Problems plague Tubman Middle

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Dana Bedden: Head of schools says Tubman Middle could be turned over to state control if the situation does not improve.

Something "dramatic" must be done before the state takes over Tubman Middle School, Richmond County's superintendent said Tuesday.

Dana Bedden said he has already staved off a "wave" of teachers wanting to leave the school, which has languished on the state's "needs improvement" list. Tubman is among a small group of schools that has been on the list longer than any others in Georgia.

Three teachers abandoned their jobs during the holiday break, and "there are a number of them who have expressed concerns," Dr. Bedden said.

He had to begin denying requests to transfer out of Tubman, prompting one teacher to quit rather than continue teaching there.

The school began this year with a new staff from principal on down to comply with a state-mandated restructuring plan. The plan lured teachers to the school with $500 each year plus 5 percent above their regular pay as part of a three-year contract. Breaking the contract could mean they have to pay back the stipend.

During school board committee meetings Tuesday, Dr. Bedden said a Richmond County resident described the school as a "recipe for disaster" because three "projects" feed into the school and the school has so many inexperienced teachers.

New teachers tend to be assigned to the most challenging schools, he said.

Dr. Bedden said he personally sat down to discuss the problems with Tubman teachers, one of whom "was in tears in his office."

It's imperative that something be done to turn the school around, Dr. Bedden said. If Tubman doesn't make adequate yearly progress this year, then it will become a "state-managed" school, he said.

The superintendent said a state deputy superintendent and an associate superintendent have already visited the school this year.

Melody Wooten, the vice president of the Tubman PTA, said she worries about how the school is affecting her sons.

Despite being honor roll students, their grades have slipped because of the constant interruptions for discipline problems.

"It's not the teachers. It's not the academics. It's the atmosphere," Ms. Wooten said. "Even if the state takes over, it's going to take time for the atmosphere and the students to turn around."

Dr. Bedden said he is considering his options and developing a plan for the school.

One possibility is replacing the principal. Thomas Norris became principal this school year, but has been out on extended medical leave.

The superintendent could change the structure of the school and also the area it draws its students from, he said.

Reach Greg Gelpi at (706) 828-3851 or greg.gelpi@augustachronicle.com.