Wednesday, September 16, 2015

Voices are Being Heard

The School Board appears to have heard community concerns about the transparency of Board actions and public participation in its decisions, and is taking action – some of which are very good and one a bit odd – to address the problem.  Here are a few things that happened last night at the Sept. 15, 2015 School Board meeting – many, many positive steps were taken by the Board.

Community Engagement – the Board approved adding a new focus on community engagement in its Triennial Plan.  The Triennial Plan also now says that the “community-wide vision for our school of the future” will be refined with input “from a variety of perspectives.”   That’s all good.

School Performance – The Board discussed adding language to the Staff Work Plan on providing more data to the community on academic performance over the past five years, providing data for comparable schools like Yorktown, and asking the Board’s advisory committees how we could improve.  There was also discussion about better ways to measure improvement, for example, regarding the effectiveness of technology.  And the Staff Work Plan now includes language that tracking of teacher turnover data would be re-established, as I had suggested.  That’s all very good.

In addition, because the Board wants to provide evidence to the community regarding the performance of the Superintendent, it approved the issuance of a press release highlighting FCCPS’ accomplishments under her tenure, including leading test scores and high graduation rates.  While I think better metrics and disclosing performance data will be more effective, it’s great that the Board is communicating its views.  The odd part was that the end of the meeting, the Board amended the motion approved last week that extended/amended the Superintendent’s contract, specifically to remove from the motion “as discussed in Closed Session[.]”  Presumably that’s because the contract extension/amendment wasn’t discussed in closed session, but if not, I wonder when it was discussed.  In any event, if you want to see the discussion at the Sept. 8 meeting you can see the video, from 50:35 – 53:05 and 1:01:15 – 1:02:00:  The Board also took the time during last night’s meeting to have each member speak about the accomplishments of Dr. Jones.

Technology and Security – The Board approved conducting an external audit regarding information security and Internet safety.  That’s great.  The Board also pushed out the due date for the audit until Dec. 2016 due to staff resource and budget issues.

Budgeting – Several commentators, including Erin Gill and me, had suggested having the School Board do a zero-based budget that examines every program.  Dr. Jones emphasized that she already does a zero-based budget every year, as had been suggested by commentators, and that she and the staff look at the effectiveness of programs and cut ineffective ones.  That is also very good, and it would be great if that analysis is undertaken at the Board level as well. 

Please keep providing your feedback to the Board and candidates.  It is having an effect.

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