Friday, November 16, 2007

Silberman clarifies investigation of Booker T Washington test scores

On Wednesday, KSN&C posted a story from the Bluegrass Institute that quoted Fayette County Superintendent Stu Silberman on the Booker T Washington Academy matter.

Asked to explain what happened to the Academy to cause such dramatic improvement while Petrilli was principal, Silberman stated that it was "a bad example." Then he said the school is currently "under investigation."
Despite former BTW Principal Peggy Petrilli's own statement and assurances from Silberman, speculation persists as to whether she resigned or was forced out.
...it is evident that despite my best efforts, and the fact that I did the best I could do, I recognize that I could not build trust with a group of parents...It is with a heavy heart that I have decided to leave Booker T. Washington for the sake of our students," Petrilli said in her statement.
But was she given the option of NOT resigning? Silberman told KSN&C,
"It never got to the point where Peggy ever asked to return to BTWA. As soon as we shared the concerns that were raised she decided that she did not want to go back. So, it never got to the point where that even had to be discussed."
So is the present investigation is focused on Petrilli, or the school?

KSN&C asked Silberman to clarify comments he made at the Long-Term Policy Research Center meeting earlier this week. Is Petrilli under investigation?
"I did not say that Peggy was under investigation. I was asked to discuss the scores at BTW and I said that I couldn’t discuss those because those scores were currently being investigated but I could respond to what principals try to do to close gaps."
Silberman went on to confirm that the BTW investigation is internal and the Kentucky Department of Education is not involved.

The whole affair started when a group of parents, former teachers and other advocates made a series of allegations in a letter and during a meeting, including:

• the use of disciplinary tactics not approved by the school council, including "kids being grabbed by the arm, cheeks squeezed, fingers pointed in faces."

• meager funding for special education and low-income students.

• poor teacher retention and high teacher turnover.

• low numbers of African-American and Hispanic teachers to reflect the diversity of the student population.

• inappropriate cultural comments and phrases, including the use of "gigolo man" and "these people."

• concerns about grant allocations, "misappropriation of funds" and a failure to involve the school's site-based decision-making council in budget decisions.

• poor-performing students being held in a grade to keep them from testing in the next year.

• school officials standing over students while being tested.

• retaliation against parents for coming forward with complaints.

The letter asked for a curriculum and financial audit, a test-score investigation, an evaluation of teacher turnover at the school, and a new principal "who will encourage greater ethical, moral, and educational standards as well as cultural appreciation toward all of our families."

Silberman told KSN&C in August,

"What we will do in this situation is the same as we would do in any situation where concerns are raised - we take them seriously and look into them and take appropriate action to either discard the issues or deal with them."

That was August. It's now mid-November.

There is no apparent timeline for the investigation. But if the focus is not on Petrilli, it's not a personnel matter. I would think that any information collected would be considered to be "public."

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

If you really want to get some insignt into this, you are asking for the wrong thing in your open records request. You should file an open records request asking for all email communication between and among Silberman, all school board members, Cole, and "community leaders" concerning this issue. You should pay particular attention to any email between any of the council members and Silberman, Cole, and board members.

You should be very specific in your request ensuring you ask for a thorough search of all sent and received email from the exchange mail server. You should also ensure you ask for all related email on Mr. Conner's state account and his Blackberry.

One thing you can be sure of is that Silberman didn't take this action without first informing board members and "community leaders" to gage their reaction. Silberman loves email...you just may find a gold mine of information there. I would be shocked if Peggy's attorney hasn't already asked for this.

If you ask for it you will need to be very clear about the timeframe for the search, words to use in the search, who's accounts you want searched, and that you not only want the fcps servers searched, but that you want the state account Mr. Conner uses searched as well.

The Principal said...

Yes, I'm sure you are correct.

But out of deference to the district I decided to wait for the FCPS report first.

Then, we'll see.