth day of the new school year.

“He’s been a successful assistant principal in the past, and he’ll be taking that role once again,” GCPS spokesman Jorge Quintana said. Quintana said he didn’t know what school Zinn was moving to.

Stegall was Brookwood High’s principal from 2002-07, and has worked as a principal mentor for GCPS since her retirement, and as an interim principal at other schools during a vacancy. She was an interim principal at South Gwinnett High last year.

Zinn previously was an an assistant principal at Archer High from 2010 to 2012. Zinn began his teaching career in Bartow County and was also an administrator in Oconee County. He holds degrees from the Art Institute of Atlanta, Kennesaw State University, Georgia State University and Walden University. He replaced Ken Johnson, who left for Archer after serving as Berkmar’s principal from 2004-2012.

Comments

gwinnettresident1 1 year, 3 months ago

Must have been trying to put Berkmar back on the straight road...BOE want have anything to do with that..sorry Mr. Zinn...I know exactly how they are...Good friend was principal at a Gwinnett middle school. The school had major issues and she had a great rep as an ap from a remarkable Gwinnett school.prior..She made an attempt to curb the problems at this school and was ask to retire within a few weeks..Oh by the way she had been an ap for several years before taking the job as principal at this middle school.

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BerkmarPatriot13 1 year, 3 months ago

@gwinnettresident1: With all due respect, I cannot tell you how completely wrong you are. As a recent graduate of the school, I had first- and second-hand experience working under Mr. Johnson and Dr. ZInn, and Dr. Zinn was not the right principal for Berkmar. From his lack of proper interpersonal skills to poor leadership to complete disregard for the opinions, advice, and guidance (including, might I add, that of Ms. Jane Stegall, who attempted, obviously unsuccessfully, to mentor Dr. Zinn), Dr. Zinn stood as a giant in size and personality, who used intimidation and a "my-way-or-the-highway" attitude to demand change. Berkmar is not perfect, and there is tremendous room to grow. But the fact of the matter is, Mr. Johnson attempted to put it back on the straight road, not Dr. Zinn. If anything, Dr. Zinn wanted to build a whole new road, with a statue of himself right in the middle. 60 teachers AND COUNTING left Berkmar, scared off by the climate and culture Dr. Zinn built...60 great, successful teachers from every aspect of Berkmar. And there were overwhelming submissions and complaints to the Human Resource Departments. Not because he wanted to change (I know he wanted a better, stronger, more successful Berkmar), but because he was going about it in a completely dictatorial fashion, with little regard for people. I have a whole list of people, teachers, students, and administrators who know I am speaking from facts, and who will gladly testify. So before you comment on a story such as this, I advise you to get your facts straight, and not just respond with what you THINK you know. Especially since you've probably never stepped foot on Berkmar's campus. Unless, dare I say, you, yourself, are the infamous Dr. Michael Zinn. Good day gwinnettresident1.

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 3 months ago

I stepped foot on Berkmar campus way before you were born. I started Berkmar in 1967...How about you? Good Day BerkmarPatriot13

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BerkmarPatriot13 1 year, 3 months ago

@gwinnettresident1: I respect that, I honestly do. But you do know what Berkmar High School I am talking about, the one of the 21st century, where we have a nationally-recognized AP program, student population representation from almost every country on this planet, and the ethnicities and religions to match. You have never worked with Dr. Zinn, never worked with him, and that picture up there is probably the first time you've seen him. So, please don't try to defend it. Because it offends those that he negatively affected. He was not the victim, very much so the villain. The Berkmar of 1967 is LONG gone, I can assure you of that. In fact, since your time, old fella, GCPS have actually integrated! Get that! Yeah, so my point is, you still don't know what your talking about.

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gwinnettresident1 1 year, 3 months ago

I worked for the Gwinnett school system....I know how the system works...I have been an employee of GCPS for 15 years. I very well understand the system. Sounds like you were probally one that he tried to slap straight but you refused...I feel sorry for you abused, made fun of, bullied or whatever. And for the record............INTEGRATED? to what..........wtf a bunch of what?

