Turnaround process begins at three Peninsula schools
Dec 02, 2012 (Daily Press (Menafn - Newport News - McClatchy-Tribune Information Services via COMTEX) --Three public Peninsula elementary schools are looking for Lead Turnaround Partners after being named priority schools in October for low performance on Standards of Learning tests.
Jane Bryan in Hampton and Sedgefield and Newsome Park in Newport News were among 36 of the lowest performing schools across the state. For at least the next three years, the schools are required to use state-approved contractors to improve performance. Representatives from both districts said they are busy looking for the right partners and will have plans by January or sooner.
"We certainly don't want to lose any time for the school to get on the path for where it needs to be," said Patricia Leary, executive director of elementary school leadership at Hampton City Schools.
Leary said the district is interviewing four partners approved by the Virginia Department of Education, and they hope to select one soon. The state requires contracts to be in place by Jan. 31.
Hampton will present to the School Board at its Dec. 19 meeting an overview of the process, and Leary said she hopes they will be able to announce the selected partner at that time.
Newport News Public Schools spokeswoman Michelle Price said her district is also looking for an apporpritate partner for Sedgefield and Newsome Park schools. She expects that decision will be made sometime in January.
Because all three schools receive Title I funding due to a high percentage of children from low-income families, the federal government identifies four improvement models districts can use when a school is named a priority. The district could close the school, restart it under a charter or another approved organization, or choose a turnaround or transformation model to guide changes at the school.
The schools will be required to implement plans that address seven turnaround principles identified by the state, which may include replacing the principal and/or staff, redesign the school day, week or year to increase instructional time, and provide ongoing mechanisms for family and community engagement, according to the Virginia Department of Education.
Leary said Jane Bryan's principal and 54 percent of its staff were replaced before the school was named a priority.
Kathleen Smith, Virginia Department of Education director of the office of school improvement, said in the three years the state has been using turnaround partners, she's seen positive results.
The partner will act as a guide by recommending and assisting schools with making changes, and also monitor to ensure changes are implemented. If there are problems, Smith said, the state will step in.
The partner's most important role is helping schools discover where teachers are failing because often teachers don't realize what isn't working, Smith said.
"It is extremely important that teachers have that data," she said.
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