LIVE BLOG: Board of Education Monthly Meeting – Monday, September 10, 2012

Welcome to our second live blog of the 2012-2013 school year!

Board of Education meeting will begin shortly.  Refresh your browser often for updates.

There will be 5 presentations today from the 2pm meeting.

View the meeting agenda for the 2pm Committee of the Whole meeting here: http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public

2:20pm – Budget Update: Chuck Burbridge, CFO for Atlanta Public Schools reports on the district’s general fund balance.  Burbridge explains that ultimately, E-Rate is a reimbursement. When E-Rate eligible equipment is put into service records must show usage and maintenance in order for APS to receive reimbursement.

2:30pm – John O’Connor, Assistant Supt. for Students Services presents “Supporting Student through Tiers of Interventions.”  John tells the story of fictional students who may enter APS and what their “odds” are.

Medical Terminology – “Risk” will be used during this presentation.  What is the risk of these youngsters to be suspended from APS 10 days cumulatively in a school year, based on 2010-11 data.

Boys, 1 out of 77 males and 1 out of 161 girls are suspended for more than 10 days.

On the high school graduation test, the statistics for exceeding in English Language Arts for APS students is as follows:
White 88.9%

Multi Racial 60%

AfAmerican 34.1 %

Hispanic 26%

In Georgia, children with 15 absences or more during their 8th grade year, have a 26.2% chance of graduating with a high school diploma.

In APS, our graduation rate is only 52%, based on the Federal defined formula for graduation rates.

It is obvious that there are many students in APS who struggle or need extra support.  In the past we have launched over 220 initiatives, over a dozen school reform models, different calendars for 3 year round schools.  The question really is, with all the initiatives and personnel why haven’t we made a greater impact?

Answer: Tremendous lack of alignment.

Is every school using research based practices to change student behavior?  If suspensions improved student behavior, wouldnt the school with the highest suspension rate this year have the lowest rate next year?  No.  When a student has behavioral difficulties, does every professional have a different recommendation on how to proceed?  We all need to be unified and aligned.

Are all the initiatives and personnel within a school aligned?  Do we have different messages within a school?

At the end of the day what we are talking about is the Pyramid of Interventions.  I almost want to get away from the term wrap around services because that means if there is a problem we will call it out and someone else will come in to fix it.  The first step is getting everyone aligned.  Our plan moving forward is to develop strong Tier 1 instruction/support for all students, then to develop “Common Intervention Protocol Menus” when students struggle.

Protocols would keep everyone from working in isolation.  The point is to give leaders a limited set of interventions that are supported by research.

What would happen if we could align all of our staff so that everyone worked together and collaborated?  This work is the intersection of Georgia Pyramid of Interventions, Common Core, Wrap Around Services and others.  My work is to get everyone aligned based on real research so that we can change adult practices so that we can change student behavior.

-End of Presentation_

BOE Member YJohnson:  I was under the impression was that we were further along, I thought that was the purpose of the cluster model.  I thought we were going to get a report about where we are with wrap-around services.

O’Connor: One of my shops is Student Support which includes counseling and wrap around services.  We’ve had in the past external services.  We have some in the que waiting to work with students.  Students are receiving services now from internal and external sources, but the work is around making sure that both are aligned.

YJohnson:  When we did our final budget work we talked about eliminating some folks who did this work and filling the gaps.  Is that a different conversation?

Davis: Yes, that is a different conversation with the committee that does that work.

McDaniel:  At the last wrap-around services meeting we talked about getting more information and I hope to have that at a subsequent meeting where we can point out where the gaps are.

Davis:  I think what we are saying is that those people closest to the child in the school house understand the needs of that child better.  There is now a committee at every school that will assess the needs of every child and then the principal has the opportunity to provide or purchase those services (uses United Way example) for services we cannot provide ourselves.

YJohnson:  I guess I should not take away from this that there are not children getting services…

Davis:  I certainly cannot sit here and guarantee that for 40,000 kids….

HKinnane:  In terms of offering support, where do you see the early intervention program…do you have a vision of how we can use the EIP program?

O’Connor:  EIP is one of many things kids can be triggered in to get more intensive instruction.

Waldon:  The EIP is in place in our schools.  There are various models from the state and we have focused using EIP to reduce class sizes and that is already happening in our schools.

HKinnane: So it is happening because during the budget process it didn’t seem like we were taking advantage of it…

Waldon:  We took advantage of it and we wanted to make sure we structured that program where students could get the most benefit. In as many schools as we could we used EIP to reduce the number of students in classrooms.

