Saturday, June 11, 2011

FayetteABC on Tom Shelton

Shelton Chats with Jim Warren
This from Fayette ABC:
FayetteABC Statement on
the New FCPS Superintendent
Earlier today, we sent an e-mail to Dr. Tom Shelton congratulating him on his appointment as Fayette County’s new superintendent and indicating that we look forward to working with him to address concerns about assessment practices in Fayette County. (Please note that FayetteABC did not endorse any specific candidate for superintendent.) Although Dr. Shelton does not have a conventional background as a teacher, during his visit he indicated that one of his primary responsibilities will be to ensure the quality of classroom instruction. It bears noting in this regard, that Dr. Shelton addressed issues of assessment and teacher morale in much greater detail in the parent focus group than in any of his televised remarks. The following is a partial summary of our original report to the Board of Education on Tom Shelton’s visit with parents:

I (Erik) specifically pitched a question to him about the role of teachers and principals in ongoing debates about accountability and assessment. He indicated that he believes in accountability. As he put it, education is about the lives of our children and the use of state dollars, and it is only natural that we should be held accountable for these stewardships. He noted that current standardized tests are imposed from above by federal and state government. While we may not be able to control these assessments, he explained—and here he indicated that it could be debated whether the current system actually works—we as a district can control what goes on in our individual classrooms. He further stated that rich classroom instruction should be the driving force in all that we do, and that assessment should merely be thought of as part of the outcome.

I followed up, asking him again to address the role that teachers and principals specifically should play in ongoing debates about assessment. In response, he indicated that everyone deserves a chance to be heard and that everyone should be treated with respect. He further noted that he has never refused a meeting with anyone—and never will (a comment that he would later repeat in the public forum). In terms of his current responsibilities, he asserted that his most important job is to support quality instruction. Thereafter, he rearticulated his earlier comments about assessment. Instruction is actually something that we can control and improve at the local level, he said, while assessment is imposed from above and will often be changing. He indicated that he believes that the very best classrooms are those in a state of organized chaos in which teachers facilitate instruction and students “own” their own learning.

In terms of retaining and rewarding good teachers, he noted that salaries and benefits must be enticing. Above all, he maintained, teachers are recruited and retained by a district’s culture. (I can’t compete monetarily with districts from outside of Kentucky that offer signing bonuses or the like, he said, but I can compete in terms of our culture.) Thereafter, he referred to Daviess County’s TELL data in which 90% of the teachers indicated that their school is a good place to work and learn. Additionally, he highlighted that his district had a 98% response rate to the TELL survey. (By contrast, Fayette County’s numbers are significantly lower across the board, and its response rate was only 68%.) He concluded by asserting that a district’s culture is extremely important in terms of the learning environment for students.

We call upon Dr. Shelton to turn these worthy ideals into action. Additionally, we invite the citizens of Fayette County—parents, teachers, and the community at large—to engage with the new superintendent in good faith and to give him the opportunity to effect change in the assessment-related practices of our schools.

Erik and Cheryl Myrup

This from H-L:

Tom Shelton discusses being named
Fayette superintendent

Tom Shelton, who was named the new superintendent of Fayette County Public Schools on Friday night, is still getting used to the idea of his new role starting Sept. 1, but he's already making plans for the move to Lexington.

Shelton, whose current post is head of the Daviess County Schools, took some time Saturday to answer a few questions from the Herald-Leader about succeeding Stu Silberman.

Question: What went through your mind when the Fayette board called Friday to say you had been selected?

Answer: "I was at a meeting in Louisville, getting ready to drive home, and had begun to think I hadn't gotten the position because it was late and they had not called...

Q: What did you do first?

A: "I called my wife, Gwen, and then I called Frank Riney, the chair of the Daviess County board..

Q: What are your plans for getting ready...?

A: ...getting a schedule together for me to begin meeting people and know the community...


Anonymous said...

I am sorry that I cannot be optimistic about putting a man with no teaching background in our schools. I wouldn't want an surgeon who had not attended medical school operating on me, would I? Why would I want a man with no teaching experience running my school district?

It seems, as we speak, that it is business as usual in FCPS. Example: I'm on the language arts team of my particular school. We spent the last three days mapping out what we would teach the whole year. It amounted to three days of discussion and paperwork of what to teach the whole year. Long-terms lessons are good, but these plans are managed in such a way to prepare students for the upcoming CATS testing. I really feel the district wants us to teach in lockstep method.

Additionally, a new writing burden is falling on all teachers who must now keep folders for each student with "Writing to Learn" "Writing to Publish" etc, on them. They teachers collect samples of the written work students do. Think of all the paperwork required, and all the filing that could better be spent on teaching, lessons plans, and mentoring. We were told these folders would be reviewed "regularly." This is in addition to

1) Parent phonecalls/ conferences

2) Grade Level Meetings

3) MAP Rap -- a discussion of students who have poor grades and our interventions

4) CATS testing meetings

5) Department Chair meetings

6) Super Council meetings

7) Two Open Houses per year

8) Common Course Planning

9) CATS Awrds Ceremonoy

10) Beta Club Ceremony

I deeply love teaching! But I believe no one on the Board of Education, in the principal's office, or our incoming superintendent respects my time or cares about what students are actually learning.

