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Sherman: MVCS in a 'Corrective Action' This Year

Alexandria City Schools Superintendent Morton Sherman says changes at Mount Vernon now could help the community have more control over the school in the future.

Alexandria City Public Schools superintendent Morton Sherman says he is working proactively to improve by aggressively instituting and refining its corrective action plan.

The school is in a “corrective action” this year because of its failure to meet certain benchmarks after two years of school improvement plans and five years of failing to meet certain federal standards.

“The school has immense potential and before we’re caught and labeled by the state or federal government—with Tina Radomsky leaving it gives us the opportunity to review what a corrective action plan might mean,” he said. Radomsky, the school's principal, . She’s the school’s third principal in six years.

At the end of this school year, if the school doesn’t meet its Adequate Yearly Progress designation, it must take on “alternative planning governance,” Sherman told Patch in an interview. “I don’t know if [MVCS] will get out of corrective action.”

School AYP results are expected to be released in June or July.

Sherman said changes at MVCS now could help the community have more control over the school in the future. He wants to avoid with MVCS what happened to when the federal government “came in and declared it a persistently lowest achieving school.” With that infamous title came heavy sanctions and the government helped structure T.C.’s improvement plan.

The government requirements for T.C. included external lead partners and it might mean something similar for MVCS, according to Sherman.

As part of T.C.’s improvement plan, two consultants were brought in rather than going through a company such as Pearson, a firm that provides educational assesment products and services. Sherman added that the role of a principal changes during this period. For example, an internal lead partner at T.C. takes charge of a lot of the business functions and community outreach so that the principal can focus more closely on academics.

For Mount Vernon, “a year of planning doesn’t make sense. We’ve had some good success, and I don’t want the school to slip further,” he said.

Sherman has as of July 1. Sherman would like Mark Eisenhour to serve as an assistant principal, splitting his time between MVCS and Jefferson Houston School.

“To do an outside search to have a principal come in July or August… This is not just an issue of opportunity but imperative of time,” he said.

Sherman said the new principal would have broad latitude to work with parents and the school community as to the direction of the school, adding that ACPS is not considering taking away the modified calendar and dual language tracks at the school.

Under existing law, the school is required to come up with an action plan. “What I’m trying to do is say, 'Let’s not wait. Let’s put some other systems in place,'” he said.

Meanwhile, Virginia has applied for a waiver to the No Child Left Behind law, which, if approved, means the state’s schools wouldn’t have to meet the currently required AYP benchmarks. Instead, schools would be measured by achievement and achievement variances between a school’s population. NCLB doesn’t look at variances, but at the overall performance of a school, Sherman explained.

That could pose a problem for MVCS if the waiver is accepted. The test scores of students identified as white “are some of the highest in the city,” said Sherman, but other ethnic groups at the school saw a much poorer performance. The disparity between populations likely could trigger another poor performance rating for the school.

For example, MVCS test data show that 98.6 percent of white students are proficient in mathematics and 97 percent in English, but only 70 percent of black students showed proficiency in math and 72 percent in English. Just over 66 percent of Hispanic students showed proficiency in math and 59 percent in English. Only 30 percent of the special needs students passed their Standards of Learning tests.

“I don’t want to lose additional time at Mount Vernon. Had we waited until the end of April or beginning of May to decide on a new principal, we would have lost planning time,” said Sherman. “This timeline gives tremendous respect to the needs of the children. The school is one of the lowest achieving, and it’s imperative that we move this school ahead.”

Joanna Serth March 30, 2012 at 08:22 PM
I guess I just don't get it. Instead of performing an exhaustive search for just the right principal to lead MVCS, my son's school, into a successful future, they're going to shuffle existing personnel to save some time? I just... I don't know. I want so much more for this school. I'm not sure how to fix it.
Oscar Diggs March 31, 2012 at 12:47 AM
Joanna, another question to ask is "how will these changes in administration impact T.C. Williams?" If T.C. Williams is truly being successful with these administrators at the helm, as Sherman asserts, then why remove what is working? The T.C. "transformation" is in it's infancy. Is this really the best move to ensure the success of T.C. or MVCS? I think it is appropriate to question this decision. The reality may be that anyone new coming into the district may bring views which differ from those of Sherman. Better to use the indoctrinated few than invite newcomers behind the Wizard's curtain.
Mark March 31, 2012 at 01:01 AM
It appears that "corrective action" is needed in many places within ACPS. Sherman must go. http://alextimes.com/2012/03/possible-irregularities-found-in-acps-adult-ed-program/
Linda Kelly March 31, 2012 at 01:36 AM
Joanna-I think you may find that having someone come in who already knows ACPS will be a major advantage for Mt. Vernon. Having lived through a principal change at my kids' school that brought in someone from out of district, I would say it took about two years before things were settled and running well.
Nancy Drane March 31, 2012 at 11:50 AM
It would also be interesting to know more about his background and training. Does he have any experience in early childhood and elementary education? Even if an excelent administrator, there are differences between running a high school and running an elementary school.
Larry Altenburg March 31, 2012 at 11:53 AM
I'm not convinced that Mr. Sherman's approach is the only way to go. By pulling these candidates out of their current job to work at MVCS, what will keep him from doing the same thing in 2 years when the transformation at MVCS is in its infancy? Could these folks be considered interim while conducting a legitimate search that truly includes parent involvement? I don't want to discount the potential and qualifications of these heir-apparents, but I certainly don't appreciate the "just trust me" attitude that Sherman and the rest of the administration convey.
Joanna Serth March 31, 2012 at 12:42 PM
Linda - I know you're a huge cheerleader for ACPS but the performance results and leadership turnover at MVCS warrant skepticism.
Linda Kelly March 31, 2012 at 01:12 PM
Not sure if the candidate is the best one--don't know anything about him. Just trying to say that I think you are better off with someone who already knows the system. Have been through a transition with someone who did not and it was rocky.
Joanna Serth March 31, 2012 at 06:04 PM
I'm not sure I agree, Linda.

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