Inform, Entertain, Inspire
Play Live Radio
Next Up:
0:00 0:00
Available On Air Stations

South Bend west side residents ask city schools to not transfer Washington High School principal

The main entrance of Washington High School in the snow.
Jennifer Weingart
WVPE Public Radio
The main entrance of Washington High School in the snow.

Residents of South Bend’s west side are asking the South Bend Community School Corporation to keep Thomas Sims as the principal of Washington High School.

The district announced last month that, as part of several leadership changes, Sims would be transferred into a role overseeing a turnaround of academic performance at Dickinson Fine Arts Academy.

But during a Wednesday school board meeting, multiple speakers said Washington High School has seen major improvements under Sims’s tenure including better student academic performance and decreases in violence.

“I graduated from Washington High School, so Washington’s on my heart,” west side resident George Jones said. “I can't understand what you are trying to do to this particular high school, are you trying to make it unsuccessful or what? Because if you have something that’s working, why change it?”

In addition, speakers said Sims’s departure would come at a time of personnel challenges for the school — for example, Washington currently does not have a facilitator for its medical magnet program or an assistant principal.

The school board does not have the power to block the transfer, as it is a personnel matter.

But board member Oletha Jones said Sims should stay as Washington’s principal if he desires to — and that if Sims leaves, Washington should remain a “core curriculum” high school instead of being switched to a career and technical education program.

District officials did not comment on the transfer during the meeting.

But The South Bend Tribune reports that during a Tuesday community meeting called "SAVE Washington High School,” an organizer read a statement from district superintendent Todd Cummings that said the transfer of Sims “will ensure a strong, transformation principal at Dickinson Fine Arts Academy.”

The Tribune also reported that community members expressed concerns Tuesday that the change could be a prelude to closing Washington High School or switching it from a core curriculum school to a vocational training program.

Cummings’ statement, according to the Tribune, stated that the district had no plans to close Washington High School.

But in the face of declining enrollment, the district has closed or repurposed seven schools in the past few years and is currently trying to sell its downtown administration building to the city of South Bend.

Contact Jakob at or follow him on Twitter at @JakobLazzaro.

If you appreciate this kind of journalism on your local NPR station, please support it by donating here.

Jakob Lazzaro comes to Indiana from Chicago, where he graduated from Northwestern University in 2020 with a degree in Journalism and a double major in History. Before joining WVPE, he wrote NPR's Source of the Week e-mail newsletter, and previously worked for CalMatters, Pittsburgh's 90.5 WESA and North by Northwestern.