AMITE--Melissa Stilley will be replaced as chief academic officer of the Tangipahoa Parish School System.
That's the word Thursday from Supt. Mark Kolwe. He took issue with comments from school board member Andy Anderson July 11.
"I am absolutely going to replace my chief academic officer," he said Thursday afternoon. "It's going to be relatively soon."
He could not say yet if the position will be advertised. Stilley will be leaving for her new state job. "Her official date of leaving is sometime in August, so we have some time."
It's a critical job even though "we do have a tight budget," he said.
Meanwhile, State Superintendent of Education John White welcomed Stilley to his Baton Rouge team in his talk to the Amite Chamber of Commerce at The Boston restaurant July 11 at noon.
"I am proud to have chief academic officer Melissa Stilley working with our staff," White told 83 Chamber members and guests. "She will lead 15 parishes across the state. We are going to be empowering school systems and teachers. We are going to have educators like Melissa to go to school systems and ask: what do you need?"
Kolwe did not attend the Chamber lunch with the state's top education leader. He planned to, he said, but got tied up with a couple of attorneys at the last minute and had to cancel.
As for rumors that Kolwe circulated a note asking folks not to attend White's talk, Kolwe said it is absolutely not true.
Board member Anderson said July 11 Superintendent Kolwe may draw on the two assistant superintendents to take over Stilley's work:
Stilley had the spotlight--and the hot seat--at many of the recent school board meetings in 2012. She explained the dense student test results that showed declines in Tangipahoa. She also shared the good news about a drop out rate that is on a good trend: fewer students leaving school. And she painted the vision of a new virtual learning by computer and the Internet for students and teachers. The board endorsed the plan June 5 and the Central Office must launch the program for students to learn at home and for teachers to educate and stay in touch with students from a distance.
Some consolation on Stilley's departure may be that Tangipahoa Parish educators and administrators have a high-level "go-to" person who understands the unique problems in parish schools.
--a deficit estimated around $8 million earlier this year.
--over four decades of second guessing by federal judges in New Orleans in a desegregation case older than many teachers.
--a new round of changes for nearly a dozen principals and assistants only a year into restructuring. The moves by Kolwe and staff surprised some board members and angered parents and teachers in their communities.
--declining state test scores.
--Tangipahoa Parish school dropout rates have declined from a high of 436 students in 2008 to about 254 in the current 2011-2012 school year.
Dropout students could not all fit in the school system meeting room back then. Today, the number of dropouts could easily fit in the school board meeting room which seats over 200. That’s what Tangipahoa school academic officer Melissa Stilley told the board and audience June 5. “We are heading in the right direction,” she said. Tangipahoa Parish is now ranked about 25th in the state among 69 school systems in the percentage change from 2008 to 2011. That’s good news, she said.
--new construction for probably three schools, including a new elementary school for the Amite area. This, too, will be overshadowed by a federal judge who must ultimately approve the school building plans and attendance district.
--35 students who have chosen with their parents the controversial voucher program to leave Tangi public schools and attend one of four independent or largely Catholic schools. A small trend, sure, but a controversial topic among teachers, parents, taxpayers.
--Tangipahoa voters can decide in November whether they want term limits on their school board members.
--The Tangipahoa Parish School Board endorsed a bold move June 5 for virtual learning by computer and the Internet that school board member Andy Anderson said is 20 years in the making.
The unanimous vote of support for Superintendent Mark Kolwe’s plans comes as the Tangipahoa school system faces overall declining scores on state tests revealed in May.
What the board and administration hope for:
--more electives for students in areas like math, science and vocations that schools in Hammond and Ponchatoula are able to offer in their classrooms and many in North Tangipahoa schools have not been able to provide.
--lower costs for textbooks.
--alternative programs for those expelled from a school. An expelled student could study in the virtual program from home and eventually graduate from his school.
--the ability to attract some of 500 home school students to become part of the Tangipahoa Parish school system virtual learning program, gaining a larger head count and ultimately more funding.
“Our primary goal is to provide more opportunity for our students,” said Melissa Stilley. “In this day and time we need to be more competitive,” she said while leading the board through 30 minutes of briefing slides June 5.
The Tangipahoa school district is the largest employer in the parish with an estimated 2,600 employees and 19,436 students.
On the Web: http://www.tangischools.org
What White's announcement said about Stilley July 9
Melissa Stilley of the Tangipahoa Parish School District will work with directly with school districts and provide support in the transition to the new Compass evaluation system and implementation of the Common Core State Standards.
Compass and the Common Core are the state's top instructional priorities and are critical components of Louisiana Believes, the state's comprehensive plan to empower educators and parents to make the best choices for children.
Melissa Stilley has more than 24 years of experience in the education field and has cultivated her expertise in educational leadership.
She served as the chief academic officer of the Tangipahoa Parish School System for the past four years, reporting directly to the superintendent of schools to advise the superintendent in all academic areas. Stilley oversaw four major academic departments, including special education, educational technology, federal programs, and K-12 curriculum and instruction.
Stilley's position entailed planning and organizing short term and long term leadership development opportunities for leaders across the district. Stilley is currently pursuing her doctorate, focusing on how district leadership and district conditions impact school principals' sense of collective efficacy.
Also named: Gayle Sloan, District Support Officer, Innovation Office, Department of Education (former Superintendent for St. Tammany Parish).
