published Sunday, July 1st, 2012

David Cook: Do you know who your principal is?

Sorry, kids. Hate to bring this up, it being summer and all.

But at some point before August, you're going to need to answer one kinda-big question:

Do you know who your principal is?

Hamilton County Schools Superintendent Rick Smith has reassigned about 75 principals and assistant principals, at last count, in one of the biggest shake-ups in recent years. He's made more moves than J.R. Martinez. Than Kasparov. Than Two Men and a Truck.

1. How many schools will have new principals?

a. 0

b. 1

c. 4 minus 1

d. At least 25

2. How many schools will have new assistant principals?

a. 1

b. 1 and 3/4

c. Cinco de Mayo

d. At least 50

In both questions, the answer is "D,'' as in "Does anyone know why this is happening?"

Every middle school has at least one new administrator. The same is true for 13 out of 19 high schools and 25 of 43 elementary schools. Fifteen schools have both -- new principals and new assistant principals.

To use some teenage lingo: WTF? (Where They From? Who's This Fella?)

Soddy Elementary has had three principals in three years, according to news reports. Wolftever Creek has a new principal -- its third in three years, as well -- and a new assistant principal.

The principals at three schools set to receive state Innovation Zone funding were moved. Each was demoted to assistant principal. Brainerd High's Charles Joynes was told he was going to Chattanooga Middle/High, then retransferred to Ooltewah as assistant principal.

"Mr. Joynes is an excellent principal,'' said Isaiah Hayes, who graduated this spring after four years at Brainerd with a scholarship to Cumberland College. I called him several weeks ago at his job in the meat department at a local grocery store.

"We were upset. We didn't understand the reasoning. He's done such a great job,'' he said.

Joynes was replaced by Uras Agee, a University of Tennessee at Chattanooga graduate who's been a principal in suburban Atlanta. According to documents obtained from the DeKalb County School District, Agee -- who had been investigated at least twice by the school system's internal affairs unit and suspended for a physical altercation with a student -- was set to be demoted for the 2012-13 school year.

The year before, Agee received a "Letter of Reprimand" from the DeKalb superintendent after an investigation into unprofessional conduct.

"This is your final warning that any similar incidents will result in your demotion and or your termination,'' the letter reads.

Did Smith know about this before he hired Agee?

But this column is not about Agee. It's about the decision-making at central office, which seems as random as Powerball to folks on the outside. More announcements are made over McDonald's menu changes than this.

Maybe it's time for an essay question:


Why did Smith make so many moves?

How political is this? How involved is the Hamilton County Commission (we're looking at you, Fred Skillern) in such decision-making?

How influential are test scores, which remain embargoed by the state like a box of Cuban cigars? Smith can't release these scores until the fall, but how much did they affect these decisions?

In his defense, Smith may be making some of the most visionary decisions ever, based on data and an understanding that some folks fit in some places better than others.

Let's hope that is the right answer.

Kids? You still there? Kids?

about David Cook...

David Cook is the award-winning city columnist for the Times Free Press, working in the same building where he began his post-college career as a sportswriter for the Chattanooga Free Press. Cook, who graduated from Red Bank High, holds a master's degree in Peace and Justice Studies from Prescott College and an English degree from the University of Tennessee at Knoxville. For 12 years, he was a teacher at the middle, high school and university ...

Comments do not represent the opinions of the Chattanooga Times Free Press, nor does it review every comment. Profanities, slurs and libelous remarks are prohibited. For more information you can view our Terms & Conditions and/or Ethics policy.
aae1049 said...

Principal shakeups are common to all changing of guards at this political Mecca called the public school system. It may be that Mr. Cook is simply young and lacks exposure over time. This is not a new condition, it is common place in HCDE and school systems with a changing of the guard. Frankly, some leadership shakeup is needed.

After 4 or 5 HCDE superintendent turnovers over the years, Mr. Smith's is no different than... Mr. Loftis, Dr. Jessee Register or Dr. Jim Scales.

The HCDE has improved in terms of lowering their malfeasance factor. In the old days, teachers report that the School superintendent for Hamilton County, would take the male shop and gym teachers out of the classroom to help him catch his cows that got out of the fence in the fall and near roads. Then, there was the incident where Hamilton County Road Department was paving School Board members driveways. We have come along way :-)

July 1, 2012 at 10:12 a.m.
rosebud said...

Along with the fact that most of this story is ripped off from, there are also some wild charges here. Where is the documentation that Mr. Agee was about to get demoted in DeKalb County? Can you provide proof of this? It seems like the TFP and Mr. Cook are hoping and praying this man fails at Brainerd High School. What an interesting agenda. Have you reported the annual decline in test scores at Brainerd under Mr. Joynes' leadership? Didn't think so. It's on the web. Do your job.

July 1, 2012 at 10:25 a.m.
Calhoundawg said...

Well, it seems that in what is so often the case, the the truth has touched some raw nerves here. Mr. Cook is either using valid information that he has obtained through credible research, or he needs to be sued for slander. Shooting the meesenger doesn't alter the truth in this column. The question posed by Mr. Cook is legitimate and you all know it. If all of this "change" is truly necessary, then why were these incompetent administrators hired in the first place? Huh? Come on, answer the question. These are not five, ten, or fifteen year employees. Why the exceedingy high turnover rate? You want the truth? You can't handle the truth. Besides, the article was extremely well-written, and represents sardonicism (look it up) at its best. Kudos, Mr. Cook.You made my day. Keep up the good work!!

July 1, 2012 at 11:21 a.m.
Calhoundawg said...

