Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Outsourcing for Principals: How About South Carolina's Talent?

While the state focuses on creating principals who have the skills to create master teachers, CCSD seems locked into appointing as many out-of-state principals as possible. What is the rationale behind poor treatment of respected and proven leaders from the Lowcountry and South Carolina?

Take, for example, William Dixon of James Simons Elementary School. Dixon came to CCSD from Columbia in 2004. He previously was an AP and coach at Dreher High School, where he was on a track to become a principal. He was brought in as the assistant principal at Buist (the accepted slot for Buist's one-and-only black teacher/administrator in recent years). His background in administration was solid, and he was obviously overqualified as the AP at Buist.

According to a reliable source, in early 2005 Dixon was among the finalists interviewing for the opening as principal at James Simons. He was the top choice of both the District 20 constituent board and the school committee, but Goodloe-Johnson bypassed the recommendations to appoint someone from Springfield, Mass. Her choice resigned after fewer than three months in the position. She then gave Dixon an "interim appointment" (after having passed him over previously) at less pay and no guarantees beyond the remainder of the 2005-06 school year. CCSD and HR refused to consider his position as permanent and refused to immediately readvertise the opening so that Dixon could be more quickly provided some guarantees.

Only after the District 20 board protested, G-J eventually relented to allow an "early" posting of the vacancy for 2006-07. In February 2006, Dixon was allowed to "reapply" and interview for the position that he was then holding as "interim." Needless to say, it was a degrading and insulting process that he was forced to repeat as if he had "come in second," when everyone knew that G-J had derailed his selection after he had been vetted and approved. She refused to admit her mistake in not appointing him outright. Many in District 20 believe she was playing with Mr. Dixon to remind him that she was in charge; she also left the other candidates hanging. He was finally chosen but not approved by the superintendent or the CCSD board until many weeks later.

From District 20's viewpoint, another advantage arose from reopening the James Simons principal's position for interviews in February 2006. Since CCSD and its agents, such as Earl Choice, habitually waited to advertise until April or May (when all the best applicants had been snapped up by other districts) despite repeated requests from District 20 constituents, for the first time in years, District 20 could see potential downtown principal applicants before many had been eliminated by CCSD.

You may be wondering after such treatment what record Dixon achieved in his 17 months as Principal at James Simons. Here are a few examples:
  • Met AYP in all 13 targets in May

  • Front office and door cameras installed in May

  • Security gate installed in May

  • Murals painted by the College of Charleston in January

  • $2500 donated to the school by a businessman in Mt. Pleasant and the Intertech Group

  • Washer and dryer donated to the school in December

  • First yearbook published for the school in May

  • Proficient and Advanced scores increased from 19 to 27 percent

  • MAP scores increased by double digits in for categories, one of only eight schools in the entire county

  • Recognized with Home School Reading Award in May

  • Lt. Governor's Award winner: Jasmine Dais in April

  • Governor's Citizenship Award winner: Talea Clark

  • School Nurse Ms. Washington was a Golden Apple Award recipient in April

  • The school's gospel choir sang by invitation at the Stingrays hockey game in March

  • Sixth-grade boys won the region championship in basketball for the Tri- County Area in March

  • Terry Washington was Trident Basketball Coach of the Year in March

  • SuperPetz donated a fish tank to the school in August

Some of these highlights are thanks to Simons's relationship with the business community and with CCSD residents outside of District 20; some are due to his school leadership.

Now, I ask you, who's more likely to understand the needs of James Simons Elementary--a native of South Carolina or a native of Massachusetts? Maybe we'll discover that the "chosen one" who disappeared after three months was a graduate of the Broad Fellows program. I'll bet he or she didn't even know how to spell or pronounce "Simons."

In addition, there's CCSD's treatment of several respected principals, such as Jeanette Whaley at Fraser, who were unceremoniously dumped mid-year by Goodloe-Johnson and replaced with interims who were G-J's "people." But that's another story.


Anonymous said...

The guy from up north was nice enough. He was just matched to a school where he was starting from zero. Dixon already had a feel for the place. That's why he could step into the position after the other guy resigned without too much disruption. Because he was only interim, it was like he was on probation. This put extra pressure on teachers because there was no room for him to make mistakes. It made for some very long faculty meetings just to make sure everything was perfect for Calhoun St.

