1-on-1 with Jake Rambo, principal who says CCSD tried to reassign him over test scores

Jake Rambo (WCIV)

Jake Rambo became somewhat of a household name for many Charleston County parents near the end of the 2016-17 school year.

His name was on t-shirts, posters and shouted by angry parents and teachers demanding an explanation for the popular Mount Pleasant principal being reassigned.

Monday, the former principal of J.B. Edwards Elementary explained what really led to his eventual resignation.

Rambo said as another school year was coming to an end, all seemed to be going well, until a meeting with his supervisor.

“He slid it across the table and said, ‘pick out which test scores are your schools’ and I said 'well it's this one right here' and he said 'that's why you're being moved',” Rambo said.

Rambo said he was being re-assigned to a different school and was informed it was because of test scores. No other criteria was mentioned, Rambo claims.

Rambo says he accomplished a lot at the school, and feels like none of that was taken into consideration.

“The school community sees that on a daily basis, all of those other things taking place and they get upset and say 'why is this decision based on one thing?',” Rambo said. “And that's when the district pivoted and said, 'oh no, it wasn't based on that' when in fact, it was or at least, that's what I was told.”

Serving as principal for less than two years, Rambo said the news stunned him.

“I had four supervisors above me, four bureaucrats and none of them had visited the school the entire year,” Rambo said. “In two years as a principal, I did not have a single performance evaluation.”

Kevin Hollinshead, a Charleston County School Board member said other district employees have also said they’ve been blindsided by news in a similar fashion. He said he’s not sure why some evaluations have been skipped.

“That’s a question a few of us board members were asking, but we’re outnumbered. We owe it to the public to investigate the matter,” Hollinshead said.

Ultimately, Rambo resigned from his position in June, the district did not fire him. He said the bureaucracy became too much. Hollinshead admits, the school board and the district can do a lot more.

“It’s always been a bureaucracy. There needs to be a turnover,” Hollinshead said. “We need to be more customer friendly. We need to hear parents and teachers and understand what they’re talking about.”

There is a state-regulated model for principal evaluations and it does include face-to-face discussions throughout the year. It’s unclear whether or not that was followed with Rambo.

In response, a CCSD official said there’s a three-year cycle for first-time principals.

“Evaluation schedules are strictly followed,” said Andy Pruitt, the district’s Director of Communications and Technology. “Both teacher and principal evaluations are submitted to the state every year.”

Pruitt said teacher evaluations are submitted to the state between May and July and principal evaluations must be submitted by August 15th. Principals receive a full evaluation every three years, with a partial evaluation occurring twice during that three-year stretch.

A full evaluation includes face-to-face discussion at both the beginning and the end of the school year. It also requires principals to collect documents in order to provide evidence they’re fulfilling the evaluation process. Once the information is submitted by the principal, it’s then reviewed by their district supervisor.

The three-year cycle for first-time principals goes as follows:

Year 1: They receive coaching from the state and the district provides them with a mentor, usually a more experienced principal

Year 2: They receive a full evaluation

Year 3: They receive a partial evaluation

Pruitt also said the state principal evaluation requirements changed slightly for the 2017-2018 school year. The process now requires a principal to complete a self-assessment in February, which they review with a supervisor, and requires the person or persons evaluating to conduct "high-quality school visits" in order to observe and/or coach the principal. The process is mandated and regulated by the state.

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