Tuesday, October 07, 2014

Reformy School Administration on Steroids?


Why is Meadowthorpe Going in the Wrong Direction?

Did Ineffective Administration Contribute to Lower Scores, toxic environment?

As the Herald-Leader reported recently, William Wells Brown Elementary is not the only Fayette County school that is struggling. Some others have fallen from greater heights.
Meadowthorpe Principal Joel Katte

For example, the status of Meadowthorpe Elementary (where I was principal in the late 80s) has recently dropped from "distinguished," the highest category, to "needs improvement." Meadowthorpe principal Joel Katte told the Herald-Leader that teachers were reviewing the scores to figure out what happened. He doesn’t seem to know.

One area of concern was the program reviews, he said. The addition of program reviews — a self-assessment completed by a team of educators in each school that scores it against a state rubric — to the accountability formula lowered the state rankings of many Fayette County schools, according to Superintendent Tom Shelton.

While Katte and Meadowthorpe's staff know they have room to improve, they are looking at how they evaluated themselves, Katte said.

"We remain committed to strengthening our school-wide writing program as well," he said.

Assuming that FCPS Superintendent Tom Shelton is correct, and Fayette County teachers were faithful to the high standards intended by the Program Review (...while schools in other unnamed districts may not have been as forthcoming?), what does it mean that some of the lowest Program Review ratings came in the area of Administrative/Leadership Support?  

On Friday, Meadowthorpe SBDM Parent Rep Erica Snow wrote the Superintendent and Board members about her concerns and frustrations.

To Whom It May Concern:

I waited until midnight tonight to look at the achievement scores for Meadowthorpe Elementary. When I pulled them up on the state database, I was overcome with so many different emotions that I didn’t sleep the rest of last night. So this morning I woke up, put my emotions to the side and started looking at them from a mathematical point of view. I was a math education major at Brigham Young University. My senior thesis included dissecting hundreds of pages of data and comparing growth.  When I was looking for improvement in our school I found some striking statistics. 

  • Our achievement dropped by 4 points: a 5% drop
  • Our Gap dropped by 5 points: a 13% drop
  • Our Growth dropped by 10 points: A 14% drop. (This accomplishment of achieving growth last year was so celebrated it appeared on T-shirts)
  • Drops in each subject area ranged from 4% to 19% with only the area of writing seeing an increase of a marginal 6%
  • Our program review category did not see A SINGLE proficient rating in ANY sub-category. 
  • More startling is that we dropped 25 percentile points.  
What do these scores mean to me?  
  • Despite having a CSIP in place, the teachers were not adequately supported in carrying it out. Our Gap group was severely neglected. GAP is addressed at an administrative level and clearly the administration did not follow through on the plan set in place by the SBDM. Two things that I am not sure happened were the “Saturday School” and the “Book Study.”  Furthermore the policy not to “allow African American students to fail any classroom assessment” was not practical nor prudent given the outcomes. 
  • Program Review was a HUGE aspect of this report card. Since teachers were primarily responsible for showcasing their work in this manner, the program review is a direct reflection of how the teachers feel about their jobs. Clearly since we did not gain proficiency in any category, teachers were not getting the support and most importantly encouragement they needed from the administration. This is showcased more precisely in the Administrative/Leadership Support category with scores of 1.8, 1.83 and 1.86 in Arts and Humanities, Practical Living and Writing, respectively. Clearly our Administration and Leadership are not PROFICIENT.
  • Professional Development was not adequately offered to teachers.
  • I offered (beginning in 2011 and continuing to this spring) to the administration several times to do a math enrichment program VOLUNTARILY before school for any group identified as needing it (please see credentials above) and I was never given an answer.  Our math proficiency dropped 9%
According to my calculations these scores are a reflection on the lack of leadership and mentoring coming from an administrative level. The administration knew that the process was changing this year. The administration is responsible for the decline of a top 10 school in the state to one that now exists as a “needs improvement school.” The administration needs to be held accountable. For me, this means if the school is not making progress, and worse declining at this rate, the administration is no longer effective and needs to be removed. Other schools thrived under this years accountability system, so this is not a ratings problem. My opinion may be shared with any you deem appropriate.

Sincerely,

Erica Snow

SBDM Parent Representative

Meadowthorpe Elementary

That teachers in the school assigned low marks due, in part, to a lack of leadership support is telling. Unfortunately, it also reconfirms the central complaint one hears these days.

KSNC has been hearing concerns from parents at Meadowthorpe since last May. Former SBDM Parent Rep Traci Letcher told KSNC:

I helped to hire Principal Joel Katte and now I have been working with other parents communicating to FCPS about our concerns. There are concerns regarding the (Franklin-Covey) 'Leader in Me' program cost of $50-80K, after-school program profit, along with a negative environment. As he stated in a fall (2013) staff meeting "I have gotten rid of most of you, and I only have a few to go." Sadly, only 15 of the 65 original staff members at the time of Katte's arrival remain at Meadowthorpe.

