Having the right principal in place is as important as retention

Maureen Downey wrote this article this week about whether we are focusing enough on principal quality. The references she makes refer to who to retain principals and how busy the job is.

From my experience in DeKalb County, it’s been less about how to keep good principals and more about what to do about the really awful ones? No one seems to fire teachers….not sure what that is about. Last year there was a great uproar over the Principal at Southwest DeKalb HS. She was simply transferred to another school (so she can torment another whole set of parents, students and staff?). Avondale Elementary School had an awful principal for almost 10 years. That principal was the reason the Museum Charter School was created. That principal finally left at the end of 2013-2014 school year. The new principal is fantastic, and I am not concerned about him staying because he is building great roots in the community.

I’m concerned about the lack of principal accountability by regional superintendents and the shuffling of principals to other schools when they probably should be fired. Why can’t we fire principals? For a non union state, sure seems like those protections are in place – that or extreme nepotism!

I know that DeKalb Schools recently received grant money to support training and accountability for regional superintendents who supervise our principals. Looks like I’ll need to check in on that and see what progress has been made.

Another issue that Maureen doesn’t bring up regarding the role of principals and turnover is the being principal is an administrator role vs an educator role. It’s more commonly accepted that principals spend time teaching before they become a principal. While that experience is truly helpful in understanding the teaching side of the school business, it does not really assist with the business side of the school. Managing staff, outside relationships, parents, all the administrative work, budgeting – the business side of the job is often more difficult for principals who haven’t had a great deal of complementary experience.

Unsupported comments on OSD

Unsupported comments on OSD

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator.

Interestingly, the Opportunity School District legislation was a hot topic. It was the first question asked of the panelists.

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

Valarie Wilson stated on behalf of the GA School Board Association that they oppose OSD in part because it doesn’t state how they are going to help the schools get better and its all about money and procedure.

They asked how many people knew about OSD and only a few hands raised. They kept encouraging folks to read the legislation.

She spoke about how they were working to get schools of the OSD eligibility list. I keep asking “Why did we need to have this proposed legislation to start working on things those schools needed to be done?” and now I am thinking, are we going to stop helping those schools get better after they “get off the list”?

She said that the schools aren’t really failing and its just a scare tactic for shock value to push the legislation. Hmm, that’s a first one I’ve heard. What would you consider failing Ms. Wilson? I think the district clearly has enough problems that failing might be the right way to characterize. Besides, when you don’t admit to what’s wrong with the schools, we also aren’t fixing them.

At the end of the forum I asked two questions: Why now, to help those schools “get off the list,” and if you are such an advocate of equity of school funding – why are you against OSD?

Valarie claims that the work was being done already and that this is just a formal way of recognizing it. She didn’t answer my equity question but did go on to talk about how more affluent communities should be more accepting of funds flowing from their communities to the more at risk communities. However, using school funds to give to state determined failing schools to make them better isn’t the exact same thing???

Beasley said that the Governor doesn’t have any interest in helping our schools and they we, the community and school department have the ability to help our schools. So….WHY haven’t you been doing it??

I have yet to find a legitimate reason not to go forward with the OSD.

Don’t placate us, fix our schools!

Don’t placate us, fix our schools!

This week I attended a launch meeting of the Delta Teacher Efficacy Campaign, a collaboration aimed at enhancing student academic achievement by focusing on helping educators. I ended up arriving half way through, but made it in time for the Q & A session. Here’s one question from a parent that really stood out for me.

This parent stated that she is afraid to send her child to her local public schools in Lithonia and pays to send her child to private Christian school. She wants to know what she should do? (Basically, your schools suck, what are you going to do about it?)

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

©Depositphotos.com/Margaret Paynich

The panelists were Valarie Wilson, head of GA School Board Association; Tyler Barr – head of GA PTA, and Dr. Beasley who is a DeKalb Schools administrator. Beasley replied by noting that schools are a reflection of our community and we should work to get to know our principals. Which I agree with – if the principal is willing to work with parents (unlike former Avondale Elem principal who reined for 10 years!)

He mentioned that we have a great school choice program in DeKalb, basically saying that if you don’t like your school, no problem, go pick one of the others. Problem with that is – parents have to provide their own transportation. What if it isn’t possible for this parent to drop off and pick up at a school across the county?

