published Friday, January 22nd, 2010

School board OKs mentor for 3 middle school principals

by Kelli Gauthier
Audio clip

School board

The Hamilton County Board of Education voted unanimously Thursday night to hire a mentor for three principals at middle schools some board members called "out of control."

Reuben Justice, a former principal at Orchard Knob Middle School, was hired for $350 a day to work with Dalewood principal Rodney Johnson, East Lake Academy principal Le Andrea Ware and Orchard Knob principal Maryo Beck to help with organization, discipline and curriculum.

Ms. Ware and Mr. Johnson were new to their positions this year.

"It is evident to me we've placed administrators in positions they were not prepared for," board member Everett Fairchild said. "Saying these schools are fragile is an oversimplification of saying these schools are out of control. We have to do something."

But board member Jeffrey Wilson said he thought there was nothing wrong with offering support to the principals.

"There's a big difference between needing mentorship or support and having a building that is out of control," he said.

The principals involved could be reached for comment Thursday night.

Board member Rhonda Thurman said she'd been told that the noise at the schools was unbelievable.

Area superintendent James Colbert said Dalewood and Orchard Knob enrolled 100 and 200 extra students this year, respectively, after Howard Middle School was closed. Putting Mr. Justice in the schools is more of a preventative measure, he said.

Mr. Fairchild said he was concerned that one person split among three schools would not solve the problem.

"My question is not whether there's a need for this, but whether we're asking of him something that's impossible."

Mr. Justice will be paid with federal money and his hiring will not affect the school district's general purpose budget, officials said.

about Kelli Gauthier...

Kelli Gauthier covers K-12 education in Hamilton County for the Times Free Press. She started at the paper as an intern in 2006, crisscrossing the region writing feature stories from Pikeville, Tenn., to Lafayette, Ga. She also covered crime and courts before taking over the education beat in 2007. A native of Frederick, Md., Kelli came south to attend Southern Adventist University in Collegedale, where she earned a bachelor’s degree in print journalism. Before newspapers, ...

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elvisd said...

Watch out. I taught in a district where one retired principal after another took turns doing this. It turned into an open-ended bunch of nothing. Each "mentor" or "consultant" would drift around from school to school, and nothing constructive happened. The position was ill-defined in terms of powers, grant of authority, and accountability. Since there was only the vaguest idea of what the "mentor's" role was, there was no real pressure to deliver. Nothing was delivered. Hope there's some controls in place for this.

January 22, 2010 at 7:17 a.m.
MountainJoe said...

Yeah, but he will be paid with "federal money" so he won't cost us anything, right?

Oh, wait, we pay federal taxes too....

January 22, 2010 at 7:43 a.m.
pentdragon55 said...

If you really want to fix the problem there needs to be more administrative accountability. Also, there should be more non-district oversight. You need someone who is not part of the "good ole boys club" (just a saying, this includes women) that seems to dominate administrative advancement.

January 23, 2010 at 11:09 a.m.
kgauthier said...

@elvisd, where did you work with the ineffective mentors? How should oversight be provided? By whom?

January 29, 2010 at 1:52 p.m.
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