Letcher says FCPS paid $1,700 to Priest/Mediator Johnnie Ross this summer to meet in a public assembly to address Meadowthorpe parent complaints with the principal. Ross finished in August by concluding that 'trust is gone' at the school.  

A "Corrective Action Plan" for Katte (The district recently put itself on a Corrective Action Plan) was put forth to parents/staff in June, but did not include a timeline, anything that addressed the money mismanagement allegations, specific consequences or the basic elements of a corrective action plan, Letcher said.

Katte took a professional development trip with staff and parents in March, and - get this - despite being a paid speaker for Franklin-Covey, Katte asked parents and staff to give him money for parking and gas!? the former SBDM Council member said. 

The Franklin-Covey business apparently involved large sums...somehow. Did Katte receive reimbursements from FCPS and Franklin-Covey? "Meadowthorpe pays a license fee to Franklin-Covey each year for several thousand dollars, and this expenditure has never been approved by SBDM because monies are in activity funds," Letcher said. 

If the Council never reviews the school's Activity Fund (which, if memory serves, is contrary to state SBDM guidelines) then the execution of those funds would lie solely with the principal - which would seem to present an intriguing string of possibilities. 

Just as Superintendent Tom Shelton has been called out for his personal connections to a vendor, the parents think it inappropriate for Mr. Katte to be a part-time employee of the Franklin-Covey business called the 'Leader in Me,' which he promoted at Meadowthorpe, and apparently pays an annual fee with school Activity funds (and possibly after-school program profits?), which only he controls, and is reimbursed by the school district.   

State Auditor Adam Edelen said such connections as Shelton's could be suspicious for "favoritism." It seems there should be a word for Katte's little business arrangement.

Letcher says she and other parents met with Shelton in May, and Lu Young again in June, regarding their numerous concerns: plummeting student achievement scores, equality of opportunities within the grades, a skyrocketing turnover rate among staff (which the parent have itemized position by position and figure to be around 73-77%), concerns over money, and potential conflicts of interest. Following the meeting with Young, Letcher said, "We were assured the money concerns would be addressed. But spending with no parent, teacher or SBDM oversight occurred this summer." 

The school council consulted with Darryl Thompson at FCPS-SBDM regarding SBDM policies that were either missing or outdated, and outsourced the problem to the Kentucky Association of School Councils (KASC). The district reportedly sent former Crawford principal (and my former professional colleague) Debbie Tronzo to be with Mr. Katte for a school day, but to no noticeable effect.

Letcher said that FCPS Board member Doug Barnett met with them twice, but Melissa Bacon declined, referring any concerns to Shelton.

But many of the parents' complaints center around leadership behavior issues. "He has simply become ineffective as a leader because of scare tactics, threats of not renewing contracts, and focusing too much energy and resources on the 'Leader in Me' program," Letcher said.  

The parents say they are energetic about public schools and believe the system can work for most students. They also say that they have been proud of many of the decisions made by FCPS. But they reserve the right to question their leaders.   

Letcher recently summed up her frustrations in a letter to the board.
FCPS School Board and Superintendent Shelton,

Like many parents, I am also concerned about the future of FCPS.  As I serve many community organizations and teach at the University of Kentucky, it has given me the opportunity to receive a lot of feedback about the state of FCPS in the past month.   I have heard, "when the superintendent search occurs next year....",  "what is the school board doing?"  "is anyone fired yet?"  Most of these comments are hearsay, but do reflect a common theme I have heard often in asking if our FCPS leaders are aggressively addressing state auditor concerns and the suspicion of school leaders this brings to our city.

Sadly, I'm afraid the planned negative comments at the next board meeting from different groups, will only add to the continued negative image of FCPS, which has grown immensely in the past month. This image impacts CommerceLexington, which I'm sure you have heard from, along with the University of Kentucky and other large companies trying to recruit top employees.  Please stop placing people in the audience and provide an open public forum in multiple forms. 

I am urging you to take aggressive steps rather than hosting meetings to explain what has been done by Shelton or one office.  The community is looking for a large action or response which demonstrates respect for the auditor's report and the seriousness of your leadership role to actively engage in the solution process.  The public meetings, such as Monday's special-called meeting, have served no purpose for the community and there seems to be no real sense of urgency.

Please stop having meetings which review reports and discuss financial sheets.  Instead, produce meetings which show you have:
  • ·         created a staff, community and parent hotline with an independent firm to receive anonymous complaints
  • place copies of all financial documents at any meeting of finance, school board, curriculum, professional development online prior to meetings for transparency
  • fire administrators, without fear of litigation, for the better good of the school, board office, or transportation garage
  • everyone apologize and take blame, even though you might not feel it
  • rotate school board meetings to school venues, as previously done in this district
  • use the experts in your community at universities, financial institutions and publicize it
  • over-publicize your notification to bids & bid out EVERYTHING, start over with the conflict consultant & auditor
The questions of your system began for me this spring when I approached the school board and Superintendent Shelton about my concerns regarding the aggressive leadership tactics and SBDM budget concerns at Meadowthorpe Elementary. A weak corrective action plan was thrown together in June for Meadowthorpe Principal Joel Katte with no success, and the atmosphere has become toxic for students & staff.    

