Education commissioner reverses recommendation to remove Fleming County High School principal

vhoneycutt@herald-leader.comMay 16, 2014 

Kentucky Education Commissioner Terry Holliday has reversed a state audit's recommendation that Fleming County High School's principal be removed for lack of academic progress.

The 2014-15 school year will be a probationary year for Mark Leet, subject to requirements that state education department officials are finalizing, Holliday's spokeswoman Rebecca Blessing said Friday. She said Holliday decided that course of action was in the best interest of the school.

The audit's recommendation that Leet be removed prompted about 400 Fleming County High School students to walk out of the school in protest last week. Blessing said the protest did not factor into Holliday's decision to retain Leet.

Meanwhile, Tom Price, superintendent of the troubled Fleming County district since 2012, announced at a school board meeting Wednesday that he has decided to resign June 30. Price said Friday that the decision had nothing to do with a second state audit that questioned his and the school board's ability to lead an academic turnaround at Fleming County High School. Price said he is leaving because of health problems that he is concerned will grow worse under the rigors of the job.

State officials did not ask Price to resign, Kentucky education department spokeswoman Nancy Rodriguez said.

The state education department has designated Fleming County High School among 39 "priority schools'' that did not meet adequate measures of academic success. The designation requires diagnostic reviews or audits of the high school and of the district.

The state's audit said Leet did not have the ability to lead the high school's academic turnaround and should not remain as principal. The audit said the principal and school council were not monitoring student achievement data and had not created a positive climate for teaching and learning or a culture of openness.

Leet has said the recommendation to remove him was not warranted because the high school has been deemed "proficient" in the state's accountability system and was meeting benchmarks for academic success. Leet said he was more concerned about the high school getting an unfair review than he was about his job.

"I just didn't feel we were getting a fair representation of the improvements that had been made here," Leet said Friday.

Blessing said Leet has more work to do at the high school.

"It should be noted that while the school has made some improvement, primarily in its college- and career-readiness rate under Principal Leet, many deficiencies remain, as detailed in the diagnostic review, and must be addressed," she said. "Extending the probationary period will give Principal Leet the opportunity to continue carrying out school improvement efforts begun under his tenure."

Fleming County has had financial problems, too. Since fall 2013, Fleming County has been one of two districts in Kentucky designated as being state-assisted, meaning the state education department is helping district officials implement a plan to correct financial deficiencies.

Valarie Honeycutt Spears (859) 231-3409. Twitter: @vhspears

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