Basically, he never answered the question. He never admitted any wrong doing, or fault on behalf of the county. This is one of the reasons charter schools are popular, especially in underserved areas. They offer a choice that may not be too far away for a parent to provide transportation. They offer a choice to parents who are otherwise forced to send their child to a private school and pay out of pocket.

There are stories like this all over the state, the country and we are paying them lip service by no fixing those schools. Here is the parent comment from a former post of mine on this topic:

She is entering Kindergarten next year. It’s too late for her to go to a public charter school to get picked for the lottery. The schools around one of her homes (she has 3—long story, don’t ask) is BAD, the school around her other home is WORSE and the school around her last home is THE WORST. She’s a smart kid and I only want the best for her. Private school isn’t a viable option at this point.

We need to do better.



Meeting DeKalb School Supt. Green

Great to meet New DeKalb School Superintendent Green last night at Leadership DeKalb’s event last night! 200 people RSVP’d and it was my first time at the Mary Gay HoGreen at leadership dekalb eventuse in Decatur. Only 45 days on the job and everyone seems optimistic about his potential for success.

Take aways:

He says all administrative staff were out in schools for the first day. This was partially in response to my desire to see Department administration cleaned out and when I mentioned that there is a big disconnect between district admin and implementation at the school level. Admin’s job is not “done” when they develop a program or curriculum. they need to see it through to the classroom.

He said that we are going to get academic achievement up one way or another (not 100% sure what the “other” way is)

When taking about cleaning house, he said he has already started and when I mentioned the nepotism, he said “if they are qualified and are doing the job” but I told him I don’t want to hear any more stories about someone’s son or daughter, cousin or whatever with a job at the school department to give them a job.

I explained my experience with substitute teachers in DeKalb. How I couldn’t get a spot as a sub when I first moved here, but that there is now a huge gap of sub opportunities not being filled.

I explained that it needs to be ok to fail, and how I knew of a situation where a school got “all hands on deck” for a state review, but was awful most of the time.

He agreed that middle school is critical to college and career readiness, and also made an interesting comment. He said he doesn’t like school counselors, that all the counselors he has met didn’t care about counseling students and they simply wanted to do admin work. I told him about how in RI you have to be a teacher for 3 years before you can be a counselor and seemed to me that the lackluster teachers just got a cushy job at the counselors office.

I’m just hoping he doesn’t mean that school counselors aren’t critical to student success when he said he would rather have hired someone else for the counselors spot. I am hoping he said that because that person was ineffective and not because he doesn’t believe in the work of school counselors.



Dekalb County’s 6th superintendent in 11 years

Dekalb County’s 6th superintendent in 11 years

Starting July 1, 2015, DeKalb County, GA schools will have a new Superintendent – 6th superintendent in 11 years time. Let’s hope the Board got it right this time.

I am hopeful because there was a national search, Dr. Green appears to have been successful in his posts prior to the position, he seems like a genuine guy in interviews and I appreciate the most that he has children and grandchildren here in DeKalb county, one of which will be attending a DeKalb county school. For an out of state Superintendent, he has skin in the game. And the one thing we needed was an outsider. It’s quite likely that our current superintendent, Michael Thurmond is planning to run for statewide office, or some other position and needs to maintain relative goodwill among the central office staff. He refused to do any house cleaning at the school department. I’m hopeful that an outsider like Dr. Green will do the necessary house cleaning in the central office staff – and why don’t you replace a few principals too?

The district is in dire need of stabilization as well. Being the 6th Superintendent in 11 years is not a good thing at all. Here the DeKalb School Watch Two blog reports on the turmoil which has occurred throughout the various superintendents and their ethical and criminal violations.

Of course DeKalb School Watch Two tears into Dr. Green because they think he’s success has been embellished. And here’s the info on his contract, which I agree with some of their questions – but if he can clean house and lead us to actual success in DeKalb it will be worth it. Here are more details on his biography & contract details.

I have heard too many stories about nepotism and friends and family jobs that they aren’t qualified for or are not performing at. Or just getting a big salary. The first thing I want to see is cleaning house. I don’t know how many times I have been conned into thinking a staff person is a legit person to find out from others what a fake they are. There is only one person on the central office payroll I trust and she’s doing what she is told so she doesn’t get fired, but she’d can do her job to her fullest.

Only time will tell.