2017 | Schools

Kensington Parkwood Elementary Principal To Depart in Wake of ‘Smash Space’ Flap

Principal told parents recent events have been a 'distraction' from the school's achievements

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Kensington Parkwood Elementary School

Via Montgomery County Public Schools

The principal of Kensington Parkwood Elementary School is leaving her post after coming under criticism for creating a “smash space” where teachers could release stress by demolishing old furniture.

In a Tuesday message to parents, 10-year principal Barbara Liess wrote that “recent events have been a distraction from the positive things we have been able to achieve.” Her letter announced that Liess would continue to lead Kensington Parkwood until June 30 to finish the academic year. She’s looking to shift to a different position in Montgomery County Public Schools, she wrote.

Liess’ actions have stirred controversy among parents on a couple of occasions. Some objected to her March decision to experiment with a “smash space” concept she’d picked up from a news article. Teachers were invited to take out their frustrations by using a baseball bat to bash a rocking chair that had already been headed to the scrap pile.

The smash space was out of students’ sight and earshot, Liess explained.

But to some parents, the smashing seemed at odds with the school’s message urging students to deal with anger in constructive ways.

After MCPS officials launched an investigation into the incident, Liess in April apologized to parents for what she called “a lapse in judgment.”

A few months earlier, a parent had questioned the ethics of Liess’ side job as a Realtor and her work on property transactions for school employees. Liess gave up her real estate license to put to rest concerns about potential conflicts of interest.

While Liess has upset some parents, others have come to her defense and are unhappy to see her go.

“The trolls clearly won here,” Amy Adams, parent of two Kensington Parkwood students, wrote in an email. “I think that [Liess] has built a school that delivers an excellent education for our children.”

None of the parent complaints that Adams has heard about has dealt with Liess’ administrative ability or effort to provide for children, she added.

Another parent, Damjan Jevtic, said he’s also sorry to see Liess go and saw no problem with the “smash space” idea.

“It’s a better thing to do than to take frustrations out on my kid,” he said, adding that teachers are underrated and have difficult jobs.

Jevtic said he appreciated Liess’ anti-bullying policies, arts integration initiatives and community mindedness.

In her letter, Liess mentioned the special education and social emotional learning programs that she’s supported during her time as principal.

“I will forever look back on the work we have done together with pride,” she wrote.