Now, into October, I have learned not only about education law & what should be occurring at my district, but your lack of response has shined a brighter light on the FCPS School Board and Superintendent Shelton. I am embarrassed you have undervalued so many parent questions, complaints from Meadowthorpe or you have hidden behind personnel policy.  

Meadowthorpe's Joel Katte is not the only principal who is not a good fit for the next step in FCPS.  While you have continued to ignore principal issues at Dixie Elementary, Deep Springs Elementary and others, many of your own employees have decided to stand up against your lack of change.  There are a group of leaders in FCPS who are planning to present a 'no confidence of Shelton' vote request to FCPS at the next school board meeting. Seems it will be a long line that night, as I also am aware Meadowthorpe parents also plan to speak at the public input section.

Please begin to make larger administrative moves in hiring/firing, demonstrate a willingness to change course and place all financial documents online.  I plan on seeing you later this month at the next board meeting. Know each of you are a face to our public school system and right now, this is embarrassing to see you are not aggressively responding with apologies and action. Please take more aggressive action to lead us through this challenge.

I don't need a response; the public needs to see you care just as much as we do.

Respectfully,

Traci Letcher, Meadowthorpe and LTMS parent

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I know if you lose almost ALL of the staff that made your school a Blue Ribbon school (before you were even on site), something is wrong. Principals are given almost complete control in their own building in FCPS. If you have a good principal, no problem- otherwise the staff is easily made miserable. Principals should have a period of time in which they can be "pink-slipped" by their staff just like new teachers. It would hold them accountable for how they treat parents and staff alike, as well as the changes they make just because they can.

CAROL JONES said...

I would like to know why they paid Ross to tell them the same thing they Lread knew.

Former Teacher said...

It comes down to JK not knowing anything about instruction and, rather than relying on his teachers (who had turned the school from a top 75 school to a top ten school in two years time), he insisted on making the school a reflection of himself. And look at what ya got!!
His focus on leadership has always been hollow because it was leadership for the sake of leadership without creating anything. There was no product for the leadership to create.
The public is finding out what everyone that worked for Joel has already known. This column is long overdue.

Anonymous said...

And where's Dr. Shelton on the first "District Leadership" meeting since test scores and the audit? Canada?

Anonymous said...

This kind of reckless assault on school and district leadership is like a cancer in our community. No wonder schools get sidetracked from focusing on kids or drop a few points. I would say there are many variables that go into running an organization outside of leadership alone, none of which appear to be considered here from an objective or factual angle. I don't know if I should feel disgusted or sorry for this parent. There are some issues going on alright, and because of the effort and the personal nature of the attacks, I would venture to guess this isn't the first time an organization going through changes has been targeted in the name of advocacy by someone unhappy, operating on hearsay, not getting their way or even unstable. Pray for the safety, direction and leadership in Kentucky schools. The last thing we need is a massive turnover of leadership. Build a bridge and get over it. It's time to work together to resolve differences.

Anonymous said...

Let us not forget that about 5 or 6 years ago Meadowthorpe's scores placed them in the top 9 schools in the state. IN THE STATE! How do you go from a top 9 school to "needs improvement" so quickly?

Anonymous said...

This is a prime example of the lack of decorum and support for the school system. Anytime somebody actually leads, there's always someone with a problem. Leadership styles differ and mistakes happen. It's what is done after any failure that counts. Has anybody considered extending some mercy? This is a bonefide brouhaha. I question the motives of this group. Is this really about students? I think not. Focus on the winning solutions, otherwise this is fruitless narcissism.

Anonymous said...

I knew that school was no longer the place from my child when a teacher told me "I'd rather just keep my door closed all day" referring to having to come in contact with the Principal.

I knew that school was no longer the place for my child when a Kindergarten student was left outside in the parking lot for 25 minutes unnoticed and no one took ownership of the incident.

I knew that school was no longer the place for my child when the "gifted" students took a field trip to Washington D.C. and the "other" students went to Corbin, KY.


I can keep going........

Anonymous said...

["The public is finding out what everyone that worked for Joel has already known. This column is long overdue."]

I'll second that!

Richard Day said...

Thanks for the comments y’all.

October 7, 2014 at 10:54 PM: In fact, it is relatively easy for a superintendent to get rid of a principal he or she believes to be ineffective. They are not protected by tenure as an administrator, so they can be demoted to a teaching position.

October 8, 2014 at 8:57 AM: Reckless assault? Hardly.
One current and one former elected SBDM Council members, whose job it is to provide oversight of school policies, went on the record. They gave their names and stated their concerns (which is more than you did). Long before that happened, they complained at the school level, and later the district level. They provided documentation of their complaints. Five years passed. In the interim, the data show sharp declines in student achievement according to Kentucky accountability measures – the same state that once rated the school highly.

