By CHRIS MENEES
Obion County Director of Schools David Huss said not all the recent transfers in the Obion County School System were related to the Balanced Literacy reading program.
He said his decisions were also based on school needs and budgets, keeping students’ best interest a priority.
His explanation came on the heels of a plea a concerned parent made to the Obion County School Board Monday night in the aftermath of Huss’ recent decision to transfer 54 teachers and administrators from one school to another school within the system.
Concerned parent Dan Huggins asked for teachers not to be moved around like chess pieces and children not to be used as pawns as he questioned the reasons and methods of the transfers. He claimed those concerned have been told the changes are about Balanced Literacy and about taking weak teachers and pairing them with strong teachers, but he asked the board to show data to support their weakness.
In defending the director’s decision, Obion County School Board chairman Brian Rainey responded by saying the board had asked Huss to fix Balanced Literacy “because it was not being implemented consistently across the county.” He said the schools with greater implementation had higher achievement scores.
Huss did not respond to any of the comments during Monday night’s board meeting and when The Messenger asked why he did not, he claimed he did not know exactly what Huggins planned to mention in his allotted time. Since then, he said he has reviewed the transfer list and broken it down in order to explain each move.
Huss said the transfers have to do with needs and budgets, and he said all the recent conflict surrounding the transfers has been “unfortunate.”
“I think what has been missed in dealing with the transfer issue is that not all of the transfers were related to Balanced Literacy,” Huss said Thursday.
In explaining the transfers, Huss said there were 18 transfers in grades K-3 — the grade span that Balanced Literacy is taught. Of those 18, he said he has heard directly from eight who do not have a problem with their transfer, noting two of them actually requested a transfer to a different school but to stay within K-3. He has not heard directly from four and said that leaves six who may not like the transfers.
The Obion County School System has a total of 534 employees.
Huss said student enrollment numbers must next be taken into account.
He said in the prior year, Black Oak needed seven K-3 teachers, but next year the school will need eight; in the prior year, both Hillcrest and Lake Road needed 14 K-3 teachers, but each will need only 12 next year; in the prior year, Ridgemont needed 10 K-3 teachers, but next year will need just nine; and, in the prior year, South Fulton needed 12 K-3 teachers and will need the same number next year.
“Our enrollment numbers projected for next year would account for approximately six transfers,” Huss said. “Our enrollment numbers, taken alone, would have required personnel being transferred to different schools. Therefore, when making the transfers, we must also look to the needs of next year to ensure our schools are adequately staffed. All of this taken into account, the majority of the 18 are either OK with the transfers or possibly would have had to be transferred anyway based on enrollment, budget and requests.”
Huss said of the remaining transfers, nine were within special education to address needs. He said the special education population varies by school from year to year.
Five Reading Recovery teachers were transferred and Huss said all of them are OK with the transfer.
“There were four principals transferred who all agree with the transfer. There were four assistant principal transfers who are all OK with the transfer,” Huss said. “Three of the assistant principals came from the classroom. Therefore, additional transfers were needed to fill these positions.
“There were 14 other transfers — of which five were principal- and teacher-requested; two have been transferred back to their original schools because of changed circumstances; I have directly heard from two others who are fine with the transfer; and I have not directly heard from five others. Even the teacher being mentioned by name at open meetings requested a transfer ‘above third grade.’ Her request was granted.”
Huss said although the 54 transfers are “an abnormal amount,” he can show Balanced Literacy was not the only reason for the transfers.
“There are numerous circumstances each year that cause teachers to be transferred, most of which are beyond the system’s control,” he said. “The number one reason most transfers take place in school systems relates to funding. Schools must live within available funding.”
Staff Reporter Chris Menees may be contacted by email at email@example.com.
Published in The Messenger 6.8.12