Testimony of Kristin Luebbert to the Board of Education, April 25, 2019

Good Evening Board Members and Dr. Hite, my name is Kristin Luebbert I am a teacher and member of the PFT and the Caucus of Working Educators. I am speaking tonight to urge you to vote against the contract for the Relay “Graduate” School to provide principal professional development in the district.

Of course, our administrators are in need of good quality professional development, but I do not believe what they need can be provided by outsourcing this task.  As Dr. McGinley pointed out at the last Student Achievement and Support Committee meeting, Relay is Not an accredited graduate school in Pennsylvania AND our principal development would be better provided by in-house educators.

There are several reasons for this: Of course our principals take many paths to becoming an administrator (and, unfortunately, lately, these paths are becoming shorter and shorter) and they cannot know everything about all student populations in a school when they take the reigns as the educational leader. Therefore, each principal needs specific and targeted professional development in order to enable them to be competent in their leadership.

Let’s say for example that a new principal was a 7th and 8th grade Social studies teacher and in now being asked to lead a K-8 school in which 30% of the students have special needs. First of all, this new principal has never taught a child to read and must learn what good reading instruction and best practices look like. This principal also must learn how to recognize excellent practice in autistic Support Classes, Multiple disabilities classes, hearing support classes, etc…. This principal needs targeted PD that enables them to best serve their community.

Or, let’s consider the new principal who was an elementary grade teacher but now must lead a high school with several CTE programs and a large number of English Language Learners. This principal desperately needs to know what comprises a good CTE program and what best practices they should be looking for. They also need to be apprised of the pedagogy and  and processes of language acquisition and development for ELLs. If they are not willing and able to learn these things they will fail both their students and their teachers. They also require PD targeted to their needs.

We cannot expect principals to enter their schools knowing everything about every program, but we can expect them to be eager and willing to learn how best to serve their school communities. The way to do this is to learn from the actual on-the-ground experts: the teachers, curriculum developers, coaches and program specialists who have worked in the SDP for years–not waste money on an outsourced ersatz Graduate school.