I spent 25 years as a principal, three of those at Meadowthorpe. It is not parent complaints that sidetrack schools. It is bureaucratic administrators who fail to understand that parents care deeply about their kids’ education and who ignore their concerns. The biggest reason parents pull their kids out of a school has to do with the atmosphere. Parents want a safe, warm, inviting, and stimulating environment where they know their kids are valued, appreciated, and loved. Would you send your children to a school that you did not believe was good for them?

It is true that some parents kinda…go off… from time to time. I see some of that here. But underneath the emotion is a message. It is a foolish principal that ignores the message because it was not delivered sweetly.

You are quite correct that today’s schools are complex organizations. Leadership is not everything. But principals are a very big piece. I often wondered what I was truly in charge of as a principal. But there was one thing for certain. I was in charge of the atmosphere. I decided how we did business in the school. I decided how people would be treated.

School principals these days are like air traffic controllers with discipline problems. Schools are made up of a lot of moving pieces and it takes a skilled administrator to attend to all of the instructional and management functions required.

I can only offer my personal assurance that I am keenly interested in a factual presentation of the issues. This story is about a bunch of parents who are upset with their children’s school and they said why, in some detail. What readers don’t know is what I left out, because I was not satisfied that I had the documentation necessary to support what I consider to be a substantial claim. The matter would be better investigated by OEA, not me.

I join you in a sincere wish for a safe school with well-directed leadership. It is my belief that the parents of Meadowthorpe would like nothing better than a bridge. But as school reformers are fond of saying, we’ve got to get the right people on the bus. I assume Mr. Katte was thinking of getting some folks off his bus in recent years.

October 8, 2014 at 2:01 PM: You make an interesting point. How a school district responds to a failure does count. But before mercy, is there not atonement? Something needs fixin’ here.

Amy Martin said...

I am a former SBDM parent representative and a former PTA President who worked closely with Mr. Katte in both respects. And outside of the personal disputes he and I obviously have I can tell you that prior to his changes my daughter was on track. Since his arrival she has dropped three grade levels in her scores in two years time, she has been the object of such bullying that we had to seek counseling and I have been picked apart on a personal level by Mr. Katte. This blog is so long overdue it is not funny. Unlike the anonomous authors I will give my name but I think many of you already know my name.

Anonymous said...

Wow, I'm shocked at the untruths and outright fabrications in this article and subsequent comments. Mr. Katte was not paid to speak at a The a Leader In Me conference and it is my understanding that in order to stretch PD funds staff would each pay for their own gas and meals which I find noble and not something to be criticized. I believe Traci Letcher also has her investment numbers incorrect for The Leader In Me program which she knows since she voted while on SBDM to bring it to Meadowthorpe. In fact, it is my understanding that the program generated over $20,000 in additional income for Meadowthorpe last year. Pretty impressive! Mr. Katte has always been kind, respectful, and honest. He works very hard to create an atmosphere of joy and has always had an open door policy with regard to parents and staff. There are a handful of parents who enjoy the dramatics of chaos which is what we have here I believe.

Leadership isn't easy. Whenever you have leadership change you have turnover but it is my understanding that Meadowthorpe's turnover is within the state's average. Mr. Katte loves kids and believes that it his his job to help all kids find their passion in life.

As for the test I believe it unfair to compare rankings for a test that is very different then 3 years ago when test scores of our gifted students could cover up the GAP scores. Furthermore, the program reviews are nothing more than self evaluations. I commend Mr. Katte for his integrity in analyzing PR objectively so that he can truly assess where his students' needs.

I have great respect for Mr. Katte and have faith in his vision for Meadowthorpe and hope that Dr. Shelton will continue to stand by him.

Anonymous said...

Dear Dr. Shelton -
Thank you for that last post at 1:10 am.
Will you please stay in Canada?
Sincerely,
Yet another disgruntled parent

Anonymous said...

Anonymous Oct 9, 2014
I am sorry did you read in Mr.Day's comment where he said he didn't share anything he didn't have evidence for? I caught that which made much of what was said here even more puzzling. Stretching PD funds obviously didn't have the desired effect. Have you looked at the schools scores in the PD category? Also, Mrs. Letcher's investment numbers are spot on and she would know since she did vote to bring it in to the school. The net income was far less than $20,000 as I recall when seeing the receipts it currently is around $8,000 sitting in that fund and if it was a net income of $20, 000 what happened to the other 12? Because I know several teachers whose "wish list" with what to do with that money has not been fulfilled. I think you will find that this "handful" is very quickly becoming many....don't be surprised if the next site base meeting has very high attendance and not just parents--Meadowthorpe neighborhood residents, many without any children in school are very upset by what the numbers have said. Also your allegation that 3 years ago "gifted students could cover up GAP scores" is also false. Under the old accountability system GAP students counted against the school twice. Now they are only counted once so this should help schools in which the GAP is actually making progress. I know that this opened my eyes to what I didn't want to see for so long. I am sad and disappointed that Mr. Katte who does seem to care for many children cannot see the problems here

Anonymous said...