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SurelyNot 1 year, 3 months ago

@BerkmarPatriot13 Your perspective is your perspective. Others have theirs and quite frankly, you are not the only one with ability to write. Read below and you will find a well written response to what the article states. Clearly you have an ax to grind....young fella, you have a lot to learn. Dr. Zinn and you, young fella, may not have seen eye to eye on issues, but he is a well respected educator and his goals and standards are high. And beyond being a well respected educator he is a family man who appreciates all cultures and embraces what they bring to a community.

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mrwally 1 year, 2 months ago

I have worked with Dr. Zinn and found him to be a great person to work for. I'm not sure what Berkmar you are talking about. The one some of the lowest EOCT scores in the state of Georgia? Berkmar may have high numbers of students taking AP classes, but I don't believe they have high numbers actually passing the AP test with a 3 or higher. Many students are forced into taking AP classes because often times their only options are CP (college prep) or AP. Of course those that want to go to a four year college will have to take AP. Dr. Zinn went into the school to try to remedy the "odd" grading practices and bring the EOCT scores up. He was fighting a losing battle because he was faced with a faculty who had been used to a principal with a very different style. He never stood a chance.

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Karl 1 year, 3 months ago

I wish the county BOE would apply the same scrutiny on the principal and a certain AP at Grayson HS. Talk about a poisonous duo...

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kathysmo 1 year, 3 months ago

I worked for Michael Zinn at a previous school for 5 years. His focus on doing the best for students, while aiding teachers, was indisputable. His support for teachers was constant (those teachers that were doing the best for students). I can't imagine one student's opinion (he/she says they have support, but I question the number and the quality of such critics) as being representative of a significant amount of opinions.

If a student or a teacher didn't "get" Dr. Zinn's point of view, I question his/her ability to listen and learn from someone who knows what he is doing. If you sense arrogance, then you are apparently unable to listen and judge people accordingly. I'm sincerely sorry that any critic of Dr. Zinn didn't take the opportunity to get to know him well. You missed the chance to meet an innovative, caring, and focused administrator and educator.

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Gwinnettsince1991 1 year, 3 months ago

I would love to tell my boss,"you know, this promotion you gave me isn't working, I want to go back to my old job". You have to love education and the chaos is perpetuates. In the business world, if you aren't doing your job well, you are fired, not shuffled around and put in a more favorable position.

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SurelyNot 1 year, 3 months ago

I am probably a lot older than most of the writers here, but one thing I know as a result of reading blogs is that quickly people spout off about something they no zip about. AND, if a person takes the opportunity in a blog to write something extremely negative it is HE or SHE who has the real problem. So, kudos to "kathysmo" for writing on behalf of what Dr. Zinn is known for doing to help students and teachers alike: help them be the best they can be. He is "good people". And, Gwinnett1991, GCPS does not throw people away just because they are not right for their new position. It is a noble act that many corporations should do, returning people to the role in which they served well...remember "right sizing" which flushed out everyone 50+ in a way that left corporations struggling to hang on with the wet behind the ears MBAs who had little practical experience and all the companies went "south"? Corporate America is the poster child for NO Loyalty Here. Our country has not recovered yet from the 1990s "right sizing" catastrophe.

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BerkmarPatriot13 1 year, 3 months ago

As the youngest one here, I want to take a moment of respect for your opinions and service. I want to apologize as well; my intention was not to offend or spark an argument or confrontation. But the fact of the matter is that you are all outsiders, from the perspective of Berkmar and of the previous school year, and I don't expect you to understand or believe me. I just hope that someone, an insider, a student, a teacher, faculty member, an administrator, from Berkmar, will step forward to spread the truth from an objective point of view about what happened during the 2012-2013 school year under the leadership of Dr. Zinn. Whether it be unbelievable, or a stark contrast to his years as assistant principal or educator, it will be the truth.

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AnEducator 1 year, 3 months ago

The 2012-2013 school year at Berkmar High School ended in massive devastation. I was deeply saddened to remove my child from Berkmar. My child was so proud to attend Berkmar and participate with great success in the nationally recognized academic program but after one year under Dr. Zinn's "leadership" all we loved was gone and the only thing left standing was an amazing group of young people that deserve far better. These students will pull together despite the fact many of their teachers were pushed out.

