Superintendent Bernadeia Johnson this month opened her second three-year term --the first superintendent to be granted one in a dozen years -- with a summary of progress and her direction a for the work ahead.
Johnson is the first super to start a second term since Carol Johnson in 2000.
Johnson has instituted a series of major initiatives -- most notably evaluating teachers and having teachers develop a curricular sequencing called focused instruction. But even she admits that's not enough to move the dials on the district's persistent racial achievement gap.
That's why she's calling for a change in the relationship between the district and up to 30 percent of its schools, and a change in culture in which the district office is more oriented toward serving the needs of schools..
Johnson admitted that when she was a principal at what is now Elizabeth Hall International School, she chafed under district requirements that she didn't think were in the best interests of students but that the district wasn't likely to waive.
At the so-called partnership schools that Johnson seeks, teachers and their pirncipals would gain more freedom in teaching, testing, help for students needing more challenge or remedial help, school schedule and involving parents -- in exchange for being accountable for the academic results those changes yield. She emphatically noted tghat such schools won't be charter schools
Johnson said the payoff will be to better student achievement, a smaller racial gap and more family involvement.
She outlined those ideas in a May 13 speech to s specially summoned audience, and said that outreach generated some sort of response from more than 300 people, Some signed up for district mailings, some offered to volunteer.
Johnson's first term has failed to generate the broad sustained academic gains that there's increasing pressure on the district to produce, especially a consistent closing of the achievement gap. Its ability to gain some momentum on those goals likely will determine Johnson's prospects for retention at the end of her new term.
The district can show some progress. For example, Johnson noted that entering kindergartners in 2012 hit the district benchmark of 78 percent being reading-ready for school, based on assessments But that's also a reflection of how the district has shifted its goals to hit targets. Its original goal covered all incoming kindergartners but that was redefined to only cover incoming kindergartners who had been through the district's High Five pre-kindergarten program.
Johnson also cited first-term progress in working with parents, community and staff to develop positive behavior standards, openng Ramsey Middle School, a one-step improvement in the district's credit rating,