Danville needs better reasons for Look’s departure

Published 3:03 pm Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Dear Editor,

In May 2014, Dr. Keith Look was hired as superintendent of Danville Independent Schools. He came with a nationwide reputation for his ability to transform schools and build student success. Six months into the first year of his contract, Lonnie Harp, the board chair at that time, tried to have Look’s contract terminated. Since that time, some have consistently undermined Dr. Look’s efforts to move Danville Schools forward.

Dr. Look was able to put to rest much of the turmoil that preceded him.  During the four years prior to his hiring (2010-2014), areas of the state accountability measures for Danville schools showed little improvement. However, in the 2016-2017 test cycle, novice reduction at DHS was almost complete. For the 2016-17, Danville High School would have earned a “Distinguished” rating. It was confirmed in November 2017 that the school and district also would have lost their “Focus” label that had previously been assigned by KDE.   

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Dr. Look has chosen exemplary principals, and along with their teachers they have had a great impact on student achievement. These professionals require steady leadership from the superintendent and the support from the local board. Rather than support, Dr. Look has fought roadblocks, interference and micromanagement.

There is widespread support for Dr. Look from teachers and staff of the DIS. They have high praise for his involvement, willingness help, reading in classes (even in Spanish!), helping in the cafeterias, helping custodians, maintenance clear snow, taking bus duty for teachers, and meeting with high school students about ongoing issues. Parents who have met with him found him to be someone who listened to their concerns and, he was respectful and worked toward understanding and agreement.   

Dr. Look is highly respected in the community, serving on the United Way board and as the education representative of the newly restructured Economic Development Partnership board.

All these positives beg the question “Why?” Why did a divided board, by a 3-2 contentious vote on Feb. 19, 2018, decide to, as the former board chair puts it, “part ways” with a nationally recognized, highly respected superintendent, thus not allowing him to 1) complete the reconfiguration of the elementary schools and 2) guide the district in the transformative turnaround of Danville Schools? This question has been asked of the board only to be met by “out of respect for Dr. Look” and “it’s not a good fit.” The Danville schools community deserves a better response to that question!

Lisa Christopher Grimes