Campus: The Olympic High School campus also houses the District’s project based learning program. Emily Sawicki

Olympic High School Principal Anthony Fuller announced his resignation in a scathing 1,200-word letter this week describing what he felt was “hypocrisy” amid school district leadership, alleging they deprived Olympic students from advantages afforded to other Santa Monica students; in response, Superintendent Ben Drati wrote his own letter calling Fuller’s accusations misinformation.

“I find myself complicit in a hypocrisy that harms the very students and families I have tried to serve for the last 20 years,” Fuller wrote in his criticism of the Santa Monica-Malibu Unified School District (SMMUSD) published Tuesday in the Daily Press. The submitted letter was also an announcement that the principal of seven years was resigning in protest over serious concerns he had with the way the District and School Board have handled education at Olympic, which has seen enrollment shrink every year since Fuller came aboard in 2015.

“…it is evident that this Board and this Leadership team specifically chose to abandon their responsibility to our more vulnerable students while investing in those that are born with greater advantages,” Fuller wrote.

Olympic is a continuation high school of about 37 students, according to California Department of Education (CDE) data. The student population has plummeted since Fuller came into the role of principal in 2015, when total school enrollment was 91, according to CDE numbers. 

Beginning in 2019, the school campus also became home to the Samohi project based learning pathway, or PBL, designed for an enrollment of up to 100 students per grade level in grades nine-12.

The letter did not appear to come as a surprise to SMMUSD administrators; by the time it was published, Superintendent Ben Drati had already penned a letter to the Olympic school community the previous Friday, May 13, announcing Fuller’s departure. 

In his letter to the Olympic community, Drati did not address any of Fuller’s complaints, writing simply: “I would like to inform you that Principal Anthony Fuller will be leaving his position as Principal of Olympic High School, Independent Study Programs, OCLC, and Adult School Programs at the end of June. I’m sure you agree when I say that Mr. Fuller has served the district with his heart and knowledge, and we thank him for his care of students and all the work he has done to inspire students to success.”

Drati declined to speak to the Daily Press for this story, but in a later letter to the editor, the Superintendent implied many of Fuller’s complaints were either false or a result of his own unwillingness to rise to the occasion.

Many of Fuller’s complaints over Olympic compare the experience of his students to that of the PBL students with whom they share their facility.

“I now run the only secondary school in the Santa Monica Malibu Unified School District that has no Counselor on campus and no District funded Electives taught by a credentialed human being,” Fuller wrote. “If you know anything about my district, you would well be aware of the strengths of our visual and performing arts programs (VAPA). Unfortunately, the Board and Leadership have decided that Olympic students are not worth the expenditure. 

“Worse, our students are forced to share a campus with a program the District obviously does support,” Fuller continued. “While our now unused music rooms sit idle and student art from years past sadly adorn my office walls, the new program has a room with all kinds of high end expensive technology that is there solely to support their academic classes! And that is just an extra! Because midway through their school day, PPBL [sic] students walk over to SAMO High and enjoy the most amazing electives our District has to offer! And it’s not just the Visual and Performing Arts that our District denies to Olympic students: Career Technical Education classes are also for others. You won’t find any Olympic students in SAMO’s state-of-the-art Auto shop.”

Drati’s letter to the editor stated that Olympic students “do currently receive a full array of mental health services and counseling that has been supported by Mr. Fuller.” In addition, he said other complaints were due to shortcomings with the way Fuller ran the school.

“While we had high hopes for Mr. Fuller to embrace and engage in the development of 21st-century learning models, there were some missed opportunities in doing so,” Drati wrote. “With enrollment hovering around 40 students the last few years, creativity and innovation are required to provide students with a full range of programs and classes in an integrative manner. Unfortunately, the vision was lacking to make this work…” The Superintendent then listed six bullet points that he said were missed opportunities for Olympic students, including declining an offer to have Olympic students share the PBL “iStudio” space and “Districtwide learning and innovation workshops for teachers advertised in principals’ updates.”

The full text of Drati’s letter can be found on page 4.

Fuller’s successor, current Franklin Elementary Principal Cynthia McGregory, has already been tapped. 

“My recommendation will go before the school board for consideration soon,” Drati wrote in his May 13 email to the Olympic community. “Ms. McGregory is no stranger to Olympic as she served the students of Olympic and OCLC for 10 years before she was asked to serve as an assistant principal and now principal of Franklin Elementary School. Her leadership at Franklin was stellar and she is well respected and loved by the staff and community of Franklin.”

Fuller also had kind words for McGregory, though he did not refer to her by name.

“The new Principal for Olympic High School is one of the most talented and authentic leaders in our District, and the staff here, though diminished, is strong,” Fuller wrote of McGregory. “I wept with gratitude when I learned of her selection. Our children will be in good hands, but you as a community must support Olympic High school students! Do not allow this inequitable disparity to continue!”