– KY Board of Education Chair Joe Brothers to Jefferson County educators
The Kentucky Board of Education heard update reports on what was going on in four of Kentucky’s most problematic school districts. The report from one of those districts, Louisville’s huge Jefferson County Public School District, included some really stunning moments.
Betty Graham, principal of the Frederic Law Olmsted Academy South middle school really riveted the board’s attention when she announced that her school has a very high percentage of brand new, inexperienced teachers.
Even worse, some of those new teachers are temporary/provisional certified teachers who came from alternative certification programs. Ms. Graham says the state provides no support to help them overcome their inexperience.
This disturbing news sat particularly poorly with the board members because Olmstead South was recently reconstituted as an all girls’ school from the former Iroquois Middle School and Southern Leadership Middle School. Both Iroquois and Southern had the unique distinction of being some of the less than a handful of schools in Kentucky to ever lose their self-governing privileges when their School Based Decision Making Council authority was transferred to the Jefferson County superintendent about a year or so ago. That makes Olmstead home to one of the lowest performing student groups in the entire state. The board knows Olmstead’s kids need top-notch teachers, but they are getting “newbies” instead.
The board pressed the district personnel on the inexperienced teacher issue. Finally upset at not getting straight answers, board chair Joe Brothers finally demanded, “Quit talking around the problem.”
In reply, Ms. Graham admitted, “It’s a contractual issue.”
In other words, union rules are standing in the way of the kids in this school getting the quality of teachers they need.
More fuel was added to the fire when Dr. Terry Holliday, Kentucky Commissioner of Education, asked Dr. Shelly Berman, the Jefferson County superintendent, if the teachers’ union contract prevented the use of test scores to evaluate teachers. When Berman replied that the contract did include that restriction, Dr. Holliday pointed out that if Kentucky gets any of the second tier stimulus money from the US Department of Education, that contractual restriction means none of the money can go to Jefferson County.
Left unmentioned was the fact that the US Department of Education has very firmly stated that states which prohibit using test scores to evaluate teachers will automatically be disqualified from getting any stimulus funds. Since Kentucky’s largest school district has such a restriction, it could put the entire state’s attempt to get stimulus money at risk.
I’ll be back in Frankfort in the morning for the second day of the board’s meeting. On the agenda is a discussion of the recently released NCLB results including issues of possible problems with the scores, which were briefly mentioned today.
By the way, I recognize any press people at the meeting. That’s sad.
If there is interest, I can put up an audio of some of the comments from the meeting. Use the comments feature to let me know if you would like that.