Anonymous said...

Some teachers said Dixon wasn't free to really take charge or make long term decisions until he was made permanent. When that finally happened, plans for school improvements became more important than wondering how long it would be before Dixon was replaced. After his job became permanent, teachers and parents were more encouraged to plan for the school's future knowing who would more than likely still be in charge. It wasn't about job uncertainty anymore. An interim principal or a non-permanent AP are about as temporary and uncertain as administrative positions get in CCSD.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Bable, I hope you spend as much time teaching your English class as you do "writing" this garbage.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous 12:33 PM sounds like a fat and happy CCSD cheerleader who doesn’t like his view blocked by any constructive criticism. People like Jon Butzon have blocked our view of the truth for too long. I’ve never heard this person make any suggestions on how he would improve downtown schools. Keep it coming Babbie.

Anonymous said...

Jon has no suggestions except of course for the district to hire him. He is one big fat loser along with his other fat buddy, Cook

Anonymous said...

Exactly who is Jon Butzon and what is the Charleston Education Network? They both seem to have a lot of influence on CCSD. The P&C always gets quotes from Butzon. Why? What makes him so quotable? How is this group funded? If Chas. Educ. Network gets public money or uses public facilities it should be open for public review, right? Is this a lobbying outfit or what?

Anonymous said...

Back to Mr Dixon. He's a great guy doing a wonderful job. In fact downtown has mostly good principals. The problem is the CCSD mess at 75 Calhoun. Bravo to Mr. Dixon!

Anonymous said...

Now if CCSD would let downtown schools keep the good principals it has and attract the best ones when positions do come open. If you think changing superintendents every 3-4 years is disruptive, try changing principals every other year. I agree, Mr. Dixon is doing a good job. And so is Ms. Sheets at CPA.

Anonymous said...

Babbie's right. SC has plenty of talent that's too often overlooked or undervalued. This blog raised questions months ago about how AMHS could be rated so high while the much more highly regarded Governor's schools (1 for arts in Greenville & 1 for math/science in Hartsville) weren't mentioned at all. Today's paper only now does a brief article on these schools but avoids the obvious difference. These schools have more appeal than CCSD's two most successful magnet schools. Also buried in the article is a brutal fact, if kids aren't prepared in the early grades, it’s much harder for them to rise to academic challenges later. William Dixon is trying to fix that crack in CCSD's approach to educating kids. He's daring to take a different road in a system that is so rigidly "coherent" that it fails most kids long before the kids fail in school.

Anonymous said...

Carpetbaggers have a biased view that SC is naturally backward. Unfortunately we have too many really dumb public officials in SC, especially on school boards, who agree with them. No wonder so many of our most talented students and teachers leave.

One M Simons said...

It may be a surprise to some, but we have some great educators here and some really great students. Most of them never develop beyond a certain point because our schools are geared to make them fit a narrow profile. This minimum standards profile doesn't challenge anyone to go beyond the limits of the system. Dist. 20's board chairman Marvin Stewart points out again in yesterday's issue of The Chronicle that CCSD continues to fail to meet "average" benchmarks among downtown schools because the county board has such low expectations for the city’s schools, faculty and students to begin with. People will often meet the expectations that are projected for them by school and community leaders even if the expectations are beneath their potential. Hurray for Principal Dixon for believing those at James Simons are capable of more. It’s a shame that CCSD expects and prepares for far less in downtown schools. I hope Mr. Dixon will continue to be an advocate for our school. I hope the new superintendent will see the need to attract and encourage people like this instead of holding them back.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the last comments. CCSD does not realize the potential of some of it current teachers and staff. It is not what you know in CCSD, its who you know. I aspire to get into administration, but I am always told that i do not have the experience. Someone must be willing to give you a chance.

The single greatest determinant of learning is not socioeconomic factors or funding levels. It instruction!!!!! Teachers and the committment of principals to monitor and or observe instruction more closely. Some principals stay in their office and talk the game. My principal has never been in my class to observe