Sweeping leadership changes coming for Bibb schools

jmink@macon.comMay 1, 2014 

Welcome_Center

Some Bibb County schools will notice substantial staffing changes next academic year and several staff reductions will take place at the district Welcome Center, seen in a file photo.

WOODY MARSHALL — wmarshall@macon.com

Sweeping changes are in store for the Bibb County school system next academic year, as 15 schools are scheduled to get new principals or assistant principals, and more than 60 district positions are being cut.

The reduction in force mainly affects positions that have been funded by grants, which are scheduled to end. Several staff reductions will come from the district Welcome Center, which officials are looking to restructure. Most of the employees affected by workforce reductions will be considered for other job vacancies in the school system, officials said.

Several principals and assistant principals will be transferred to different positions, and some principal spots will be open for interviews. Also, the alternative education program will get a new director, and contracts for two alternative program employees will not be renewed.

The Bibb County school board approved the personnel changes Monday during a called meeting.

“What we try to do is align the placement of administrators with an environment where we feel they would be most conducive to ... improvement in student achievement,” interim Superintendent Steve Smith said. The changes place leaders in schools where their leadership styles best match the school cultures, he added.

Principal shuffling

A total of 16 principal and assistant principal positions will change next academic year. Two positions will change at Rutland High School. Two high school principals will move to elementary schools, while two elementary principals and one middle school principal will move into high school positions.

One elementary principal will become a middle school principal, while another elementary principal will become an assistant middle school principal. Other elementary principals will be switched.

Meanwhile, some school principal positions are open, as one principal has retired, one has submitted his resignation and one is transferring to another county, according to a school district document.

Smith spent Tuesday meeting with every affected principal, giving them the news face to face.

The reactions were a mixed bag, Smith said.

“Doing this is the worst part of my job. It’s not something I look forward to doing, but it has to be done,” Smith said. “Their livelihood is important to me, but not nearly as important as the quality of education for our students.”

The goal is to improve student achievement, which sometimes requires “drastic actions,” he said.

“In most of these cases, I think you have to match the right leadership style with the culture of the school.”

On the elementary level, some of the affected schools’ state assessment scores were among the lowest in the county. Bibb County scored an overall 62.9 on the most recent College and Career Ready Performance Index, which is below the state average of 75.8.

Out of the elementary schools receiving new leadership, Riley Elementary scored a 50.9, Jones had a 51.3, King-Danforth had a 53.5, Ingram Pye posted a 54.5, and Porter scored 56.2 points.

On the other hand, a couple of the elementary schools that are getting new principals are among the highest performing in Bibb County. Alexander II had the district’s highest score of 89.7, and Skyview Elementary’s score was among the best at 77.8. Skyview’s principal will move to Alexander II, while the current Alexander II principal will become assistant principal of Weaver Middle School. Bernd and Union elementary schools both scored better than the district average, with a 66.9 and 64.8, respectively.

Meanwhile, Howard and Appling middle schools, which are both getting new principals, scored a 68 and a 56.1, respectively.

Among the three affected high schools, Rutland had the highest score at 62.4. Central High scored a 60.9, while Northeast High had a score of 50.

At Rutland, current Principal Jerri Hall is retiring. Current Riley Elementary Principal Kent Sparks, who will be taking over at Rutland, says he is excited to take the reins. Before becoming principal of Riley in 2012, Sparks was assistant principal at Rutland under both Hall and former Principal Gail Gilbert.

Rutland High School recently was removed from a state list of low-achieving schools -- an accomplishment that was celebrated districtwide. At Riley Elementary, the 2013 CCRPI score jumped by more than 10 percentage points from the previous year, and test scores have increased by about 23 percent over the past couple of years, Sparks said.

“I’m proud of what we’ve done at Riley. I’m proud of what Dr. Hall has accomplished at Rutland,” Sparks said. “And I’m just fortunate enough to fill some big shoes.”

Sparks says that while he is excited about his new position, leaving Riley Elementary will be bittersweet.

“It’s been emotionally draining because I love these children here, and I love the stakeholders -- they’ve been wonderful to me,” he said. “But I feel that Riley will continue to be successful because we’ve had a lot of people work very hard.”

Other principals could not be reached Thursday.

Reduction in force

While most of the affected principals will be transferring to new jobs, 62 district jobs will be eliminated. The majority of those jobs are funded by a federal Race to the Top grant, which is ending. Those positions include graduation and academic coaches, and behavior support paraprofessionals at various schools.

Ten others are positions at Central High School funded by a School Improvement Grant, which is ending. They include five teachers, three academic coaches, a parent involvement coordinator and a response to intervention coach.

About 13 other positions, most tied to school registration, will be eliminated at the district Welcome Center, which will be restructured. The Welcome Center was an initiative championed by former Superintendent Romain Dallemand, funded at a cost of more than $1.2 million. The idea was to have a one-stop location for registration, as well as training and support for parents, among other services.

Now, school registration is moving from the center back to individual schools. Officials have discussed tentative plans to turn the Welcome Center into a heritage center, which would showcase some district memorabilia and offer some professional activities, meeting space and general information about the school system.

The remaining four positions -- a clerk at Northwoods Academy, two district technology specialists and a district capital program administrator -- are being phased out as part of budget and reorganization efforts, Smith said.

Still, there will be jobs to fill within the district, and the goal is to offer all affected employees a new job by the end of June, Smith said.

“It may not be a job they prefer, but it will be a job,” he said. “And they have a choice to either accept the job or reject it.”

To contact writer Jenna Mink, call 744-4331.

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