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December 14, 2011

Alonso announces new cabinet member, leadership shuffles

Baltimore city schools CEO Andres Alonso announced Tuesday night new additions to his cabinet and a leadership shuffle that fills two critical roles in the city school system.

Of note, Kim Lewis, who long oversaw the system's Office of Special Education, was formally appointed as the new head of the system's Office of Human Capital--a long troubled department, that has seen an enormous amount of turnover and turmoil in recent years. According to a release from the school system, Lewis was successful in fully staffing schools this year, which is usually a large feat for the system.

Kim Hoffman, who worked in the district's special education office, will take the helm as the interim director of special education. It is unclear whether Hoffman will be the permanent leader of the office, which undoubtedly is one of the most critical as the system seeks to permanently shed a consent decree linked to the 26-year Vaughn G. special education lawsuit. A settlement agreement in the suit is due to end this September, if the district can prove it has improved its service to special education students.

Karen Webber Ndor, former principal of National Academy Foundation (whom I've had the pleasure of working with in the past), will take the position of Director of Student Support and Safety, taking the place of Jonathan Brice. Brice began heading up the district's "networks" at the beginning of the school year.

Alonso seems to have tapped his old stomping ground in New York for someone to take over the system's Office of Accountability and Accountability--which was filled and vacated in the last year-and-a-half by Matt Van Itallie.

Joining the district in January to oversee the office that pumps out the school system's data is Jennifer Bell-Ellwanger, the current senior advisor to the Chancellor of the New York City Department of Education. According to the school system, Bell-Ellwanger is prime for the new position as she has overseen New York City’s Research and Policy Support Group, the primary source of research, data reporting and analysis for the district.

You can read more about the appointments, here. 


Posted by Erica Green at 10:09 AM | | Comments (13)
Categories: Baltimore City


Karen Webber-Ndour's appointment as Executive Director of Student Support and Safety has caused mixed feelings for me. I have worked under Webber-Ndour and seen two sides to her leadership. One side is intoxicating. It is a show in which she presents the students as the centerpiece and the teachers as the most important actors. This show is insincere. So why my mixed feelings? Because teachers and students will no longer be subjected to her abuse of power, the other side of her leadership.
Webber-Ndour treats some teachers poorly, refuses meetings with concerned staff members, evaluates without having ever stepped foot in a teacher's classroom, and asks teachers to lie about Title I compliance.
Teachers Webber-Ndour doesn't like or who disagree with her are transferred under the guise of Fair Student Funding. Current eighth graders at NAF Prep are without their only English teacher and tenth graders at the high school are without their US Government teacher. Meanwhile, there is an abundance of Deans and Educational Associates who act as Assistant Principals.
According to BCPSS's Fair Student Funding staffing policy handbook, Section D., item 4. "Long-term substitutes may not be used to fill vacant positions. Vacant positions must be filled by employees from the eligibility pool. Vacancies currently occupied by long-term substitutes should only be filled by highly qualified teachers."
Both positions at NAF are being filled by long-term substitutes, which brings me to Section E., item 3. "Schools should be advised that long-term substitutes serving for 4 or more consecutive weeks are considered non-highly qualified and students within that classroom are subject to receive official notification from the Office of Teacher Licensure and Highly Qualified regarding this non-highly qualified status."
Have the students and their parents been notified?
I love teaching. I have no intention of quitting. I even hope to stay in Baltimore. But I understand why many of my friends and colleagues have left. It wasn't because TFA or BCTR didn't prepare them for a difficult classroom or because they didn't feel like they were making enough money. It was because of unethical leadership.
Dr. Alonso needs to take a closer look at Webber-Ndour's track record. It's not as pretty as the picture she paints.

As a person who worked under Karen Webber-Ndour's leadership, I am concerned for the welfare of student support and safety! Ms. Webber-Ndour puts on a good show. She is incredibly articulate and intelligent. She seems to have the best interest of students and teachers in mind. Unfortunately, her own pretense and appearance take precedent over any real issues with students, parents and teachers. Under her leadership, the abuse of power was horrifying! I witnessed several teachers treated unfairly, ignored completely, given low evaluations with no meeting or conversation, and LITERALLY transferred with no notice or explanation when they stood up to her bullying. She rarely engaged with more than the handful of excelling students that helped lead her NAF show. NAF High School was not a failing school before her leadership. It is now. NAF Prep is barely functioning. Check the numbers! Dr. Alonso needs to pay a surprise visit and walk around ALONE to speak with students, parents, and teachers. He will have a much more accurate picture of what happened to NAF under Webber-Ndour’s terrible leadership!

