Manatee County School District Superintendent Diana Greene went before the State Board of Education on Wednesday, presenting plans to turn around Harllee Middle School and Rogers Garden Elementary School — schools that have repeatedly been deemed failures by the state metrics.
Greene started her presentation with a bold promise, telling the board she was not going to present turnaround plans to them ever again.
“This is the last year we’re going to have D and F schools,” she said. “This is the last year.”
But her plans were met with skepticism from the state, prompting Commissioner of Education Pam Stewart to meet individually with Greene to ask more questions. After making some stipulations, Stewart asked the board to approve the district’s plan — and after lunch, they approved Greene’s amended proposal unanimously.
Greene now must resubmit both turnaround plans with those stipulations included.
The state requires schools that are deemed repeated failures, as measured by the school grades, provide turnaround plans that include support and monitoring for the students attending those school. Schools with an F rating or two consecutive D ratings need turnaround plans. The 2015 grades issued by the state, based on new standards and new assessments, were not factored into the plans.
A school with an F or two consecutive Ds • Triggers a planning year for improvement • Two or three years of implementing a turnaround plan
This year in Florida, Manatee’s two schools and 44 other schools in 14 counties are in turnaround status.
The state board members met Wednesday with school officials at Indian River State College’s Pruit campus in Port St. Lucie. After Greene made her presentation, most of the board’s questions focused on the district’s plans for Rogers Garden Elementary School, which this year will include many students from the shuttered Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School.
The district had been in the process of a holistic plan to help the nine schools in Manatee County’s urban corridor when the turnaround was required for Rogers Garden, Greene told the board. Even before Rogers Garden was deemed to need a turnaround plan, the district had already set other plans in motion, including rezoning students from Rogers Garden to other schools and moving students out of the Orange Ridge-Bullock Elementary School facility into the Rogers Garden facility, which opened in 2009.
“It is a holistic approach. It isn’t just about Rogers,” Greene said. “It’s about that entire corridor that we have families of poverty living in.”
188 The number of traditional students who had to be zoned out of Rogers Garden into C schools or better due to the turnaround process.
But state board members want to be sure that the students who used to attend Rogers Garden will have the proper support and monitoring when they attend elementary schools that are graded as a C or higher.
Board member Rebecca Lipsey and Stewart were worried that moving students out of Orange Ridge, a D-rated school, and giving the school a new name and a new state-issued ID number would “start the clock over,” and put those students in danger of having three more years to fail before falling back into the turnaround category.
“I want to make sure I understand what’s happening,” Lipsey said. “There’s so many moving pieces. I want to be sure we’re really clear what’s happening. We need to think through all of the monitoring.”
We are a turnaround district, and part of the turnaround since 2013 has been the presence of Diana Greene. One of my legacies is I got her signed up to another four years. We are committed to student achievement and student learning for all of our students. This is our joint mission.
Karen Carpenter, school board chairwoman
Lipsey questioned whether only the students who were attending Rogers Garden and who have been assigned to new schools would be monitored, or if the turnaround plan applied to the students who were coming into Rogers Garden from a D school.
To solve that problem, Stewart recommended the Orange Ridge ID number follow the students to the new building, meaning the clock won’t start over. Then, if the Orange Ridge students aren’t being served well in the new building, it’ll be easier for track.
At Harllee, the district has already taken action to eliminate sixth-grade students, instead sending them to county middle schools that have a state grade of C or higher. The incoming seventh- and eighth-graders also have the opportunity to attend middle schools rated as C or higher.
The district will keep effective and highly effective teachers at Harllee. The school ran through three principals in three years, Greene reported, including moving one principal during the school year.
Verdya Bradley, the former director of school improvement, is now at the helm.
At the end of the 2016-17 year, Harllee will close as a traditional middle school, the remaining students will be rezoned and the school will be reopened for the 2017-18 year as a school for gifted students in grades four through eight.
Stewart recommended that at the end of the 2016-17 year, remaining students heading for the eighth grade must be assigned to middle schools rated as C or better.