principal pipeline

Here are 25 assistant principals who Gov. Haslam wants to see at the helm of schools

PHOTO: Vanderbilt University/Anne Rayner
The first class of the Governor's Academy for School Leadership convened with their mentors in February at Vanderbilt University's Peabody College of Education. The academy's second class was announced this week.

Twenty-five assistant principals in Tennessee have been selected to participate in a 2017 fellowship program aimed at cultivating and nurturing future school leaders.

The Governor’s Academy for School Leadership is a partnership of the state of Tennessee, Vanderbilt University’s Peabody College of Education, and local school districts. The program is designed to build Tennessee’s pipeline of highly trained principals, and the 2017 fellows will comprise its second class.

Effective school principals can be key players in improving schools for students and teachers alike, research says.

“We have raised expectations, invested more in education and are making huge strides in education in Tennessee,” Gov. Bill Haslam said Tuesday in announcing the 2017 fellows. “Our students and teachers have stepped up to the challenge, and we need strong school leadership to support them and continue the momentum.”

Each assistant principal will be paired with an experienced principal mentor and attend monthly training sessions and a week-long summer institute at Vanderbilt, as well as intern three days each month at a mentor’s school. After completing the academy, participants will be expected to pursue placement as a school principal in their district or region.

Fellows were nominated by their district’s director of schools and selected through an application and interview process conducted by the Governor’s Office, the Tennessee Department of Education and Vanderbilt University.

The academy’s 2017 fellows and mentors are:

Participants

  • Courtney Whitehead, Carpenters Middle, Blount County
  • Justin Whittenbarger, Homestead Elementary, Cumberland County
  • Andrea Bledsoe, Charlotte Elementary, Dickson County
  • Sarah Gray, Mosheim Elementary, Greene County
  • Lindsay Starnes, Calvin Donaldson, Hamilton County
  • Cameshia Emerson, Bolivar Central High, Hardeman County
  • Krista Mann, Rogersville Middle, Hawkins County
  • Victoria Perry, Humboldt Junior and Senior High, Humboldt City
  • Melanie Simpson, Piedmont Elementary,  Jefferson County
  • James Wernke, Ross Robinson Middle, Kingsport City
  • Joann Bost, Carter Middle, Knox County
  • Ashley Booher, Gibbs Elementary, Knox County
  • David Ayers, Lara Kendall Elementary, Lake County
  • Patty Franks, Summertown Elementary, Lawrence County
  • Emma McWeeney, LEAD Southeast, Metro Nashville
  • Danielle Beckman, Forrest Middle and High, Marshall County
  • Shavoncia Watts, E.A. Cox Middle, Maury County
  • Marquis Churchwell, Joelton Middle Prep,  Metro Nashville
  • Celia Jolly, Overton High, Metro Nashville
  • Sandra Paschall,  Rhea Elementary, Paris Special School District
  • Chelsea Spaulding, Riverdale High, Rutherford County
  • Holly Kidder,  Sweetwater Junior High, Sweetwater City
  • Nathan Wade, Union County High, Union County
  • Bethany Wilson, West Wilson Middle, Wilson County
  • Candice Miller, Georgian Hills Elementary, Achievement School District

Mentors

  • April Herron, Middlesettlements Elementary, Blount County
  • Jennifer Magnusson, North Cumberland Elementary, Cumberland County
  • Crysti Sheley, Centennial Elementary, Dickson County
  • Amy Brooks, Nolachuckey Elementary, Greene County
  • Emily Baker, Brown Academy, Hamilton County
  • Darlene Cardwell, Middleton High, Hardeman County
  • Thomas Floyd, Cherokee High, Hawkins County
  • Jonathan Kee, Huntingdon High, Humboldt City
  • Michelle Walker, Maury Middle, Jefferson County
  • Chris Hampton, Dobyns-Bennett High, Kingsport City
  • Christine Oehler, Powell Middle, Knox County
  • Kristi Woods, East Knox Elementary, Knox County
  • Suzanne Keefe, Halls High, Lake County
  • Christy Crews, Ethridge Elementary, Lawrence County
  • Tait Danhausen, Cameron: A LEAD Public School, Metro Nashville
  • John Bush, Marshall County High, Marshall County
  • Leigh Ann Willey, Santa Fe Unit, Maury County
  • Kevin Armstrong, Dupont Hadley Middle Prep, Metro Nashville
  • Clint Wilson, Glencliff High, Metro Nashville
  • Norma Gerrell, Paris Special, Paris Special School District
  • Larry Creasy, Siegel High, Rutherford County
  • Heather Henry, Brown Intermediate, Sweetwater City
  • Greg Clay, Horace Maynard Middle, Union County
  • Christine Miller, Stoner Creek Elementary, Wilson County
  • Anne Thomas, Pathways in Education, Achievement School District

red carpet

#PublicSchoolProud has its Oscar moment as ‘La La Land’ songwriter shouts out his schools

Songwriter Justin Paul at the 2017 Academy Awards, where he credited his public school education in his acceptance speech for best song.