Thankfully, Gwinnett County can be trusted to do what is right for these young people and get Berkmar back to the wonderful school it was before the 2012-2013 school year. The students and the community deserve better and I am certain the county will do all it can to bring back the first class school they deserve.

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Itsukinin 1 year, 3 months ago

BerkmarPatriot13 is correct. Unless you were actually a student or teacher there at Berkmar during Zinn's dictatorship, you have no right to speak or give your opinion on what Zinn has done. He has done nothing good for the school during the past school year and 6 school days he has been there. Berkmar was known for being one of the fewest schools in Gwinnett with an a fantastic AP Program. The fact that 60 dedicated teachers (including almost all of the AP teachers that created Berkmar's outstanding AP Program) were driven away due to Zinn's harsh rules and ineffective policies is reason enough to believe he lacked the proper leadership and management schools needed to make a positive impact on Berkmar. As a recent graduate (Class of 2013) I for one was not a fan of Zinn's work and it is safe to say that a majority of my graduating class was not a fan of him either. Ever since Dr. Zinn came into Berkmar HS things have been miserable for students and for teachers. The teachers that I knew at Berkmar, who were so use to having Mr. Johnson approve of their beneficial and innovative ideas and opinions towards the classroom and extracurricular activities, had to keep their thoughts to themselves due to Zinn's ability to quickly disapprove of or disregard ideas that he did not see fit. Zinn was very egocentric and did what he "wanted" for the school rather than what the school actually "needed" the most. He has cut funding for many of the important matters at Berkmar such as those funds for the AP Program. The AP Program at Berkmar is different than those found at other schools. The fact that these teachers actually cared for their students and were always there for them shows true dedication that goes beyond daily instruction in the classroom. The teachers cared so much for their students that they even started an AP Inspiration Club which was designed to encourage students to participate in taking rigorous college level classes at the high school level and to promote growth as well informed and educated individuals. The AP Inspiration Club was also created to generate funding for students who were brilliant but were being held back from taking AP Exams due to financial reasons. You will not find this at any other school, you honestly won't. Zinn came into Berkmar with the goals of focusing on Sports and trying to better Berkmar's standing with respect to education. I can tell you right now that he has only given sports a good name while he has been here. Sports and extracurricular activities are great and all schools need that. But let's not forget the fact that Berkmar High School continues to have a low graduation rate and low test scores when it comes to state wide EOCTs and Graduation Tests.

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Itsukinin 1 year, 3 months ago

CONTINUED: Rather than trying to make us better in less important areas such as extracurriculars, Zinn should have set his goal primarily on trying to raise the graduation rate along with test scores. But no he refused. Zinn's superiority perhaps is what hindered Berkmar from growing this past school year to even more heights. I would always see Zinn in the hallway and as he walked down Berkmar one could not help but to actually see his true colors behind that suit and tie that he always wore, not to mention his blank and unpredictable face. You never knew what he was feeling or what he was going to say or do. At least with Mr. Johnson you would always expect to see him in a good mood and with a big bright smile. As a student I actually felt more at home and at ease while Mr. Johnson was there. Going back to my first day of my senior year with Zinn being principal, I walked into the school and it felt really different in the morning. Berkmar felt so changed and different, not just physically but sprititually too. I'm saddened by the fact that we lost so many good teachers that have made an impact on our school. But at the same time I am glad those teachers will be happy and will be able to work under a less stressful and much more desirable administration compared to Zinn's. After graduation when I had to pick up my transcript I took one last walk through the halls of Berkmar. As I walked the rooms were empty, the lights in the room and in the halls were open but barely. The teachers' name plates that hung on the ceilings were close to falling down and I was just depressed. Berkmar felt so empty and I just couldn't stand being in that empty hall imagining how things would be for the rising class and next group of students. Things have definitely changed and all I can say and hope for is the best for Berkmar. I truly love that school with all my heart and actually plan to return their one day as teacher. Maybe then we will have an even bigger and better reputation. Zinn's superiority and lack of leadership skills definitely got the best of him this time and has lead to his dismissal from Berkmar.

