Live Blog: Board of Education Monthly Meeting – October, 2012

Thank you for joining our monthly live blog of the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education meeting.  This live blog is updated every 5-10 minutes so please refresh your browser throughout the evening.

2:30pm Today’s meeting begins with a strategic “visioning workshop” surrounding the selection of the next leader/superintendent for the district.  All BOE members are present with the exception of Emmett Johnson.  The workshop is facilitated by  D. Glenn Brock, attorney, who is approved by the State of GA to provide training for Georgia school boards on issues of board governance, including superintendent searches.

Brock opens the meeting with guidelines about what makes a good process for selecting a superintendent.

Brock:  “There are different ways that school districts begin to develop a leadership profile for a possible leader.  It might begin with the board doing a strength and weaknesses analysis of the district…what’s the two or three biggest strengths this district has and its challenges.  Another question might be what would success look like to you in a leader during their next year of service.  Another facet might involve community surveys and you all have had numerous community meetings during this past year.  Some boards ask communities different questions…ranking or subjective questions.  Those are often compiled and then the compilation of that data becomes one profile.”

Brock lists items that might appear on a community survey ranking what the community feels are the most important skills in a superintendent.

Butler -Burks asks “what exactly are we doing now…I thought we were focusing on this profile piece and the Excellence project.”

Brock:  “Let’s talk about a potential timeline.  Next steps.  How do we go from here to there.  If you decide you want to start a superintendent search, when would you start it?  If you want to use an outside search firm typically you would do an RFP…..  Let’s assume you start that process and you get the RFP back and you review it and hire somebody and work out a timeline, most likely its going to be January before you start that search. Now searches can take varying lengths of time, generally 3-6 months, so if you start in January you may identify someone in March/April with a possible start date of July.  That’s “a” potential timeline.  One of the factors that come to mind is that we do have board elections coming up next November.”

McDaniel:  What I would suggest is that the BOE take this survey now.  What may be productive will be to have Mr. Davis give us an overview of our 3 buckets then let the BOE take the survey.

English:  If we talk about the strengths of the district, then it slants the conversation because we are talking about the status quo.  I would like to start with strengths and opportunities for growth.

Kinnane:  I think what you’re trying to get away from is a discussion of where we are and get to a discussion about where we want to be.

YJohnson:  I don’t think it matters.

Brock:  I would suggest you start with weaknesses.

YJohnson:  Not having a permanent superintendent is a weakness.  I don’t know how he feels about that, the whole tentative, interim nature of it..

English:  I think across the board our student achievement data is not where we want it to be.

McDaniel:  I would ask if the BOE is comfortable with Mr. Davis and his team participating in this conversation.

Group agrees

McDaniel:  Mr. Davis you can add comments as well.

Davis:  What I wrestle with is your vision for the superintendent and your strategic plan.  If you start talking about strengths, weaknesses and risks for the district, hopefully they are addressed by the plan.  There’s infrastructure, people, C&I…if all done correctly should lead to student achievement.  I think that you are correct (Ms. YJohnson) because it impacts whether people will move across the country…but in terms of the infrastructure piece, we need to get our systems and infrastructure in place and working towards excellence.  From data system integrity, our control systems…some of them are robust, I think we have a good accounting system, but all of that is inherent in that bottom box.  We spent a lot of time and effort trying to put an effective teacher in every classroom and then surround them with infrastructure that doesn’t work.

When you get to people, we have some wonderful people, but then we don’t have great processes for hiring, firing, replicating….

You have a policy that says everyone should get 20 hours of training a year and that policy is being ignored.  We have a lot of things we do adhere to, then it turns out that you didn’t want us to adhere to…transportation policies for instance (audience responds).

Common Core, new models for keeping kids safe…all of those are inherent in student achievement.  That if very different from visioning for someone who can lead vs a roadmap.

A question might be what systems can implement a plan that you spent a year developing.  How long will it take?  That is a factor.  It may be appropriate to say I want someone here for 5 years of this plan.  You may say “how much can be done in what periods of time.”  I ask that you do not reinvent the strategic plan that you have spent a year developing.