HKinnane:  I think I heard another message in the presentation about the lingering effects on suspension and their effect on students and their graduation rates.  Are we going to look at how we prescribe suspensions?

Davis:  There are probably instances where you should have suspensions, but we do want to give the impression that it should not be reflexive.  It should not be our first impulse given its importance to performance in school.  We want to make sure it is being applied the same in all schools and not just a particular school or with a particular principal.  The key is can we keep kids in the classroom and learning more…our first reflex should not be suspension.

English:  An intervention is but a response to a particular action.  What is our idea or thoughts around a strategy to reach kids before they even take that action.

O’Connor:  That is our mission.  We want to invest in the front-end.  We have to shift the thinking from how do I respond to how do I build system of response so that behavior changes reducing the need for intervention.

English:  As we think about improving our alignment processes, and going a little bit deeper into the changing of our thinking, poverty is a problem but I don’t think we can afford to say that poverty is an excuse.  What are we doing outside of good teaching and learning?  When you look at something like the achievement gap, which starts long before a kid walks into the school, what are we doing for the other 16 hours kids are not in school that mitigates the negative harmful effects of poverty?

O’Connor:  Language development – we have to have an impact out there…how can we include that in our initiative? How can we have an impact from birth?

English:  Have we ever thought about strategies to provide Early Childhood Education to every child in APS?

Davis:  We are doing it in a limited way with the CASIE Foundation and we are trying to do more of that.  But we have a resource constraint issue with what we can do.  Our operation at Dunbar Elementary is not an inexpensive operation.  We are having an ongoing conversation with partners about this.  We understand what happens when kids have a 50,000 word difference.  But you are very right, we need to look at early learning.

McDaniel:  As a policy matter we are constrained to K-12.

Meister:  One of the things I didn’t hear a lot about is parental engagement in this whole process.  How are we incorporating that into it?

Waldon:  We are focusing on the parental engagement piece of Title I.  We are focusing also on Pre-K so that they are strategically incorporated into the academic program of schools.  What I think one of our challenges has been is that we’ve done a lot of bottom-up and top-down strategy but in the cluster model we have to redefine the kind of work that must go on.

One of the challenges of change is that it is going to take some time.  We have quality teams based on regions and clusters this year.  We are working on a 5 year strategic plan but working deeply on what has to happen in 2012-2013.  Our principals are leaders of the work and supportive of the work, but it will take some time.

Meister:  I think it is important to take a look at what the parameters of what is in school and other types of suspensions.

Davis:  You want a list of all suspensions by school?

Meister:  Not by school, but by general type, high school, middle school….

Amos:  Thanks for the data and the study – it speaks to what we’ve known for a while in APS which is that it is a story of 2 school systems.  I just want to say thank you on behalf of my constituents when it comes to providing equity.

Muhammad:  Are there any timelines for the strategy?

Davis:  As we start to phase in programs we will make you aware.  The reason that it’s here today is to show you that it is a priority to us.  Suspensions are but one part of that.  We are discovering that there is a laundry list of things we do to ourselves, policies we have made and are ongoing and we just have to clean them up.  So there is not one grand plan.  Things like how we manage transfers between schools, between our two calendars and so we identify a lot of them, they are priorities and we are attacking them.

Part of our overall structural problem was an inability to replicate was was working.  ….getting better is not optional, it is part of your job.  We have a lot of things that did work.  But as our achievement graph shows, its not systemic…we want to get to that point, figure out what works and figure out how to move that.  Carver Early College works magnificently…why don’t the others work as well?  There has to be some learnings there for the rest of our Early Colleges.  Should there be a senior leader in Early Colleges that makes sure the learning gets across all Early Colleges? We want to make sure that where we are good we can force that good across all areas, not just highlight it.  We know we can generate excellence, we can do it episodically, we have to do it systemically.

EJohnson:  I think we need to be thinking about, I’d like to see what is going to be different with what we are doing now from what we’ve done in the past.  We’ve known for a long time that based on a community, kids come in at different levels.  But we know all kids can learn.  We are talking about getting out into the community but the schools cannot do this alone.  Those are some of the concerns I have.  I’d like to get a better feel of what your plans are and how your plan will look when aligned.

Presentations have now concluded.

3:19pm – Community of the Whole Meeting roll call

Supt. Davis reads the proposed agenda items.

