Katte leaving for Central Office job;
says criticism isn't behind the move
Over the past year and a half, Meadowthorpe Principal Joel Katte had been under fire from a group of parents and school council members for a host of perceived slights, shortcomings, and offenses. The opposition to Katte was substantial, noisy, and public, but not universal.
His critics held him responsible for...
- test score declines (and having no answers for why they occurred)
- low scores on program reviews - where administrative leadership was rated among the lowest scores - and no area was rated as proficient
- achievement gap increases
- the 10% growth that was heralded in one year, was lost (-14%) in the next
- little administrative support for implementing the school's CSIP
- inadequate Professional Development
- too much attention to non-academic programs
- questionable financial arrangement where Katte profited personally from the expenditure of substantial school funds over which Katte had control without oversight
- telling the faculty "I have gotten rid of most of you, and I only have a few to go."
- soliciting financial support to attend a Franklin-Covey workshop from Meadowthorpe parents
- unauthorized spending
- that business practices were suspicious for favoritism
- unequal opportunities for students
- skyrocketing turnover rate among faculty
For example, last year Katte and the Council completed a bunch of additional SBDM training. But despite this, Katte was late electing teacher representatives last spring, and completely failed to conduct the minority parent election. As a result the Council will likely start the year out of compliance with state law. The same was true the year prior.
This caused his critics to opine that his failure may have been a purposeful attempt to hand-pick faculty to fill existing vacancies without full Council intervention.
At the time of this week's announcement that Katte would be leaving the school, there were no signs that the mounting parental concerns were being resolved.
We've seen this kind of thing before. A principal struggles, but rather than being removed, they end up in the central office. Sometimes, this is a good move. One can be competent, but yet, not cut out to be a principal. The job is not for everyone. Although, much of Katte's criticism centered on competence.
But at other times, an administrator may be moved to the district office, and shunted into a corner (out of the mainstream [alternative and federal programs...] and from which they rarely emerge without changing districts), because the district failed to document unsatisfactory performance and do not "have enough" to fire the individual. And since it's hard for nice folks to fire other nice folks, the impulse to find an easy way to make the problem go away is attractive.
I don't know what's true in this case. But it's very hard to take Katte's statements to the Herald-Leader at face value.
Joel Katte said he is leaving his job as principal of Lexington's Meadowthorpe Elementary. Katte said he is taking a Central Office post, but not because of complaints from critics about his time at Meadowthorpe.
Katte said he will consider it "a privilege and an honor" to be the administrator of Fayette County Public Schools alternative programs for at-risk youth.
He notified parents of his departure Monday. Supporters and critics alike spoke out about Katte in late 2014. Two parents, a grandparent, a teacher and a former staffer were among those who told the school board Oct. 27 that there were problems at Meadowthorpe. They made public their concerns about teacher turnover, communication and declining student achievement at a school board meeting.
One parent, Traci Letcher, told the Herald-Leader in October that more than 150 people signed a Change.org petition seeking a resolution.
On Monday, Letcher said, "I am excited for Mr. Katte's next position."
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."
Former superintendent Tom Shelton said at the time that district officials were working on a plan to improve communication and collaboration at the school and analyzing test scores to develop an improvement plan.
Other parents and teachers have said they supported Katte.
Katte, responding to an email message Monday from the Herald-Leader, said the public concerns didn't lead to his departure.
"I feel called to support the teaching staffs of the Lexington Day Treatment Center, Fayette Regional Juvenile Detention Center, and our Family Care Center that educates young mothers to ensure these programs' students receive a world-class education that will set each student up for a healthy, successful, and rewarding life," Katte wrote in the email message.
"My first teaching position was in an alternative setting for middle school students, and my last teaching experience was in an alternative high school. Both of those experiences had profoundly positive impacts on my education philosophy, leadership and professional commitments, and I am eager to work in these very important educational settings again."
Fayette County schools spokeswoman Lisa Deffendall said Meadowthorpe's school-based council will meet this week to decide next steps. That group could request that district officials appoint an interim principal, or site-based council members could immediately proceed with selecting a principal, Deffendall said.