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Let me share with you some information about one of our most, at-risk elementary schools in the district, and then, answer me this. How long must this DeSoto County elementary school struggle before someone steps in to help them?  
School Facts:
* Only targeted school in DeSoto County for literacy.
* 52 out of approximately 120 kindergarteners were failed last year.
* Test scores resulted in the school receiving a rating of ‘F’.
* No available preschool, yet it is the most at risk school in the district.
* It has a 65% employee turnover rate.
* The school’s state ranking has dropped from 187 in 2012 to 324 in 2014 out of 373 schools.
* The school’s free and reduced lunch percentage is 87.3%, making this school a Title 1 school and at high risk.
* Minority children make up approximately 51% of the total enrollment.
Remembering back to our local, publicized superintendent debate, I distinctly remember all four candidates answering YES to the following question. “Should a principal of a failing school be replaced?” Granted, there are many variables to consider and to be fair, the candidates were not allowed to elaborate on their answers. BUT, keeping this in mind, I have to ask why nothing has been done about the principal of the school mentioned above. One of the most at risk schools in the district, and it has been left to rot and right before our eyes.
Now, you will remember a short time ago when I was crucified for discussing the school’s principal and some of her issues. First, she chose to tear down a wall of student and educator handmade tiles and chose to replace it with a $4000 shabby chic, repurposed furniture boutique store remodel. I raised the concern of that money being better spent on the students. Considering the school’s test scores, the amount of kindergarteners that failed last year and the school now being targeted by the state, was I really wrong for feeling the way I did and still do?!
Next, I discussed the current principal’s legal dilemmas. She flipped her car in February one late night and then left the scene of the accident. She was later ticketed for 3 different violations. In June, just 4 short months later, the principal was arrested for DUI and careless driving. She will be going to court soon for these current charges, and her February violations could be brought back up again during the case. Some people could not understand the outrage felt by some parents over this person not receiving any sort of reprimand at work. Well, let me explain now.
The principal in question (up until this school year) is known to be absent from school very often. She often hangs out with the principal of another school in the district, her BFF, during the regular school day. This principal has been known to clock in and leave and not because she was attending a school related meeting or handling school business. In fact, the principal and one of the literacy coaches from the county office left one day to go shopping for several hours AND during the PARCC testing. Does anyone else see the irony in this situation?! Maybe that literacy coach should have stayed at the principal’s school and helped the students that obviously needed a lot of help. And no, this is not the literacy coach’s problem and has nothing to do with her. The problem is the school’s principal and her complete lack of leadership.
Other issues:
* Has employees leave to run personal errands for her during the work day and on weekends.
* Has hourly employees work past their regularly scheduled hours and off the clock for FREE.
* Had a teacher’s assistant take care of her black box this summer instead of doing it herself, AND the principal didn’t pay this person to do it. Not only that, when she was visited by one of the county office administrators, she had the TA hide in the counselor’s office until he left.  
* She clocked in one day this summer and then immediately left and went on vacation.
* The principal is very unknowledgeable when it comes to the district’s computer programs. She often times has to get others to do work for her, because she doesn’t know how to fully use the programs.
* Rarely completes teacher evaluations.
After I wrote about some of this school’s problems and its principal, a few teachers jumped to defend their principal, questioned my intentions, harshly criticized me and threw up the fact that I did not have kids in the district so I should not concern myself with the kids in their school. The funny thing is this. Over a period of a month in 2013, I personally met with and/or corresponded with approximately 15-20 teachers in this very school. THEY reached out to me for my help. What did they want?
* their 2010 pay cuts restored and pay raises for the teachers
* a driveway for the school for student drop off and pick up, so they wouldn’t have to use the church parking lot across the street
* a covered walkway so students would not get soaking wet when walking into the school from the portable buildings
* additional door locks and security
* additional classrooms
My kids were not in DCS at this time, but it didn’t stop me from going to bat for this school or those teachers. A DCS parent and I met with Milton Kuykendall and Lee Caldwell about all of the teachers’ concerns. I never told Milton who the teachers were, and I will forever keep that information to myself. Milton and Lee worked with us and came through for those teachers. The only list item not completed was the covered walkway, and that was only because they got rid of the portable buildings and added on to the school instead, no longer needing that covered walkway. Who was the principal at this time? The same principal that is there now was the principal at that time, yet somehow some of the teachers are either new and don’t know how things happened or have chosen to forget who the people were that went to bat for them. I can assure you it wasn’t the principal. If she had helped them, then they would have had no reason for coming to me in the first place.
What is the point of this story, you may ask. It’s simple.
We have a principal who is consistently failing in leadership and letting the kids in her school down. She is not being a good role model for the students or for her teachers. Her students need help, and it shouldn’t have to happen because it is a targeted school. It should happen because the leader of the school is fully invested in her students and wants only the best for them and for her teachers. Shabby chic decor is fine for her house, but for school, the decor does nothing to help those failing students or improve their literacy. She can’t help fix the problem if she is never there, and she will never have the respect of her parents when she keeps getting into legal situations like her current one. How does a parent explain to their child why his/her school principal is on the cover of the Just Busted magazine at the grocery? What does that do to gain their respect or uphold a positive image of the school? If this principal is violating board policies and the law, should we trust her with these children?  
I think about the principals at my children’s DCS schools and other veteran principals in the district, and they are making less than the younger, less experienced principal in question here. Is that fair? The principal being discussed is failing her kids and the veteran principals are helping their students succeed, yet they are rewarded with less pay. This whole situation is just wrong on so many levels.
When is someone, anyone at the county office in power going to stand up and fight for what’s best for the kids in this elementary school. They can’t afford to keep waiting for someone to stand up and fight for them. Those of us fighting from the sidelines or from behind the scenes can only do so much! We need help for these kids, and they deserve a new leader and one that is invested in their educational success. Until that happens, let me inform you, parents, of your children’s rights.
• According to No Child Left Behind states and school districts must provide “report cards” for parents—that is, information tailored for parents telling them about the quality of education at their child’s school. Written in an easy-to-read format, these report cards ensure that parents and taxpayers know which schools are achieving and how.
• Included in the report cards are student achievement data broken out by race, ethnicity, gender, English language proficiency, as well as breakouts by whether the students are immigrants or have disabilities, and whether they are disadvantaged.
• States and school districts must also provide parents and children in struggling schools timely notification of the public school choice and supplemental services options that may be available for their children.
• Under the No Child Left Behind Act, children in schools in need of improvement must be given the opportunity to transfer to other public schools in their district, including public charter schools, and school districts are required to tell parents about this option, as well as pay for transportation to the other schools. During the 2006-2007 school year almost 120,000 eligible students took advantage of this option.
No one wants to see harm come to the district and there are no personal vendettas! There are simply those of us that care about the students and want ALL students to have equal opportunities and a chance to succeed in achieving optimal educational success. And if no one in the current administration will stand up and fight for them now, we will! Those kids deserve better than they are getting, so it’s time for a change!

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