Thursday, July 17, 2003

Covington schools' leader re-signed

By William Croyle, Enquirer contributor
and Karen Gutierrez, The Cincinnati Enquirer

Covington's school superintendent has been guaranteed another four years at the district's helm.

The Covington School Board voted 4-1 Tuesday night to retain Jack Moreland until 2008. He'll earn about $110,000 a year.

"If you trust a man and he's done good things, you want to reward him," Board member Rita Wilson said. "That's what we did."

Moreland was named interim superintendent in July 2000, replacing James Kemp, who resigned after a state review of the district's academics and finances. At that time, five of the district's eight schools had fallen into the lowest possible performance ranking on the state's accountability testing.

All those schools have since improved. Last year, four Covington schools received monetary rewards for showing significant improvement on the state's accountability index, which takes into account scores on nationally standardized and state tests, attendance rates and other factors.

Moreland, former superintendent of Dayton, Ky., schools, has made many changes in Covington. Board members praised him for starting an all-day kindergarten and for aligning school curriculum, which means the material students learn in one grade is connected to what they will be taught at the next level.

Last winter, Moreland was named state Superintendent of the Year by the Kentucky Association of School Superintendents.

"I can't say enough good stuff about Jack," Board Member Mike Fitzgerald said. "When he took over, Covington schools were at the bottom of the list, but scores are now going up."

Although he raved about Moreland, Fitzgerald cast the lone vote against extending his contract. With three seats on the board up for election next year, he wanted to leave new members some latitude in deciding, he said.

The superintendent's tenure hasn't been without controversy. The district is grappling with a projected budget deficit of about $2 million for the last school year. Moreland responded by trimming positions through attrition, and the budget numbers are better, said Lisa Gross, spokeswoman for the state Department of Education.

Moreland's also has gotten him into hot water for other reasons. This year, parents and teachers on the site-based council at Holmes High School criticized him for yanking the school's principal without any warning to the council.

After investigating a complaint, the state's Office of Education Accountability chastised Moreland for failing to follow proper procedure in transferring certain personnel.

It also cited an "inappropriate delay" in establishing a site-based council to oversee the new Holmes school, which will be formed when the junior and senior highs merge this fall. Without a council, Moreland has more control over the school. For example, he selected the Holmes principal on his own.

"He can improve with his communication skills, between the superintendent and the board and the superintendent and staff," said Board Member Glenda Huff, who otherwise praised Moreland's leadership. "I would like our staff to know what's going on before the media gets it."

Moreland could not be reached for comment.

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