School board faces tough call on interim leadership proposal

The Monroe County Community School Corp. board is in a tough spot. It needs to decide – quickly – whether to accept or reject a proposal by the corporation’s 25-member instructional leadership team to serve together as interim leader of the district while the board searches for a new superintendent.

The alternative is to appoint an interim superintendent until a long-term successor is chosen for Superintendent J.T. Coopman, who will retire Dec. 31.

The school board will discuss the team leadership idea Tuesday in a closed executive session. The next regular public meeting at which it could vote on the decision is Dec. 14.

The MCCSC instructional team, consisting of principals and the directors of elementary and secondary education, made the case for its leadership proposal last week at a school board work session. The unity and enthusiasm shown by the group were remarkable – all 25 people spoke and all endorsed the proposal. Members attributed the idea and their shared sense of purpose to the Professional Learning Communities model that the MCCSC adopted under Coopman.

School board members said they fully support Professional Learning Communities, but several expressed skepticism about leadership by committee. If they reject the proposal, it may be a challenge to do so in a way that doesn’t appear to be a slap at the PLC process.

The Nov. 30 school board work session was recorded by Monroe County’s Community Access Television Services. It will be re-broadcast several times this week on local cable channel 14. It can also be viewed online at catstv.net. It makes for surprisingly compelling TV.

In fact, anyone with strong interest in local schools and about five hours to spare could pair the work session with Saturday’s Support Our Schools forum, also being shown by CATS. The forum included insightful comments by former MCCSC officials, current city and county officials, parents and community members on a wide range of issues related to local schools.

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Bennett joins ‘Chiefs for Change’

Indiana Superintendent of Public Instruction Tony Bennett has joined with chief school officers from four other states to launch Chiefs for Change, a group pushing for aggressive education reforms.

The organization formed this week in Washington, D.C., at a summit sponsored by the Foundation for Excellence in Education, a think-tank headed by former Florida Gov. Jeb Bush. Other members are Paul Pastorek of Louisiana, Eric Smith of Florida, Deborah Gist of Rhode Island and Gerard Robinson of Virginia.

As for priorities, Education Week reports, “The five education leaders put these at the top of their list: ‘value-added’ ways of evaluating teachers and principals; more rigorous accountability systems based not on inputs but results; raising academic standards; and expanding school choice. The chiefs don’t walk in lock step on the choice issue, though. They said they all agree that students should have more charter and virtual school options, but some of the chiefs ‘may not go as far as others’ on other forms of choice—an apparent reference to vouchers.”

The list matches the agenda that’s been promoted both by Bennett and by Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels. Bennett said the five “kind of started our own union, a children’s union” that puts the interests of students first, Education Week said.

More executive sessions posted for MCCSC board

The Monroe County Community School Corp. board has scheduled not one, not two, but three closed executive sessions next week:

— Monday at 9 a.m. for new board members to be trained in their role as public officials by a trainer from the Indiana School Boards Association.
— Tuesday at 5 p.m. to receive information about or interview candidates for employment.
— Wednesday at 5 p.m. to consider a job performance evaluation of an employee.

The board will also have a work session at 5:30 p.m. Wednesday at the MCCSC Administration Building to discuss the process for selecting a superintendent to succeed J.T. Coopman, who is retiring at the end of this year. Work sessions are open to the public, but there’s typically no public comment.

At Tuesday’s executive session, the board will apparently “receive information about” options for temporary leadership until a superintendent is hired: i.e., whether to name an interim superintendent or to accept a proposal for an executive council of MCCSC administrators to take charge.

“There will be no vote (Tuesday) as it is illegal to vote in exec. meetings,” board president Jeannine Butler said by e-mail.