I have also heard horrible stories of Ms.Karen Webber Ndour's lies and corruption from people who have worked with and under her. If this is who Dr.Alonzo appoints he better keep a close eye on her or city kids will further suffer. Oh, we will hear the wonderful tales, but will they be truthful? Or will North Avenue just look good?

Anyone who is in the know at NAF knows exactly which disgruntled teachers wrote the nasty comments about Karen Webber-Ndour. Anyone (who isn't jealous of her) who has worked with her or for her knows the commitment, intelligence, vision and track record of success that she has brought to every position she has held since joining City Schools. Come to NAF and ask her staff who are heartbroken that she is leaving. Ask students who have been stopping her in the hall all week, getting in their last hugs. Ask NAF's business partners who honored her recently at an event. The statistics on NAF's graduation and college rates are not debatable. Nor is NAF's ascension to the ranks of the City's top high schools despite not having hard admission criteria like City and Poly do. Ms. Webber-Ndour will continue this success in her new position and all City Schools will be the better for it.

In response to the negative comments that were posted, I can only assume that these were comments posted by disgruntled people who were previously employed at NAF and apparently didn’t do the job required to remain here. NAF Prep & High School are amazing schools. Ms. Ndour's track record can not only be seen in the wonderful job she has done with the High School but the complete turn-around that occurred when Dunbar Middle School became NAF Prep. I recommend this school to family and friends with Middle & High school aged students on a regular basis. Although I am sad that Ms. N’dour is leaving NAF I believe the people she has placed in charge have worked closely enough with her & will continue to allow NAF to grow and excel in the vision that has been set in motion. I commend Alonso on his decision to place Ms. N’dour in the position to assist other Baltimore City Schools in becoming as stellar as NAF Schools has become.

Wow, disgruntled teachers say it all for the first three comments. Not much else needs to be said because Ms. Ndour will speak for herself or instead her actions will speak louder than words. Like the saying "you don't know what you've got till it's gone," those above will soon realize. Some have never gone without or struggled so they don't recognize “real” or genuine compassion, instead, they live in an imaginary world and blame others and try to tear down instead of encourage and build up. No need to be concerned because everything happens for a reason and soon we will all see the miracles Ms. Ndour performs now on a larger scale. I feel honored to have met and say I know the wonderful woman that is Ms.Ndour in this lifetime.

I have had the privilege of working towards the actualization of Ms. Karen Webber-Ndour’s dream school, NAF, for the last 5 years. In this time I have found her to be a selfless, compassionate and nurturing leader who strives to provide an environment in which professionals can grow, advance and succeed. It baffles me how one could twist this trusting and supportive style of leadership into a negative attribute, but, as they say, no good deed goes unpunished…………. I would like for Ms. Ndour to know that so many of her staff have cherished and flourished under the praise, acknowledgement, accolades and kudos without becoming selfish monsters, concerned only for their personal agenda and need to be heard. I have endured the “surplus” experience 3 times during my employ with Baltimore City and accept that it is simply a matter of numbers, not personal vendetta or lack of professional acknowledgement. We are employed by an organization that is underfunded, understaffed and is systemically unappreciative of the contribution it’s teachers make. I hope that Ms. Ndour continues to break this cycle by touting the praises of those who go the extra miles on behalf of children, sacrifice their last pennies and moments, and do whatever it takes to make the difference that matters. Not everyone who has the privilege of working under this model of progressive leadership will become a green eyed monster.

My child is a new NAF student this year and I am impressed at every turn.

NAF strikes me as a school that cares about every single child -- even though there are hundreds of them! The teaching and support staff are exceptional. I have interacted with Mrs. N'dour personally on several occasions and it is evident to me that NAF's excellence starts at the top.

She will be missed. I hope she can be as effective in her new position as she is currently as NAF principal.

