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State report faults conduct of Paducah Middle principal

By JASON MORROW jmorrow@paducahsun.com

The state Office of Education Accountability (OEA) recently concluded an investigation that criticizes Stacey Overlin, principal of Paducah Middle School, for failing to comply with state statutes and the school council's bylaws.

The investigation included interviews with Overlin, the school's principal for four years, as well as members of the middle school council.

"The investigation finds that Principal Overlin has impeded the implementation of SBDM (school-based decision making) at Paducah Middle School by failing to comply with KRS 160.345 and by failing to abide by the Paducah Middle School Council policies and bylaws," the report states.

The report calls into question Overlin's hiring practices, non-approved curriculum changes, meeting schedule practices and a lack of documented minutes.

Overlin said he reviewed the findings in the report and agrees that the SBDM processes need to be improved.

"In most of the cases, the council was informed and consulted and their input was taken into consideration," he said. "This just was not included in our meeting minutes, but those discussions definitely took place. I take full responsibility for that, and we are getting this corrected."

Regarding hiring vacancies for the middle school, the report states that Overlin hired people without consultation with the council.

"Principal Overlin merely tells the council who has been hired for vacancies at the school," the report says.

It further explains this practice fails to follow KRS 160.345 (2)(f), which says the school council shall determine, within the parameters of the total available funds, the number of people to be employed in each job classification at the school.

"As stated by all the interviewees, the council does not address staffing in the school and is simply told who will work in each job classification ... the same is true as it relates to other budget matters within the school," the report states. "Principal Overlin does not obtain council approval of the school budget."

This conflicts with KRS 160.345 (2)(g), which says that the school council shall determine which textbooks, instructional materials and student support services shall be provided in the school.

KRS 160.345(2)(i) states that the council shall determine the curriculum of the school. According to the report, Overlin added Spanish to the curriculum and informed the council after the fact. The report states that he also added French to the curriculum, and council members learned of it by word of mouth and not at a council meeting.

In addition, the minutes of council meetings throughout the 2014-15 school year had "a striking lack of action taken by the council," according to the report.

For the year, the council had only one action taken on record.

"This confirms the information obtained during the interview process that Principal Overlin tells the council what he is doing, but does not seek or obtain approval or input from the council," the report states.

Superintendent Donald Shively said principals and council members are trained when hired, and each summer there is a mandatory update in training on policy and procedures.

Still, the report states that "Principal Overlin's statements to OEA demonstrate that he is completely unfamiliar with the requirements of KRS 160.345, including the basic requirements for holding a council meeting."

Shively said Overlin cooperated fully with the OEA investigation.

"The report identifies areas of growth and areas that we need to come into compliance with," Shively said. "But with that, we have seen significant academic growth and cultural growth in Paducah Middle School under Mr. Overlin's leadership."

The report concludes that Overlin must immediately bring his practices in line with the mandates of KRS 160.345 and follow school policies. In addition, Overlin has to complete six hours of training from a Kentucky Department of Education approved trainer on the subject of the role of the SBDM Council in School Governance by June 15.

Overlin must also provide OEA with copies of Paducah Middle School Council meeting agendas and minutes for July 2017 through June 2018.

Shively said he didn't expect any additional repercussions from the state.

Overlin said the report doesn't overshadow what has been accomplished at Paducah Middle School.

"Every day for the past four years, our entire staff has worked to make this a better school for the students of Paducah," Overlin said. "The data shows that Paducah Middle is improving in many ways including academics, attendance and student behavior. And we will continue focusing on student achievement and continuously improving in all areas."

A statement was issued Thursday by the Paducah Public School District in support of Overlin:

"Stacey Overlin is highly valued as a principal and instructional leader. He has led significant improvements in both the academic program and school culture at Paducah Middle School over the past four years. Mr. Overlin cooperated fully with the OEA investigation on following SBDM policies and is addressing the concerns from OEA. The Paducah Public School District is committed to supporting him as he continues to lead Paducah Middle School."

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