JCPS transfers some staff out of Academy @ Shawnee - WDRB 41 Louisville News

JCPS transfers some staff out of Academy @ Shawnee

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Academy @ Shawnee (WDRB News file photo) Academy @ Shawnee (WDRB News file photo)

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- An assistant principal, the high school's only counselor and one longtime teacher were transferred out of the Academy @ Shawnee on Friday.

Shannon Sellinger has been the counselor for three years, Gary Motley has been an assistant principal for a year and William VanderMeer, the school's aviation magnet coordinator, has been there for 19 years.

Both Sellinger and Motley had put their names on the transfer list earlier this year, but were not expecting to leave until the end of the school year. Vandermeer, a favorite teacher among students and parents, did not ask for a transfer.

Sellinger was moved to the Jefferson County Traditional, Motley to Eastern High and VanderMeer to Central High, all effective Monday. JCPS officials unable to immediately respond for comment on Monday morning.

Students are off school until Wednesday, but it is a regular work day for JCPS staff. Teachers have a professional development day. 

Here is the full list of changes:

  • Assistant Principal Gary Motley isbeing reassigned to Westport Middle School
  • Counselor Shannon Sellinger is moving to Jefferson County Traditional Middle School
  • William VanderMeer, the school's magnet coordinator is moving to Central as an ROTC instructor.
  • Julie Chancellor, a resource teacher, is being promoted to interim assistant principal
  • Jason Willis, a former Shawnee resource teacher who was most recently at Eastern High School, is returning to Shawnee as a counselor 
  • Trevor White, an assistant principal at Westport Middle, will move to Shawnee to support the school as well.

The move comes less than a week after WDRB reported about all of the student fights and classroom disruptions at the west end school.

Erin Korbylo, whose son is a senior at Shawnee, said she was "taken aback and angry at the actions this past Friday."

"What truly worries me is, how is this, in any way, for the benefit of the students of Shawnee?" Korbylo asked. "College applications are due in 23 days and they decided to reassign the only remaining high school counselor? How does that benefit students?"

Korbylo says "relationships matter" especially given the rough time students have had this year.

"Especially to a student population like Shawnee. How does it benefit students to reassign Col. VanderMeer, who had been at Shawnee for 19 years and the kids in the middle school and the high school looked up to him and loved him?" Korbylo asked. "This makes no sense at all."

Korbylo said she is furious that parents and students have not been told anything about the changes. 

"These much loved adults were removed after school on a Friday with no chance to tell their students goodbye," she said. "So we have students returning to school on Wednesday to not find these adults in the building. And once again, they will feel like they have been abandoned."

More than a dozen students, parents and staff members have contacted WDRB in recent weeks for help after what they call a dismal response from JCPS.

"I have seen some really bad stuff...including kids getting their teeth knocked out, people were bleeding,” says. junior Ricky Sanders. “It has gotten to the point where the adults, they can't teach us.”

For decades, Shawnee has struggled with low achievement, attendance problems, transient and impoverished students, teacher turnover and dwindling enrollment. It is among the lowest performing schools in Kentucky.

Recent test scores show that only 17 percent of students scored proficient on the end-of-course Algebra II test, well below the district and state averages. In addition, only 28.5 percent scored proficient on the English II end-of-course exam, also below the JCPS and state average.

“We know that there are concerns and issues and what we are trying to do is really look at what is happening so that we can address those things very specifically,” JCPS assistant superintendent Katy Zeitz told WDRB last week, adding that despite the recent violence, she doesn’t think Shawnee is an “unsafe place to be.”

According to data obtained by WDRB in an open records request, there have been nearly 1,087 student behavior incidents reported at Shawnee since the start of the 2016-17 year, down from 1,314 incidents during the same time period last year. However, student suspensions through the first 54 days of school have increased from 154 last year to 266 this year.

In a statement released Monday afternoon, JCPS said they could not comment on the reason for the moves:

While it would be inappropriate to comment on the reason for specific personnel changes, JCPS is committed to deploying its resources and expertise across the district to align skills and capacity with schools’ needs.  Every decision and position is being considered for the good of Shawnee, and all new staff will be at the school, in their new positions, Wednesday morning.   Furthermore, we are absolutely continuing to support the magnet and all programs at Shawnee, and adding supports for seniors to complete their paperwork for college applications.

Related Stories:

'We are afraid' | Daily fights, classroom disruptions plague Academy @ Shawnee

(Reporter Antoinette Konz covers K-12 education for WDRB News. She can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.)

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