Principal Lawyer Resigns

The surprise announcement is made shortly before school Feb. 12

By Patrick Brown, reporter

Leo Lawyer, Cleveland High School’s principal, announced his resignation today, ending a brief tenure at the Southeast Portland high school.

Lawyer, hired in June, 2019 from Neah-Kah-Nie Middle School, announced his resignation via letter Wednesday morning. While he didn’t give an explicit reason for the resignation, he expressed that it was the best decision for him and his family.

“I realize that this news must be surprising to hear; what I can say today is that this decision is the right one for my family and me at this time,” Lawyer wrote in a letter to the community.

He continued, “I am very grateful for the support I received during my time at Cleveland–thank you for your warm welcome and partnership this year. I am particularly grateful to have met so many wonderful school staff and students at Cleveland. 

I wish the Cleveland community and Portland Public Schools the very best,” he wrote.

Taking over for Lawyer on an interim basis will be Paul Cook, Cleveland’s former principal for 12 years who retired in 2015. Cook will begin Thursday, Feb. 13, said Elisa Schorr, Portland Public Schools Area Senior Director for high schools.

The news broke this morning when teachers and staff members were called into the library and heard the news and his statement at 8:05 a.m., shortly before school started. 

Joe LaFountaine, PPS’ regional superintendent, sent out an email to the community at 8:30 a.m. and said that while the news “probably comes as a surprise, our focus now is to minimize disruption and keep positive momentum going for Cleveland during this transition period. I know our educators and staff will work hard to ensure that the last months of school are positive and successful for our students.”

Lawyer’s resignation means that this year’s seniors will have had four principals in their high school career. Tammy O’Neill served from 2015-2017, and Ayesha Freeman from 2017-2019. O’Neill resigned to take the principal job at Clackamas High School, and Freeman resigned and later took a job as vice principal at Wilson High School.

The search for a new principal begins yet again, and the district is in the process of setting up a schedule for feedback, LaFountaine said.

In the meantime, “Paul (Cook) knows and loves Cleveland, and we are fortunate that he has agreed to come back during this time of transition,” LaFountaine said.