Enough is enough. You are shocked? I am not! I put up with Joel Katte for too long. As a former teacher there, I was put down, discouraged, told that I had a negative aura. My negative aura only came around him because when I found out he was trying to pink slip me his first year, I didnt understand why. I understood shortly after. Reason being was because he wanted me to be honest with him. HOWEVER, he did not want me to be honest with him after all. Even though I had a glowing evaluation that said I was a great teacher, he wanted to pink slip me only because he "felt" I was the one that didnt fit into his little world. When I spoke to him honestly, he didnt like it and thought I should be pink slipped only to find out I was tenured and he couldnt. BUT he did however pink slip 8 great teachers his first year. These teachers were the teachers that busted their butts everyday. That was proved by the scores that came out Joel Katte's first year. We were in the top 10! WHERE is MEadowthorpe now? NEEDS IMPROVEMENT???? seriously?!
You're shocked? well so I am I! I am shocked that the district has let this man run Meadowthorpe as long as he has. He has not been able to lead Meadowthorpe since he got there. The students and staff are the ones that have suffered. Look at the test scores if you question it. THe moral has been horrible for the past 4 years. He has had so much turnover in staff that there are very few people left that were there. He has run great teachers off because of intimidation and threats! The threats would range from getting told that you are insubordinate to being told if you dont like it leave, or if you dont do what I ask you will be looking for a job. INTIMIDATION! Teachers that arent tenured are going to do what he asks because they want a job. Joel Katte does not understand special education either. Many students went without services in the past years due to his lack of ability to deal with students that have behavioral issues, so he would call on the special education teachers and staff constantly. Well, when those staff members are dealing with Mr. Katte's inability to work with a behavior child, then the students that are special education go with out services. This is federal law that those students are serviced, but Mr. Katte continued to pull those staff members to help out with behavior. Dont get me wrong dealing with students with behavior issues is not easy, but if he is the principal in a school I would imagine he could figure something out that would not mean being out of compliance for special education service time.
As you can figure I do not work for Joel Katte anymore because working for him was not healthy. The amount of stress that is put on the teachers that have stuck it out is amazing. If it is about kids in Fayette County, then they have overlooked what is going on over at Meadowthorpe and is truly wrong!
Wonder why he left Wisconsin? Well, they were happy that he left. There is more to leadership than putting bandaids on skinned knees and just helping the nurse out. Leadership means you have to have followers. Joel Katte is not a leader by definition and Meadowthorpe needs to have a leader to get them back on track and be the school I know personally that it can be and has been in the past.

E said...

I can assure any of you who have read my letter above of 3 things.

1. I am not enjoying ANY of this. Standing up for what is right is NEVER easy. I never thought as I began to ask questions to unsettling events, that this is what I would uncover. It is very hard to have your eyes opened. It is very hard to admit when you were wrong and to try to correct it. It is very hard to look at data and wish it weren't true.

2. What is presented here is fact. I have seen the open records requests. I have looked at the numbers. Numbers don't lie. They do not speak to Mr. Katte's character, but they do speak to his ability to lead.

3. I am not sure that any of the people who have made these comments actually have children enrolled in MES. I have 4 there with 1 more coming. So I am not going anywhere. I am invested. I want better.

Again, this is not a desire for attention it is a desire for right.

Johnnie Ross said...

I am the "mediator" mentioned in the above blog, although I was never contracted to be one. What I was contracted to do was to facilitate conversations where stakeholders could openly speak, be heard, and have their concerns addressed in an open, honest and transparent way.

As to my background, I am a retired employee of the Commonwealth of Kentucky where I became a trained facilitator, dispatched into areas of conflict and employed to facilitate public meetings where there was often much more heat in the room than light.

Upon my retirement, I was employed and trained in conflict management and held a position within the Episcopal Church where conflict management/resolution was a regular part of my everyday life.

I have served on both public and private school boards as member, vice-chair and chairman, and have facilitated many difficult conversations between faculty, staff and administration in both secondary and post secondary institutions.

That said, I hope to bring some clarity to the above post, if not to the situation referenced therein. So first things first...

Before taking on the task of facilitating "Leadership through Conversations" at MES, I met with Central Office staff to ask questions and gather information. Foremost among my questions were whether there was a corrective action plan in place either for the school or any individual associated with the school, and whether or not any disciplinary action had been taken or was pending against anyone at the school. The answer to these questions was "No" and it remains the case to this day.

Another point of clarification is how I "finished in August" and my "concluding" statement. I remember very well my concluding statement MES and that comment was directly related to Ms. Letcher when she asked a question as what could be done for her and the many and varied feelings and challenges she still had with the school even after the conclusion of our work. I remember my answer, for I used an economy of words and I was as direct as possible as to not be misunderstood. Looking directly at Ms. Letcher I said, "I honestly don't know what can be done for you Traci, for you are as angry today as you were the day I met you. You seem to want a 'pound of flesh' and it does not appear that you will get it."

