Some Broad River parents say principal should keep her job

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Some Broad River parents say principal should keep her job

By RACHEL HEATON
rheaton@beaufortgazette.com
Published Monday, December 12, 2011   |  891 Words  |  

Broad River Elementary School parent leaders urged a group of about 20 parents and teachers Monday to attend tonight's Beaufort County Board of Education meeting to support their principal.

Constance Goodwine-Lewis will have to reapply for her job if she wants to remain as principal next school year. The school district is advertising openings for her job and the principal position at Joseph S. Shanklin Elementary School. Sean Alford, the district instructional chief, said last week that student achievement at those schools hasn't improved at the same pace as at schools with similar demographics.

In a Dec. 5 presentation to parents in the Battery Creek High School cluster, Alford compared Broad River and Shanklin to Beaufort and Whale Branch elementaries, which have improved their annual state report card ratings and scores on standardized tests.

Mark Mansell, principal at Shanklin, will be an assistant principal over fifth and sixth grades at Robert Smalls Middle School next year.

Attempts to reach Goodwine-Lewis for comment have been unsuccessful.

Broad River PTO president April Appleby and School Improvement Council chairwoman Jennie Jessup gave a presentation to parents Monday that showed data from elementary schools across the district. Appleby and Jessup said they felt Alford's Dec. 5 presentation was manipulated to cast Broad River in a bad light.

"They showed the picture they thought would give them the support they needed," Jessup said. She said she had heard from several upset parents in the last week.

When compared to schools across the district, they say, Broad River is doing fine.

It has achieved a rating of "average" on annual state report cards for five years running, which indicates the school meets state standards for progress. Its growth rating on the report cards has been "average" for three years.

State report cards also indicate the school has made adequate yearly progress -- the minimum level of performance needed to satisfy federal No Child Left Behind requirements -- in two of the past four years, in 2009 and 2010.

In comparison, Beaufort Elementary has not made adequate yearly progress in the past four years; Whale Branch Elementary met that measure once, in 2009.

Test data indicate that while students are making gains in English and math at the school, the growth isn't as much as that made at Beaufort Elementary or Whale Branch Elementary, Alford has said.

The district has taken similar action before. Principals at Whale Branch Elementary, Whale Branch Middle, James J. Davis Early Childhood Education Center and St. Helena Elementary schools had to reapply for their jobs in 2009.

That change -- coupled with the introduction of extended-learning time, focus on science and math curriculum, and bonuses to attract teachers -- has made a difference in those schools, Alford said.

Extended-learning time and teacher bonuses -- programs paid for with federal stimulus money -- won't be an option at Broad River or Shanklin, Alford said.

At the Broad River meeting, Appleby and Jessup pointed out that the school had lost handfuls of gifted and talented students to magnet programs at other schools or through rezoning decisions. The school previously used Title I money -- federal funds given to schools with high percentages of students on free and reduced lunch -- to provide a tutor for every grade level.

During the economic downturn, though, that money has been used to fund pre-kindergarten teachers and assistants; tutors have been eliminated, Jessup said. This year, the school lost its Title I designation.

Appleby urged parents to make a case for Goodwine-Lewis to stay at the school at tonight's school board meeting, which starts at 6 p.m. in County Council chambers in the administration building at 100 Ribaut Road in Beaufort.

"We're at 'average,' " she said. "We're not 'below average.' We're not 'at risk.' Why they asked her to leave is beyond me."

One parent in attendance expressed concern that the school was changing too much in the next year. Broad River is set to absorb many of the students displaced by the pending closure of Shell Point Elementary next year.

"With Shell Point closing, it's seemed as if everything is going to change," said Lydia Hurt, who has three children at Broad River. "My children need stability. That's what I expect from the school."

Follow reporter Rachel Heaton at twitter.com/HomeroomBft.

Related content

  1. Two district principals would have to reapply to keep their jobs next year; Dec. 9. 2011
  2. Palmetto Assessment of State Standards data
  3. Annual state report card data
  4. Whale Branch Elementary makes list of state's poorest-performing schools; April 8, 2009
  5. Beaufort County schools under state review take dramatic steps to improve; Aug. 3, 2009