The criticism comes on the heels of an efficiency and effectiveness study Brochu commissioned this year. Among other things, the study recommends laying off roughly 140 assistant principals and other staff and streamlining some schools. Some parents fear Brochu wants to diminish some of the selective academic programs aimed at high-achieving students to focus more on disengaged students.
Brochu said that is not her intention.
Others parents, such as Gina Janvrin, who has children at three district schools, are alarmed that the study says “it’s a bad thing that all our schools are different.” But that is what has kept her and many other families in the northeast Richland County district, where a number of high-end subdivisions have been built in the rapidly growing area in the past 10 to 15 years.
The school board is publicly united behind Brochu, though member Melinda Anderson cheered some parents last week, noting the board will move slowly on study recommendations by the Tampa-based Evergreen Solutions.
“It is going to be a collaborative effort to make this thing work,” Anderson said. “We are not going to rush through anything.
Part of the controversy involves the "phasing out" of retired educators who returned to work at district schools.
Those retirees, working under annual letters of agreement, have been departing in large numbers over the past two years. The Evergreen study, released in April, recommends phasing out about 145 such teachers over the next five years. Brochu and Burgess have said that will create a smoother path for younger teachers to gain experience.
“Katie’s hand on this is not great at this point,” he said.
Flemming acknowledged there are concerns with the study’s recommendations, including its finding that schools in the 25,000-student district are too individually distinctive.
He said he does not intend to back all of the study’s recommendations.
But he added, “I think as far as getting the budget right, getting people in tune to what she wants to do, getting the design team to look at the district as a whole, it’s very positive. It has been only one year and I think, at this point, I am pleased at the progress we’ve made, even though I’m disappointed about the things that people were upset about.”
Still, two former Richland 2 school superintendents — Brochu’s immediate predecessor Steve Hefner, now the Lexington-Richland 5 chief, and his predecessor John Hudgens, who retired in 1994 — took the unusual step of writing a letter to the school board in the wake of the Evergreen study.
They emphasized the importance of retaining the choice and magnet programs that have distinguished the district for many years and made it one of the top in the state.