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A struggling KIPP school plans to overhaul teaching staff

After wrestling down a unionization attempt and struggling with academic performance, a Brooklyn KIPP school is bringing in a new principal and letting go of teachers.

Concerns about high teacher turnover surfaced at the KIPP AMP (Knowledge is Power Program: Always Mentally Prepared) school in Crown Heights, Brooklyn, two years. The concerns were the driving force behind teachers’ decision to join the teachers union against the will of the school’s board. A year later teachers opted out of union membership, kicking off a prolonged fight in which the United Federation of Teachers accused KIPP of intimidating teachers who wanted to unionize.

Now, the school could experience what teachers initially feared: turnover and instability. It’s unclear how many teachers will lose their jobs.

A teacher at the school said today that the school’s leadership has informed most of its teachers that they will not have jobs next year.

KIPP co-founder David Levin, who is also the superintendent of KIPP’s New York schools, said that claims that the majority of KIPP AMP teachers would lose their jobs were incorrect. He would not say how many staff members had been asked to leave the school.

“As we do every year, in accordance with our policies, we are in the process of evaluating our program and staff to ensure that we have a high-performing team of educators in our classrooms implementing the best program possible for our students,” Levin wrote in an email.

KIPP AMP has also been struggling academically. Of the four KIPP schools that have been open long enough to get progress reports, KIPP AMP’s C-grade put it at the bottom last year. Like most public schools, its test scores were hurt when the state made it more difficult to pass the annual math and English exams last year. The percentage of KIPP AMP students who tested proficient on the English exam fell from 78 to 34 percent and from 87 to 47 percent on the math exam.

At the same time that some teachers are being told they won’t have positions next year, the middle school is preparing for new leadership. KIPP AMP’s founding principal Ky Adderley, who returned to run the school last year after the battles with the teachers union, is being replaced by a former principal of an Achievement First middle school in Connecticut, Debon Lewis.

Levin said that when Adderley returned, he did so with the agreement that it would be temporary. Levin wrote:

Last year, when Ky agreed to step back in as principal of KIPP AMP it was with the desire to pursue other opportunities as soon as we identified a new principal, which we have just now done. We are excited that Debon Lewis will be joining us as KIPP AMP’s principal in July.

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