Goodwine-Lewis back as principal at Broad River Elementary

rheaton@beaufortgazette.comAugust 16, 2012 

Constance Goodwine Lewis

The plan to give Broad River Elementary School's former principal more mentoring and closer supervision for the next two school years is being scuttled before students even report to class.

Instead, the Beaufort County School District has given Constance Goodwine-Lewis her old job back.

School Improvement Council chairwoman Jennie Jessup said that is welcomed news to parents.

"(The plan) never made any sense to us," Jessup said.

The district announced last winter that Goodwine-Lewis would have to re-apply for her job because the school's performance on key standardized tests wasn't improving adequately.

Later, she was made a "principal apprentice," a change district officials said was designed to develop Goodwine-Lewis' leadership skills and would likely be in place for a year or two. Melissa Sheppard was shifted from a district office position and named "executive principal," assigned to work with Lewis.

But that plan apparently was abandoned after Broad River Elementary scored an "A" in a state letter grades for its progress in reaching federal goals. Schools are awarded the grades based on test scores -- which are broken down by subject and demographic groups -- attendance rates, and several other factors.

District spokesman Jim Foster confirmed Thursday that Goodwine-Lewis will be the principal when school is back in session Monday and that she will receive less training than originally anticipated.

Attempts to reach superintendent Valerie Truesdale, human resources chief Jackie Rosswurm, Goodwine-Lewis and Sheppard were unsuccessful.

IMPROPERLY HANDLED?

Foster offered few details about the reshuffling but said it will be "gradual." Broad River Elementary's recent test scores and federal accountability ratings prompted the change, the spokesman said in an email. He added that Truesdale will explain the about-face to the Board of Education at its meeting Tuesday.

Board Chairman Fred Washington Jr. said Thursday that Goodwine-Lewis' situation has not been handled "as well as it should have been," but stopped short of calling the district's decisions mistakes."Exactly where this went awry ... I'm not sure. But I want to get it straight and ensure that it won't happen again," he said.

District officials announced in December, during a meeting of Battery Creek-cluster parents, that Goodwine-Lewis would have to reapply for her job if she wished to keep it for the coming school year.

Two other principals would have been in the same boat, but Mary Ellen Parks was principal at Shell Point Elementary School -- which closed at the end of the 2011-12 school year -- and Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School principal Mark Mansell already had taken a job as an assistant principal at Robert Smalls Middle School.

The reason, district officials said, was that Broad River students' tests scores were growing, but not as quickly as other schools with similar demographics.

Some parents of Broad River students protested. They organized a meeting to present their interpretation of the data to parents and school officials who attended, and spoke against the change at a school board meeting.

The school has received an "average" rating on annual state report cards for five consecutive years, which indicates indicating the school meets state standards for progress. Its growth rating on report cards has been "average" for three years. The school also made adequate yearly progress -- the minimum level of performance needed to satisfy federal No Child Left Behind requirements -- in 2009 and 2010.

A CHANGE OF PLANS

In March, Goodwin-Lewis was named principal apprentice, a title held by no other district administrator.

Rosswurm said then that Lewis, who had been the principal for three years, would both report to and "work next to" Sheppard, who became the district's only "executive principal."

Sheppard, an academic-improvement officer and coordinator of world language programs, was to help Goodwine-Lewis to develop her "leadership skills."

Those with second-hand knowledge say Truesdale announced at a Broad River staff meeting earlier this week that Sheppard would remain in the district office and that Goodwine-Lewis would again lead the school.

Foster said the district will still recommend some training for Goodwine-Lewis but did not offer details.

Jessup, the School Improvement Council chairwoman, said the district's plan never made sense and was further undermined when the school learned it had received an "A" on the new federal accountability ratings, putting it near the top of district schools. "I saw that they were (right behind) Mossy Oaks Elementary. What more do you want us to do?" she said.

Washington said he would like to meet semi-annually with district officials to discuss concerns about principals and other administrators so both the board and the district office have a clear, accurate understanding of how problems will be resolved.

"Before we get in a public brouhaha because it is a personnel matter, those things should be clearly covered," he said. "So that when we do go public, it's squared away."

Related content

  1. Beaufort County students continue gains on state assessments; Aug. 2, 2012
  2. Broad River Elementary principal to return with new title, new supervisor; March 31, 2012
  3. Some Broad River parents say principal should keep her job; Dec. 12, 2011
  4. Two district principals would have to reapply to keep their jobs next year; Dec. 9, 2011

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