Byck Elementary principal Robert Gunn resigning to take job at W - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Byck Elementary principal Robert Gunn resigning to take job at West End School

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Robert Gunn Robert Gunn

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Only four months after taking over as principal at Byck Elementary School, Robert Gunn has announced that he will resign at the end of the 2016-17 year to take a position at the West End School.

Gunn told WDRB News on Wednesday he will finish out the 2016-17 school year at Byck and start his new job in July working with Kelly Wright Henrion, the new head of school at West End, to oversee the elementary grades.

"JCPS has been very good to me and this was a difficult decision to make," Gunn said. "For me, this was just an opportunity for my growth as an educator. I'm not changing the group of kids that I have always worked with. I will still be able to work with the most vulnerable population in our city -- young men who come from challenged backgrounds."

Gunn had been the principal at Foster Traditional Academy until Jan. 23, when he was named the new principal at Byck by JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens. He replaced Tamara Darden, who accepted a job as a specialist in the district's human resources department shortly before winter break.

The West End School is an academically challenging, free boarding school for boys pre-kindergarten through eighth grade.

Gunn said he wants to work collectively with Henrion to "continually improve the West End School and the legacy that has been left by Robert and Debbie Blair."

He said he's also looking forward to learning more about fundraising and other areas in the private school sector.

Byck has been named one of Kentucky's lowest performing schools and was added to the state's priority school list in 2015. The school was the subject of a leadership assessment in 2016. 

The most recent diagnostic review of Byck conducted by the Kentucky Department of Education found that student performance data did not suggest that school personnel used data to monitor continuous school improvement, student learning, instructional practices and programmatic/organizational effectivenes.

Classroom observation data also revealed that highly effective instructional practices were not consistently implemented across the school.

Darden been the principal at Byck since 2007, but despite the findings of the diagnostic review, she was found to have the capacity to lead the school's turnaround efforts

However, test scores dropped again during the 2015-16 year and show that only 13 percent of students were proficient in reading, 24 percent were proficient in math and 9 percent were proficient in writing.

At the time he took the job at Byck, Gunn said he wanted to "help move the school out of priority status and help the students there achieve better."

On Wednesday, Gunn said he is "very confident that there will be some great gains made" at Byck. 

"There is a great team in place there," he said. "We've done a lot of work in improving the school's culture and have worked to increase professional development for teachers in reading and math. I think that both of those things will positively improve student achievement."

Gunn has been with JCPS since 2005. He graduated in 2002 from Earlham College, earning a bachelor’s degree in psychology. He received his first master's degree in teaching from Lindenwood University and received his second master's in instructional leadership and administration from Bellarmine University.

A spokewoman for JCPS said the search for a new principal at Byck will begin immediately.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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