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NCLB Outrages

Leaders Out at 3 Schools

Ohanian Comment: Such a cheerful, jaunty tone: Three middle schools will start from scratch with new principals and staffs next school year to boost student performance. I wonder if the reporter would have any doubts and maybe ask for another opinion if the story were: Newspaper will start from scratch with new editor and new reporters to boos circulation.

Fresh start, indeed.

As to discipline and food fights, my first year in teaching, I sent a student on an emergency errand to my departmentt chair's office--to ask for help in quelling a food fight in my classroom. The kids had all brought ice cream bars from the cafeteria--and were smearing them all over each other and the room.

My department chair came and settled things down.

And nobody was expelled. He just told the kids to cut it out and behave. Those were the old days--before Zero Tolerance.

Johnson orders new principals, teachers at sputtering campuses

Three middle schools will start from scratch with new principals and staffs next school year to boost student performance.

Memphis Supt. Carol Johnson recommended Monday to "fresh start" Airways, Geeter and Sherwood middle schools.

The schools are in the final stage -- "alternative governance" -- of No Child Left Behind's low-performing schools hierarchy for having persistently low student test scores.

"We may have some bleak scores now, but we are on top of it," said Brenda Cassellius, middle schools academic director.

In "fresh start" schools all teachers and staff are fired, their positions considered vacant. Existing workers at the schools may reapply for their jobs or may be moved to fill other vacancies around the school system. Some may lose their jobs completely.

The new principals will work through the summer to hire new teachers and staff at the three schools, which join five "fresh starts" from last year.

The "fresh start" schools also will benefit from new teaching strategies, Cassellius said, including a team-learning model being used to raise student performance in other Memphis middle schools.

School officials have tapped new principals for the schools:

Eric Cooper, a Kingsbury Middle assistant principal, will take over for Denise Johnson at Sherwood Middle.

Sharon Griffin, a Frayser High teacher and assistant principal, will take over at Airways Middle, replacing Charlie Folsom, who is retiring.

Kenneth Pickney, an assistant principal from an Arkansas middle school, is replacing Jada Meeks at Geeter.

Along with poor student performance, the three schools struggle with major discipline problems.

Geeter Middle was in the news last year when a food fight broke out among eighth-graders in the cafeteria, prompting algebra teacher-turned -principal Meeks to suspend all 181 eighth-graders.

District officials were concerned about Airways last year after data showed the school had given 2,497 paddlings, accounted for 9 percent of the district's paddlings in the 2002-2003 school year.

— Ruma Banerji Kumar
Commercial Appeal


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