Richland 2 Board: Superintendent gets qualified thumbs up

cclick@thestate.comOctober 24, 2012 

Richland 2 school board members gave Richland 2 superintendent Katie Brochu a guarded thumbs-up Tuesday night, saying “we believe we are on the right track” while requiring her to improve her community relationships, moderate her top-down management style and deal urgently with low-performing schools.

The board asked Brochu to provide by Dec. 3 a detailed response to the performance review, including an itemized accounting of the costs of the professional development program she has advocated since her arrival in July 2010.

“I look forward to specificity,” said board member James Manning. “I think we need to be clear that what we are doing in the classroom is working.”

Brochu’s allegiance to the concepts of the nonprofit Schlechty Center and educational development consultant Phillip Schlechty has created some controversy in the district, but Tuesday night some teachers stepped forward to praise Brochu and detail how the training had made them more energetic teachers and their students more engaged.

“We are on the right path. Stay the course,” said Jessica Fox, a seventh grade science teacher at Muller Road Middle School. Fox said she was sent by the district to San Diego to attend High Tech High and came back with innovative ideas to share with students and fellow faculty. Fox was echoed by other teachers and a principal who praised Brochu for her leadership.

“My staff and administrators are proud and blessed to work under the leadership of Dr. Brochu,” said Andrew Barbone, principal of Summit Parkway Middle School.

For Brochu, the accolades came as an antidote to Monday’s night’s sometimes tense public question-and- answer session with board members who suggested her administration had sown discord in the teaching ranks of the once-unified district.

At least two board candidates, Stevie Johnson and Jennifer Richter, have entered the race for the Richland 2 school board because of fears the district is splintering and losing academic ground. Seven candidates, including incumbents Calvin “Chip” Jackson and Susan Brill, are vying for three seats.

The 26,000-student district has seen explosive growth over the past decade, with many families drawn to its magnet programs and distinctive school culture. But the district is also wrestling with educating more students who are in poverty and more transient students.

Jackson, the board chairman, said the district would soon make public the results of a confidential survey of 1,900 district employees who answered questions about the climate of the district, which could provide key observations about the Brochu administration. The survey is being conducted by an outside firm based in Herndon, Va.

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