3:33pm

Brock: The strategic plan is in the final stages, I’m sure you all will be discussing that very soon.  But I’m confused about the discussion about the leader for this plan.  The plan is going to be constant, but in order to be successful you have to follow through on the plan.   I guess my question is are we talking about a leader to develop a plan starting when?

McDaniel:  Ultimately, this is our 5 year strategic plan and what we want to have from  a systems perspective, is a plan, no matter the superintendent, who sees the plan and can implement the plan.

Butler-Burks:  In addition to that, someone may say I see the plan and I’m not the person to implement that.

MYJohnson: We should ask, is that a deal breaker?  Visionary, thoughtful people may look and have their own idea about the actual initiatives.  My question is, will that be a deal breaker for us.  Are we wedded to plan to the point that whoever comes on board will follow it to the letter?

McDaniel:  From a BOE perspective, one of things we are trying to create is stability.  It’s more likely we would bring in a tweaker, not a changer.

YJohnson:  That’s a good starting point.  Is everyone on board with that? We need a tweaker. (laughter)

English:  How you tweak matters.

Brock:  I would you suggest that you gauge your candidates based on this plan you have.  Don’t throw out your plan.  If you have a candidate with a different vision, be extremely cautious.  If you change the plan every year it will not be helpful.  The plan trumps the candidate.

Davis:  What it is (The Excellence Project) is that historically, when a consultant would come in, you would sit back…answer the questions…and say I want to adopt this or not.  This is not what we are doing.  We are getting information and acting on it immediately, using their data mining skills.  We are at the part of how do we really, more effectively and most effectively, implement with rigor the items in the plan that you see.  I don’t see anything coming out of the Excellence Project that are very different from what we have.  We are not asking for an independent study.  We shouldn’t be looking for a set of recommendations.  You may see something that says “It may be better to focus your energy here and this is how you do it….”

Butler -Burks:  Someone has to own what comes out of it and that would be the superintendent.  It is a question of will the BOE accept some of those and hold the superintendent accountable for the implementation of some.  There will be some recommendations that will come out of that even if they fall in one of our 3 buckets.

Davis:  There will be few about implementing anything at a policy level.  There will probably be a few things that come out that will require policy changes.  When we look at, for example, absences, calendars…in terms of policy this is our work they are helping us with, not their work.  We are owning it already.

McDaniel gives a summary of the discussion, highlighting expectations of the strategic plan, importance of stability, etc.

McDaniel asks the Board to take two surveys.

The BOE has returned for the continuation of the regularly scheduled Committee of the Whole meeting.

There is only one presentation today, Finance from CFO Chuck Burbridge.

Budgeting presentation will be available online tomorrow.

View today’s agenda here: http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public

5:13pm

Presentation by Burbridge has ended.  Superintendent is reviewing the consent agenda.

  • Consent – Policy and Accountability

Report No. 12/13-1711 Authorization to Revise Policy GCB Classified Personnel Positions (First Reading)

THE SUPERINTENDENT REPORTS:

Policy GCB has been revised to streamline the policy, clarify the role of the hearing officer and move detailed information about the superintendent’s management of the civil service system into an administrative regulation. The civil service system will continue to operate in accordance with the charter governing the Atlanta Public Schools. The proposed draft regulation is attached for informational purposes.

  • Report No. 12/13-1712 Authorization to Approve Wesley International Academy, Inc. Renewal Petition for a Five-year Term

THE SUPERINTENDENT REPORTS:

On August 31, 2012, Atlanta Public Schools received a renewal petition from Wesley International Academy to continue the charter school for a five-year term. The current term expires on June 30, 2013.

A staff committee has thoroughly reviewed this petition and agrees that the applicant has met the minimum requirements for a renewal petition as contained in board policy IBB, in the Charter Schools Act of 1998 (O.C.G.A. §20-2-2060 through §20-2-2071), and outlined in State Board of Education Rule 160-4-9-.04 Charter Schools and Guidance both effective August 3, 2006.