The recent movement to praise public schools made it all the way to the Academy Awards stage Sunday night.

Justin Paul, one of the songwriters for the movie “La La Land,” credited his public school education during his acceptance speech.

“I was educated in public schools, where arts and culture were valued and recognized and resourced,” Paul said after winning the Oscar for best song. “And I’m so grateful for all my teachers, who taught so much and gave so much to us.”

Paul attended public schools in Westport, Connecticut, where he graduated from Staples High School. The school was also recognized in a recent documentary about its history as a rock venue in the late 1960s. Students recruited The Doors, the Yardbirds, and several other bands to play in the school’s auditorium.

The Oscars stage shoutout comes as people across the country have begun praising their own public schools on social media. The #PublicSchoolProud movement is a response to new U.S. Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, who has advocated for policies that let students leave public schools for private and charter schools.

survey says

How accessible are New York City’s high schools? Students with physical disabilities are about to find out

PHOTO: Cassi Feldman
Midwood High School is considered inaccessible to students with physical disabilities.

Michelle Noris began her son’s high school search the way many parents of children with physical disabilities do: by throwing out most of the high school directory.

She knew her son Abraham would only have access to a few dozen of the city’s 400-plus high schools because of significant health needs, despite being a bright student with a knack for writing.

“I tore out every page that didn’t work in advance of showing [the directory] to him,” Noris recalls.

Even once they narrowed the list of potential schools, they still couldn’t be sure which schools Abraham — who has cerebral palsy and uses a wheelchair — would be physically able to enter. The directory lists whether a school is considered partially or fully accessible, which, in theory, means that students should have access to “all relevant programs and services.”

In practice, however, the situation is much more complicated. “We had schools that are listed as partially accessible, but there’s no accessible bathroom,” said Noris, who is a member of the Citywide Council on Special Education. Some “accessible” schools might not have water fountains or cafeteria tables that accommodate students with mobility needs. A school’s auditorium could have a ramp, but no way for a wheelchair-bound student to get up on the stage.

Most of that information is not publicly available without calling a school or showing up for a visit — a process that can be time-consuming and demoralizing. But now, thanks in part by lobbying from Noris and other advocates, the city has pledged to begin filling the information gap. The education department will soon release more detailed information about exactly how accessible its high schools are.

Based on a 58-question survey, the city is collecting more granular data: if music rooms or computer labs are accessible, for instance, or whether there’s a slight step in a library that could act as a barrier. The survey also tracks whether a student in a wheelchair would have to use a side or back entrance to make it into the building.

“Sometimes, [parents] actually have to visit four or five of our schools to see if their child could get to every area of the school that’s important to them,” said Tom Taratko, who heads the education department’s space management division. “We didn’t think that was right.”

Virtually every physical amenity will be documented, Taratko said, down to whether a school has braille signage or technology for students with hearing impairments.

Education department officials are still fine-tuning exactly how to translate the city’s new accessibility inventory into a user-friendly dataset families can use. Some of the new information will be made available in the high school directory, and the results of each school’s survey will be available online.

Officials said the new data would be provided in “the coming weeks” for all high schools in Manhattan and Staten Island. The rest of the city’s high schools should be included before the next admissions cycle.

The survey will help identify which schools could be made accessible with relatively few changes, Taratko explained. “Everything — our shortcomings, our strengths — everything will be out there.”

The decision to release more high school accessibility data comes less than two years after a scathing U.S. Department of Justice investigation revealed “inexcusable” accommodations in elementary schools.

Many of the city’s school buildings were built before the Americans with Disabilities Act became law, and despite committing $100 million in its current five-year capital budget to upgrades, many schools are still not accessible. According to 2016 data, the most recent available, just 13 percent of district and charter schools that serve high school grades are fully accessible. About 62 percent are partially accessible, and 25 percent are considered inaccessible.

Making accessibility data public could help change those numbers, said Maggie Moroff, a disability policy expert at Advocates for Children who has pushed for greater transparency and praised the initiative.

“Once it’s out there, there’s so much more self-advocacy a parent can do,” Moroff said. “Then they can make requests about specific accommodations.”

Greater transparency is just one step in the process. Moroff hopes the city will consider taking students’ physical disabilities into account during the admissions process so that academically qualified students get preference for accessible schools. Once students arrive, she added, they must be welcomed by the school community.

“There needs to be much more work to hold the schools accountable to actually welcoming those students,” Moroff said. “It has to go hand in hand with making renovations and making accommodations.”

Even though the data comes too late for Noris, whose son submitted applications to just two high schools out of a possible twelve due to accessibility constraints, she is optimistic future families will have an easier time navigating the process.

“They didn’t say, ‘We’re going to do this over the next ten years.’ They said, ‘We’re going to do this in two years,’” Noris said, noting that she hopes more funding is allocated to upgrade buildings. “I think it’s a real example of the Department of Education hearing the needs and being willing to act on it.”