Metro Schools Names Turnaround Leaders for Priority Schools

Metro Schools today announced the status of school leaders for the district’s 12 priority schools, taking the first major step in the next phase of the turnaround process for these schools. The announcement follows an extensive diagnostic evaluation that took place this fall, which identified each school’s greatest challenges and needs. This analysis allowed the district to develop short-term support plans for the current school year and select the right principals to lead the turnaround efforts going forward at each school. Newly-named principals will be placed in the schools starting next school year, but will begin work this spring to develop a multi-year turnaround plan specific to their school’s needs.

Five of the 12 priority schools will have new principals in the 2015-16 school year: Inglewood Elementary, Napier Elementary, Joelton Middle, Madison Middle and Neely’s Bend Middle. Two of these changes are being made based on decisions by the current principals. The current principal at Napier Elementary is retiring and the current principal at Neely’s Bend has chosen to take another position in the district, which will be announced at a later date. No principal changes will take place before the end of the current school year.

Click to read about the new leaders and the plans for each priority school.

Current principals will remain in place at Churchwell Elementary, Kirkpatrick Elementary, Whitsitt Elementary, Jere Baxter Middle and Pearl-Cohn High going into the 2015-16 school year. Principals at Buena Vista Elementary and Bailey Middle will remain in place contingent upon end-of-year results, since principals at these schools are completing three-year turnaround plans funded by a federal School Improvement Grant (SIG) this year.

Eight of the district’s 12 priority schools are eligible to receive new SIG funding from the U.S. Department of Education this year. In order to qualify for SIG funds, priority school principals must have a demonstrated capacity for school improvement. Leaders at all 12 schools have gone through an extensive application and screening process to ensure they have the unique qualities needed in a turnaround leader. Some schools would be ineligible for SIG funding without a change in leadership.

“Each of the leaders we’ve chosen is the right fit for that school,” said Director of Schools Dr. Jesse Register. “They were carefully selected using a rigorous application and interview process that looked at demonstrated successes and ideas for the future. We are confident in these decisions and know that these leaders will build collaborative cultures that will propel their schools toward rapid improvement.”

Now that school leaders have been identified, the next phase of the turnaround process involves each leader developing a long-term plan for school improvement. This extensive planning and community engagement effort will run through the spring and into summer.

The next step in the process is to allow the school principals to select a core group of teacher leaders from the MNPS Turnaround Corps. These teachers will help principals in the planning process this spring and help lead their school turnaround efforts starting next school year.

New school leaders are being named and placed now so they can start work right away, without having to wait until the summer. Principals new to the district will be paid to work this spring before their official start dates.

“Once schools start looking at SIG funding, there’s a tremendous opportunity to try new things and implement proven strategies,” said Dr. Register. “These leaders will draft excellent improvement plans that will serve as the basis of the SIG application. They can draw upon the work we’ve been doing since August. The data profiles we put together are the result of months of collecting data, listening to parents and teachers and observing instructional practice. With those diagnostics and their own expertise in education, they have a very good base to start with.”

Schools that received SIG funding in previous years are not eligible to apply again. School Improvement Grants at Bailey, Buena Vista, Churchwell and Napier will expire at the end of this school year. Rather than planning for a SIG application, these school leaders will work with the district to ensure the sustainability of strategies in their current school turnaround plans are built into their budgets for next year. Each of these schools improved to “satisfactory” on the district’s Academic Performance Framework last year and will be expected to meet aggressive academic achievement targets to stay on track to exit the state’s priority schools list.

All 12 priority schools will develop their plans for improvement in consultation with the school community through a thorough engagement process. Principals are expected to hold parent meetings and bring parents and community members into planning sessions where they can be a part of the turnaround process. Community and parent engagement will also be built into the final versions of each school’s plan, so that this critical part of school improvement is sustained and becomes an integral part of the school’s culture. The eight schools eligible for SIG funds will have planning resources available this spring for specialized parent training sessions to ensure parent engagement in the planning process and going forward.

Attention will also be paid to needed wrap-around services in these schools through the addition of the Community Achieves model. This model, now in its third year, provides schools with a framework and process to strategically align partners and volunteers to school needs and outcomes. Community Achieves, part of the national network of the Coalition for Community Schools, will leverage existing and strong school partnerships across Nashville in order to support priority school goals and student achievement. Funding for Community Achieves in the priority schools, including staffing, is expected to be part of the final budget proposal submitted to the Board of Education later this spring.

Each school is unique and is being served in ways that best fit its individual needs. Attached is a Fact Sheet outlining what will happen at each school.