I know this is late, and probably not as in depth as I would like it to be, but that’s what happens when you are on vacation. To complicate matters further, I’m in the heart of the Pocono’s where WiFi access as I am accustomed to is not readily available. I’m utilizing a combination of a hot spot that my sister provided and my phone as a hot spot. Wifi may be limited but news certainly is not so let’s not waste any time getting after it.
You might have seen the headlines this week singing the praises of Tennessee’s ESSA education plan. Under the recent nationally passed ESSA legislation states are given more latitude than under NO Child Left Behind but are required to submit an accountability plan. Tennessee was one of the first states to submit theirs and now awaits approval. A recent review by a group spearheaded by Bellwether Education Partners and the Collaborative for Student Success gave Tennessee solid marks though. At least that’s what the Chalkbeat TN headline said.
It’s upon closer review that I become a little confused. According to the article, “Tennessee’s plan was called “robust, transparent and comprehensive.” The review praised its “clear vision for reform” and its design of “district and school accountability systems that rely on high-quality indicators.” But they also made the remark that, “The state’s lowest rating — a 2 out of a possible 5 — was for how Tennessee plans to identify and rate schools in need of targeted support for certain groups of students. Reviewers questioned whether the state’s system might mask the performance of some by proposing to combine the scores of black, Hispanic and Native American students into one subgroup.” I would think that the later would out weigh the former and I certainly wouldn’t call a plan weak on identifying and rating schools solid. Peter Greene per usual has some excellent insight into the whole issue with ESSA nonsense. I don’t know if all of it holds true in Tennessee but it’s a worthy read.
This week in MNPS was nothing short of embarrassing. You would think that the week before the 4th of July holiday would be relatively drama free. I was actually starting to feel a tinge of optimism after the listen and learns from earlier in the month and things appeared to be calming down. It’s amazing how things can crumble in a week. This week earns MNPS the double face palm.
Let’s start with Tuesday’s board meeting. Once again Mary Pierce introduced her resolution to treat all families of the district as… families of the district. This shouldn’t have been a hard vote, yet three members chose to abstain and one…not to vote.
I take no issue with a board member choosing to vote against this resolution. Too chartery for you? Fair enough. But to abstain? To not vote? This resolution has been out there for a month. If a board member had issue with the wording, there was ample time to approach the author and get it amended. If they don’t agree with the resolution they should vote no and stand by their reasons. The scenario that played out is just the board playing games as always. These are the moments to remember the next time a board member tells you what “powerful work” they’ve been doing and how the retreats to Salt Lake, Chattanooga, New Orleans, and Florida have made them a much more cohesive unit. Don’t let anyone fool you, this board is as divided as ever. Just because mom and dad don’t fight in front of the kid’s doesn’t make it a happy household.
Then there was the Phil Williams report on lead in school drinking water that aired Thursday. This report comes on the heels of MNPS putting out a press release congratulating themselves on being proactive in testing water in schools for lead. The press release reads, “While not required by the city or state, Metro Schools voluntarily initiated a water safety testing program to affirm the safety of the drinking water in schools.” No where in that release do they talk about the results from the testing. Did they really think no one would inquire?
Well Channel 5 did and here’s what they found:
At Waverly-Belmont Elementary, a faucet in one classroom tested at 135 parts per billion, while a second classroom registered 200 parts per billion.
At DuPont Elementary in Old Hickory, a water fountain there tested at 238 parts per billion.
And at Hillwood High, the chiller unit for a water fountain there registered 1,190 parts per billion — that’s almost 80 times the EPA action level.
How did MNPS respond? “We’re confident that our drinking water is safe,” said Dennis Neal, the school system’s executive director of facility and grounds maintenance. This despite the fact that, out of the 2,800 samples taken, more than a third exceeded the pediatricians’ recommendation of what is safe for children to drink. Pediatricians are kinda partial to no lead in the water. a second report that aired Friday night made things look even worse.
In all fairness this is not a Dr. Joseph problem. This goes back to the previous director of schools Jesse Register. It also should fall on the shoulders of the school board members who have served over the last 4 years. Perhaps a little less Trumpian tweeting and a little more report reading would have been in order here.
What is a Dr. Joseph problem is the apparent inability to manage a single challenge. Whether it is a snow day, teacher raises, or bus problems, nothing seems manageable before escalating. In short everything is dealt with re-actively and nothing is anticipated or addressed proactively. Remember that earning of trust thing I was talking about? If you can’t handle these issues, why should we trust you to reshape the district?
Quick raise of hands. Does anybody here not know what a Friday afternoon news dump is? Just in case, let me tell you, it’s releasing bad news or documents on a Friday afternoon in an attempt to avoid media scrutiny. Even better is a Friday holiday news dump. With a holiday news dump, nobody reads anything for several days and the chance of more immediate stories over shadowing the bad news becomes more likely. Guess what came out today at 3 pm? MNPS released communication on the brand new administration assignments. You know the big reorganization that was supposed to make us more dynamic and responsive? The one designed to allow for better planning and coordination across all grade levels in support of the district’s Strategic Framework. A framework that would create tighter communities and allow families to follow one path forward. I find it hard to imagine a more critical document that could be released. For all the fan fare and bally hoo, it doesn’t feel like they want the plan looked at too closely.
I’m not going to spend to much time on this because I’m sure I’ll have a lot more to say on it going forward after I dig into things a little more but a few things stand out. I am curious why we are giving the heads of HR new titles and raises after only a year. But what do I know? Maybe they’ve drastically improved the department.
In looking at the EDSSI assignments I’ve got several questions. I was under the impression that each EDSSI would have a cluster. You know that pathway thing? “Having one person for the parent to be able to contact from K-12 will help strengthen communication over a student’s career,” as Dr. Joseph stated when announcing the restructure. Yea, not so much. Each EDSSI has several schools from various clusters. I’m going to have to study it a bit more, but to my untrained eye it looks as if everybody just drew straws. When I get back I’ll be filing an open records request for salaries. That’s when things should get real interesting. Like I said, more on this later.
Things keep getting hotter in Prince George County. Last week the NAACP asked the board not to renew CEO of Schools Kevin Maxwell’s contract and the Governor of Maryland thinks there should be an investigation. The state board of education agrees with the governor and will conduct an investigation.
BETTER NEWS, WELL KINDA
We do want to wish a fond farewell to some of MNPS’s good un’s who are moving on. Thank you Tim Drinkwine, John Hubble, and Connie Gwinn for making our schools a much better places. If we send up a bat signal will you come back?
If you haven’t read Mary Jo Cramb’s piece on teacher retention, do yourself a favor and read it now.
Phone battery is starting to die so I better get to the poll questions.
This week I’d like to know how you gauge homework, MNPS has a new policy and I’m not so sure it’s going to be very popular. My second question has to do with the start of the school year. This year MNPS has decided to jump right in with a full week right from the beginning. Lastly, I’m starting to see school uniforms on the racks at stores and I wanted to know your thoughts.
There ya go.