Same direction, new method
An eight-year partnership with a Kentucky-based think tank that many school officials have praised and some community members have criticized is set to end this fall. The Schlechty Center is an organization that has provided professional development that school officials said assisted them in implementing teaching techniques and other changes that helped students and staff. Gilreath said because of that partnership, more than 80 employees are trained to teach the same methods Schlechty employees taught.
“I felt like, and our leadership felt like, now we’ve built capacity and we will be able to continue the direction without having to pay an outside source,” she said.
The school system has spent well over $1 million on the Schlechty Center since 2005, funding it through state and federal grants that can be used only for professional development. During that time, there were occasional community complaints — and sometimes whispered concerns from employees — about taking teachers out of the classroom several times a year for training. Gilreath said she’s had that concern too and hopes to address it with the new staffing and training plans.
The superintendent said ending the partnership when the roughly year-long contract with Schlechty expires Sept. 30 could save the system a small amount of money since the federal dollars required a 25 percent match in local dollars. Yet the net effect of all the changes is expected to be close to cost neutral. Perhaps three or four employees affected by the personnel shakeup will see their salaries decrease by some amount, Gilreath said, while several others will get paid a little more.
“Nobody got a big raise,” she said. “What we tried to do was look at the responsibilities of the jobs, the number of people reporting to them, and kind of do a range of salaries.”
Gilreath said she’s built rapport with people in the school system since she was hired in 2001 and hopes employees will continue to trust her and feel comfortable coming to her with concerns.
“I don’t want to be just sitting up here making decisions by myself,” Gilreath said. “I need input. I think I’ve been in the system long enough (to build rapport). I just hope that doesn’t change since I’ve changed offices.”
Board member Rodney Lock, who often expresses concern about changes even when other board members don’t, said he is comfortable with the moves.
“I believe Judy will do a good job,” he said. “Everything she’s done (on the recent changes), she’s kind of run by us. She’s very open and honest about things and very approachable.”