Apparently I was right, for after that meeting she not only began to contact other parents, central office staff and the press, but has also resorted to "blog smearing."

After our meetings, which by the way were open to anyone who wanted to attend, I spoke to the faculty and staff during one of their regular gatherings. The general topic of which was how important their job was and the importance of building and maintaining trust in the community.

Finally, I know MES to have a very professional, well seasoned, (administrators, faculty, and staff) capable, and hard working staff - professionals more than minimally equipped in addressing the challenges ahead of them.

I know the students to be eager to learn and respectful of the adults that have charge over their lives. I know that I have spoken with many parents who have confidence in adults employed at MES; that administration, faculty and staff. I know that many teachers, staff and parents are tired of the atmosphere created by a few. I also know that there are some people in this world and in the MES community that prefer conflict over calm - or as I told Traci, a pound of flesh. Where a pound of flesh is not possible, continuing the conflict always is. To Traci, Amy, Erica and one or two others I would say, "Give it a rest. You don't have to like me, Mr. Katte or anyone else at the school to use your energy for good... do it for the children. They're counting on you.

(This is my first and will be my only post to this site or any other site dealing with the same topic.)

Traci Letcher said...

"Never believe that a few caring people can't change the world. For, indeed, that's all who ever have." -Margaret Mead




Amy Martin said...

Mr. Ross again my child is counting on the school and her family. And because she is counting on me I will not stand by or give it a rest while doors of opportunity slam in her face. Personally I would like to ask why you told us you would report back to Mr. Shelton after the sessions but in early September he said "I have never met Mr. Ross." Furthermore, there is a corrective action plan. Every parent received it in their children's backpacks at the end of the school year.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a dog in this fight, but I know several parents with kids at MES. I find it difficult to believe that the conflict is being "created" when all the parents, who happen not to know each other, tell the same story of the toxic environment at the school and the fear among the teachers that if they step the wrong way (contrary to the direction given by Mr. Katte)they will be let go. And despite Mr. Ross' belief this is a select-parent-manufactured situation, the numbers (both testing and turnover) tell a different story. If my child were still at MES, I'd be up in arms and demanding change, as well. The toxicity is not coming from the parents ...

Anonymous said...

Really Mr Ross. You felt the need to justify? First to be a mediator is to see both sides. In your statement you have clearly chosen not to care about the mis-management going on and want to single out parents who want the best for their children.

It is the duty of parents to be involved in their children's education. It takes a village and if more parents were involved in all aspects of their children's education, Meadowthorpe would be on top. Clearly these parents are not trouble makers, just parents trying to make a difference.

For the taxes we pay for education, I would like to see my money "well spent"

Anonymous said...

Incredible. Unbelievable that Mr. Ross would post anything on here much less take aim at parents who are acting as advocates for their and other children. This is so typical of the many problems with FCPS. An outsider is hired to deal with issues that we should be able to resolve ourselves. It is assumed this lame approach is to ensure neutrality yet the first thing the facilitator does is meet with central office staff and get his primary impression there. Since no one was on a corrective action plan, there can't be a problem, right? Absurd.
Most offensive is that he would dare to discuss this situation in a public forum, after his "work" has finished, call out specific parents by name and conversations with them, and finally, publicly choose a side, the one of the people that originally hired him to conduct his purported neutral facilitation. I find that extremely unprofessional and indicative of the continually reported intimidation tactics of a heavy-handed district office.
Good grief, what a mess. More evidence that Shelton has got to go.

Anonymous said...

I have been disappointed in the leadership of Mr. Katte since he became principal. I have had two children attend Meadowthorpe Elementary and loved the school. Meadowthorpe is out of district for my children as they should attend Sandersville Elementary, but I was so impressed by the test scores and the interest showed to my oldest child who is now in high school that I wanted my youngest to remain at Meadowthorpe. Within the last two years I have been so disappointed in the leadership of the school. My oldest was under the leadership of Mr. Stacy who showed interest in her education and helped guide me regarding her educational future as I was new to the area. He noticed how bright she was and made contact with me regarding quest classes, and made recommendations for middle school education. My son is now in the 5th grade at Meadowthorpe. He is an honor roll student. I recently contacted the school and asked to speak with Mr. Katte concerning my child and the next steps that should be taken for his middle school education. I asked for a return phone call from him, but was instead contacted by the guidance counselor. I expressed my frustrations regarding the schools lack of interest in my child's abilities and the lack of interest in his education. I was told that flyers would be sent home with my child letting me know when there would be open house at the other schools so that I could learn more information about the middle schools and what would be in his best interest. I am still waiting on the flyers and a phone call back from Mr. Katte. Furthermore my children are African American and I am deeply concerned about the policy to not “allow African American students to fail any classroom assessment”. Does this mean that I am not receiving an accurate representation of my child's abilities in school because he is African American?

