Perry Central in October was one of 19 high schools rated as a “persistently low-achieving” school by the Kentucky Department of Education (KDE). The school’s rating was based on student achievement and performance under state and federal guidelines, and was followed by a thorough review administered by an assessment team appointed by the KDE.
One of the team’s binding recommendations in a report received by district officials on Thursday is the dismissal of the school’s principal and site-based decision making council. Their eventual replacements will be picked by Kentucky Commissioner of Education Terry Holliday.
Several students at the school didn’t take the news well.
“We’re not going to accept any other principal but Neace,” said Junior Samantha Barnes, one of several protesting the audit team’s recommendation. “He is the best principal you could ever ask for. He cares about every single one of his students.”
“You can’t get someone to replace him,” added junior Kylie Fugate.
Neace met with the students Friday morning in an attempt to restore order and have them return to class. He later told the Herald that he is still the principal of Perry Central, but the assessment team’s recommendation is binding and will go into effect on July 1. He added that he is also still reviewing the assessment team’s report, and with the school’s leadership team determining what their next steps will be to implement an improvement plan for the school.
“That’s the bottom line. I want the school to do better; I want the kids to do better,” he said. “For that to happen we’ve got to do a better job with instruction and make sure we focus on every child, not just a group of kids.”
Neace said as of Friday morning he is not sure what his future status within the district will be.
“I may finish the year out, may not, that part is going to be left up to the superintendent," he remarked. "He and I will need to talk about what my role needs to be for the remainder of the year, whether it’s here or wherever in the district, and then what my role will be starting July 1.”
Superintendent John Paul Amis noted that Neace’s recommended dismissal was not a decision made locally by himself or the county board of education, but was actually made at the state level due to a regulation regarding persistently low achieving schools.
“By regulation, if a principal has been at that school for three years or more, they are automatically removed if their school is classified as a PLA school,” Amis explained, adding that while Neace’s departure as principal won’t take effect until July, other aspects of the assessment team’s report will begin more quickly.
“Since they have already conducted their assessment audit, they have issued the written report, and in that report are some next steps that the school has to do,” Amis said. "That begins immediately, about developing a plan of action on how to address those concerns, and then implementing that plan and getting that process started.”
Neace added that the assessment report includes 52 recommendations and there will be a lot of work involved in implementing a plan of action for the school. And while he can remain as the school’s principal to develop that plan, he will not be allowed to implement it during the next school year.
In the end, Neace said it feels good knowing that his students care enough about to him to voice their frustration with the audit team’s recommendation, but at the same time he’s faced with uncertainty in regard to his career.
“It’s been a tough day so far,” he said.