Doss High School principal to be replaced after poor leadership assessment

LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- The principal of Doss High will no longer be able to lead the school after a state leadership assessment has determined he does not have the capacity to continue the school's turnaround efforts. 

Ken Moeller, who has been the principal at Doss since 2011, could not immediately be reached for comment. 

However, in a letter emailed to families Thursday evening, Moeller said he was saddened to learn of the results.

"I will work closely with all stakeholders to ensure a successful close to the school year," he wrote. "I am confident in the staff's ability to remain focused on student achievement during this transition period. I am proud of the progress we have made and I truly enjoyed working with your children."

Meanwhile, the leadership assessments conducted at Iroquois and Seneca high schools and Knight Middle School found that principals there do have the capacity to continue to lead those schools.

Officials with the Kentucky Department of Education delivered the reports to Superintendent Donna Hargens and her staff on Thursday afternoon. The district has 30 days to appeal the decision, if that is something the school board decides it wants to do.

"Turning around a school takes many types of expertise,” Hargens said in a prepared statement Thursday night. “It is important to match the leader to the situation. We will now begin thoroughly reviewing (the state's) findings noting areas in which schools need continued progress as well as efforts that should be applauded and replicated.”

Doss was identified as a persistently low-performing school in 2010 and a previous leadership assessment conducted in 2013 found that Moeller did have the capacity to lead the school, with assistance from district officials.

According to most recent accountability results, Doss jumped from the 8th percentile in the state in 2013 to the 25th percentile in 2014 -- the biggest jump of the four schools whose reports were released Thursday.

Knight went from the 3rd percentile to the 5th percentile and Iroquois went from the 2nd percentile to the 15th percentile, while Seneca dropped from the 34th percentile to the 31st percentile.

However, test scores on end of course assessments at all four schools remain well below the state average.

At Doss, 38 percent of students scored proficient on the history exam, 29 percent scored proficient on English exam, 27 percent were proficient on the math exam and only 13 percent were proficient on the science exam.

At Seneca, 39 percent were proficient on English exams, 38 percent were proficient on history exams, 27 percent on science exams and 18 percent were proficient on math exams.

At Iroquois, 42 percent were proficient on history exams, 30 percent were proficient on science exams, 26 percent on English exams and 22 percent were proficient on math exams.

At Knight, 36 percent were proficient on science assessments, 28 percent were proficient on reading assessments, 27 percent were proficient on social studies assessments and 21 percent were proficient on math assessments.

The review team at Knight found that principal Catherine Gibbs is improving student, staff and stakeholder attitudes as well as school culture and opportunities for students.

"The principal appears to be a change agent, as illustrated by the numerous initiatives instituted in the school over the past nine months," the report reads. "She has earned the respect and admiration of both staff and students and has a passion for creating a positive, safe and supportive learning environment."

Results of leadership assessments for Seneca principal Kim Harbolt and Iroquois principal Chris Perkins found that both demonstrate visionary leadership and a strong capacity to continue leading their schools' improvement.

The leadership assessments were conducted by state review teams in January at seven of Jefferson County's lowest performing schools.

The other three schools -- Fairdale, Southern and Waggener high schools -- received their reports last month and showed that progress is being made towards improving achievement, but that some changes are needed.

The seven schools were placed in “priority” status as a result of a 2010 law that called for the Kentucky Department of Education to identify the state's lowest-performing schools and outline a range of interventions aimed at turning them around.

Priority schools are required to receive a diagnostic review every two years and are completed by a team of current and former educators, parents and others trained in the process, said Nancy Rodriguez, a spokeswoman for the state education department.

“The assessments gauge school effectiveness, reviewing academic performance, learning environment and efficiency within each school,” Rodriguez said.

As part of the review process, the review team spent two or three days at each school where they collected test data, interviewed faculty and staff, observed teachers and spoke with parents and students.

Over the past five years, a total of 18 schools in Jefferson County have been identified as priority schools for having chronically low test scores. Overall, there are 36 priority schools in Kentucky.

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

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