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Ritzman parents rejoice/new plan for flat-lining schools

By John Published: June 9, 2011

Akron Public Schools this morning  announced a leadership shakeup at 11 schools whose test scores have flat-lined in recent years. Some of those schools will get new principals, which means others will lose principals they love.

I got some excitable calls from Ritzman elementary parents this week who thought they would lose their beloved principal, Larry Bender, in the shakeup. The district had tagged him to lead Seiberling elementary, which is one of the 11 "turnaround schools." Parents were ready to storm next Monday's school board meeting.

For unavoidable logistical reasons, Bender was unable to complete the training  and is therefore ineligible for the Seiberling job. At the same time parents were delievering petitions calling for Bender to stay, he was sending out the "all-call" announcing that he would still be their principal.

The district is working with the University of Virginia to train principals, senior teachers and central office administrators to shake loose some of the bureaucratic hurdles that make changes hard to make in individual buildings. The two-year cost will be $75,000 per school, which will be paid out of federal grants for school improvement.

Cincinnati Public Schools went through the same program and saw dramatic results for the 16 schools that participated, which may have helped the district become the first big urban in Ohio to get an effective rating last year, a goal Akron long aspired toward. The first year of the program was completed last summer and 13 of the 16 schools showed measurable improvement.

Akron hopes to get similar "quick wins" in the first two years.

Here are the schools that are getting new principals and the schools losing principals:

McEbright, a turnaround school, is getting Jennifer Lucas, who is now principal of Sam Salem.

Robinson is getting Charles Jones, who is now principal of Findley elementary.

Seiberling is getting a new principal, not Larry Bender of Ritzman.

The three principals leaving the turnaround schools are replacing retiring principals in other schools.

Kenmore High School is a turnaround school that will get a new principal to replace the one who is retiring.

Crouse, Helen Arnold, Innes and Jennings all are turnaround schools that will keep their principals.

Buchtel High School, Akron Opportunity Center and Bridges Learning Center also are considered part of the new group of turnaround schools the district is calling the "impact network." They're undergoing other reforms the district announced last month and they'll keep their principals.

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