La Casa charter school principal resigns
Cites concerns with organization’s management, low morale; Villarreal disputes claims

By Lauren Anderson - Freeman Staff

Aug. 28, 2015

 Carmen Brito, who was to be the La Casa de Esperanza charter school’s principal, at the school in June. Brito resigned Thursday, just four days before the new school’s first year begins.  
Charles Auer/Freeman Staff

WAUKESHA - La Casa de Esperanza Charter School’s principal has handed in her resignation just four days before the new school welcomes its first students.

Carmen Brito, who began in her position at the school June 1, resigned Thursday, citing concerns with the organization’s management.

La Casa CEO Anselmo Villarreal said Thursday the school will have an interim principal in place until a permanent one is hired. He said the school hopes to secure a new principal as soon as possible.

“Even though this was unexpected, it is not going to affect the school negatively,” Villarreal said, noting the organization’s experience with providing early childhood education.

While Brito praised the school’s teachers, she said morale is low among the organization’s staff. She called some her encounters with management “demoralizing.”

She also said the school lacks direction, evidenced by several last-minute changes as the school prepares to begin teaching students on Monday.

Villarreal refuted both claims, saying teachers are “extremely pleased with the model we’re using at the school.”

“Our direction has been very clear,” he said. “Our curriculum has been in place for months. We have all of our staff, which is very competent. The fact that we’re about to open on Monday is a testimony to all the hard work that has been taking place.”

Brito said problems surfaced earlier this month after The Freeman published an article featuring the new school and her role as principal. The article prompted positive comments from those outside of the school, Brito said, but internally, she was met with some disparaging comments.

Asked Thursday, neither Brito nor Villarreal identified inaccuracies or concerns with the article.

Brito said she was sad about her decision to leave because she believed in what the school is aiming to do - help close the achievement gap among Waukesha’s low-income students.

“I love the idea of the mission that I saw,” she said. “I really believed it and am really passionate about it. And that’s why I chose to work there.”

Brito previously taught bilingual and English language-learner education in the Madison Metropolitan, Milwaukee and Burlington Area school districts. She also taught for a few years in the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh’s education department in general and bilingual education.

Brito said her experience at La Casa has reinforced her commitment to public education.

“You have to have real educators in charge of education,” she said. “We need to advocate for public education and what it was meant to be - education for everyone. Schools should not be put in the charge of private business people but in the charge of educators.”

Brito also raised concerns that La Casa is being managed in a way that is too interested in “long-term revenue.”

Villarreal said while donors have given to La Casa, those funds are intended to cover the costs of educating low-income students beyond what state funding can provide. The school is chartered through the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee, meaning it receives public funds, but is not associated with a public school district.

Villarreal stressed that the school “is not a profit maker for La Casa and will never be a profit maker for La Casa.”

“It will never be in the interest of La Casa to profit from the school,” he said. “Conceptually, it doesn’t make sense.”

This year, La Casa  will enroll about 90 students to fill four classes - two four-year-old kindergarten and two five-year-old kindergarten. Many of those students already participate in La Casa’s early childhood learning program.

The school plans to add classes each year in hopes of expanding to 4K through fourth grade by its fifth year.