Just as this week's Buck Moon was rising I happened to hear from yet another long-time Fayette County school administrator complaining about a lack of educational leadership from the top. The stories, if true, are disappointing. KSN&C readers may recall I opined that FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton (and unsuccessful candidate Lu Young, who was later hired by Shelton) were both good candidates. I greatly respect the work of the Council for Better Education which Shelton also heads.
But I have heard from a handful of FCPS Administrators now. (I know half of them to be very well-respected. While I am not personally familiar with the work of the other younger administrators, they seem like good folks who don't have a bone to pick with anyone.) Surprisingly, the most common complaint: a lack of communication, and therefore, leadership. "We're on our own," one principal said as she swirled her index finger in a downward spiral and shook her head in dismay. Down the drain. "I've never seen it this bad. It takes three weeks to get answers to important questions," she told me. Uh oh. Sounds like the Fayette County schools might be getting the old administrative swirlie?
Superintendent Tom Shelton (who was hired in large part for his business acumen rather than education background) has been under a lot of pressure lately - awaiting the State Auditor's report on alleged irregularities within the school districts' finances; which may or may not have led to a budget deficit of nearly $20 million; just as a redistricting discussions are getting warmed up...
Then, there's today's Herald-Leader which reminded us all that there are rich schools and poor schools (same as it ever was). Bad timing. Ouch.
I see trouble on the way...
Rich schools/poor schools:
Activity funds show growing divide among Fayette County schoolsThis from the Herald-Leader:
There's an economic divide among schools in Fayette County — and one of the most glaring examples is fundraising by parents and students.
The amount of money raised for trips, athletics and extra academic supplies varies widely — from Rosa Parks Elementary, which anticipates $445,700 in revenues in 2014-2015, to Harrison Elementary, which is forecasting revenues of $21,335.
In the tentative budgets for school activity funds, which were approved by the Fayette County School Board last month, "you can see dramatic increases between schools based on the ability of parents to do fundraising," said Superintendent Tom Shelton. "We've become a society of the haves and have-nots, and that's not good for anybody."
School officials say the activity funds highlight the economic divide in Fayette County schools, some of which have concentrations of wealthy students or poor students. That divide is under increased scrutiny as the district prepares to redraw attendance zones in a process that could balance out some of those differences.
District officials have decided that a primary goal of the redistricting process is achieving socioeconomic balance.
But some parents are balking. They want their children to go to the school nearest their homes, even if it means that schools are not diverse.
Rosa Parks, where 8.3 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch, had $535,666 in revenues in its school activity fund in 2013. The elementary school sits near half-million dollar homes in the Harrodsburg Road area.
This past year, Rosa Parks made about $27,000 on one 5K-run fundraiser, more than Harrison Elementary's anticipated revenues for all of 2014-15. At Harrison, where some surrounding homes sell for $60,000 to $80,000, 97.6 percent of students receive free and reduced lunch.A petition was posted last week on GoPetition.com signed by parents upset that socioeconomic status is a primary consideration in redrawing Fayette schools attendance zones.
Parents sign petition supporting neighborhood schools
as primary factor in Fayette redistricting
The petition had more than 500 signatures by Friday afternoon [636 by Saturday evening]. It said the district should "not force redistricting on any family."
The petition to the school board reflects comments made Thursday at a public redistricting forum at Lafayette High School.
Earlier this year, the school board adopted goals for a redistricting plan that will be proposed to the board in early 2015.
No one goal is weighted more heavily than others, Superintendent Tom Shelton said Friday.
But socioeconomic balance — having a mixture of students from varying social classes — "is a primary consideration identified by the school board because it is directly tied to student achievement," Shelton said.
"Education research demonstrates that all students achieve better in diverse settings — including those from high income families, middle income families and low income families," he said.
"We understand and respect that every person who has signed the petition wants what is best for kids, as do we."
In Fayette County, some elementary schools have less than 15 percent of students who are eligible for free or reduced-price lunch. Others have well over 90 percent.
Parents said having children go to the school closest to their home, not socioeconomic balance, should be the main goal.
Shelton said the school board "also recognizes the desire of some families to attend schools close to their homes, and has identified proximity as another desirable outcome."
The website did not indicate who is behind the group called Fayette County Citizens that posted the petition on June 6.
But the web page explaining the petition said, in part, "Although balancing socio-economic status in schools has been stated as a primary consideration in drawing school boundaries, it is widely documented that letting students go to the local school in their community, even if it means that most of the students would be the same race or socioeconomic status, is greatly preferred by a majority in the community."
Redistricting all of Lexington's public-school boundaries is being necessitated by a new high school on Winchester Road and two new elementary schools, one on Georgetown Road and another east of Interstate 75.
Officials said the elementary schools should open in fall 2016; the high school should open in fall 2017.
The petition said the Fayette County School Board should reach a resolution that improves academic achievement for all students. The resolution should be one that delivers "the resources necessary to improve the learning environment in schools with students of relatively lower socioeconomic status," the petition said.
Shelton said the school board also placed "the achievement of all students as the foundation for every decision related to new attendance boundaries."
The petition said district officials should "pursue as its primary consideration the principle of attending a school close to your home and with those that live in the same neighborhood rather than socioeconomic status."
At least 90 signatures were anonymous.
One woman who signed her name to the petition, Carrie Rudzik, said she had no problem with socio-economic balance being one factor, but she thought neighborhood schools should be the primary goal.
Rudzik said in an interview that she signed the petition because she lives across the street from Glendover Elementary and she does not want her children to be reassigned to another school.
"My husband and I just purchased a home with the primary factor being the school district," Rudzik said in comments attached to the online petition. "I'm sure there are many other families who have done the same."
Parent Lindsey Ingram, who spoke at Thursday's public forum, said he also signed the petition.
"We are very concerned about this process and how it's going to play out," he said.
Ingram said he thought that parents at all socio-economic levels want their children to finish at the elementary school where they started and attend a school that's close to where they live.
Meanwhile, school board member Amanda Ferguson said she wanted to make it clear to citizens that when the school board approved the goals, they were in no particular order of priority.
The committee that is developing a redistricting plan includes school board members, business leaders, Equity Council members, parents, Realtors, home builders, principals and city planning officials.
The last time redistricting was undertaken on a large scale was in 2002.
At this point, the redistricting committee is early in its work, Shelton said, and has not begun discussing any specific proposals.
Committee members "will grapple with how to achieve the very best solution for our entire community, using student achievement as the arbiter in decisions," Shelton said.