Tuesday, February 15, 2000

Parents want school voice

Ask to help pick new principal

The Cincinnati Enquirer

        HEBRON — Some of the parents whose children will attend the new North Pointe Elementary in August are lobbying school officials to gain influence over the choice of the school's principal.

        They are lobbying Boone County Schools Superintendent Bryan Blavatt and their school board members to include parent representatives in the hiring decisions.

        Parent representatives already help select principals for schools, under the state's “site-based decision-making council” system. The 1990 Kentucky Education Reform Act created the system in which a council of an existing principal, two teachers and two parents at each school pick a new principal for the school.

        But North Pointe is a new school, without an active council. Under state law, the superintendent is supposed to hire its principal.

        Mr. Blavatt said he has not sought parental involvement or counsel because the decision is “purely professional” at this point.

        “If it was something where it was a community consideration, I think parents would certainly be involved,” Mr. Blavatt said.

        “At this level, all we are looking for is a person who is qualified. There is not a constituency yet for the school.”

        Some parents said they and their children are the constituency. Of the nearly 500 students assigned to attend North Pointe, 450 now attend Goodridge Elementary.

        Nancy Gaddie, a parent member of Goodridge's site-based council, helped choose a new principal for that school last year. She has four small children in the school system.

        “I think any time parents are involved it can only be better for the children,” she said.

        The school district is advertising nationwide for applicants. Mr. Blavatt and a group of assistant superintendents and school principals will review applicants. Mr. Blavatt said he hopes to hire a principal in March.

        The same process was used to hire the principal when Erpenbeck Elementary in Florence was built in 1997, largely without parental opposition.

        Lisa Gross, state Education Department spokeswoman, said Boone County's district is following state law.

        Part of the reason the par ents say they want to be involved is because they were involved in selecting the Goodridge principal last year, said Susan Muschian, PTA president at Goodridge.

        “When you look at the magnitude of what we have to do ... we are building a whole new school,” said Mrs. Muschian, who has two children. “That's the nice privilege of a public education: You get to be involved.”

        Some of the concerned parents point out that they are already involved in other aspects of the school's operation. They are forming a PTA and are planning fund-raising events to acquire playground and computer equipment.

        Ed Massey, the district's school board chairman, said he thinks it's “perfectly fine for parents to have input.”

        Mr. Massey's children will be switching to North Pointe. He said he will encourage Mr. Blavatt to speak with parents about what parents want in a principal. School boards cannot play a role in the hiring of personnel.

        Site-based councils could face a challenge to their hiring power in the General Assembly.

        The Kentucky Association of School Superintendents and the Kentucky School Boards Association is pushing a proposal that would return the authority to hire principals to superintendents. Under the proposal, which has yet to be drawn up as a bill, a site-based council would act only as a screening committee, making recommendations to the superintendent. Now, the site-based councils choose from among the finalists.

        Brad Hughes, school boards association spokesman, said the process mirrors how superintendents are selected.

        “Superintendents believe they are held responsible for what the principals achieve or fail to achieve, not the school councils,” Mr. Hughes said. “They believe, since they are held responsible for the actions of their leadership team, they should have final say.”

        Roland Haun, executive secretary of the superintendents association, said the law now creates a situation in which teachers in a building are selecting their future bosses.

        “Right now the superintendents can't pick who they want, but they have to do the firing,” Mr. Haun said.


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