Struggling Academy at Shawnee gets new principal - wave3.com-Louisville News, Weather & Sports

Struggling Academy @ Shawnee gets new principal

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Shawnee, which has about 550 students and offers high schoolers an opportunity to earn their pilot's license for free, has consistently been among the state's lowest-performing schools. Shawnee, which has about 550 students and offers high schoolers an opportunity to earn their pilot's license for free, has consistently been among the state's lowest-performing schools.
Doctor Houston Barber Doctor Houston Barber
Superintendent Doctor Donna Hargens Superintendent Doctor Donna Hargens

LOUISVILLE, KY (WAVE) - After shelving plans for a longer school day, Jefferson County Public Schools administrators named a new principal for The Academy @ Shawnee on Tuesday.

Doctor Houston Barber, who's been the principal at Fern Creek High School since 2007 and has led a turnaround in test scores and graduation rates, will take over the struggling West End school on January 6, 2014.

Shawnee, which has about 550 students and offers high schoolers an opportunity to earn their pilot's license for free, has consistently been among the state's lowest-performing schools.

"I think it's difficult when you don't have a leader," Barber said of the school, which hasn't had a permanent principal since the summer. "But we can't have excuses."

Barber said he wanted to see results right away, but said there were many ways to measure a school's growth.

JCPS administrators scrapped their proposal for more classroom time at Shawnee and an extended partnership with the University of Louisville after community criticism earlier this fall, instead deciding that a new leader was the best place to start.

"We realized we were missing a key variable here, and that is, who will be the next principal," Superintendent Doctor Donna Hargens said. "He understands the challenges, and he knows what works."

Hargens said she will allow Barber to make recommendations about future changes to the school's programs. A longer school day is off the table for now, pending more discussions with faculty members, she said.

The Shawnee Parent Teacher Student Association's members questioned Hargens' proposals and wanted a new principal all along, said Gay Adelmann, the group's president.

"The thing that caught people off guard is that (the longer school day) seemed to come out of left field," Adelmann said. "What I find incredibly impressive about (Barber) is that he's willing to step away from something known, comfortable and successful and take a risk."

Hargens said administrators will start the process of finding Barber's replacement at Fern Creek right away.

The school's progress won't slip because of the mid-year change in leadership, she said.

"I know people are disappointed," Hargens said. "I have a lot of confidence in the staff at Fern Creek."

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