Anonymous said...

Instead of looking at blaming the principal for the schools shortcomings, please honestly answer the following questions:

-Do you spend at least 1/2 a day (a week) volunteering in the classroom?
-Do you volunteer as a chaperone for field trips on a regular basis?
-Could it be perhaps that parents are not as involved with their children's education as they should be?

Anonymous said...

Any anonymous post you read here that supports Joel Katte was written by Joel Katte.

Anonymous said...

That is a silly=)

E said...

To anonymous at 12:55 AM on 10/12
1.No, I do not spend at least 1/2 day each week in the school. I offered and was not given an answer, so instead I spend that time at Breckenridge doing 5th grade math with a former MES teacher because she was THRILLED to get my assistance. I do spend countless hours serving the school in other capacities including doing my SBDM training TWICE this year.
2. Yes I do and I am spearheading the fundraising efforts for the fifth grade field trip this year so that unlike last year, the ENTIRE fifth grade will be able to go.
3. Perhaps, but I think parents that are ABLE are as involved as they can be. We are a Title 1 school, which inherently means that not all parents do not have the resources to be as involved. Those children and parents NEED the school to step up for them. That is why I drafted my original letter.

Also, I want it known that I have never met or spoken with Mr. Day and I find it very interesting that he has chosen to share my letter in this forum. It can only mean one thing. My observations hold weight.

Cathy Doll said...

As I thought about the "Rededication Celebration" which was held today at Tates Creek Elementary (where I attended elementary school and my mom taught for 26 years), I thought about how awesome our childhoods truly were. Neighborhood kids going to a neighborhood school. Imagine that! We went back to school each year and always saw, and visited with, our former teachers. What a joy it was to get to know those wonderful ladies (and even a few men) year after year after year. It brought us all a sense of security. Well, guess what. Meadowthorpe kids will NEVER have that luxury as long as Joel Katte is their principal! Why? Because he fires everyone who BREATHES. The turnover rate since he entered the front doors is now almost 80%. Yes, you heard me right. Almost 80%! If you don't see something SERIOUSLY WRONG with that picture, then please OPEN YOUR EYES. I pray every night that Tom Shelton will do what's RIGHT for those poor Meadowthorpe kids and kick Katte's ass to the curb. Good riddance! Need a volunteer? I would LOVE to be the one to kick his incompetent ass out the front door. Call me, I'm available! FCPS has my phone number!

mustang daddy said...


i have been a meadowthorpe parent for many years & i have seen the school rapidly decline in many ways since mr. katte arrived.the test scores which were recently made public were just additional proof of what we as a neighborhood already knew.he needs to go.he is hurting our neighborhood school so much.we simply can not stand for this & i wish my neighbors would picket with me if that would help.no one likes him & that includes the students from what i've been told.i'll admit i'm not in the school very often since i'm a working dad but i hear from other parents that mr. katte is absent alot.i have never heard anyone say anything good about him or even his assistant.i believe her name is branham.my wife's friend who taught 2nd grade at liberty elementary told us that she was forced out of their school.well they didn't do us any favors by sending ms. branham to meadowthorpe.now we have -2- rotten eggs.mr. shelton if you are reading this blog please help our neighborhood school. thankyou

Anonymous said...

Based on the comments here, I am in the minority when I say that my family and I have been very happy at MES. We have had three children there over the last 5 years and have one there now. Test scores are one indication of school quality, not the sole indicator. In the last several years the demographics at MES have changed substantially. Two years ago when we lead the district in growth we also became a title 1 school and our percentage of students on free and reduce lunch have continued to grow. One thing that is forgotten when that growth score is considered is that there were two third grade quest classrooms in the 2012-2013 school year when there is normally one. You cannot evaluate the changing test scores at MES without taking out the quest students. MES is credited for being a distinguished school; however the reality is that quest students fuel these scores. The school then cannot be blamed when demographics change and test scores fall.

If you believe that the quest students have not historically made a big difference in the test scores at MES, ask yourself why these accelerated programs are housed at MES (44%), Ashland (42%) and Tates Creek (67%) and not Rosa Parks (7%) or Cassidy (29%). The percentage are the proportion of free and reduce lunch students unadjusted for the quest students of which very few are on free and reduce lunch. These programs are housed at these schools to bring up test scores. That is the reality.

At the SBDM meeting last year where the decision was made to cut the librarian and music teacher, the board said that ½ of the incoming non quest 5th grade were not proficient in math or reading. That was based on the 2012-2013 scores when we were #1 in growth. Why then are we surprise, with 20 fewer quest kids in the current test scores that growth and proficiency declined. Without separating the performance of the quest and non quest students and examining the scores of these two groups over time, the test scores of MES and schools like MES are not very meaningful for non-quest students and families.

