dr. laurie kimbrel
Dr. Laurie Kimbrel

The new Brookhaven Innovation Academy head of school was caught up in a controversy at her previous post in California, forcing her to resign before officially beginning a new job last year in Chicago.

Dr. Laurie Kimbrel was announced as BIA’s new head of school on March 16. Last year, though, she was selected to be the superintendent of Chicago’s Township High School District 113  but resigned after the school district learned her husband was accused of cyberbullying while the couple lived in California.

An independent investigation by the Tamalpais Union school board cleared Kimbrel of any wrongdoing.

BIA Board Chair Jennifer Langley said she and other board members were aware of Kimbrel’s past before hiring her.

“The Brookhaven Innovation Academy board is fully aware of the facts surrounding Dr. Laurie Kimbrel’s husband. We appreciate the fact that she was very forthright and candid about events surrounding her husband’s actions during her initial interview with the BIA Board,” Langley said in a statement.

“As with every employee, BIA undertook an extensive and thorough vetting process while considering Dr. Kimbrel’s overall qualifications. Dr. Kimbrel is immensely qualified, and we are fortunate to have her on our team,” Langley stated. “Dr. Kimbrel’s enthusiasm for teaching children is evident, and her experience in the classroom and as a superintendent made her the stand-out choice among 60 other highly qualified candidates.

“I’m very pleased as a mom of two future BIA students that she was chosen as Head of School after multiple rounds of in depth interviews she had with 10 individuals from our selection committee,” Langley stated.

Kimbrel issued a statement saying she is “honored and excited to be named the BIA head of school because the mission of the school is a close match with my professional passion and expertise.”

Kimbrel was the superintendent of Tamalpais Union High School in California when she accepted the job in January 2015 in Chicago to be the new superintendent for Highland Park and Deerfield high schools, according to the Chicago Tribune.

However, after accepting the job in Chicago news got out that her husband, Tim Olrick, used a pseudonym to attack a Tamaplais Union parent via Facebook. Olrick accused the parent of embezzlement and being a member of the Ku Klux Klan.

Olrick and Kimbrel denied Kimbrel knew anything about her husband social media posts, according to a story in the Chicago Tribune.

Teachers and parents in Chicago also wondered about Kimbrel working for the firm that recruited her to the Chicago job.

UPDATE: At approximately 3:15 p.m. on March 22, Kimbrel sent out an email to parents and supporters of BIA. The email states in part:

I first became interested in BIA by attending one of the informational events last fall. As I listened to the board members eloquently share their vision for a school that gives parents and their children a high quality alternative, I knew that I wanted to be a part of their exciting work.

I applaud the dedication and commitment of the board in obtaining one of only three charters granted by the state of Georgia last year. Their belief in a process of schooling where learning is personalized, where students have access to the best teachers and resources, and where STEM outcomes are achieved through project based learning is a proven model that will greatly benefit not only our students, but also the future of our communities.

As a seasoned educator, my values and beliefs are very well aligned with the mission and vision of BIA. Here’s what I know to be true based both on educational research and my own years of experience as an educator:

• Effective schools are structured so that all students learn at high levels every day.
• We all have a little trouble learning at some point and the right amount of help should be available quickly and easily.
• Technology supports but does not drive the learning process.
• Students who demonstrate mastery of a concept should have opportunities to deepen their learning or move on to the next learning objectives.
• There should be clarity and transparency about what students need to know and be able to do. Where we are going and how we are going to get there should never be a mystery to students or parents.
• Over time we should work to ensure our students are the drivers of their own learning.
• Great teachers are one of the keys to great schools. It is essential that we hire and retain only the very best and that we provide time for collaboration and professional development.
• Effective partnerships with parents are another key to great schools. There should be a variety of ways for parents to participate based on their own interests and needs.
• A positive school culture is essential to the learning process. As a school we will strive to support innovation, create learning experiences that are relevant and engaging, celebrate diversity, and incorporate the interests and strengths of our students into learning.
• Overall, school should be a place where we are all are cared for, and where learning is fun.

Our theme for the 2016-2017 school year will be ‘Building the Team & Building the Dream.’ Opening a new school is a daunting task and it will take all of us working together to achieve our goal of a successful launch. I’m looking forward to meeting you all and working together over the coming years to ensure that BIA becomes a model of effective education for our community, state and nation. I invite you to be a part of our team by continuing to attend our events and by answering the calls for volunteers that will come to you shortly.

Dyana Bagby

Dyana Bagby is a staff writer for Reporter Newspapers and Atlanta Intown.