I don't know if I can comment upon the leadership of Karen Webber-Ndour because she has shown her face at the middle school perhaps three times this year. In November, several middle-schoolers asked me who the principal of NAF was. I told them Ms. Ndour, and they responded with a resounding "Who?"
I can say that unhappy staff are afraid to complain or talk to the administration. Those who stand up are patronized, ostracized, completely ignored, or - yes- transferred. Those who praise Ms. Webber-Ndour for setting NAF on this trajectory of excellence need to reexamine the numbers. Test scores are dropping. There are not enough teachers. Eighth graders don't have an English teacher and Juniors and Seniors can't take full course loads. The Book Clubs that NAF brags so much about in the School of Choice flyer and elsewhere have not even started up this year. Incidentally, data indicates that these book clubs have a positive impact on reading achievement. Too much of energy has gone into making NAF look good at the expense of the students. The dedicated teachers and excellent students at NAF remain strong in spite of-- not because of-- the leadership of Ms. Webber-Ndour

I had to laugh when I read the positive comments on the blog about Karen N'Dour. Clearly, the posters are either completely unaware of what is happening at NAF or partially responsible for the dysfunctional environment. Regarding current NAF teachers, there are plenty of complacent people who don't want to question the communication void or acknowledge the mistreatment of their colleagues. As long as they are getting their "proficient" evaluations and the occasional nod of the administrators, they will keep silent and pretend like the school is a great place to work. However, for you parents, there are also many professional, dedicated teachers who persevere despite the low morale of the workplace and the abuse of power by the administrators. Those teachers are there for the students! I urge you to seriously ask your children about their school experiences. There have been many instances of students alone in a classroom for the entire period when the teacher is absent (imagine, in a science lab!) and recently two excellent, although clearly disliked, teachers were dismissed because of fair student funding only to be replaced by long-term substitutes who are not really teaching. Don't you want your children to have consistency and quality in their education? There is no excuse for Karen N'Dour's behavior and the school will be much better without her. She judged teachers without stepping a foot in their classrooms and created a terrible work environment by selecting power-trippers to handle everything; never questioning their judgment or even knowing what decisions they were making. It is no surprise that last year she did not send the staff the link for the Climate Survey until after the deadline because she knew that a majority of the school would be honest in their evaluation of her. There is no authenticity, support or joy at NAF and I feel a little sad for the students who go there. I can think of endless examples of how ridiculous NAF is but will leave you with these tidbits that you can witness for yourselves if you decide to visit: the banking teacher who, for some unknown reason, is in charge of discipline, is a bully and maintains order by screaming profanity at the students. And what about that amazing credit union that has been so proudly featured on CNN? Well, it has only been opened once since I started working at NAF and it was the banking teacher who did the transaction. Please, Baltimore Sun, parents and even the NAF staff- you are doing a great disservice to the students and the school by ignoring the reality.

I have been in education for over 18 years and experienced a variety of leadership styles. It has been my experience that when a staff is this polarized, something is truly amiss in the administration. It is time to look beyond the back and forth - pros and cons - of Ms. N'dour's leadership and ensure the best education for all students at NAF with "highly qualified" teachers in every critical position. An unbiased panel or committee should investigate the staffing policy at NAF. Are there long-term subs in place that are not "highly qualified"? If so, why? How and why were the staffing decisions made to meet the budget? The BCPSS Board and Administrators need to step up and conduct an investigation into NAF and the decisions behind Baltimore's Fair Student Funding Policy. Let's make sure BCPSS is living up to its motto: Great Kids! Great Schools!

those who feel they have to throw dirt on ms ndour and naf should be ashamed. you are just mad that you had to leave and to the staff member who is still at naf and dont like it then leave and see if you find another situation better than naf. you will beg to come back. naf has changed lives in the students we serve and ms ndour has been a big part of that. shame on you grow up and stop with the drama. to the parent if you do not like how the school is being ran then you can send your child to another school and see if it is a better fit for you. naf is a school on the rise and it is a safe learning envirorment for the students and the staff. i congradulate ms ndour along with being sad about her leaving. north ave needs a person like ms ndour to work out the bugs and make it a well running org. doc alonso made a great choice in ms ndour she will be missed but north ave will be a better place for it and the school system will get a person who cares and will work hard to keep our kids safe and on the right track. do your job stop the drama and lets do whats best for our kids.

None of this is surprising for Baltimore City Schools. If you can't dazzle them with brilliance then baffle them with BS. The administration of Baltimore City schools, from the top, down is filled with people who know nothing about education but knew the right people to get a 6 figure job. Great Kids Crappy Administration should be the motto.

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