Principal to Retire Early Because of State Evaluations

12:01 AM, May 3, 2013   |    comments
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Photo Courtesy: Associated Press

Lancaster, NY -- An elementary school principal with the Lancaster Central School District sent a letter out to students and parents saying she is taking early retirement.

Principal Kathleen Knauth says the new state standards for teacher evaluations have drastically changed her role as an educator for the worse. That is why she is leaving Hillview Elementary, where she has been the principal for ten years, at the end of this school year.

"Everything is so fundamentally against my belief system that I had to make a change," she says.

Knauth says the new statewide teacher evaluation process changed her job description so much, she decided to retire early.

"I really miss being a principal instead of being a typist and a statistician," says Knauth.

Instead of spending time getting to know the children this year, she says she spent countless hours entering numbers into a computer program to satisfy new state standards for teachers.

"It's sad. It's a sad time in education. And, I don't believe I'm alone in feeling that way," she said.

She blames student evaluations just as much as teacher evaluations for her decision because students' scores are used to evaluate educators, which goes completely against her child-centered philosophy of teaching.

"School social worker walked into my office and she said, what do I need to work on with the children and the students? And, I said, I couldn't tell you. I don't know. Before when she would stop in, I would say this one just lost a dog, this one's grandmother is seriously ill. This child is in a custody battle," explains Knauth.

Knauth tells us that caught her off guard, and that's when she knew she had to make a change.

She thinks a leader who feels differently about the state mandates might be a better fit for Hillview.

"Have you tried to speak up throughout the year to let the state know how you feel and how was that received?" asked Kelly Dudzik.

"As an employee of a district, you're an extension of State Ed. And so it's difficult to speak up which is part of the reason I'm taking an early retirement so I can have my voice back," she says.

In a letter sent to parents Friday, Principal Knauth announced June 28 will be her last day. She leaves her staff, students and parents with these words.

"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. 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," she said in the letter.

Principal Knauth also told us that she is quite concerned about special needs students. She sees them rushing through tests, and students who are top performers not finishing tests because they don't want to mess up their answers.

She is already working with administrators on Long Island on the opposition movement to the evaluation process. She is looking forward to finding something in the private sector where she can still make a difference in the lives of children.

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