Former Principal Nyberg Speaks at School Board Meeting


Ames Community School District YouTube Channel

The school board meeting held on March 31st.

On Tuesday, March 22, Ames High’s former principal spoke out at a school board meeting regarding her removal from the school last semester and the state of Ames High School. Though public comments are typically limited to three minutes, Ms. Nyberg spoke for twelve, reading a speech that she felt represented the culmination of her experience in Ames, after having reflected on the matter for five months.

It would hardly suffice to see that Ms. Nyberg was unpopular. Students criticized both her and the administration vehemently from the start of the school year. Throughout this time, Ms. Nyberg had little to no chance to express her perspective to the student body. Whether or not her speech sways any pre-existing opinions, as any English teacher will tell you, it is inherently valuable to be able to hear both sides of a story.

“I initially started this letter on September 30th. Even then, I knew I would leave the Ames Community School District at the end of the school year.”

In the original letter she wrote before her removal, she explained that she felt unsafe and unheard in her role as principal.

“I took a course called ‘Supportive Engagement: Building Social-Emotional Resilience’ through Drake University. But simply, I learned that we all wear masks… student behavior can be influenced by unprocessed feelings. Trauma, boredom.”

She assessed that the students in Ames wear such masks. Ms. Nyberg strongly believes that student behavior is a manifestation of how kids, particularly minorities, have been marginalized in the past.

“Our job as educators is to conquer our own prejudices, implicit bias so that we can meet students where they are and help them as well as ourselves to grow stronger and better every day.”

Ms. Nyberg also went on to discuss the recent shooting at East High and the importance of a community response to traumatic events and conflict. She went on to denounce the school district’s methods of suspending students for infractions. She then went on to voice support for alternative learning programs that acknowledge the different needs of students, while denouncing the school’s seeming lack of action in this sector.

“It took me several years as an administrator to recognize that not every student is well served in a large comprehensive high school setting… it’s not the high school’s fault necessarily, nor is it the fault of the individual… it’s both shocking and appalling that in 2022 Ames hasn’t invested in a structure that recognizes that the need for formal parallel pathways for students to seek and earn their high school diploma. It’s even more shocking that the district provides no guidance, nor does it help establish relationships with entities in the community that can help students with IEPs and significant social-emotional health needs to continue their education outside of the school.”

Regarding her removal, she explained that she was put on an intensive plan in early October, then administrative leave the next day. Though students were likely hoping for more information on exactly why she was removed, even Ms. Nyberg explained that she was unsure of the specifics. She went on to discuss the incident many people believed to be the turning point: a confrontation with a student who yelled and pushed the former principal in an attempt to get her phone back.

“Two days before this incident the entire AHS staff attended de-escalation training, where the main point was that as adults, we need to maintain our own regulation… I maintained a regulated, measured response to a rational, emotional student and attempted to get the student to come to my office rather than confront the student in an open space around multiple students and adults. The more I reflect the more certain that my actions were right.”

Ms. Nyberg went on to clarify that had she been given the chance, she would have followed up with the student and their parents to establish a plan to deal with their behavior while still valuing their education.

She went on the explain a phenomenon called the “glass cliff,” in which women are brought into a leadership positions under the guise of creating change. However, these companies are often not genuinely interested in changing or are facing so many problems that the woman finds it near-impossible to succeed. The glass cliff is even more potent for minorities. This is what Ms. Nyberg believes she experienced as principal at Ames High.

“I stand before you not as a failure but as a survivor of a situation I didn’t create and wasn’t adequately supported. I was expected to be successful without being given the tools and structure I requested… to help accomplish that success.”

Ms. Nyberg finished off the speech by detailing her past success, such as being unanimously selected by representatives groups to become principal and becoming the first black female principal of Ames High. She asserts that she will hold her head high and wishes the best for Ames High in the future.