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BHSteacher 1 year, 3 months ago

It is with a hesitant mind and heavy heart that I respond to this article and these posts. I am not writing to bash anyone nor to necessarily agree / disagree with anyone's opinion. I have been a teacher at Berkmar for quite some time and I have had the chance to work on various initiatives within this school and at the county level. I've also had the chance to interact with the surrounding community and to teach in other school districts. I can truly say that many people outside of this school, judge what goes on inside of this school unfairly and with blurred lenses. Lenses covered in hearsay, predjudice and pure ignorance. It used to truly bother me to tell people where I teach because the first thing out of their mouths are opinions that don't reflect what actually occurs here on a daily basis.

There is something special about Berkmar. The student population is diverse, multiple languages are spoken and there is an overall appreciation for each other's differences here. People actually speak when you walk through the halls.This is what America should be like.

Do we have problems and issues here? Yes. Do other schools have problems and issues? Yes. Did we miss AYP for several years due to a small population of kids? Yes. Is AYP a good measure of the great things that occur on our school campuses? In my opinion, NO! Is this school located in a socio-economically disadvantaged area in Gwinnett county? Yes. is the overall morale of the school low right now? In my opinion, Yes. Are we in a state of uncertainty right now? Yes.

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BHSteacher 1 year, 3 months ago

Continued: As for the comparisons between the two former leaders of this school. I believe that both of them had their strengths and areas of improvement. Personally, I believe that Ken Johnson had his finger on the pulse of the school and understood the school because he was a teacher and AP here first. He understood the school's culture and did a good job of working to improve the culture of the school. He did a good job of emphasizing and recognizing quality teaching. He also did a good job promoting collaboration among all levels of staff. This felt like a recipe for success. As for Dr. Zinn, I believe that he wanted to help improve the school and cared for the kids. I do not think he was a good listener. I also realized that he would often speak before thoroughly thinking things through. I say these things in hopes that he reads this and reflects on it to help improve his leadership skills. I believe that his time here has definitely strengthened him as a leader. I believe that it was unfair to him, to the school and the community to appoint him as the head of this school without allowing him to visit and study the school and be immersed in the school culture beforehand. He was brand new and needed more time to grow as a leader before leading an organization of this size and diversity. It is evident that either he and/or the county felt that he wasn't right for this school at this point in our growth and transition.

At this point, we need and deserve a unifier, a healer, a listener, a networker, a visionary and a decision maker. We need someone who understands the students' academic as well as social needs. We need someone who's passionate about the success and morale of the students, staff and community alike. We need someone who has good energy, is a good public speaker, someone who's highly relatable and someone who is open to new ideas.

To the leaders and decision makers of this great county, this time, righ here and right now, we need to get it right.

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VoiceofReason316 1 year, 3 months ago

@BerkmarPatriot13 and @Itsukinin As a current teacher of Berkmar HS for many years, you need to look at more than the small world you see in the AP program. The AP program is made up of probably less than 15% of the school. And that is the part of the school Mr. Johnson cared about because it put money into "HIS" pocket. The others were left out in the cold. Dr. Zinn may not have done everything right, but he did care about the school and community as a whole not just the elite minority. And if you call it a dictatorship for holding people accountable for the job they are suppose to do, then yes it was and I have no problem with that. Programs were put into place to help raise graduation rates and test scores. Something that had not been done in the past. As to our great and awesome AP program, if you call those teachers great and awesome because they were allowed to chose the students they wanted to teach because they thought they would score the highest and make the teacher look good, I would say NOT!!! If you are a great teacher, you can take students any student from where they are and make them better. Also, the bashing students got, from these same awesome teachers, if they wanted to drop an AP course. Does that sound like a group that cared for all students. Another thing, many teachers that left, went on to move closer to home, go back to school, take better jobs, were promoted, retired, etc. This had nothing to do with Dr. Zinn. As I said before, Dr. Zinn did not do everything right., but neither was Mr. Johnson the end all be all either.