On October 17, 2011, Wesley International Academy was granted a limited one-year renewal in order to come into compliance with a number of new state rules regarding charter schools working with Educational Management Organizations. In the interim, Wesley has met all required conditions:

  1. All employees of Wesley International Academy are now employees of the school rather than of the management company
  2. The facility lease price has been lowered significantly and is now at or below fair-market value
  3. The board has gained completed autonomy from and has, in fact terminated its contract with its former EMO, Imagine Schools

For renewal petitions submitted by start-up charter schools, the state rule (160-4-9-.04 Charter Schools) requires the local board to consider 1) how the charter school succeeded in meeting AYP  2) how the charter school succeeded in meeting the performance-based objectives stated in the charter, 3) how the charter school succeeded in achieving financial stability, and 4) how the charter school succeeded in achieving organizational stability.

1) For 2012, the Georgia Department of Education has not identified Wesley International as a Priority, Alert or Focus school (schools with significant deficits) within its new accountability rankings. Increased CRCT proficiency rates and increased attendance rates suggest that Wesley will most likely continue to perform well on the state’s new accountability measures.

2) Wesley International has shown steady progress in performance on the CRCT assessments.  On 28 of the 30 administered CRCT subject assessments in 2012, Wesley’s performance was higher than the district average.  CRCT performance rankings for the school, within APS are found below:

Grade 3: Ranked 18th out of 62

Grade 4: Ranked 9th   out of 62

Grade 5: Ranked 25th out of 64

Grade 6: Ranked 8th   out of 25

Grade 7: Ranked 7th   out of 24

Grade 8: Ranked 4th   out of 21

The school’s performance on norm referenced tests showed most students performing above national norms and the school hit all targets set for their Mandarin Chinese program.  Additionally, Wesley received International Baccalaureate accreditation across all grade levels.

3) Wesley’s financial outlook has improved.  2011 and 2012 audit statements show improved financial management.  The school has moved from a negative profit margin to a revenue neutral position.  It is anticipated that the school’s financial position will continue to improve given the separation from the EMO, allowing for greater flexibility and control over expenses and increased spending on the instructional program.

4) The establishment of the IB Accreditation, in 2012, and the restructuring of the school, with a new principal and the dissolution of its relationship with the Imagine educational management organization, indicates the school is achieving greater organizational stability.

RECOMMENDATION:

Given Atlanta Public Schools’ desire to increase and support quality education experiences for children, the Superintendent recommends approving the five-year renewal request.

English:  Are they staying in their current facility for the long term?

Allen Mueller:  Wesley is on a year to year lease and I know they have a lease for the current year.  They are also looking at the Marshall building, an APS owned property.  They may stay where they are or they move into an APS facility.

Muhammad:  There is a concern about that building, but I guess the community will have to deal with “Imagine” not the current school.

Muller:  Yes, the school does not own the building, the Imagine company does.

English:  Can you clarify what the lease would be with us?

Muller:  With us it is zero.

  • Report No. 12/13-5109 Personnel Gains, Losses, Promotions, Appointments, Creations, Reclassifications and Abolishments

Davis introduces two principal candidates for North Atlanta and Maynard Jackson.

Stephanie S. Johnson – Candidate for Jackson HIgh School principal.  Ms. Johnson comes to us from the Clayton County school system.  2010-Present, Principal, Jonesboro High School.  2007-2010, Principal, Sequoyah Middle School in Riverdale, GA.  She has served as a high school and middle school guidance counselor as well as middle school English and Reading teacher.

Howard E. (Gene) Taylor – Candidate for North Atlanta High School principal.  Mr. Taylor comes to us from the Gwinnett County school system.  2008-Present, Principal, Lilburn Middle School.  2006-2008, Principal, Crews Middle School.  2003-2006, Asst. Principal for Instruction, North Gwinnett High School.  Mr. Taylor has served as the high school World History and US Government department chair and teacher.  From 1998 to 2000, he was an Asst. Professor in the College of Education at Georgia State University.
Davis:  We believe we have selected the leaders to lead us forward.

