NAC received the following from parents involved with the effort to save Silver Street Elementary School from closure. The on-line article about contractor/consultant Phyllis Amick is revealing, especially in light of her citation of "community engagement." Whatever one's thoughts on the issue as it pertains to our own school corporation, it must sadly be acknowledged that "engagement" is being observed only in the breach during this process.
Our contributors note that there will be another community meeting tonight (Thursday, May 29) at 6:30 p.m. at Advent Christian Church, 2129 Shelby Street. On the agenda is "action items for informing and mobilizing the community."
From the parents:
"A list of the members of the "Resources for Results" committee came out today in the New Albany Floyd County School Corporation's website. It is interesting to note that some of those named are people closely related to Silver Street Elementary and are no longer invited to attend the current committee meetings. I also noticed that there is a contractor who plays a vital role in facilitating the meetings.
"The contractor's name is Dr. Phyllis Amick. I googled her and found this very telling article. Apparently Dr. Amick's specialty is in persuading school board members to close schools for the 'greater good.' Our school corporation has even borrowed the name of her previous school closure committee!
"Obviously, Dr. Amick was carefully chosen to facilitate this committee to steer them to the ultimate goal of closing Silver Street and/or Pine View Elementary Schools. I wonder if the committee members and the school board are aware of her past 'successes.' Dr. Amick appears to move around a lot, so she probably doesn't have much of a clue regarding what a sense of community really means."
From: The School Administrator, December 2002
Phyllis L. Amick: Modeling Personal and Organizational Change
By Jay P. Goldman
Much of Phyllis Amick’s life has been caught up in the swirl of changing circumstances. Growing up, she never lived for consecutive years in the same town until her final two years of high school. Her family bounced from town to town across Indiana owing to the fickle nature of her father’s work as a laborer on interstate highway construction.
As a school system leader, she’s done some moving too, rising through the ranks to work at the superintendent level in four Indiana districts since 1991. Her current perch is Richmond, Ind., where she has taken the first steps to reverse the fortunes of a downtrodden system.
Amick, appointed three years ago, is overseeing a major reconfiguration of the 6,200-student district located on the state’s eastern border with Ohio, about an hour northwest of Cincinnati. Her intent is to serve all students better in more inclusive environments. To fund the program she calls “Resources for Results,” the district this year closed three schools, freeing up about $1.5 million in the first year with additional savings expected in the next year once staffing adjustments are completed.
The major components include starting full-day kindergarten in all 11 of Richmond’s elementary schools, lengthening the instructional day, creating alternative programs for failing students within the schools, and ending segregated settings for students with disabilities and those considered gifted and talented. All 9th graders have been assigned to smaller learning units and 6th-grade classes were moved back into elementary buildings. She revamped reporting lines in the central office to ensure the building administrators receive the immediate response they deserved.
“Everyone understood that tough choices had to be made, but that didn’t make the emotional part any easier,” Amick admits, pointing particularly to the building closures. “The board heard eight hours of emotional pleas over three meetings. I don’t know there’s a way to take the emotion out of it. … People are beginning to see we can go through change and can be better for it.”
She is quick to explain this was not a case of a school board swallowing whole a set of major proposals from a pushy superintendent. Rather, Richmond’s reforms are the outcropping of a 35-member community group she appointed to study the state of the district’s school facilities in light of steadily declining enrollment (annual losses of about 250 a year), examine best practices for improving achievement and develop a sorely lacking vision statement.
Amick had realized upon landing in Richmond that extensive engagement would be a prerequisite to any major moves forward. She found a widely divided community that had only one year earlier shot down the school board’s intention to close a single underused elementary school. Four schools lingered on the state’s academic probation list. (A year later, none remained.)
“One person can have a vision,” she says, “but it takes many to bring it to reality.”
School board members found that Amick’s upfront yet disarming manner allowed them largely to overcome forces of the status quo, especially supporters of two small specialized instructional programs that had operated for years as the lone tenants of their own building. Says board member Marilyn Russo: “In every meeting, Phyllis isn’t one to push by herself. She lets everyone say what they need to. Then very quietly, very unassuming in a way, she starts talking, pregnant with facts and in a short time gets everyone focused back on track.”
Cheryl Stolle, an Indiana University professor who chaired Richmond’s superintendent search, believes Amick’s administrative know-how and dexterous people skills are enabling her to unify the district around initiatives that ought to improve student outcomes. Adds Suzanne Derengowski, a parent of two Richmond students: “She can say (to opponents), ‘I understand, but we have a bigger mission, and that’s student achievement.”
Amick has captured the attention of search consultants during each of her short superintendent stints in the Hoosier State communities of Edinburgh, North Vernon and Scottsburg. And in 2000-2001, she served as the first female president of the Indiana Association of Public School Superintendents. But Amick prefers to trumpet a more significant role to model from her personal background: She was the first in her extended and transient family to graduate from college.
Jay Goldman is the editor of The School Administrator.
BIO STATS: Phyllis Amick
superintendent, Richmond Community Schools, Richmond, Ind.
superintendent in three smaller Indiana districts
Greatest Influence on Career:
The superintendent who hired me for my first central-office position, John Ellis, as he provided me with a role model of exceptional administrative practices and mentored me throughout my first years.
Best Professional Day:
The culmination of a two-year extensive community engagement process to restructure our school district in which the school board approved a plan of reorganization with tremendous public support.
Books at Bedside:
Turning to One Another by Margaret Wheatley; Lanterns by Marian Wright Edelman; and The New Meaning of Educational Change by Michael Fullan
While waiting for law enforcement to arrive to help search our high school following a bomb threat, I went to use the faculty restroom. Much to my horror, the door locked from the outside and I was stuck in the bathroom during the entire search. Worse, I don't think they missed me!
A Reason Why I'm an AASA Member:
As administrators, we have the responsibility to be aware and knowledgeable regarding the impact of state and federal accountability systems. AASA is a constant source of up-to-date information and provides thought-provoking analysis of current issues.