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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Almost 50 teachers at Myers Middle School will have to re-apply for their jobs as the school changes tactics to improve persistently low student test scores.
The Jefferson County Board of Education on Monday night approved a hastily-drawn plan to adopt a "restaffing" model for the school starting in August.
The idea is to bring a change in teaching staff and in a culture that has not helped Myers students improve beyond the lowest percentile of schools in the state, nor in individual subjects. Recent test results show 11 percent proficiency in math and 23 percent proficiency in reading skills.
Myers is one of five JCPS schools declared by the state as troubled and low performing two years ago. That group of five is among a larger group of 18 schools in the midst of various restaffing or "transformation" models.
Myers had adopted transformation as a strategy starting in the 2012-2013 school year. It tied teacher incentive pay to student test scores with few positive results, school principal Jack Baldwin said.
The school "moved backwards" under transformation, said JCPS chief academic officer Dewey Hensley. It needs "real, fundamental change," he told the school board.
Hensley and Baldwin seek "the best turnaround teachers" who have a mission and purpose to prepare students, Hensley said.
Myers, on Pulliam Drive in Hikes Point, must replace up to 50 percent of teachers, according to state rules for restaffing. Current teachers may reapply for Myers positions or transfer to other JCPS schools. Their contracts guarantee employment in JCPS.
"The level of challenge takes a special breed" of teacher, Baldwin said. He and district 7 school board member Chris Brady acknowledged some Myers teachers may not be comfortable in a turnaround situation.
"It's finding that right fit," Brady said.
New or experienced teachers are both welcome at Myers if they are ready "to commit... or recommit to the current challenges we have," Baldwin said. "The talent pool out there looks very good."
The school should be able to improve its test scores over the next two school years with the restaffing plan, Baldwin said.
"I feel like the doctor... is just changing the medicine I have," said district 2 board member David Jones. He compared current issues at the school to a lingering illness.
"Is the diagnosis (that) you have the wrong mix of teachers?" Jones asked.
"We're going to have to reorganize and (bring about) a cultural shift within the building, Baldwin said.
Baldwin and Hensley drew up the plan starting on Valentine's Day, when Baldwin said he first became aware Myers could be eligible for federal funding under a school improvement program administered through the state education department. The deadline for applying is Thursday. It was not clear Monday night how much the grant pay.
Baldwin and Hensley apologized to teachers who learned of the plan from local media Monday, rather than from administrators first.