The fol­low­ing is a com­pi­la­tion and edit­ing of the obser­va­tions of sev­en Board Watchers at the March 28, 2012 KCPS School Board meet­ing:

Presentation of the “Superstar” stu­dent awards con­sumed the first 35 min­utes of the meet­ing.  While it is impor­tant to rec­og­nize stu­dent suc­cess­es, it seems the pri­or­i­ty for use of time should be work­ing on issues relat­ed to accred­i­ta­tion.  We have observed the recog­ni­tion of stu­dents at oth­er area school board meet­ings done in a more effi­cient man­ner. Perhaps a max­i­mum of 15 min­utes should be allo­cat­ed for awards.  
 
In gen­er­al, the focus of the superintendent’s report on finances and accred­i­ta­tion seems to be on tar­get.  These are the issues we would hope to hear dis­cussed at every pub­lic meet­ing.
  
We were dis­turbed about the lack of urgency in the dis­cus­sion of the acu­ity test results.  At least six schools were iden­ti­fied as hav­ing inad­e­quate progress.  There was no dis­cus­sion about inter­ven­tion strate­gies being imple­ment­ed after the schools took the first acu­ity tests in October.  The assign­ment of part-time coun­selors to address dis­ci­pline issues was dis­cussed, but no instruc­tion­al inter­ven­tions were men­tioned. While it was men­tioned that the under­ly­ing issues in those schools were build­ing lead­er­ship and dis­ci­pline, there was no dis­cus­sion about how obsta­cles have been removed, i.e. prin­ci­pals, inef­fec­tive teach­ers, etc.  It was only not­ed that pro­fes­sion­al devel­op­ment is need­ed.  The bot­tom line is that the clock is tick­ing, and the MAP test­ing begins with­in days.  How are these six schools expect­ed to per­form well when the prob­lems iden­ti­fied in October have not been resolved?  Is the board hold­ing the admin­is­tra­tion account­able for this lack of progress?   
 
When a board mem­ber asked the admin­is­tra­tion to draw cor­re­la­tions between effec­tive schools and effec­tive teach­ers based on cur­rent teacher rank­ings, the admin­is­tra­tors indi­cat­ed this infor­ma­tion would be shared in a future closed ses­sion meet­ing.  Teacher con­tracts will be renewed in April, and this infor­ma­tion should have been shared with the board already.  The dis­trict seemed to indi­cate that it did not have this infor­ma­tion com­piled.  They have been gath­er­ing teacher reviews since the fall of Dr. Covington’s arrival.  Why is this infor­ma­tion not avail­able?  Why couldn’t it be men­tioned that this infor­ma­tion had been con­sid­ered in deter­min­ing which con­tracts will be renewed?
 
Summer School — Radical inter­ven­tion tech­niques are appro­pri­ate for unac­cred­it­ed dis­tricts, includ­ing addi­tion­al instruc­tion time.  However, it was indi­cat­ed that only 1,700 stu­dents (10% of the pop­u­la­tion) will be enrolled in sum­mer school.  Why isn’t manda­to­ry instruc­tion being con­sid­ered for the sum­mer?   If the rea­son is fund­ing relat­ed, then the admin­is­tra­tion should be telling the board about the obsta­cles and how appli­ca­tions for waivers and grants have been made to make the fund­ing hap­pen.  Did the trans­for­ma­tion plan include increased instruc­tion in the sum­mer? 
 
Head Start and ear­ly child­hood pro­grams in the 2012–2013 bud­get are to remain at cur­rent enroll­ment lev­els.  The trans­for­ma­tion plan called for increas­es in both.  Is the board hold­ing the admin­is­tra­tion account­able for imple­ment­ing the trans­for­ma­tion plan?
 
The board unan­i­mous­ly approved $56 mil­lion in expen­di­tures under the con­sent agen­da with­out dis­cus­sion and agreed to increase the superintendent’s approval author­i­ty to $250,000.  DTRTFK con­tin­ues to be con­cerned about over­sight of spend­ing.  Having checks and bal­ances in place is not the same as micro­manag­ing.  We do not know how much knowl­edge the board has about what is actu­al­ly being spent.  Other school boards we have observed have a mem­ber who works close­ly with the finance depart­ment and rec­om­mends bud­get approval to board col­leagues based on care­ful review of the items.

The meet­ing had the fla­vor of a cam­paign ral­ly to show that the schools are suc­ceed­ing and infer­ring cred­it to board mem­bers who are run­ning for elec­tion.  We pre­fer very spe­cif­ic turn­around strate­gies that will require major inter­ven­tion in the sta­tus quo.  It is unfor­tu­nate that an orga­ni­za­tion that claims to have a strong com­mit­ment to com­mu­ni­ty engage­ment does such a poor job of inform­ing and engag­ing those inter­est­ed com­mu­ni­ty mem­bers who attend meet­ings.  There were not enough print­ed agen­das to go around; the screen remains unread­able by a major­i­ty of the audi­ence; board mem­bers often can­not be heard; and pre­sen­ters have to awk­ward­ly pass a hand-held micro­phone from one to the oth­er.  These are not indi­ca­tions of a high-per­form­ing orga­ni­za­tion.  Board Docs pre­sen­ta­tions could be post­ed on the dis­trict web­site pri­or to board meet­ings so that the com­mu­ni­ty could have copies and fol­low along.

View the agenda/minutes of this meet­ing
(will open in a new win­dow).

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