Anonymous said...

9:41 -- Who was your choice?

I'm also an FCPS employee and I ask because I went to all of the public forums, watched the press conferences and researched the candidates during the week. At the beginning of the week, I really thought that this was Young's job to lose. Young was my first choice at the beginning. Yet, after watching the public forum, she sounded confused and unconfident about herself. Her performance at the press conference was the killer for me because she described the entire process as a "endurance contest" and sounded overwhelmed at everything going on around her. She also said that she hoped the headlines in the paper didn't read "scared little girl." If she can't hack a 14 hour day of meetings and interviews, what is she going to do when she gets hit from every angle from all of the different interest groups in FCPS? I think Young is where she needs to be. Farris looked and sounded really good, but her lack of longetivity in one place, coupled with the teacher survey results from Clark County limited her appeal to be.

I think the school board hired the best candidate. While Shelton doesn't have teaching experience (while the other two did have past teaching experience, it has been a long, long time since they actually taught. I'm not sure it matters because I've seen great teachers be crappy administrators and vice versa. Shelton has made it work in Daviess and he's really popular there), it is hard to argue with the data from Daviess. Also, he had the highest teacher survey results out of any candidate.

Also, given the amount of time they deliberated on Friday, it was apparent that the board struggled with the decision.

Finally, Have you talked with your board members about your concerns? Have you talked to the new superintendent? I think you need to give some of these folks a chance. Shelton does not remind me of Stu. He seems to be more humble and collaborative than Stu was.

Richard Day said...

I was happy with the Board’s choice, but the truth is, I was going to be happy with whoever they chose; but for different reasons. All three are capable of running Fayette County Schools; Elaine has seen big, Lu would quickly adjust. It’s hard work for anyone.
I saw the competition a little differently. First, it would not surprise me to learn that Lu was particularly popular among teachers. Best I can tell, she looks at the school from an educator’s point of view. But, I thought Lu was the long shot. Perhaps she was guilty of telling the truth – school reform is a long slough. I’d say, don’t be too hard on her.
Tom was the favorite, an endorsed successor. Folks just needed to get to know him a little. Of all the data the Board looked at, it appears the TELL survey was among the most persuasive. It laid a big issue to rest. And to their credit, FayetteABC pulled the data together, saw the results, and ran it as is. I’m not worried about whether Tom can appreciate what it means to be a teacher. A good superintendent teaches all the time. His teachers sure seem satisfied. And fact is, I admire Tom Shelton’s work on the Council for Better Education. Tom’s his own guy.
Elaine’s situation was the tricky one, again, according to my best guess. She has worked throughout the system and knows it top to bottom. She is tough, smart and capable. I like her better than the finalists in Louisville. But I am biased in her favor. She has been my boss, student, colleague, and friend. I just spent the year sharing an office with her husband Alvin. I encouraged her to apply.
But Elaine had a disadvantage – not counting her being an African American female – in that she has only been in Clark County two years, having inherited a building program that had hit more than a few snags.
I Feel certain the board struggled. They should have.
I always respond to board members requests, as I have recently for another county. If I had a significant concern with a candidate, it would have been different, but I didn’t. I printed my stuff and left folks alone.

Anonymous said...

Dear Professor Day,

I appreciate what our collagues have said in the posts above, but I think that it is clear that any critics who point to Dr. Shelton's lack of experince in the classroom have a valid point. Understanding what a teacher must do is critical. Under Mr. Silberman, I believe, teachers became disposable. So many of my colleagues --those with financial resources to leave--- felt they could not work beyond 27 years.

I'm actually more concerned that Dr. Shelton may run the schools as a business. I must confess I've noticed a disturbing new trend at my school: we are hiring teachers brand new out of the schools of education. This "cheap labor" is cost-saving for the school district and, as an outspoken colleage says, the new hires are less likely to complain. I've also noticed, at my school, that the new hires are the first to leave after the end bell rings, and they are often are sending text messages or planning for the weekend when they should be working and planning their lessons.

I don't know. Perhaps I'm too old, but this dog has been beaten hard, and I think this is hard for the blog moderators to understand. While I stopped believing in Stu Silberman in 2004, I have never stopped giving to my students. I review daily, tutor after school, and play by the rules with testing. Still, I seldom get a thank-you for from my principal, who seems to want ever more. I know that Dr. Myrick is correct when he says testing has gone too far. Sadly, it has....

Richard Day said...

Please know that I don't discount your experience. You know things about the inner workings of the district that I do not.

I have seen teachers treated as disposable commodities in some cases, but I am sorry to hear that the district may be favoring younger, cheaper, even more disposable teachers. I can honestly say that throughout my entire career, the cost of a teacher never entered into our hiring decisions. I'd take a proven teacher with 15 years experience and a Rank 1 anytime I could get them. Any move away form hiring the best qualified is troubling.