Today’s Courier-Journal coverage of last night’s tumultuous meeting of the Jefferson County Board of Education is loaded with insights into why the most troubled schools in this district are the way they are.
Some of last night’s comments were eye-watering.
It started with Jefferson County Schools Superintendent Sheldon Berman. Last week, Berman said he wanted to shut down the Robert Frost Middle School and transfer the students to other schools. He reversed himself before the board met yesterday amidst howls of protest.
The Courier writes that Berman said:
“…closing the troubled school in southwestern Jefferson County would have been the right way to proceed.
‘We believe it is the best educational intervention we had,’ he said.”
But, Berman caved, now basically admitting that the plan finally selected, which changes out the principal and 50 percent of the staff, isn’t the best approach for this school, but the school district is going use it, anyway.
Selecting second-best options when something better is available isn’t what we need from senior school leadership.
Berman took still another hit on his management style.
“’Since you were appointed (superintendent) you have only spent about 10 minutes at our school,’ she said. ‘That is not enough.’”
I don’t know if Ms. Mobley was exaggerating, but others I’ve talked to indicate Berman did not spent much time in his schools. It’s an issue the Kentucky Board of Education and the Commissioner of Education need to investigate.
Certainly, comments made last night are especially disturbing because Berman now will gain a lot more power in his district’s most troubled schools. That is because these schools must pass their School Based Decision Making school governing authority – to Berman!
There were more eye poppers during the meeting.
Central High School Principal Dan Withers got caught in a Courier video (available from the link above) complaining that the turn-around procedures that have to be used are a “shotgun approach” forced by the Kentucky Department of Education.
These folks are so used to closing their eyes and deluding themselves about the real performance in their schools that they probably do believe there isn’t anything wrong.
Sadly, both test results and official audits show otherwise.
By the way, I wonder if the district could turn down the School Improvement Grant money and do nothing. If so, blaming the Kentucky Department of Education for Jefferson County greed really won’t fly.
And, greed there is.
Tonya Mobley, that PTA head from Robert Frost Middle School, says on the Courier’s video that all we need to do is send more money. Really?
In the 2008-09 school year, the Kentucky Department of Education’s Receipts and Expenditures Report Excel Spreadsheet shows that the Jefferson County School District ranked 17th in the state for total per pupil expenses in its schools. While the state average was only $9,486 per pupil, Jefferson County was spending $11,008 per pupil. Most school districts in Kentucky would love to get what Jefferson County schools get.
The latest school level spending data I was able to locate was from the 2007-08 School Report Card database.
It shows Robert Frost Middle School’s per pupil spending was $8,127 that year. Only 10 middle schools in Kentucky spent more.
Jefferson County schools have lots of money compared to the rest of the state. If the money isn’t being fairly divided, that’s a local problem for the district to fix.
Berman and his board also want to protect two principals from removal. They are Fern Creek High Schools’ Houston Barber and Valley High School’s Gary Hurt. However, as an earlier blog points out, both of these principals were in their schools as far back as 2006-07 according to on line school report cards.
Both could have been in place by July 1, 2007, too long a term to remain in place under the School Improvement Grant rules.
Anyway, in all the hubbub of charges and denials, I suspect many lost sight of what the board’s business was really all about.
The meeting was called so the board could select the school reform to be used to turn around Jefferson County’s Persistently Low-Performing Schools: Robert Frost Middle, Western Middle, Shawnee High, Western High, Valley High and Fern Creek Traditional High.
The board had to select one of four options listed in this earlier blog if the schools were to qualify for enormous ($500,000/year/school for three Years) federal School Improvement Grants.
The option chosen last night for all schools, per the Courier, was the Restaffing Option, which requires each school to replace its principal and School Based Decision Making Council (unless the audit determines otherwise) and 50 percent of the teachers.
It remains to be seen if Berman and company are the right folks to make this all work. So far, the history and current events don’t look very promising.