Report No. 12/13-1710 Authorization to Approve Westside Atlanta Charter School Petition and Enter Into and Execute a Contract Agreement

Butler-Burks:  I have to say that this group (West Side Charter) has worked very hard within the NPU G.  (Butler-Burks asks that in Board Action Items that the schools Grove Park and Woodson are added to the document for a matter of record).

HKinnane:  It jumps out at me that this is a K-6.

Davis:  It actually is going to be a K-8.

Allen Mueller:  You are only approving K-6 because that is all that is covered during the initial 5 year approval.

Muhammad:  Is it possible to get a response for the other charters for why they were not approved?

Mueller:  We have details for the reasons for denial.  Not only do we furnish a letter, but we then invite applicants who were rejected to meet with us and we go through the applications with them in detail.  I will share with you bullet points for each school.  Our letter gives the high points that explains the review process and gives the high level reasons for rejection with an invitation to come back and review applications.

Butler-Burks:  This would be the first charter school in our district that is not a state charter school.  I look forward to giving the students in district 5 another opportunity for school choice.

Report No. 12/13-5106 Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishments

Butler-Burks:  I want to get a better understanding of the Community Outreach Specialists.  How many are there?  Where are they?

Davis:  We can give you the community outreach structure and what cluster they are assigned to, as well as the job description.

Butler-Burks:  My second question is around some of the effective dates, some of which goes back to July and we are just now getting them today.  What is being communicated to people?  Before it was very clear that people did not start until BOE approval.  What is being communicated to them and what is the purpose of this process if they still need to come to us?

Davis:  People are told that they are not official until they receive the stamp of approval from the BOE.  To be candid, they are told that it is contingent.  I don’t believe it is a deviation from past practice significantly.  Mr. Gray is undertaking the process of fixing this report.

Butler-Burks:  Can we remove this from the consent agenda?

HKinnane:  The concern in my book is the number of teachers that it looks like we are hiring from outside of the system when there is an item that will be brought to us telling us that we have too many teachers in the system.  I’m worried about the message we are giving to our loyal employees of the system.

Davis:  There are certain things, like redistricting and closure of schools, is a very distinct event from the hiring of staff for a new school year.  The question becomes how long do you keep employees on payroll.  As we hold our principals more accountable, I’ve told them that they have the ability to put together their own teams.  We are perfecting the process of making sure they have access to all current teachers who do not have positions.  I do not want to force people onto anyone because I do not want them to have a built in excuse that “I would have performed better if you had not forced upon me.”  Harsh reality is that when we have an excess pool there may be, may be people in there who you do not want to teach children.  You may say why did they get adequate reviews and I would say that the principals did not do their jobs.  I would not make the assumption that every teacher in a pool is bad or good…that is the challenge we have to work thru and we are making sure that before positions are filled that these people are being looked at and they will not be passed by as people are being hired from the outside.

Meister expresses concern about the lack of a Graduation Coach at North Atlanta High School.

Davis:  The ED’s are very close to a decision at North Atlanta.  I share your concerns.  I did not want for appointments to be made that create risks for the system and the person who made that appointment is then no longer there to manage that decision.

Report No. 12/13-5108 Authorization to Execute a Reduction in Force Plan
View the District’s proposed REDUCTION IN FORCE PLAN

Actual student enrollment numbers indicate that there may be a need to for a reduction in force for instructional staff, classroom teachers, and classified employees. Board Policies GBKA and GCKA set forth the following circumstances when a reduction in force may be necessary: 

  • Declines in student enrollment 
  • Reductions or shortfalls in local, state or federal funding 
  • District-wide reorganization 
  • Cancellation of programs 
  • Closings or mergers of schools

According to the policy, if the superintendent determines that a reduction in force is necessary, the superintendent shall, after consideration of the program needs of the Atlanta Public Schools, present to the board for its approval a plan detailing why the reduction in force is needed and how it will be implemented. Inasmuch as the reduction in force plans approved on May 14, 2012 (Report No. 11/12-5125) and June 4, 2012 (Report No. 11/12-5128) were not implemented with respect to certificated personnel, this plan rescinds and replaces the previous plans with respect to certificated personnel.

HKinanne questions the new Reduction in Force Plan (RIF)

Davis:  Why have we not utilized the last 2 plans? They took longer than expected to implement and we are in a position now where it may make sense to wait until we have finished leveling.  Leveling is the last grand personnel related event we have.  I don’t anticipate any school closings, more end of year or beginning of semester hiring – although you will see that we still need hires in high school – the speed that we were able to implement our process has caused us to rescind the previous RIF.