I get that there are parents that don’t like Mr. Katte and maybe MES needs a change. However, I do not think Mr. Katte should get slammed on test scores of a school that has a growing number of gap students. The scores for gap students (African American, Hispanic, Free and Reduce Lunch, disabled) have declined for the district as a whole and the achievement gap has widened. MES had 50%, 44% and 43% gap students in 2013-2014; 2012-2013; 2011-2012. With the district wide statistics being what they are, why would we expect Mr. Katte to have been able to do what no one in the district has been able to do which is to close the achievement gap or at a minimum not let it widen. The discussion at MES and throughout the district should be on why so many students in this district are not succeeding, not about how one principal is objectively doing at least as well and in many cases better than every other school in the district with similar demographics.

SBD said...

Dear Mrs. Fister , I'm sorry but you have your facts all wrong. I was in attendance at that SBDM meeting and apparently I paid better attention than you did that day. Katte isn't being slammed for test scores alone. He's being slammed him for his lack of leadership. This isn't rocket science, honey.

Anonymous said...

Every staff member should have a voice in their school. Teachers only select this career choice when they love what they do. No teacher does this for the money. You do it for the bright eyes looking back at you each day in the classroom, the "light bulb" moments and the spark which was given to you by that special teacher.

It is deflating to come in each day at Meadowthorpe and try to avoid your leader. It is sad when you cannot talk to other staff members without worry. It hurts. Isn't the district listening?

The numbers that show our school is fading fast. There are so many new faces each year learning to teach. There is so little freedom to practice the skill of teaching.

When the PE teacher told the story in the August mediation session of the principal keeping her PE office, as a second office for himself, no one was surprised. But, staff were surprised this teacher spoke up for herself and called KEA. She said in the meeting she didn't trust the District. Staff are proud of her for doing what others could not, speak out.

Staff have all seen how our voices are ignored when we complain to our "District Representative". Everyone gets smiles and head nods, but no feeling of being heard. Shouldn't there be a Human Resource option for staff to voice complaints without repercussion? Staff are always told "this will go in your permanent file" and then are scared they can never get transferred out of a school.

In FCPS, if you want to know the good schools, look at where teachers don't transfer out. Look at Meadowthorpe and you will see pink slips of new staff right before their tenure, transfers out and applications for jobs in other schools during the past 5 years at an increase. FCPS doesn't try to resolve the issues and works on the fear of lawsuits. So, staff just keep moving.

I was happy staff felt they could speak on this blog and say things they cannot say to their employer for fear of retaliation. Staff in FCPS have a lot to say and should be heard. Meadowthorpe has a lot to say and should be heard. We want a better school.

Anonymous said...

Last week my daughter and I visited my old elementary school here in Lexington. I was able to say hello and introduce her to three of my former elementary school teachers. They were still teaching the same grade as when I went to school. On the ride home my daughter was very quiet. When I asked her what's up she said she wa sad she will never get to do the same thing with her daughter. I asked why she thought that. She said because not one single teacher that she has had at Meadowthorpe was still there. She is in the 5th grade and every single teacher she had in her previous years is now gone. When we first started at Meadowthorpe the environment felt like a family. It was like a second home. Now I avoid the school because I feel like I know no one there. How can one man be allowed to disrupt all of those teachers but most importantly all of those students? My daughter asked if he could not do the after school program this year. She said trust new people and she trusted Mr. Jackson but he's gone now.

#hatethisplace said...

Mr. Jackson quit because he hates Mr. Katte. It was easier for him to transfer to another school than it is for the rest of us. #firekatte #sheltonpleasesaveus #lowtestscores #ourschoolsucks #dreadgettingoutofbed

sad sadie said...

Thank you for creating this blog.
My neighbors and I avoid going in the school because we never feel welcome there anymore and its heart breaking. The tension is so thick you could cut it with a butter knife. I assure you my three kids will attend a private school next year.

Cathy Doll said...

Here's a little newsflash for Joel and Deanna: The 175 people who have signed the petition to GET RID OF YOU are not a mere "handful" as you called us at the school board meeting. And the number keeps getting bigger and bigger! Start packing your bags! Oh, you better include coats and gloves in case you 2 are left outside in 14 degree weather like that precious kindergartner. Just sayin'. I call it KARMA. :)

To those reading this, if YOU think a kindergartner shouldn't be left outside, alone, in bitter cold weather...please sign this petition! Thank you!

https://www.change.org/p/resolve-the-issue-at-meadowthorpe-elementary-sign-the-petition

Unknown said...

Ok, now I'm scared...My family is moving into the Meadowthorpe neighborhood in two weeks with our Kindergarten son...I was so excited to be sending him to a school with glowing reviews (though they are older) on greatschools.com...but now I'm terrified we have made a mistake!! I understand the principal in question here, Mr. Katti has been replaced, but I haven't been able to find an update on this situation. Have the issues at Meadowthorpe Elementary been resolved? Is (most) everyone happy again? Is my child going to be left freezing in the parking lot? Somebody please put this mama's mind at ease!!!