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JMA: Head of Arlington school for deaf children departs

Head of Arlington school for deaf children departs

November 22, 2011


[email protected]

ARLINGTON — The superintendent who has helped Jean Massieu Academy, a
charter school primarily for deaf children and their families, improve its
financial and academic standing with the state has departed the charter
school for undisclosed reasons.

School board members this week declined to comment on whether Kathi Johnson,
who was hired initially as principal for the 2008-09 school year, was
terminated or left voluntarily.

It is unclear exactly when Johnson left her job.

Board members referred questions about Johnson to Board President Jane Ann
Shelton, who declined to comment Tuesday.

“The board won’t be making any comment in relation to the personnel
situation,” Shelton said through a sign-language translator in a telephone
interview. “We just don’t want anything negative impacting the school.”

Johnson could not be reached for comment.

The Texas Education Agency released the school from conservatorship in
September after its academic and financial accountability ratings improved
to acceptable. But the agency said that more work is needed.

Performance issues

Board member Rebeka Gillilan declined to comment on how Johnson departed but
confirmed that she was no longer with the school.

She said the school “was not moving in the direction that we as the board
and the rest of the staff and students would like for it to go in.”

“I can tell you that, yes, Jean Massieu is doing well, and, yes, improvement
has been made,” said Gillilan, who estimated enrollment at 175 students.
“But there are still things to be done, and we are working on that.”

TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson said the school’s accreditation status
continues at “accredited probation,” and that its financial and academic
health will be evaluated again in March.

The academy, which opened in 1999 to serve the deaf, hard of hearing, their
siblings and peers, has struggled with student performance in recent years.

The school has had a state-appointed academic monitor and then conservator
since the 2007-08 school year to work on student performance.

The state also assigned a financial conservator to help work on a
substandard rating in financial accountability for issues that include late
filling out of audit data with the state.

Close call

Jean Massieu narrowly avoided a state-ordered shutdown on July 1, 2010, but
was granted a year of probation to continue working on its problems, which
included “a long-standing history of deficits in their leadership and their
academic performance and their finances,” the state said at the time. State
officials, however, credited Johnson’s efforts for improvements that were
then becoming apparent.

In September the results were sufficient for the state to end the
convervatorship, although the school kept the two consultants serving as
conservators on duty to help continue the recovery, Gillilan said.

“We as a board decided we needed the input and guidance,” she said. “While
we have improved in many areas, we want to continue with the improvement.”

Robert Cadwallader, 817-390-7641



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