Meister:  I would like to see what the plan is with the number of teachers reduced.  I’m seeing in some of my schools 4 teachers being RIF’d.

Davis:  In terms of actual counts, I can’t reconcile what parents are saying with what we are doing because we haven’t laid out what has to be done.  Linda can speak to our schedule.  Again we are trying to do appropriate planning as opposed to firefighting.

Linda Anderson:  In terms of our numbers and information, our ED’s are in the process of having conversations with our principals regarding the projected enrollment numbers vs actual numbers.  We don’t want to simply look at the raw data.  For instance, if a school is down by 4 teachers, as you look at that the ED has to talk to the principal about how this affects the school as a whole, what programs may be impacted.  Our budget was built upon the projected numbers, so we have that information to work from as we look at where we are with the budget.  We have schools with higher than projected enrollment and we want to make sure we give them their increased number of teachers.  We want to move as quickly as possible with our high schools since we have needs for teachers there, we have been in the process of looking at our numbers daily and meeting daily regarding leveling since August 6th.  The enrollment numbers have gone up daily, as they have in the past.

For Day One enrollment we had 36,000 + students, down by over 600 students.  Day 15 we had a gain of 8,893 students which was 42,779 students, still under enrollment at day 15 last year.  Day 24 this year (last Friday) was 43,766 which is a gain of nearly 10,000 since the first day of school.  We must be very cautious because we don’t want to level before all of our students arrive and negatively affect the students and teachers we have in place at this time.

ED’s are now having conversations about what we need to do moving forward.

The number of students that we have budgeted for is 45,261, roughly a 1400 student difference (underage).

Davis:  We are of course talking about 1,400 students in different places.  The exact numbers are not going to be known until we go thru step 1 (basic numbers), step 2 (process with principals to review the educational reasons) then adjustments will be made.  The people who were not affected in the first two RIF’s are not necessarily placed and working because of bad estimates, they have been assigned as permanent substitutes and are working everyday.  The calculations were not inherently all that bad.

Meister:  I want to clarify that these are numbers from a principal’s spreadsheet.

Muhammad:  Are we looking at why we are losing students?

Davis:  We can not do that until we know where we are

Anderson:  We are looking at high schools now.  We have high schools with a high bump in their enrollment.  We are looking to move teachers as early as September 17th.  In Elementary and middle starting September 24th.

English:  Why are we still hiring people?

Davis:  Some of the ones you are seeing have been there, but they are hired based on original projections.  The question becomes how good are our projections.  We are not going to lay anyone off based on this Board action until leveling is done, but it allows them to move quickly.

English:  Inside of the plan it talks about criteria.  If I was just recently hired with no evaluation, etc., are the 51 people exempt from the RIF?

Anderson:  In the past we could use seniority, but there is a law in effect that says performance must be used as first criteria.

Michael Gray:  The state does say that we must use performance, not tenure first.  We can’t consider those individuals in the RIF plan when the first indicator is performance.

Davis:  I want to point out, that when we didn’t hire teachers last year, this room was filled with people saying my child doesn’t have teachers.  We have to staff based on projections.  The downside of having an inadequate number of teachers on Day One is that you get a lot of pushback from the public about not having the number of teachers needed. We are looking at 1400 students less than what we budgeted for, which means that we do not need those teachers in place for those missing students.  These are not fun things to do, I don’t have a great solution other than to forecast perfectly, which can’t be done.  We do the best we can based on high priced demographers that we pay (chuckles from crowd).  If the district starts to expand, we will have the opposite problem.

Note:  FTE counts for funding are due to the state on October 2nd, 2012

Anderson:  We do not have Day 24 data from last year, we only have thru day 15.

HKinnane:  We are not 1400 down from last year, we are 1400 down from our projection.  If we are running closer to last years numbers, then it seems likely we are going to have a jump as in years past….

Davis:  A decision to approve a plan is not a decision to lay off anyone. You’ve approved 2 previous ones and no one got laid off.  We need to put the structures out there because of the lead time it takes for these decisions.

Anderson:  We are looking at Sept. 17th to place teachers in High Schools and in Elementary and Middle schools we are making shifts on Sept. 24.

Butler Burks: To approve these hires today, 51, two month old hires, “looks funny.”

McDaniel:  This is not a budget issue, but a leveling issue.

