Sunday, July 29, 2001

New school superintendent oversees shakeup

The Associated Press

        LEXINGTON — Fayette County has seen an alarming turnover among principals since Robin Fankhauser became the county's school superintendent.

        Ms. Fankhauser was named superintendent on May 24 after a unanimous vote by the county's school board. In the past two months, nearly 28 percent of the principals and school directors in the county have left their posts.

        Critics of Ms. Fankhauser say the volume of openings should send a message. They describe a culture of distrust and say good people are being pushed out.

        Ms. Fankhauser has called on principals to take responsibility for closing the achievement gap between white and minority students.

        “If we're driving people off because we raised the bar, then they don't need to be in the district,” Ms. Fankhauser said. “If we're driving people off because we've created a hostile environment, and people have not been treated fairly or professionally, then I need to hear that, because I need to remedy that in the future.”

        Ms. Fankhauser said the changes could be for the better.

        “There's a level where turnover is good, because it helps you keep from being parochial in your approach,” Ms. Fankhauser said.

        The combination of retirements, resignations, transfers and demotions has led to 15 openings since the summer began.

        All but two of the positions have been filled.

        The 15 left for a variety of reasons. Three were demoted, two resigned to take positions in higher-paying school districts, six retired, two transferred into the central office, one transferred to another principal post and one returned to the classroom.

        “It's hard to determine whether they felt pressured to leave or whether it's a blessing that they left,” said school board member Angie Tedder.
        “I don't want to read a whole lot into this, but if we have a great deal of turnover next year, we need to see if the expectations are unreasonable or are they are just not cut out to be principals.”

        Across the state, turnover among principals has hovered between 8 and 17 percent, Young said. Jefferson County has lost 21 principals since the close of school, shifting the leadership at about 15 percent of its 152 schools.


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