Fayette academy to have principals for intermediate, primary centers

Starting this fall, each building at Lexington's Booker T. Washington Academy will have its own principal.

The move is intended to foster more efficient operations, and boost achievement at what has been one of Fayette County's lowest-scoring schools.

Principal Wendy Avila, who has been running both buildings, will head the academy's Intermediate Center on Price Road.

Superintendent Tom Shelton will name a second principal to run the Booker T. Academy Primary Center on Howard Street. It also will eventually get its own site-based council.

Each building has about 370 students. The Primary Center has grades pre-K-2, while the Intermediate Center has grades 3-5.

Shelton announced the plan Wednesday night at a meeting of parents at the school. Parents said generally that they like the idea of two principals. Several said, however, that all Booker T. students eventually should be under one roof — a concept Shelton said he also supports.

Several parents also said the neighborhood's racial and ethnic makeup should be considered in naming a new principal. Shelton said he "couldn't agree more." He said he hopes to name a principal by July 15.

The switch to two principals stems from various problems with having just one principal running both buildings, Shelton said in an interview.

"We're not separating the two schools, we're simply appointing a principal at the primary building so that we will have a principal at each place," he said. "It's been very difficult from a leadership perspective for a principal to serve two different buildings.

"I've heard over and over that the staff feels like they have a part time principal at each building now, and that it's unfair to both buildings."

Among other things, it's difficult for parents to schedule meetings with Avila because she's shifting back and forth between the two buildings every day, officials said.

"We feel like having leadership in each building will help us build capacity to where we can raise student achievement in both buildings," Shelton said.

Booker T. was the district's lowest performing school last year on Kentucky's new K-Prep statewide test, according to Fayette Schools officials. Booker T. ranked in the third percentile statewide, with an overall score of 39.0 out of 100.

In reading, for example, 45.8 percent of Booker T. third-graders; 47.4 percent of its fourth-graders; and 50.5 percent of its fifth-graders ranked as novice, the lowest level on the state test.

Only 25 percent of Booker T. third-graders, 23.6 percent of fourth-graders, and 16.8 percent of fifth-graders were proficient or distinguished in reading, according to the Fayette Schools.

Booker T. has large percentages of low-income and immigrant students — groups that typically trail their peers in achievement. Some 81 percent of Booker T. students qualify for free or reduced-price lunches, while 24 percent are Engligh-as-a-second-language students.