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May 13, 2014

Principals, teachers could be evaluated under new methods

CORBIN — By LeeAnn Cain / Staff Writer

Laurel County’s principals and teachers could be evaluated under new state-mandated methods following a vote to approve a certified evaluation plan.

The vote came Monday during the Laurel County Board of Education’s regular meeting.

Pending approval from the Kentucky Department of Education, the Laurel County school system will implement the state-mandated Professional Growth and Effectiveness System (PGES). This sets up two separate evaluation systems for teachers and principals, and these systems consist of several different elements that range from peer oversight to student surveys. These evaluation methods are meant to allow both teachers and principals to reflect on their reviews and find ways to improve student performance in the classroom.

The Laurel County school district’s existing methods of evaluation were updated to incorporate state-mandated evaluation methods. According to Superintendent Doug Bennett, the goal of PGES is to “ensure every student is taught by an effective teacher and every school is led by an effective principal.”

For teachers, the review methods include peer observation, in which colleagues will observe other teachers and provide feedback. The peer observation is not to be included in a teacher’s overall evaluation; according to Assistant Superintendent Denise Griebel, these evaluations are meant to be strictly formative. Also incorporated into the evaluation system is a student voice survey, which is an anonymous survey in which students evaluate their teachers.

Board Member Tommy Smith asked about the potential for negative comments from groups of students who dislike a particular teacher. Griebel replied the survey is for teachers only, and will not be part of their final evaluation. She stated its purpose was to allow teachers to reflect on why students may say certain things about them, and how they can improve upon their methods in reaching students.

All teachers must also be observed by their principal at least once a year. Board Member Charles Stuber asked whether or not principals would discuss their observations with the teacher, and Griebel replied that they did.

According to Griebel, principals have similar requirements to teachers, and they also receive evaluations and surveys from teachers rather than students. However, there are also some differences in how principals are evaluated. The principals must establish “student growth goals” and are subjected to a “50/50 Committee,” which is a committee comprised of 50 percent teachers and 50 percent administrators.

“There will probably be a lot of changes to this system after implementation,” Bennett said. He added the evaluation standards may be difficult to apply to staff such as teachers at Laurel County Day Treatment, who spend less time with students than a teacher at one of the other schools.

“The Kentucky Department of Education is driving this system,” Griebel said. “They’re the ones who want most of these changes.”

Griebel added that every school in the district has piloted the PGES system for the 2013-2014 school year, and there would be a “huge” training seminar all summer long for teachers and administrators to learn the new evaluation methods.

Following this approval, the evaluation system will be sent to the Kentucky Department of Education for final approval.

David Jackson and Kevin Cheek with Hacker Brothers were present to update the board on the progress of the new Laurel County Career Readiness Center. They had a slideshow with pictures of the construction in progress. The construction site is now fenced in, and stone has been laid down earlier than expected, which according to Jackson “set the tone for the site.”

He added, It’s very clean and very professional.”

The exterior foundation for the building is also complete, and the interior foundation is in progress. Around 1,000 feet of plumbing has been installed, which will allow water to be on-site during construction.The slideshow displayed the outline of rooms already planned, and it focused on a mechanical room in which geothermal systems will remain exposed for students to observe how they work.

“This is unique for the state of Kentucky,” Cheek said. He mentioned other high schools were thinking of incorporating similar buildings, and other districts were showing interest in the Laurel County Career Readiness Center.

In other board news:

–The board meeting scheduled for Monday, May 26 was cancelled due to it coinciding with Memorial Day. A special meeting will be scheduled. Bennett tentatively scheduled a special meeting for the following day.

–Third-grader Anna Hawkins was recognized for placing 3rd among all   students grade 3-5 in Kentucky int eh Governor’s Mansion 100th  Anniversary Art Contest.

–The South Laurel High School DECA Club was recognized for their attendance of the Regional Career Conference at University of Kentucky in January. Thirty students attended, and all of them placed and qualified to attend the State Career Conference. Eighteen students received first-place awards, and the South Laurel DECA chapter was recognized as having the largest membership in Region 5. In March, six students placed at the State Career Conference, and the South Laurel DECA chapter was recognize as the second largest membership in Kentucky.

–The North and South Laurel High School bass fishing teams were recognized for their performance in the Kentucky High School Athletic Association Bass Fishing State Tournament. Lane Williams and Gabe Blair from NLHS placed 6th, with Williams winning the Big Fish in Tournament award. Casey Collett and Austin Williams, also of NLHS, received 14th place.  From SLHS, Brian Longworth and Ethan Baker took 24th place, Wes Baker and Wade Ball took 34th place, Samuel Woods and Matthew Woods took 44th place, and Wes Baker won the National Guard Best and Brightest Award.

–The bands from North Laurel High School, South Laurel High School, North Laurel Middle School, and South Laurel Middle School were recognized for their hard work and large number of performances throughout the year.

“These are some of the hardest working folks in show business, these bands,” Bennett said.

–South Laurel High School teacher T.J. Scheithauer received recognition from Exxon-Mobil’s Teacher Appreciation Week campaign.

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