As I stated, please point out the factual errancy of anything Mr. Cook said or in any figures/statistics he used. I don't see one place in his article where he states his opinion. Not one. His impetus was to question the prolific movement in school administrators in Hamilton county this year.I see a lot of innuendo in these response to his article, but no one has yet answered the question. Will you?

July 1, 2012 at 11:54 a.m.
ldurham said...

I can't find the information about Mr. Agee's supposed demotion anywhere online. Can anyone (including Mr. Cook) produce it?

July 1, 2012 at 12:46 p.m.
davidcook said...

I wonder what the opposite of a ProgDem is? A Regressive Republican? A RegRep? Moving 75 administrators in one year is not normal, common or part of a changing of the guard. Of course we have documentation about the demotion. I quoted from it. Now, the question remains: why are so many administrators being moved?

July 1, 2012 at 1:05 p.m.
Calhoundawg said...

Wow, apparently, a la the famous quote from the movie, what we've got here is failure to communicate. "JonRoss", you continue to evade the question that Mr. Cook posed, that I asked again, and that Mr. Cook reiterated -- again! Why are so many administrators being moved? The answer -- obviously rhetorical in nature -- has absolutely nothing to do with a union at the newspaper, where someone named "Gerber" went to college, or the color of one man's skin. Which part of "According to documents obtained from the DeKalb County School District" did you understand? Please stop throwing around irrelevant cliches and catchphrases and address the question.

July 1, 2012 at 2:38 p.m.
ldurham said...

And the documentation can be located where, exactly? Has it been reported by any legitimate media outlet, and if so, could you provide the link, Mr. Cook?

July 1, 2012 at 3:06 p.m.
Calhoundawg said...

"JonRoss", it seems you and everyone else is having a hard time answering the one and only question posited by this article. Are you going to do that or not? Well, are you? I think not.

As far as your whining about "documentation" concerning a "Mr.Agee"; the sources are stated uncategorically. Did you even read the article? A link? Are you kidding? Please say that you're kidding. I would ask what you consider to be a "legitimate media outlet", but based on your incessant repetion of the same irrelevant questions regarding this article, I'm not sure you could answer that question any better. As far as it goes (the fundamental question about administrator movement in the county remains the same), the issues concerning Mr. Agee's personnel file are either true, or they're not. What would be the purpose of an "in depth talk" with him? Is his record representative of the best hire that HCDE can make? If so, that might be part of the problem. Have a nice day.

July 1, 2012 at 4:41 p.m.
ldurham said...

So Mr. Cook claims to have some incriminating evidence in his back pocket that no one else has seen, no media outlet (including his own) has reported. We'll just take his word for it. After all, he's a longtime teacher at GPS. So he knows all about public schools.

July 1, 2012 at 5:08 p.m.
aae1049 said...

Mr. Cook your assessment that moving 75 administrators is not common to changing of guards has no basis, what-so-ever.

It is indeed common place in HCDE for major changes to occur with new superintendent, including Central Office management and principal reassignment. Your failure to compare to previous changing of guards shows bias in your assessment, and a tone of allegations against Mr. Smith without data. In fact, there was a TFP article about principal reassignment from the man, Dr. Jim Scales himself, discussing how this was common, and complaining about it, when he did the same.

I am no fan of Mr. Smith, perhaps this system needed a good shakeup.

July 1, 2012 at 7:04 p.m.
Calhoundawg said...

Evidently, Mr. Agee didn't bring "hope and change" to the DeKalb school system. Further, "change" seems to be a recurring theme with all school systems. What's up with that? Everything's always changing, but nothing ever gets better.

@aae1049, according to Mr. Cook's article, Soddy Elementary AND Wolftever Creek have each had three new principals respectively in three years. Do you dispute this information, or do you have a clever explanation?

This site evidently will not support a hyperlink, but anyone who cares to might copy and paste the link below. This country's education system (among other things) is disgustingly broken and no one currently employed in the profession has the guts to stand up and say so. David Cook said so with candor and aplomb. Good for him.​column/2012-06-19/​moore-decline-teaching-professi​on

July 1, 2012 at 9:47 p.m.
Calhoundawg said...

Dude, I truly hate to descend into an ad hominem diatribe, but do you have any conception whatsoever that nothing you've said in fourteen posts has absolutely ANYTHING to do with the article at all!!!??? Try not referring to "ProgDems", unions, or President Obama and try again. Geeezzzz!!!!

July 2, 2012 at 9:07 a.m.
JustOneWoman said...

Calhoundawg said... Dude, I truly hate to descend into an ad hominem diatribe, but do you have any conception whatsoever that nothing you've said in fourteen posts has absolutely ANYTHING to do with the article at all!!!??? Try not referring to "ProgDems", unions, or President Obama and try again. Geeezzzz!!!!

JonRoss feeds like a troll. He does this on most of the posts. Goes off subject and is obcessed with where Gerber got her degree. JonRoss said... Gerber: Flood of response on 'Tempest' Cook received a degree from UT Knoxville. Where did you get your degree Allison ?

I could list more, but is there really any need? We tend to just not feed it, as much as possible.

July 2, 2012 at 9:57 a.m.
Faithful said...

I wonder... Why is it wrong to ask why?

Why does asking it often bring defensive, agressive response?

What might happen if we listened to and thoughtfully considered what those who think or believe differently than we do have to say?

How did so many comments move so far away from the article's points???

Just sayin' to use a teen phrase.

July 2, 2012 at 11:37 a.m.
LaughingBoy said...

Principals are moved around, or up or down the ladder for a variety of reasons. Unfair or not the Brainerd switch was due to money being received. There would have to be detailed analysis of each school to determine specific reasons. As has been mentioned this is not a new practice.

July 2, 2012 at 3:50 p.m.
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