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Bibb Finalist Candidates Say They've Improved Districts | News

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Bibb Finalist Candidates Say They've Improved Districts
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The Bibb County School Board will decide Tuesday whether James Benfield, a superintendent in Yadkin County, North Carolina, or Romain Dallemand, the superintendent of Rochester Public Schools in Minnesota, will be the district's next leader.

Benfield has been a superintendent in four districts. Since 2007, he has led Yadkin County schools in North Carolina, which serves about 6,000 students in 14 schools.

His resume, which he provided to Proact, the firm the Bibb County Board of Education hired to conduct the search for its next superintendent, says he "increased the number of schools making Annual Yearly Progress from two schools in 2008, to ten, or all but two schools the next year.

State records indicate that's accurate, but also show that during Benfield's third year as Yadkin County superintendent, the number of schools that met AYP dropped by one, to nine total meeting the standard. Benfield says that fall, the district added two new middle schools. He says scores pertaining to two subgroups, students with limited English proficiency and exceptional children, may have caused the district's AYP status to fall backwards. In a phone interview last week, Benfield said the district is doing more to address those subgroups, including reviewing its programs.

"We don't have this problem solved," Benfield said, "we will solve it."

Benfield also lists on his resume that he "improved district standards in math, communication arts and science while reducing expenditures."

AYP results show math and reading proficiency among 3rd through 8th graders improved, by 13 percentage points in math, and 14 points in reading from 2007 to 2010.

The achievement gap for Yadkin students appears to narrow, with more black, Hispanic and economically disadvantaged student passing math and reading tests in 2010 than in 2007. 

"We have tried to improve the learning of all students and I think we have," Benfield said, "but in those areas where we had lagged behind, we made significant progress which I'm pleased to say."

Like Benfield, Romain Dallemand has been at his current job, his first as superintendent, since 2007. Prior to be hired by Rochester Public Schools, Dallemand was assistant superintendent for Hartford Public Schools in Hartford, Conn. Rochester serves about 16,000 students in 30 schools.

Overall, on math and reading exams, Rochester students out-perform others across the state. Since 2007, the number of black students who were proficient in reading increased more than 10 percentage points, and the number who were proficient in math increased more than 9 points.Numbers on the Minnesota Department of Education's website show in 2010, more hispanic students passed math and reading exams than three years before.

Dallemand says the number of students taking Advanced Placement exams in Rochester schools increased by 40 percent. A state department of education spokesman could not verify AP enrollment, because he was not sure if they track that on the state level. According to the Rochester school district, more than 580 students took AP exams in 2008. Two years later, in 2010, that number had increased to more than 800 students.

Dallemand lists closing the achievement gap by 15 percent as one of his accomplishments. He declined our request for an interview until after the Bibb school board votes.

13 WMAZ spoke to Rochester school board director Sandra Soltis by phone Monday, and asked about Rochester's achievement gap. Soltis voted against renewing Dallemand's contract last year. She says she thinks he reduced the achievement gap, but questions if Rochester improved as much as he claims.

"We're holding our own and we're going up," Soltis said, "but, has any particular group dramatically increased or achieved? I don't think so." 

Board member Mechelle Severson, who spoke to 13 WMAZ by phone Tuesday, says she thinks under Dallemand's leadership, the district's achievement gap narrowed by 15 percent.

She says numbers showing students' scores on the state MCA-IIs exam that Minnesota's Department of Education gave the district show that change.

"Overall, I'm very pleased with the work that he's done," Severson said."

Severson voted in favor of renewing Dallemand's contract last year. She says the board voted unanimously in favor of hiring him for the job in 2007.

The Bibb County school board is scheduled to meet at 7 p.m. Tuesday to select a superintendent.

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