A colleague of mine shared this letter from her child’s beloved principal here in Western New York. Kathleen Knauth’s “early retirement” is another example of how the current education reforms are driving dedicated, child-centered leaders out of our public schools. With Mrs. Kanuth’s permission, I would like to share the letter to the parents at her school. You can follow Mrs. Knauth on twitter at @KathleenKnauth
(Click the scanned images to enlarge)
April 26, 2013
With much sadness, I will be taking an early retirement effective June 28, 2013. There are two main reasons. My philosophy of education and what I deem to be important for children are in conflict with the educational reforms implemented this year. Please allow me to explain the two reasons why, although they are actually interconnected.
During this school year, as your child’s elementary principal, there was little time to interact with your children, problem-solve, assist teachers and visit classrooms (authentic observations of teaching and learning). Essentially all my days were spent typing at the computer writing up teacher observations and evaluations. This was the first year for a complex new system. I knew it would be difficult for me, yet I still wanted to give it a try. I tried. I watched. I typed. We have always evaluated teachers in the Lancaster Central School District. I did not expect that this new system would impose such a drastic change in the job description, and did not expect that it would be so all consuming
New York State is directing us to test and test your children, now starting in Kindergarten and continuing every year after. It is excessive. Along with the more frequent testing, the rigors of the New York State assessments have also increased making me quite concerned for our children with special needs and/or high anxiety. In addition, some of the students who typically perform well academically are quite upset because they were not able to finish many of the sections of the tests in the allotted time. The State Education Department is telling us to expect fewer higher end scores on the tests, even with all of the teacher focus on the test and the extensive test prep.
The students’ scores are used to measure teacher growth and effectiveness and to help plan instruction. The State claims that we need these tests to determine if students are on the path to college and careers. The students get a number that impacts the teacher’s number and impacts the principal’s number. This is not the purpose of public education and I believe this practice is destructive in many ways to the children and to the teachers, and to education as a whole.
I have been so proud of the Lancaster Central School District and the community for the past ten years. The new teacher evaluation system and the increased student testing were not created by the Lancaster Central School District but imposed at the national and state levels. Lancaster has had an effective and thorough evaluation system for years.
The greatest blessing for the children and me has been the fabulous teachers at Hillview and throughout the district. It is my hope that they remain grounded and centered knowing the difference they make each day. Teachers are so much more than a number and so are the children.
I have truly enjoyed serving as the principal of Hillview Elementary School. My goals for parents were to be visible and easily approachable. Another goal was to resolve any and all concerns you had in a timely and effective manner. I hope I met your expectations.
Thank you for sending me children who are simply adorable, mannerly, and ready to learn. I will miss their hugs and their humor. I will especially miss their pure innocence. Whenever I needed a lift, there was a fix right outside my door. It was as simple as looking into the eyes of a child.
The past years have been filled with great memories and many laughs. This Dr. Seuss quote will guide me the next few weeks, “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened.”
Thank you for all of your support and the opportunity to be the principal of such a great school!
With warm regards,
Kathleen Carroll Knauth