Sunday, November 23, 2014

Recently at Meadowthorpe

Way to busy at work for blogging this I'm having to play "catch up."

This from the Herald-Leader (with video from FCPS interspersed):

Drop in test scores is an issue as critics, 

supporters focus on Meadowthorpe Elementary

It's not unusual to see parents concerned about improving their child's school, said Fayette County Superintendent Tom Shelton.

But some critics of Lexington's Meadowthorpe Elementary School made public their concerns about teacher turnover, communication with the principal and declining student achievement at a recent school board meeting. There is a petition on the website

"What's unusual about this situation," said Shelton, "is that a group of parents wanted to see the district more involved." Shelton met privately with parents Oct. 29. Two parents, a grandparent, a teacher and a former staff member were among those who told the school board Oct. 27 that there were problems at Meadowthorpe.

"We do hear your concerns," school board chairman John Price told them. "We do expect to see change."

Over the last several weeks, people have contacted the Herald-Leader to express praise for principal Joel Katte and for the school and to say that they thought only a handful of parents and teachers were critical of Meadowthorpe. Katte told the school board that most parents and teachers had only positive things to say about the school.

Shelton told the Herald-Leader that the principal, with the support of a trained facilitator, invited teachers and parents to participate in "focused conversations over the summer, affording participants the opportunity to air concerns, clarify misunderstandings, and seek resolutions."

The Rev. Canon Johnnie E. Ross, the facilitator, said the school administration had admitted to making some mistakes but was working hard. Ross said there was a faction of critics "that for whatever reason want their pound of flesh."

One issue raised by some parents is that Meadowthorpe dropped in state proficiency testing in 2013-14 — from a classification of "distinguished" to "needs improvement."

In addition, the school's school-based decision making council is reviewing the effectiveness of a program called "The Leader in Me" that drives the school's learning.

With permission from the district, Katte had a private contract as a consultant for the company that offers "The Leader in Me," but he ended the contract "to ensure that there is no appearance of a conflict of interest," said Shelton.

At the school board meeting, Price reminded critics that state law says school board members cannot become involved in personnel matters involving a principal. He said only the superintendent and the school-based council could make personnel decisions.

Katte, meanwhile, told the school board on Oct. 27 that the "test scores are very concerning" and he was looking at them closely. He said he was also concerned about Meadowthorpe's achievement gap for minority, poor and disabled children.

But Katte said two years ago Meadowthorpe had the greatest growth in the district in terms of test scores and the results were still strong in 2013-14. He said third-grade reading scores for black children are 31 percent higher than the state average in terms of proficient and distinguished scores.
Katte said third-grade math scores for black children were 17 percent higher than the state average and fifth-grade scores were 19 percent higher than the state average.

"I am proud of our school. We continue to score high on achievement" he said.

Michele Richie, who said her child attended Meadowthorpe for three years under Katte, said in an email: "My student flourished under his leadership and I've had nothing but positive experiences with Mr. Katte."

However, parent Traci Letcher told the board she was on the school-based council that hired the principal in 2010 but now had several concerns. She told board members she and other parents had been emailing the board for months, and had participated in meetings in an attempt to make things better. She said more than 150 people signed the petition seeking a resolution.

A petition on cites teacher turnover, a drop in statewide rankings, a decline in the number of gifted students and a negative work environment.

Erica Snow, a member of Meadowthorpe's school-based council, told school board members that there should be an action plan to make corrections with benchmarks.

"What is the plan to help any teacher in a negative environment?" she asked.

In an email to the Herald-leader, Snow said the school-based council was conducting a review of the Leader in Me program.

The Franklin Covey Leader in Me program, based on The Seven Habits of Highly Effective People, equips students with the skills they need to thrive in the 21st-century economy, according to its website.

The website said 1,984 schools worldwide were implementing the program.

Katte said the school-based council that hired him had already committed to Meadowthorpe becoming one of the first Leader in Me schools in Kentucky.

"I had never even heard of the Leader in Me before I was hired. When the opportunity to apply for the consulting work on my personal time arose," he said he sought approval from Shelton and from his district supervisor.

"This August, when it became apparent that a few people raised questions about this work potentially being a conflict of interest, I decided I would no longer consult for Franklin Covey because I am fully committed to Meadowthorpe Elementary and did not want this to be a distraction within our school community," Katte said in a statement.

He said Franklin Covey had billed the school $21,000 for the program, but that the school collected $19,600 from educators who attended professional development programs for Leader in Me.

Katte said the sessions the school had this summer to try to iron out problems were successful for those who wanted to collaborate.

