How is the outside operator doing?
The School Board will hold a special work session to discuss the progress of Evergreen Elementary School, which has been under the supervision of an outside curriculum company hired six months ago to help improve student performance.
The special work session is scheduled for 3:30 p.m. on Jan. 22 before the regular School Board meeting, which begins at 5:30 p.m. The session was scheduled so board members could ask questions of Evergreen’s outside operator, Educational Directions.
Evergreen received D and F grades for six consecutive years and the state Department of Education gave the district three choices: close Evergreen, convert it to a charter school, or hire an outside operator. The board voted last spring to seek an outside operator.
Kentucky-based Educational Directions launched its programs in August. The board must decide whether the Educational Directions concept is working at Evergreen.
After last summer’s grades were released, Oakcrest Elementary joined Evergreen on a watch list of schools that must improve to a C this school year or face further state intervention in 2019-20.
The problem is that the state requires the board to have contracts with outside operators before the grades come out during the summer.
The board wanted to hear from Educational Directions about practice test data to see if the company’s system was helping students improve. The board members need some guidance to determine if they will contract with Educational Directions again at Evergreen and/or Oakcrest.
School Board member Beth McCall is concerned about Educational Directions. She said she has visited Evergreen several times and rarely finds company officials on campus. Educational Directions implements the curriculum and the district supplies all the teachers, administrators and supplies as needed.
“We are paying them $400,000 this year,” McCall said. “I want to ask them how they can run Evergreen when they are only there every other week. I want to ask questions to make sure we are getting what we paid for.”
Board Chairwoman Kelly King said she is looking forward to hearing from Joe DeSensi, president of Educational Directions and son of the founder. DeSensi, who could not be reached for comment, has appeared at state Department of Education meetings to report on the progress at Evergreen.
The district must create a timeline of hiring outside operators for Evergreen and Oakcrest. The timeline is due to the state by Jan. 31.
The board must have conditional contracts with outside operators in place at both schools by early May, even though grades are not released by the state until June. That means that if Evergreen and/or Oakcrest do not earn a C, then contracted operators can be ready to start by August.
“I think we definitely need to hear from Dr. DeSensi,” King said. “We need all the data, which will help when we start choosing operators for Evergreen and Oakcrest.”
Superintendent of Schools Heidi Maier wrote in an email that “the School Board’s external operator is in charge of Evergreen’s academic success at this point.”
“We know there are great teachers and administrators at the school, and we continue supporting them with extra staff, supplies, curriculum support, facilities maintenance, etc.,” Maier noted.
Joe Callahan can be reached at 867-4113 or at email@example.com. Follow him on Twitter @JoeOcalaNews