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SurelyNot 1 year, 3 months ago

@BHSteacher: Your post is refreshing. Your analysis is positive and in ends with what all of us hope for Berkmar. This is not Berkmar's first time to need to rebuild, spiritually, that is, Remember the fire of the late 70's? Remember the earlier struggles with leadership? I feel that it will rise above this bump and come out on top once again. There is much to be prideful of at BHS--a great leader will come along who will help you show the county that AP scores are not the only story of greatness.

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whoknew57 1 year, 3 months ago

I have two childern who graduated Berkmar 5 years apart. The school climate was going downhill as my youngest left. I started working there and saw it keep declining with students being forced into class above their abilities. It has the highest AP rate? Wow, but how many of those students could do the work? They took CP students and stuck them in AP to boost the numbers. There were "throwaway" classes that had trouble makers dumped into them and overcrowded. 7 academic periods? That was because so many kids were repeating classes. It was a punishment to the teachers who had another 30+ kids to grade, track and plan for. Some teachers taught 7 straight periods with no planning to catch up on required paperwork. When Dr Zinn came in, he had good intentions but he rode roughshod over anyone who got in his way, he was disrespectful to teachers, staff and substitutes. By the end of 2013, the school had driven away 60 teachers and barely any subs would go there. When lead teachers dismayed over not having coverage for absent teachers, Zinn's reply was that was their problem. The bginning of this school year was a disaster with schedules being chaos, students with two classes the same period, in classes that did not meet that period and in classes they had already passed. I hope that the new adminstration straightens it out and provides support to the teachers, students and parents that they deserve.

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Itsukinin 1 year, 2 months ago

@VoiceofReason316 We are all entitled to our own opinions. If you felt like Zinn did a good job then so believe it. Like I said before the AP Program was Berkmar. You take that away and everything else will start to fall. Also, you refer to the AP students as being the "elite minority." Let's think about it again. Is Berkmar not a school of great diversity and many different ethnic groups, peoples, and minorities? Why is it that all of a sudden the "elite minority" should not be highly regarded? I mean we can't all be CP students. And I am not trying to be boastful or prideful here but honestly, any student could be in AP if they want to. It's a student's personal choice and decision on whether or not they wanna work and be successful and learn the most that they can rather than just choosing to be in a regular standard class and just "go through the motions" without trying to achieve anything more. College Prep is not bad but obviously students need to be challenged which is why Berkmar would allow students to get into AP easily. Honestly, most schools in Gwinnett and around the country (Yeah i've done my research) require students to sign academic contracts just to get into AP. Or if they feel you are not smart enough or not good enough, then you can't stand a chance and won't be considered for AP. At least here in Berkmar we had that open enrollement in AP courses which was welcoming to many students. AP is made up of many different students - of all races and tongues. Nothing wrong with that. Lastly, it's hard to believe that 60 teachers (quite a large and significant number, wouldn't you agree) would conveniently decide to move closer to their homes or go back to school or just take another position? In the past no school has had this many teachers leave at once. It's ridiculous and is obviously not a coincident.

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Itsukinin 1 year, 2 months ago

CONTINUED: I am not here to start any future arguments. I am hear to simply make my point and say what I feel like I should say after having the opportunity to attend and graduate from one of the best schools in the nation. We all have different stances on this issue and whether we agree with one another or not, we will still have a problem. Berkmar is still broken. Berkmar needs to go some kind of revival and we need to HONESTLY and PROPERLY choose the right individuals who can fix the school and get it back to where it needs to be. As a college freshman right now, I still from time to time make it my duty to figure out what is going on and how things are going in Berkmar. I talk to all of my friends on a weekly basis and they inform me very well of what goes around at Berkmar even until now. Once they graduate, I will still have some people that I can go to and ask about regarding Berkmar's status. Yeah I graduated, some ignorant and uneducated people may say, so why am I still concerned about that school? Simple. It has shaped me into the well informed and educated citizen that I am today. How can one just sit around and not give a hoot about their previous public institution that is suffering; an institution that has practically molded them and prepared them for higher level education and other opportunities in life? The teachers here have honestly inspired me to pursue a career in education and I one day plan to thank each and everyone of them no matter where they are. I care and will always care about Berkmar no matter who speaks to me or what happens. Call it craziness but I call that real love and dedication. School spirit, school pride? Definitely. Always and forever.

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