"Many positive leaders on our staff came forward with a good-faith effort to work with those who were upset. People who wanted to find solutions and move forward have done so," he said.

Fifth-grade teacher Natasha Al-Suud told the school board that concerns expressed at the Oct. 27 meeting were not universal.

She said that at Meadowthorpe, there is a "building full of people fighting the good fight."

At a visit to the school on Oct. 31, a fourth-grader and a fifth-grader greeted a reporter at the door and, on their own, conducted a tour of the school. Confident and articulate, they explained how the Leader in Me program was implemented.

The school was buzzing with activity. A third-grade class was having a carnival in which they showcased what they had learned about economics. Fifth-graders dressed up like someone who had contributed to history and stood frozen as if they were in a wax museum. As visitors approached, the students came to life to give biographical information about their characters.

Shelton, meanwhile, said the district is working on a plan to improve communication and collaboration at the school.

District officials are also analyzing test scores to develop an improvement plan.

"Everyone wants to see the school improve," said Shelton. "We are all working toward the same goal."

Read more here:

Read more here:


Anonymous said...

From the FranklinCovey website:

Habit1: Be Proactive® • You’re in Charge
Habit2: Begin With the End in Mind® • Have a Plan
Habit3: Put First Things First® • Work First, Then Play
Habit4: Think Win-Win® • Everyone Can Win
Habit5: Seek First to Understand, Then to Be Understood® • Listen Before You Talk
Habit6: Synergize® • Together Is Better
Habit7: Sharpen the Saw® • Balance Feels Best

When you see this many registered trademarks signs and/or glittering generalities it is time to hide your wallet.

Clearly the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation has succeeded in corporatizing some public schools because now some educators are drinking and one (Katte) is selling the most banal of speaker industry Kool-Aid®.

Mike Winkler

Andria Jackson said...

As I stated when the Herald Leader published the original artice: I beg to differ…My experiences at Meadowthorpe were NOT positive. I worked there for three years (not under current principal) my husband worked there for nine. We were so proud of what Meadowthorpe was. We gave the school our time, talent, and, treasure. It was more than a job and it was way more than an 8 hour a day commitment. During my son’s third grade year he hit a plateau. I asked for help starting with the teachers, when that was unsuccessful we moved on to the administrators. Contrary to what some are writing on here, WE DID NOT receive support from the principal. He actually excused himself twice from our meetings (8-10 total) because he had something else to do. We were left feeling very small in that school. After two years of no growth and no support, we realized that the direction the school was taking wasn’t for us. We realized that our expectations for our son’s educational experience were greater than the schools. About once a week we see people out in the community and people always ask “where we’ve moved” but rarely do people ask why…because they already know. They just frown and shake their heads with unspoken understanding. We are an extension of the “two angry Moms”…we just chose to leave quietly.

AMY Martin said...

I have several thoughts about the Herald Leader article. First and foremost let me state again that Mr. Ross's statements are not true but in my opinion they are criminal. First off he was brought in as a mediator. I don't know what change of mind occurred that allowed his title to change but I have the very first email from Mr. Kate where he received what I call permission to invite me to the mediation sessions from Lu Young. And these sessions were titled mediation sessions until after the first session concluded. Furthermore Mr. Ross was told confidential information about our children, our staff and our parents background during these sessions. He should not be speaking to the media, blasting parents on Facebook, and blogging about any of this. But his advice on these public statements is for parents to "give it a rest". Which is negligent if you believe something inappropriate is happening to your child. Believe me Mr. Ross is resting on the tax payers dollar quite a lot. Personally I want the $1700 he was paid returned and used to pay for tutoring for Meadowthorpe students. Furthermore for the parents speaking out I applaud you. I wish I had more time to join you. The thing about this whole situation that has bothered me the most is as soon as a parent even indicates they want to make a negative comment to district office or anyone else they are beaten to the action by what I call the Katte gang. If they are able to speak these patents or teachers are immediately attacked. Attacked for speaking what in their minds is the truth. It's amazing to me someone would attack someone simply for speaking their mind. Something soldiers, like my husband, have risked their lives and even died for. I'm not at all amazed our Superintendent does not want to get involved and seems shocked parents in this district may want him to actually do anything about this. That seems to reflect poor management in my opinion. Was that the language the state auditor used to describe actions displayed by our district office or am I just seeing a similarity? The teachers at that school deserve our praise and support. They are doing a very tough job in a very tough environment and not getting paid over $100,000 to do that job. Parents please keep speaking up for your children. If you dont, who will?