Archive for Thursday, September 18, 2003

Resignation stuns Glenwood Ridge

September 18, 2003

Glenwood Ridge Elementary School students and teachers signed a large card this week, wishing former principal Tom Sack farewell and good fortune.

The card was a sorrowful reminder of the turmoil at Glenwood Ridge over the last several days.

On Friday, Sept. 12, Sack, the school's sole principal in its brief three-year history, resigned in the wake of alleged improprieties in student assessment testing.

"It was my failure to follow some testing protocol that has caused concern over the Glenwood Ridge Elementary (School) 2002-03 state assessment scores," Sack said in a written release to The Sentinel. "Since I was principal, I was responsible to make sure those tests were given and taken in a very strict testing environment. I made a mistake by not following that protocol and I am now living with the consequences.

"When my alternatives were considered it became abundantly clear that my immediate resignation was the only way to handle the situation."

The testing in question occurred last spring when Glenwood Ridge students took state assessments required by the No Child Left Behind Act. The elementary school received state standards of excellence in reading and math, two benchmarks used in monitoring annual yearly progress.

According to school officials, results of the tests revealed the elementary school fourth-graders were credited with an average of 100 percent proficiency in math and fifth-graders were given a 95 percent rating in reading. In 2002, those marks were 77 percent in math and 61 percent in reading.

When school officials learned of the testing improprieties during a curriculum and instruction meeting last week, they immediately reported the possible violations to the Kansas State Department of Education, the officials said.

This week, the department of education informed the school district that the tainted tests were being thrown out and that Glenwood Ridge would be placed on the lists of schools not meeting annual yearly progress. (see related story, page 1A)

The circumstances and extent to which the improprieties occurred is unclear at this point. Under Kansas law, the school district is precluded from commenting on matters pertaining to employee privacy.

The Basehor-Linwood School Board approved Sack's resignation in a meeting Monday, Sept. 15 and released a statement the following day. The school board met in an emergency meeting Friday, Sept. 15.

"The board of education fully supports our superintendent and administration," the statement said. "We commend them for the way they handled a difficult situation and for making the right choice by calling the state department of education and self-reporting alleged improprieties. We also support the staff at Glenwood Ridge Elementary and their outstanding efforts to provide quality education to students."

Brenda De Groot, director of the Basehor-Linwood Virtual School, has been named as the interim principal at Glenwood Ridge. The move is temporary, school officials said.

"We'll put someone in there who people know and trust and has experience in the school district," superintendent Jill Hackett said. "This has been a very difficult issue to deal with."

Sack, who has been an educator in Basehor-Linwood for the past 11 years, began his career as a teacher at Basehor Elementary School in 1992. In 1996, he was promoted to assistant principal at BES and three years later, in 1999, he became the principal at Glenwood Ridge, then a new school.

Sack was well liked among faculty, parents and students.

"He was great to work with, very supportive and loved helping children," said Daveda Leppke, president of the Glenwood Ridge Parents and Teachers Organization.

In his tenure, Sack introduced programs such as family math night and family science night, in which students and their families participated in games designed to help students in those subjects.

The schedule of events and programs are not expected to change in light of Sack's resignation.

He also coordinated and implemented barbecues at Glenwood Ridge for new families to the area.

"There is a sense of community here and I think Tom instigated a lot of that," Leppke said.

She said the PTO hopes to learn more in coming weeks about the former principal's exodus from the school and the circumstances surrounding it.

"Everyone just wishes they knew the truth," she said.

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