School district should do another about-face

info@islandpacket.comAugust 25, 2012 

The Beaufort County School District could develop a new training program to improve schools nationwide and call it "How Not to Deal with Principals."

In it, Superintendent Valerie Truesdale and her staff could use as an example what they did to Broad River Elementary School principal Constance Goodwine-Lewis during the past year.

Last December, the district announced that Goodwine-Lewis and a couple of other principals would have to re-apply for their jobs if they wanted them.

The district said test scores were not improving as well as they should and were not on par with improvement at similar schools.

Right out of the chute, the plan was flawed.

A principal either meets standards or fails to meet standards. If the administration has no confidence in the principal, the principal should be removed. The in-between route was wrong. Publicly announcing that a principal must re-apply for her job erodes confidence in the principal, the school and the administration's ability to deal competently with problems. Everybody loses.

Then the district said Goodwine-Lewis would return to the school she had led for three years, but in a new position called "principal apprentice." Someone from the central office would be assigned to the school in a new position called "executive principal." They would work alongside each other, but the executive principal would be in charge and would hone the leadership skills of the "principal apprentice." This was new turf. It was to be a management tactic not yet tried locally in that neither of these job titles existed before.

But that dubious experiment in school leadership will have to wait. Test scores came out recently and Broad River Elementary School, with Goodwine-Lewis as principal, earned an "A" from the state for its progress in reaching federal goals.

Now the district says Goodwine-Lewis is the sole leader of the school.

Parents had protested this boondoggle from the beginning. They did not need test scores, or the "A" grade, to support their principal's authority and ability to continue running the school.

"(The plan) never made any sense to us," said the School Improvement Council chairman.

Beyond the fact that Broad River Elementary already had good academic reports, the two-headed leader plan was nonsense.

This year, the school faces new challenges by incorporating students from Shell Point Elementary, which was mothballed because the district has more classrom space than students in some areas.

Goodwine-Lewis, like all principals, will need support from parents, as well as the central office, to be successful. The school district needs to do another about-face and prove it can do that for Broad River Elementary.

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