Gayle Sloan has been an educator for more than 40 years, serving as a teacher, school administrator and district official.
Sloan joined the Louisiana Department of Educationin 2010 to serve as its first District Support Officer and took the lead in jumpstarting significant reform measures in districts committed to deep levels of education reform.
Prior to her position as District Support Officer, she was the superintendent of St.Tammany Parish public schools for more than seven years. Following the devastation of Hurricane Katrina, she led the recovery of her school district, reopening just five weeks after the storm. Sloan was named Louisiana Superintendent of the Year in 2009 and President of the Louisiana Association of School Superintendents that same year.
"We are changing the way we work with districts through tailored support rather than top-down programs," said White. "We can work better and more efficiently by consolidating multiple offices into teams that customize support for school districts."
The Department of Education reduced 58 central positions this year, saving $8.5 million.
The new network structure will serve as the primary support vehicle for districts as they implement new evaluation systems and standards. School districts will fall into one of five networks statewide that will assist in translating educational priorities into outcomes for students. Networks will be organized partially by geography, size, and existing relationships. The Department solicited district input on the organization of districts into networks. After thoughtful district feedback, network groupings were reorganized and finalized today.
Each network will be supported by a team of instructional specialists who will be managed by a leader with education experience. These leaders will assess the unique needs and approaches of their districts and build upon those strengths to support implementation of instructional reforms. The network leaders announced today are Warren Drake, Superintendent of the Zachary Community School District; Kerry Laster, Deputy Superintendent of Literacy and former Superintendent for Concordia Parish; Gayle Sloan, District Support Officer in the Department of Education's Innovation Office and former Superintendent for St. Tammany Parish; Melissa Stilley, Chief Academic Officer for the Tangipahoa Parish School Board, and Francis Touchet, Principal of Erath High School. The Department has paired each network leader with a network, and these pairings are available on a final network map.
Networks will work closely with the Student Programs Division, which houses various federal and state programs aimed at supporting disadvantaged students, overseen by Stephen Osborn. The Student Programs Division will work directly with networks to improve communication and ensure that compliance efforts aimed at serving special student populations are aligned with instructional priorities.
"We must have the best leaders for our children and for our educators. I'm proud to say we have found them," said White. "These educators were in the trenches working alongside teachers. They know what tools are needed to help our teachers and students succeed."
Network leaders and teams will facilitate regular meetings with school districts to discuss what is working in classrooms statewide and what processes need further refinement. Network staff will work side by side with district and school level administrators to regularly observe practices at the school level, fostering alignment on quality instructional practices and effective feedback. Their work will include analyzing student and teacher data on which to base feedback and recommendations; providing technical assistance in developing evaluation systems and modifying curriculum; and assisting districts in braiding funds to better support transition to new evaluation systems and the Common Core.
While the implementation of Compass and Common Core will be led by each individual school district to meet local needs, a set of guiding practices developed by the Department in consultation with educators will provide a foundation that districts can use to achieve a successful, integrated implementation of these instructional priorities. These practices, which are being referred to as the core elements, include goal setting, assessment and content, feedback, collaboration, and the identification of teacher leaders. The new network structure will be focused on reinforcing these practices and supporting districts, as well as fostering district-level collaboration around key implementation issues relevant to the core elements.
About the Network Leadership Team
Warren Drake, Superintendent of the Zachary Community School District
Warren Drake led the Zachary Community School District from 2002 to 2012, overseeing the startup of one of the first independent school districts in the state. Under Drake's tenure, the student population in Zachary burgeoned from 2,500 to more than 5,300 students. Known for strong community support and outstanding facilities, Zachary has been recognized as the top performing school district in the state. In addition, the district is widely regarded as a model of excellence in areas of technology, arts education and athletics. Prior to taking the reins in Zachary, Drake served as principal of Tara High School and Assistant Principal of Broadmoor and Zachary High Schools.
Kerry Laster, Deputy Superintendent of Literacy, Department of Education (former Superintendent for Concordia Parish)
Dr. Kerry Laster served as an Assistant Superintendent of the Department of Education, overseeing literacy activities from birth-grade 12. She has served as a teacher, reading specialist, principal, curriculum coordinator and district superintendent for Concordia Parish. She is the recipient of the Louisiana Principal of the Year, the Louisiana Reading Association's Principal of the Year, Fulbright Memorial Scholarship Recipient, Louisiana PTA Educator of Distinction, and the U.S. Department of Education/National Association of Elementary Principals' Excellence in Education Award. Dr. Laster's bold reform as a principal led to the development of the first year round school in the state, which was named a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence.
Francis Touchet, Principal of Erath High School
Francis Touchet served as principal of Erath High School from 2005 to 2012. Under Touchet's leadership, Erath High School's performance scores increased continuously from an SPS of 101 in 2007 to an SPS of 140.8 in 2011, making it the number one public high school (non-selective admissions) in the state. In 2011, he was named the Vermilion Parish High School Principal of the Year. In 2012, he was selected to participate in the Louisiana Department of Education's first Executive Leadership Academy. Prior to his position as Principal of Erath High School, he was Assistant Principal of Erath High from 2002-2005 and Assistant Principal of Abbeville High School from 1998-2002.
Also included: Melissa Stilley from Tangipahoa Schools and former St. Tammany Superintendent Gayle Sloan.