EDITOR’S NOTE: During the past three months, The Ardmoreite has conducted a series of interviews to identify some of the issues that exist within Ardmore City Schools. This week, a series of articles will focus on some of the issues based on interviews with former and current administration, school board members, former teachers, and concerned citizens.
By all accounts, the hiring of Philip Black, director of student achievement for the Cornerstone Project, the education initiative of the Ardmore Chamber of Commerce, to work as a part-time math teacher for Ardmore City Schools should have been a seamless transition.
But after one year working for the district, he has contracted for a teaching position with another area district, frustrated by lack of communication within the administration of ACS.
As Cornerstone director, Black is responsible for the selection and implementation of benchmark testing and the analysis of test results. His job description indicates the analysis he provides will allow for improved instructional methods resulting in increased learning opportunities for all students. The director assists both Ardmore and Plainview with the analysis of data that is quickly obtained through the use of the benchmark testing system. The software currently in use and funded by Cornerstone is the Northwest Education Assessment, and assistance is provided at the district, site and individual levels.
“With Cornerstone funding dwindling, there was a mutual decision between Ardmore City Schools and Cornerstone to use [Black’s] capabilities in a classroom on a part-time basis,” said Mita Bates, chamber of commerce president and CEO. “Mr. (Kim) Holland (ACS high school principal) and I, and then Mr. (Sonny) Bates and I, discussed his employment, and it was my understanding everybody had signed off on it.”
And that appeared to be the case, initially. But an apparent lack of communication within the school administration created uncertainty about Black’s position.
“I met with Mr. Bates, and insurance was one of the issues,” Black said. “I knew you needed to work 4/7ths of the day. Mr. Bates directed me to talk to Missy Storm, who is the assistant superintendent and human resource director. She said, ‘We don’t have a job opening’.”
Confused, Black said he emailed ACS Superintendent Sonny Bates and told him what happened. Sonny Bates directed Black to talk to Storm once more. Storm’s position did not change.
“Missy said once again, there is no opening,” Black said.
Black asked for Sonny Bates to be brought into the discussion. Black said Sonny Bates told Storm they were hiring him for a half day, and she replied there wasn’t a position available at the high school.
“I told them high school is where I could serve best,” Black said. “I talked to Mr. Holland, and he has me on the schedule.”
At that point, Black said Holland was called, and he confirmed that Black had been placed on the schedule.
“Mr. Holland asked Mr. Bates, ‘Don’t you remember talking to me about it’,” Black said. “Mr. Bates just sat there and finally came around and said that this is what we need to do.
“Missy became very upset and said, ‘If that is the case, I am going to take one of your math teachers and put them in the middle school.’ Mr. Holland said, ‘You are going to do what you have to do’.”
Black said he was called into Storm’s office a week later to further discuss his employment. During the meeting, Black was told he would work from 8 a.m. to noon, take a lunch break and work at the chamber during the afternoon, and that she had spoken to Mita Bates about it. When Black talked to Mita Bates, she said she had not spoken to Storm.
Black said when he discussed his conversation with Mita Bates with Storm, Storm said she hadn’t told him that.
Mita Bates confirmed during an interview that Storm had never reached out to her.
Holland confirmed that Black’s employment with ACS continued to suffer schedule changes and communication lapses.
“The biggest thing that chapped me and the high school teachers was when we left on a Friday, came back on a Monday and our classes were different,” Black said.
The incident occurred five or six weeks into the semester, Black recalled. He had been teaching algebra classes, and had one algebra class taken away and a geometry class added. And in the algebra classes, there were different kids. Black said taking roll became an issue, as well as recording grades.
“Kim (Holland) did not know about it,” Black said. “He went to Mr. Bates, and said Mr. Bates didn’t know anything about it. It took a week and a half to get it fixed, and 16 teachers were affected.”
Storm was limited in how she could respond to questions regarding Black’s employment because of privacy concerns regarding a personnel issue. However, she did refer to Black as having a long-standing, excellent reputation. The Ardmoreite sent a Thursday morning email to Storm asking for clarification regarding the issues surrounding Black’s employment and did not receive a response.
Sonny Bates was out of town last week, and multiple efforts to reach him were unsuccessful for comment on this story.
In the Tuesday edition of The Ardmoreite, former Ardmore High School Principal Kim Holland discusses the reasons that led him to resign last fall, in addition to other concerns.