Board will now enter into Executive Session

8:05 – Committee of the Whole meeting resuming now.

BOE discusses strategic plan and items that should/should not be included.

McDaniel moves on to old business.

McDaniel:  This afternoon we did some visioning work on what we wanted in a superintendent as it relates to a school district and from a strategic point of view.  We came up with a scorecard of a profile. Dr. Alexis Kirijan will compile that into a formal profile and scorecard.  We also evaluated Mr. Davis performance and what we would like to see happen leading up to the end of this term.  Over the next few weeks we can come back and have a discussion about Mr. Davis and what metrics we will use for this school year and any other issues we want to address.  Then the BOE will discus timelines involved with a superintendent search.  BOE will take 30-45 days before we come to some conclusion on extending Mr. Davis’ contract.

8:15pm

Legislative Meeting now beginning.  Note:  This portion of the BOE meeting airs on Comcast’s APS channel 22 throughout the month of October.

All members present with the exception of Mr. E. Johnson.

McDaniel asks for Sept. Committee of the Whole and Sept. Legislative meeting minutes. Approved.

McDaniel: After months and months of research and planning, the superintendent and his team have developed a 5 year strategic plan.  As part of the strategic plan, the BOE has endorsed a vision and mission.  You will hear more about this 5 year strategic plan over the coming days and months.

Davis reminds parents that the district is closed on Monday, Oct. 8 for Columbus Day.  On Tuesday, Oct. 9, there will be a system wide training day for teachers around the Common Core.  All school leaders not in the CCore training will attend our first leadership summit.  At the summit we will discuss our strategic plan and portray this as the road map that will guide our students to excellence.  We will also discuss tools such as the 360 evaluation tool for principals.  For the first time in APS, principals will be evaluated by their faculty, staff, peer principals, parents and community members.  Surveys will be activated on October 9 thru November.  You can participate by taking the survey online or via paper copy at your local school.

Davis:  I would like to provide more information on class sizes and leveling.  Class sizes reflect Board and state approved maximums.

Read more about leveling here: http://talkupaps.com/2012/10/01/leveling-done-maximum-class-sizes-in-effect/

Opening remarks are complete – Consent Agenda items being presented for approval at this time.

Consent agenda approved.

Sharon Pitts presents BOE with legal items.

3 resolutions will be presented tonight.

7.01 Resolution for Title 50 Waiver – motion carries
Excerpt: THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, that on this 1st Day of October 2012, the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education authorizes Superintendent Mr. Erroll B. Davis, Jr. to seek a waiver of State Board of Education Rule 160-5-1-.29 for the 2011-2012 school year pursuant to O.C.G.A § 50-13-9.1.

THEREFORE BE IT FURTHER RESOLVED, that on this 1st Day of October 2012, the Atlanta Public Schools Board of Education also requests a waiver from all of the mandates as required by State Board of education Rule 160-5-1-.29 Minimum Direct Classroom Expenditures.

7.02 Strategic Plan Resolution– motion carries
Excerpt:  THEREFORE BE IT RESOLVED, That on this 1st Day of October 2012, the Atlanta Board of Education supports the collaborative and strategic approach of the 2012 -2017 Strategic Plan as the way to achieve success for all students and the Board is committed to uphold the plan and the guiding principles of excellence, ethics, engagement and equity.

LET IT BE KNOWN, that the Atlanta Board of Education will monitor the progress of the strategic plan to ensure that it is active and effective.

Review other resolutions and agenda items here: http://www.boarddocs.com/ga/aps/Board.nsf/Public

8:39pm Meeting adjourned

8:44pm – Meeting has actually reconvened.  Ms. Pitts brings legal matter of India McKinney to the floor.  Board takes action.

8:45pm – Meeting adjourned

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