Chelsea Center evaluation leads to director reassignment

Ethan Ryan
Contributing Writer

“There appears to be a shared vision among leaders at the district and school levels and a desire for a focused direction,” Brotherton, Allen and True LLC said in its evaluation of the Chelsea Center.  

Click here to see evaluation.

Former Chelsea Center director Julie Burchett receives the Peabody Leaders in Education Award Jan. 15, 2013. “Honorees are selected by a committee of top educators and business leaders and each earn a $1,000 award,” according to the program’s site.  Photo by Cathy Vespereny

The review, conducted by former educators Dr. Steve Brotherton, Dr. Jennifer Allen and Stephanie True, detailed the current condition of the Chelsea Center and its director, Julie Burchett.

The evaluation finished on Jan 18, with the aforementioned quote referencing a perceived collaboration between Burchett and the administration. However, as of March 14, Burchett would not return as the Chelsea Center’s director. Dana Miller will remain as experiential learning advisor.

According to superintendent John Simpson, the evaluation was asked for by the center’s founder Glenn Dietrick, and its purpose was to review the strengths and weaknesses of the Chelsea Center.

The evaluation highlights the disparity in student participation in the summer program. Burchett stated that the low numbers found in summer classes were a direct result of DESE laws and the Grandview online PE program, not the fault of the Chelsea Center. Compared to the school year enrollment of the Chelsea Center, shown in Table C, the data shows the involvement for both white and non-white students is over 50 percent.

When looking into which students had completed experiential learning projects, the report said, “[We] were told that to date [the center] has been mostly white, affluent students.”

On the reasoning for her reassignment, Burchett said, “They told me it was about numbers.”

The limited liability company detailed its recommendations for the center. The removal of Julie Burchett was not one of them.

About the reason for her dismissal, Simpson said, “We try to make decisions that are in the best interests of the students … Sometimes you have to make decisions to help the programs to grow and move forward.”

Following her removal, the Bring Back Burchett group sought to reverse the decision made by principal Matthew Irvin.

According to one of the leaders, senior Phillip Freeman, the two parties discussed frustrations and solutions, but nothing came from the March 25, meetings with Dr. Irvin and Simpson. Group members would go on to ask Irvin to participate in the hiring process for the new director; however, later on they were not involved.

Ultimately, a selection committee for the next Chelsea Center director was led and formed by assistant principal Angela Thompson, with help from German teacher Brent Mackey, experiential learning advisor Dana Miller and senior Rosie Ryan, who was asked by Thompson to participate.

According to Burchett, Thompson was formerly the assistant principal overseeing the Chelsea Center; however, the responsibility was later moved to assistant principal John E. Thomas. Thomas was uninvolved in the process.

The committee would later select Kirkwood High School director of learning and involvement Kerry Arens, who will replace Burchett starting next fall.

About what set Arens apart, Ryan said “I really liked [Arens.] She’s going to be good for the Chelsea Center in a way that will make it bigger than it is.”

Arens, a former English teacher, detailed her current position at Kirkwood via email and said, “I facilitate curriculum writing, support new teachers and their mentors, and design and implement professional development as well… I have also had the privilege of learning a great deal about play, creativity and innovation, and the links between the three.” Arens has been in her current position for around two years.

About her future plans for the Chelsea Center, Arens said, “To continue the great work of the Chelsea Center, which will begin by doing a lot of listening to and learning from teachers and students who have had great experiences through the Center.”

The following playlist contains full interviews with students and staff.

See Also: Burchett removed from Chelsea Center

See Also: Letter to the Editor: Students, alumni wants Burchett to return to Chelsea Center


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