Friday, January 22, 2016

Comment of the Day: Jay Wick's Insightful Observations and Our Hope for the Upcoming Strategic Planning Process

This afternoon we received a comment from Jay Wick which we believe is on point.  We are publishing it below as the Comment of the Day.  Before you read it, we would like to make the following observations:

1. Tomorrow, the BOE will hold a Special Meeting that will focus on Strategic Planning.  The meeting will begin at 8 a.m. at the Administration Center.  The agenda for the meeting can be accessed at the following link:  1/23/16 Meeting Agenda. We encourage our readers to review the documents posted for the meeting that can be accessed at the following link: Strategic Planning documents.

2.  In his comment below, Jay Wick notes that it is time for the BOE to overcome its "fear of micromanaging."  What is ironic about his comment (which we whole-heartedly agree with) is that one of the concerns ECRA (the Strategic Planning Firm) claims constituents raised in their survey and focus group meetings was that the BOE has done too much micromanaging.  The apparent disconnect between ECRA's finding and what people like Jay Wick (and us) believe about how involved the BOE has been or should be is something that we hope the BOE explores at the Strategic Planning Table tomorrow.  In our opinion, there have been a few board members in the last several years that have rightfully demanded administrative accountability and given specific examples during board meetings of how the administration has refused to implement board directives and not acted in our students' or taxpayers' best interests.  These board members have been in the minority -- until now -- and had no authority to effect the kind of change that Mr. Wick points out is needed.  

3.  The administration has been quick to call out past minority attempts to address needed change as micromanagement.  This should come as no surprise since some of these changes could have potential negative impact on their livelihoods.  But now it appears the winds may have finally shifted.  A new board majority spoke up at the last BOE meeting and demanded that the administration follow the BOE directives.  This same majority should insist that administrative compliance with BOE directives be implemented into any strategic plan that is board approved.  

4.  Finally, we want to commend the current Board Members who have raised their concerns and expectations during public board meetings. Board Members Garg, Giltner, Gray, Burns and Vorobiev have been serving this community well in recent months.  In addition to demanding that the Administration comply with its curriculum directive, the BOE majority has publicly criticized Dr. White for authorizing the recent mass student data release to a pro-referendum committee.  Dr. White was forced to admit at the 1/11/16 Board Meeting that he could have refused the request under FERPA and the Code.  He further admitted that he was solely responsible for making the decision to release the data.  The BOE was not involved in the decision to release the data and only learned about it after the fact. Once the BOE was made aware of this mass release of student contact information, Board Members Gray and Giltner immediately raised concerns which were ultimately discussed during the January 11 board meeting.  Since then, a Freedom of Information Act request was filed by a news reporter seeking release of emails in which the data release was discussed. These emails establish how the BOE had no involvement in the original release of this information and how its members were aghast when they learned about it. We urge our reader to take the time to review the emails which can be accessed at: FOIA Response. We believe you will be proud of the board members that did not sit silently by but rather demanded that Dr. White take corrective action.  

5.  We hope that the tenacity shown by the BOE majority in recent weeks continues as the BOE identifies additional "corrective steps" that should be part of the strategic plan.

Comment of the Day:

jay_wick said...
Those of us who have read all the information that was diligently provided through exhaustive FOIA requests and traced the 'evolution' of the curricular changes that were enacted, understand that when people work harder to provide cover for their preferred action than to actually move in the direction that clearly was desired by the BOE majority there will be negative consequences; we rightly look forward to regime change to undo some of those negatives.

It is necessary to fill in some of the relevant history. The impetus for modification to prior policies that served as "gate keeper" functions to the former accelerated offerings of the district was a desire by community members to expand access. The perverse response of the outside consultants was badly misappropriated by prior administrators; one would be hard pressed to say that the way prior offerings were dismantled did not reek of vengeful malfeasance. When the mostly "re-appropriated" plan was adhered to by central office staff after the departure of the prior administrator, the motivation might have been lack of passion for doing the hard work needed to actually craft a rational proposal or it may have been a case of a poor match between the skills need to accomplish the task and the personnel in the roles. Dr. White has made not so subtle hints as to which is truer...

