Ousted Neff Elementary Principal Amanda Wingard Lands School Leader Job at KIPP Climb

Ousted Neff Elementary Principal Amanda Wingard Lands School Leader Job at KIPP Climb
HISD Superintendent Mike Miles listens as Neff principal Amanda Wingard reads her public statement to the board at Thursday's meeting (5/23/24).

After 21 years as a Sharpstown educator, former Neff principal Amanda Wingard is accepting a School Leader position at KIPP Climb all the way in southeast Houston, she announced in a Wednesday Facebook post.

Wingard became locally famous for publicly challenging Superintendent Mike Miles, becoming the first principal to speak in public comments at an HISD board meeting since the state takeover last summer. Miles's administration had forced her to resign—even though she was last year's HISD Elementary Principal of the Year.

A born-and-raised Sharpstonian, Wingard attended Neff Elementary as a child. After graduating from Texas A&M, she returned to Neff—first as a teacher, then assistant principal, then principal. After the state takeover, she "led the charge" for Neff to join Miles's New Education System next school year, in her words. So it shocked her and her community when the district told her to resign.

She said the district never gave her a detailed explanation, and has not been transparent about how it evaluates principals. Last month, The Sharpener asked HISD's press office what system the district uses to decide whether to keep or remove principals, but the district declined to answer.

Wingard and Neff parents protested her removal, but to no avail. But on Wednesday, she announced on Facebook that she would start in July as a School Leader (the equivalent of a principal) at KIPP Climb, a PreK-4 charter school in the Meadowbrook/Allendale area serving South Houston and Pasadena.

In the 2022-23 school year, KIPP Climb had a diverse, low-income population—81% Hispanic, 92% "economically disadvantaged"—similar to Neff's. Neff educates more emergent bilingual students—recent immigrants who are still learning basic English—at 75% of its population in 2022-23. KIPP Climb educates a smaller but still significant number of EBs: 27% in 2022-23.

Despite having nearly three times more EBs, who must hurdle language barriers in their pursuit of education, Neff partly outperformed KIPP Climb on the 2024 STAAR exam. In math, 35% of Neff 3rd- and 4th-graders scored at "Meets Grade Level or Above." In reading, 28% scored at that level. (The 5th-graders did much better on both subjects: 48% and 41%, respectively.)

On both reading and math, 27% of KIPP Climb 3rd- and 4th-graders scored at "Meets Grade Level or Above" (KIPP Climb does not teach 5th-graders).

Wingard has learned many things during her decades as an educator, including a relatively newfound appreciation for phonics. Time will tell whether she helps KIPP Climb improve student learning.

Time will also tell how Neff adjusts to the new leadership of Principal Mahalet Negussie, announced by the school this morning.

Learn more about Principal Wingard below:

Opinion: Neff Principal Amanda Wingard Shares Thoughts on Forced Resignation
Hello! On Wednesday, May 15th, I submitted my resignation as principal from the Houston Independent School District and Neff Elementary. I have been the proud principal at Neff for 10 years. I led the charge to be an NES school next year in a community that was hesitant but agreed
How to Educate Kids, according to HISD Elementary Principal of the Year Amanda Wingard
Educating students involves dozens of decisions, many of them controversial. In this interview, HISD Elementary Principal of the Year Amanda Wingard weighs in on several hot-button issues: * Should kids learn to read through phonics (learning how to sound out letters and words) or sight reading (recognizing words through memorization and