Seaford School District announces reassignment of eight administrators

By Lynn R. Parks

Changes are coming to the Seaford School District. Dr. Shawn Joseph, who took over the reins as school superintendent on Feb. 1, announced at Monday's school board meeting that eight of the district's 13 principals and assistant principals are being reassigned. "We are putting people where they will shine, and the kids will do better because of it," Joseph said.

Joseph is also making changes in the central office. He eliminated two positions and created two more. He also reassigned positions that were based in the central office to the schools themselves. "Lots of people were doing lots of things that took them out of the schools and away from the students," he said.

Changes will take effect July 1. Joseph's recommended changes in the central office were approved by the school board at the Monday meeting. His reassignments of principals and assistant principals do not require board approval. Board members praised Joseph's decisions. "We are on the same page here," said board member Frank Parks.

"All of our schools will be improving their level of rigor," board president Suzanne Farris said. "Not that good things weren't going on before," she added.

"Things will be happening across the board," Joseph said. "Our teachers will be supported and there will be a higher level of accountability and quality control."

Joseph said that the changes are necessary if the district is to achieve the vision that it has laid out, to become the best district in the state. "I believe that that's a tangible goal, but a lot of work has to happen," he said. "We have to have a laser-like focus on inspiring teaching and learning."

The necessity of change was reinforced by Seaford's most recent state test scores, released at last month's board meeting. "On average, we were below the state average," Joseph said. "That's not an indication of bad teachers, bad parents or that there's something wrong with our students. I feel like we are like the Redskins: We've got the quality of players but we just aren't getting the wins. We have to do something to start getting those wins."

Staff changes
Joseph had high praise for principals and assistant principals in the district, calling them "extraordinary." The transfer of some of them to different positions is necessary to "better support the kindergarten through 12th-grade continuum," he said.

Among the nine administrators who will have new jobs come July is Todd Fishburn, currently principal at West Seaford Elementary. He has been reassigned to be the new principal at Seaford High School.

Amber Deiter, currently assistant principal at the middle school, will be an assistant principal at the high school, in charge of the Delaware New Tech Academy. Clarence Giles will remain at the high school as assistant principal.

Current middle school principal Kimberly Simmons will remain where she is, as will middle school assistant principal Dave Grantz. Kelly Carey, currently principal at Frederick Douglass Elementary School, will be reassigned to middle school assistant principal.

High school principal Brice Reed will take over Carey's spot at Fred Douglass. He will be joined there by Rob Zachry, currently principal at Central Elementary, as assistant principal.

Zachry's replacement at Central has not been named. Chandra Phillips, currently in charge of New Tech at the high school, will be assistant principal at Central. Jeff Forjan, currently assistant principal at Central, will serve as principal until a principal is named.

Susan Nancarrow, principal at Blades Elementary, has been named principal at West Seaford, replacing Fishburn. West Seaford does not have an assistant principal.

The principal at Blades Elementary has not been named. David Hudson, currently assistant principal at Fred Douglass, will be assistant principal at Blades. Current assistant principal, Heather Bethurum, will serve as interim principal until a new principal is named.

At Blades and Central, where principals have not been named, Joseph will meet with parents and staff members before recommending a candidate, in a process similar to the one that the school board followed when it hired Joseph. "Our community has made it very clear that they want to feel welcome, feel valued in our schools and in our decision-making process," Farris said.

The candidates for Blades and Central principals as recommended by Joseph will have to be OK'd by the board. Joseph said that Bethurum, at Blades, and Forjan, at Central, will be able to apply for the principal positions. "I feel confident that we could fill them now," he added. "But I want to talk with the community first."

All of these changes are made possible, Joseph said, because contracts for administrators in the Seaford School District don't specify whether the person will work as a principal or as an assistant principal.

Salaries for those people whose jobs are changing will remain the same until their contracts expire and the salaries are renegotiated, he added.

Central office changes
Joseph has eliminated two central office positions, director of elementary education and director of secondary education. "In a district composed of six schools, separating the responsibilities of supervision between two executive leaders can decrease a sense of collaboration," he said.

And he has created two positions: director of school performance and assistant superintendent for teaching, learning and accountability. The director of school performance will analyze and report on student performance data, help principals and teachers establish and meet objectives and support newly-appointed principals and assistant principals. The assistant superintendent, in addition to serving as superintendent in Joseph's absence, will manage everything related to curriculum, assessment, accountability, technology and special programs. Putting one person in charge of all of those activities will enable the guiding principles of the central office to more easily influence what goes on in the classroom, Joseph said.

The director of human resources, a position held by Dr. Stephanie Smith, will become the director of human resources and professional development. Smith will be in charge of providing training for principals and assistant principals.

As far as the budget goes, Joseph said, the changes in the central office "are a wash." Director of administrative services Donna Blackburn agreed with that assessment. The changes "aren't raising any major red flags," she told the board.

Focus on training, rigor
Also at the central office, six instructional specialist positions that are currently assigned there will be reassigned to the district's six schools, one per school, to provide teacher training.

"It will be their full-time job to develop staff to make sure that our children are getting rigorous programs," Joseph said. Throughout the district, there will be an increased focus on training to ensure that teachers are doing the best job that they can. "We want a great curriculum, great teachers who understand the curriculum and children who are engaged," Joseph said. "We will be right there to help, hand in hand, so that if something isn't succeeding we can say, 'What can we do to help?'" The schedule at the high school will be changed to allow teachers to have enough time for training from the new teacher trainers.

In her new position as director of professional development, Smith will head up a training program for principals and assistant principals. Smith, who before being named director of human resources last year was the principal at Seaford Middle School, told the board that she is excited at her new responsibility. "When I was principal, we got professional development only when we sought it ourselves," she said. "It wasn't really supported."

In addition to training, there will also be an increased focus on the rigor of the curriculum, Joseph said. "Wherever I have gone, parents have asked me time and time again about the rigor of our programs," Joseph said. "We have to do something compellingly different."

At the elementary schools, Joseph plans to invest in new reading books that will combine phonics instruction with critical thinking and that will "meet the children where they are," including children who are reading above grade level. Teachers will be trained to use the new books to "make a more engaging reading program."

Training on the secondary level will also make sure that "teachers know how to create engaging, memorable lessons," Joseph said. "We will teach them how to help the children think critically."

Not change for change's sake
Board president Farris acknowledged that all of this is a lot of change for the district and the community to absorb. "But we wanted that," she added. "The community has clamored for big things. And this is not just change for the sake of change, but change to strengthen and develop our district.

"This can be the top school district in the state, in the country, even," she said. "We have dedicated, amazing professionals, committed parents and students and an engaged community. Working together, we can do amazing things."

"We are committed to making Seaford the college choice of the region, without question," Joseph said. "We want to make sure that all of our children are prepared for college when they leave here."

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