DeKalb County School District Superintendent Steve Green said the district’s newly designed curriculum will help develop the whole child, as it “invites and encourages all students to engage in rigorous learning in various ways.” (AJC FILE PHOTO)
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution
Photo: The Atlanta Journal-Constitution

9 DeKalb County principals removed in plan to improve school progress

Nine DeKalb County elementary schools are losing their principals this school year in what Superintendent Steve Green says are efforts to breathe life into schools not demonstrating progress in several key areas.

District officials said letters were sent home with students from Dresden, Rock Chapel, Panola Way, Oak View, International Student Center, Shadow Rock, Stoneview, Flat Rock and Snapfinger elementary schools. 

“There’s an accountability element here that we’re not shying away from,” Green said. “We developed a rubric that we would need to see certain evidence of progress in areas and if we saw that, we would continue with the leadership at that school. If we didn’t, we would be honest ... that perhaps it’s better to give the school a chance to reboot and also reassign the leadership in that area.”

In the letter, signed by Green, parents are told the current principal would serve through the end of the school year. Teachers and parents have said some principals were removed from their buildings last week. 

At Dresden Elementary School, for example, a retired principal is filling in for Dominique Terrell, last seen by her staff on Wednesday.

“Those people were not prepared,” said board member Joyce Morley, saying she felt the principals were blindsided by last week’s actions. “They did not have a performance development plan. It’s very disconcerting to see the things (district leaders) continue to do.”

Green says all principals at the affected schools -- designated previously as needing additional attention from the district to produce better student achievement --  were made aware that moves such as this could happen.

“We tried as much as we could to look at where progress was being made,” he said. “In one way or another, notice was given if you’re not making progress, it’s imminent that something’s going to happen.

“There was a clear communication that there be growth or progress in some way or another.”

The move comes near the end of Green’s second year leading the district. In that time, he’s established himself as an advocate of local districts leading the way in school turnaround efforts, often voicing his discontent as Gov. Nathan Deal sought an independent school district for the state’s failing schools. 

But test scores across the district have largely been stagnant, with few success stories among the mix as schools work their way off low-performing lists.

The measures are mostly data-driven, using College and Career Ready Performance Index scores as benchmarks, including outperforming “Beating the Odds” goals, based on demographic, socioeconomic, mobility and ethnicity figures. CCRPI is a type of school report card that grades schools on several factors, including student performance on standardized state tests.

Green said the plan included principals who came to their respective school prior to the start of the 2013-2014 school year on July 1, 2013. To avoid restructuring, a principal’s school had to: 

• Average at least a 60 on the CCRPI over the three previous reporting years

• Be above the 2014 score, which represented 2013 testing

• Outperform its “Beating the Odds” score, which takes school demographics, student ethnicity and other factors into account

• Be removed from the state’s Focus Schools or Priority Schools lists, which consist of the bottom 5 or 10 percent of Title I schools when comparing achievement gap data. 

The district already has advertised for new school administrators on its website, Green said. The district also will be looking at candidates coming from a leadership program it runs, with participants from across the district.

The move comes amid many classroom changes for students, including a newly written curriculum plan designed by current teachers and administrators.  

In other education news:

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