MPS Decides to "Vacate" Lee High School

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By Morgan Hightower

Touting a dynamic concept of a focused team approach to education, Montgomery County Schools Superintendent Barbra W. Thompson thanked the MPS Board of Education for supporting her decision to restructure Robert E. Lee High School for the fall of 2012.

“Lee has a wonderful tradition,” said Superintendent Thompson. “We are focusing on restoring that tradition by putting the programs and the people in place that will provide students with the instruction, tools, and student/teacher relationships needed to succeed.”

The board voted to “vacate” the school, non-renewing non-tenured teachers at the school and moving tenured teachers out of the school for now. Under the No Child Left Behind Act and Alabama school accountability procedures, schools that are in school improvement for four or more years may be restructured without violating the tenure laws. Lee High School has only made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) once in seven years. That milestone came during the two years Superintendent Thompson has been leading the system.

A number of new strategies, including implementing Zone Support Teams, grade and credit recovery programs, collaborative teaching techniques, ninth’ grade learning communities, career academies, and at risk and graduation coaches have been put into place. While these programs have produced positive results, this team plan is expected to take Lee to the next level.

Board President Charlotte Meadows sees the move as a positive one.

“The new leadership at Lee has been working very hard to improve student achievement,” said Mrs. Meadows. “I have confidence in the administration’s ability to build a famiLEE around a vision for a better Lee High School.”

Under the restructuring process each certificated employee at Lee may reapply for a faculty position. Candidates for the new Lee Team will interview with a panel of administrators and subject-matter experts who will not only look for credentials and experience, but for teachers who have a track record of outstanding performance and teamwork.

“Using federal funds, we are going to offer a series of financial incentives for the teachers at Lee to impact student performance,” said Superintendent Thompson. “We are also going to have intensive staff development over the summer to ensure our teachers are ready to go from the first day of school.”

Each “Team Lee” teacher will receive an annual stipend for this two year contract – subject to repayment should the teacher leave before the end of the period. There will also be an annual bonus for participation in and implementation of professional development, attendance at school, a supplement each semester to provide tutoring to students, and an annual bonus for teachers whose students show specific improvement. We are using standardized test to document performance. The tests include Advanced Placement exams for all grades, the STAR reading and math exam for ninth and tenth graders and the ACT and graduation exams for juniors and seniors. The total supplemental incentives could be as much as $10,000 per teacher over two years.

Current plans are for the 15 new Teach for America teachers to join the team at Lee High School this fall. Each TFA teacher is certified and meets Highly Qualified status. They also receive specialized training on teaching strategies.

Teachers who are currently at Lee will be who choose not to reapply to the school or who are not selected for the team will be non-renewed or transferred to other schools. There are currently 118 certificated staff members at Lee. Support professionals will not be impacted by this move though some changes are possible at the end of the school year. Principal Lorenza Pharrams and two assistant principals who were recently transferred to Lee will remain in their current positions.

Other school systems in the state have successfully used the restructuring method to improve school performance. If successful at Lee, it is possible that other schools in Montgomery County may be considered for restructuring.

Board Member Mary Briers supports the concept.

“This is an exciting new concept for our system,” said Mrs. Briers. “The board supports this proactive move by Superintendent Thompson to transform Lee High School. This is a response to the communities’ request for change.”

(Information Source: MPS)

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