While on some level this back story is now water under the bridge, the fact remains there are lots of kids in the district that very likely would be doing much better if they were being appropriately challenged. The harebrained idea that the whole district could be uniformly marched through mathematics that was not suited to their abilities STILL has consequences for kids that are at ALL points along the Gaussian distribution -- those that should be performing in the upper quintiles face a disorganized future as the pipeline of teachers that formerly expected their ranks in middle school has been treated like pariahs -- it is now verboten to mention acceleration that formerly was applauded. The kids in the lower performing groups have gotten a raw deal and many now are actually farther behind because of the silly assumption of stigmatization that refuses to give them personal attention they need to remain in sync with their grade-level expectations -- their floor has not been raised to the ceiling, rather they've been anti-assisted -- if not for parents that seek outside help, these kids would be badly floundering. Perhaps worst off of all are the big hump of kids in the middle that, combined with the haphazard PARCC testing and questionable adoption of new math texts, have been through so much drama that it could nearly be classified as trauma...

The literal arm-flapping techniques that are a favorite of folks that hold distinctly backwards understanding of the supposed basis of their goofy classroom strategies have to be called out. The damage that has been done to kids by slapping new labels on them is immense. The Myth of Learning Styles | Folks too busy to actually read the books that they think defend their goofiness should at least read the columns the actual researchers share Multiple Intelligences Are NOT Learning Styles | Howard Gardner Ph.D. | 

Our current BOE has many well meaning members that need to overcome their fears of micromanaging and insist that any new staff can clearly articulate a basis for progress. Refuting the Doctrine and Industry of Learning Styles | Psychological Science in the Public Interest


Anonymous said...

I looked at the Strategic Plan documents on BoardDocs. Very interesting. Some of the responses made me think "Who have you been talking to?" I also found interesting how 60% of teachers and 50% said they felt involved with the decisions that affected their work, yet 100% of administrators felt they were involved. This scares me. The administrators have repeatedly shown that they don't really know, or at least don't care, what a teacher's and support staff's job entails. Teachers and staff warned the administration about mold gate at HMS. I've been told that none of the DOL, and many of the principals, know anything about the online versions of textbook, yet the teachers know about and use them. I'm glad that the board is waking up and starting to hold the administration accountable.

Anonymous said...

I listened to the facilities committee meeting on January 20th. Something caught my attention: one member (maybe Mrs. Bryant?) said that they were putting the same problems into a new box. I'm a bit unclear on all the specifics of what she meant. However, I will not pay $65 million for a school that has problems. Yes, I agree, it's the teachers that make the school good, not the building, but people have been calling for the current HMS to be torn down since it was built. If we build a new one, I don't want history to repeat itself.

Anonymous said...

For the last several months, the District has been working with independent educational research firm ECRA Group, Inc. in the development of a multi-year strategic plan. Parents, staff, and community members shared input and feedback through interviews, focus groups, and surveys. All stakeholders are invited to attend either of two community engagement events on Monday, January 25 to welcome any additional ideas or questions you may have. This will be an interactive event, with opportunities for dialogue and Q&A. Sessions will be held Monday, January 25 at CHMS at 9:30am and 6:30pm. No registration is necessary.

Hope people go. We need to stop complaining here and start speaking up.

Anonymous said...

You are so right, 8:23. I plan on attending tonight along with a few of my parent friends. The long term status of this district looks pretty grim if we stay on the current path. When a board member asks White during a recent board meeting about PARCC and wonders if we are going to continue with it (when many other states and districts have opted out) his response is to wait for the state to decide whether our kids sit through another worthless round of testing this spring. Heaven forbid he actually makes a statement or shows some backbone. But when it comes to turning over parent cell phone numbers, addresses, etc., he cant' make a (bad) decision and turn them over to the pro referendum group fast enough.
We need a new administration and we need it now.

Anonymous said...

I listened to the strategic planning board meeting on Saturday and have to say I was disappointed. I don't want any more mission statements. The old one where all students would achieve excellence was just fine. Suggesting that now we will develop students who will "change the world" is downright silly. We don't need buzz words or catch phrases. We need practical steps that will actually be implemented, whether in 1 year, 5 years or 10 years.