Davis:  Yes, we are trying to keep the impacts, regarding budget, as far away from the classroom as possible.  We have not upset classroom ratios and we will not exceed those ratios.  If the ratio is 1:25, we round up and the school with 101 will receive 5 teachers.  We will staff the schools appropriately, if it creates a financial problem, we will address that problem. We are not cutting arts, languages, sports…this is not a budget in the classroom.  It will potentially become a budget issue outside of the classroom if the impact is too large within the classroom.

Vote taken, HKinnane, Meister and English oppose. Vote carries to add this item.

Muhammad gives a brief report on the Superintendent Visioning Committee.

McDaniel:  Dr. Grant will poll the Board to see if we will offer an extension to Mr. Davis an extension of his contract, if not we will begin the work of seeking a new superintendent.

Butler-Burks:  It was always my understanding that the committee would look at the process we used last time but not recommend to the Board what the next step will be.

Muhammad:  The committee did discuss those things that you thought.  Based on conversations, this is the recommendation that came out of the committee.

Butler-Burks: For those of us that were not there, it just seems…Mr. Davis is surprised as well.

McDaniel:  As we began to work on that, it became clear that it was hard to get your head around having this conversation.

Board is entering into Executive Session.  Live Blog will resume upon their return.

-Community Meeting-

6:10pm 10 speakers spoke tonight on the topics of school climate and culture, extension of the contract of Erroll Davis, school safety and AT&T Towers on the Grady campus among other topics.  Schools mentioned included Jackson High School, Coan Middle School and Grady High School.

6:33pm Board entering into Executive Session

-Legislative Meeting- (Televised on APS 22)

7:28pm Legislative Meeting roll call.

Remarks by Superintendent Davis:

Earlier tonight we heard our monthly financial update by Chuck Burbridge and our tiered presentation for Student Services by John O’Connor.  Presentations by both will be available tomorrow here:  http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/board.nsf

Communication:  We have heard from the public and you deserve much improved and more accurate information from us.  WE are conducting a school by school communication survey to identify the most effective way to communicate with schools.  We want to know how you want to get messages about your school and school community.  The survey is ongoing and will close on Sept. 21.  Printed copies are being made to every school.  Several changes are being made already.  We have 3 new weekly tv shows, APS News 22 and Perspectives are available online on YouTube and on Comcast 22.  APS Employee News is available to all employees.  In all schools we now have a trained communication ambassador.  I recently visited a training session in this building where these ambassadors came and committed their own time and I was very impressed by the commitment of our employees who came down in the evening to learn how they can serve their stakeholders better.

We have a new Office of External Affairs and this office will focus on meeting opportunities, if you are interested in becoming a partner or need information as a citizen, you can contact 404-802-2826 or externalaffairs@atlantapublicschools.us.

Additionally let me emphasize is that the best communication is the oldest method in the world, word of mouth.  If you hear about important meetings in APS, please tell your neighbors and your friends.

This ends the superintendent’s remarks.  The Board will now review and vote on action items found in the Consent Agenda.

Consent has been approved.

Two items required more discussion (see above).

Losses and Gains – Meister and Butler-Burks vote against this item. Motion passes.

Reduction in Force Policy – Motion on the floor

Butler-Burks:  Should this item need to be implemented, will it come back to the BOE?

Davis:  We certainly can status the board on where we are headed after leveling, we are happy to provide a status report well before you see anything in the Gains and Losses.

Butler-Burks:  Can we add something in reference to what the superintendent just said?

Davis:  What I just said will be on the list of take-aways that will come back to you from Dr. Grant.  After this meeting we will publish the list of items we have agreed to provide to the board.

YJohnson withdraws her motion to approve the item.

Butler Burks makes new motion adding “should we have to implement a RIF process the Board will be notified..” prior to Gains and Losses.  Opposed HKinnane, Meister, English. Motion carries.

Amos reads APS resolution regarding House Resolution 1162. Applause from audience.

English:  I support this particular APS resolution.  I want to discuss the reality that the majority of our APS schools are underperforming.  “You can’t force people to go to bad schools.”  People don’t run away from good schools.

EJohnson:  I support this APS resolution.  But I think we do an injustice to our employees by constantly saying what we are not doing good.  We need to give credit to those employees who do a great job everyday.  I think it is in our interest to help those employees that are doing a good job do a better job instead of coming down on them every month.

HKinnane:  There is no reason for the constitutional amendment and I don’t think you intended that with your comment.

Motion to pass APS resolution to support traditional schools and APS charter schools passes.

8:00pm Meeting adjourned.

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