Hurrah! I am so thrilled! We have a new Internal Staff Auditor AND the board showed some backbone and read out a formal censure against Zepora's bad behavior a couple of weeks ago when she threatened Channel 46 CBS reporter Wendy Saltzman.
The board presented themselves more professionally than ever before. In fact, Jay started off the meeting by stating that he had never felt such cooperative working with this board ever.
Anyway, back to the auditor. They have hired a real pro. (This - on top of Dan Drake's capable data collection is very hopeful for the future.) His name is Gary Babst and he has 22 years of experience as an internal business auditor, having worked for GM in Detroit. He presented his 100 day plan which I will bullet-point below:
- Build internal controls structure
- Create efficient, effective business processes
- Benchmark with other area school systems
- Implement a fraud hotline
- Implement an ethics program
- Identify the "audit universe" and high risks for the system
- Engender a strong tone at the top
- Encourage management to create a sense of urgency and lead by example
- Create clear goals and objectives as well as metrics to measure progress
- Ensure high impact and high visibility for audits
- Demonstrate that "we're looking after the taxpayers money"
Bowen followed that by reading a prepared public statement admonishing Zepora's behavior saying that it was "unbecoming a member of the board of education and a bad example for students". Amazing.
Then - there was an action item requesting that staff review all RFPs submitted by search firms to conduct the search for a new superintendent, and then cull the RFPs to 3-5 for the board to review. Staff listed as in charge of the process included Alice Thompson, Euladia Taylor, Myra Burden and legal counsel. (excuse the spellings)
That's when Womack piped up, "This is not a staff function. The board is perfectly capable of doing this job. It's our job, not staff's. That's laughable." To which Walker chirped, "I'm proud to say for all to hear that Mr. Womack has spoken for me today". Which got a big laugh, followed by Jay's trifecta non-endorsement. The motion failed. The board will review every RFP that is submitted.
Also, apparently, the document answering SACS questions is in solid draft form. Ms. Tyson was granted permission to create the final document and submit it to SACS by the deadline, September 11.
One concern I had (I actually felt bad) was when the principal of the International Community (a charter) School said he skipped his weekly dance lesson with his wife to address the board and request to be allowed to use Hooper Alexander or some other worthy building for his school. ICS is currently housed in two separate places, seven miles apart. I thought it was sad that he had to publicly ask for this and endure the horrible bonk, bonk, bonk at his three-minute mark. ICS is doing a fantastic job and should be supported in every way -- without needing to ask. The board should be asking "how can WE help YOU?" Give them a building, please. They've more than proven themselves worthy. Read about it here.
At any rate, I'm happy to be able to forgo having to use some version of "The Scream" for this board meeting report. Instead, I chose to use the Kirby Victory Dance, as I'm actually quite impressed with how Ms. Tyson has steadily steered this bobbing ship through very rough waters so far. She may not have done everything "right", (most bloggers here agree that Dr. Beasley has not been the best choice for leading teachers) but she does bring a level of solid reliability, trust and capability that reassures us that the system is heading in a much better direction.
That said, reality still reared it's ugly head and reminded us that teachers still suffer low morale and copiers seem to be breaking all over the system. Mr. Turk happily reported that we've saved a bunch of money by closing the in-house print shop, but Redovian and Walker both raised suspicions that the costs have been transferred to teachers. (In fact, one of the public speakers pleaded for a working copier for Henderson MS, citing the fact that teachers had to go to Kinkos and pay from their own pockets to copy tests for students.) Two issues here according to Tyson: The in-house copiers and the copy shop that used to print brochures, etc.
Also, it's kind of funny to hear Jay acting "disappointed" that we are having to go out and hire teachers this late into the year. (Tyson pointed out that these are new needs due to enrollment balancing.) This happens every single year at Lakeside and Jay never once cared. Now that it's affecting Arabia (well, sort of, they had to create an "annex" at Lithonia), he suddenly sees the problem!
Moseley is putting two buildings up for use - Heritage and Hooper. Womack stated that he could use Heritage for over-crowding at Oak Grove and Sagamore. (K-2) could move to Heritage. He's not sure that the community would want to do that. As a guess, I would imagine folks wouldn't want this, since many parents have at least two children in ES, and that would require dealing with two different schools and activities schedules. Personally - I wish they'd sell it to the county and make it all a nice park once and for all. Heritage is tiny. (I stress again, that Hooper should serve as a great building for ICS. I can't think of anyone who needs it more.) But Zepora doesn't want to hand over properties to charter schools -- we might need it! Sarah just rambled on some kind of statement that she agreed with Zepora - "this is very serious to give away a million dollar school".
Happily, the board is now questioning how much money we are spending on "programs". Don heavily questioned Dr. Watkins on his request for another $120,000 for yet another Title 1 "program" to implement small learning communities. He read from the proposal and it sounded like a bunch of gobbleygook. Dr. Speaks questioned him further and we find that we've been throwing money at this program since 2004, and apparently have tons of data, but nothing has improved at these schools. Sarah so often comes SO close to asking just the right question and she did so here. She almost asked - is this working or are we just throwing money down the drain? And perhaps -- just perhaps -- we could spend that money on support that is a little closer to the student (as we used to do with Title 1, before the big corporations found out there was big money to be made?) We found out that this could just be money that circles the drain, funding a team of administrators like Dr. Watkins who says he takes in the annual evaluations and shares them with the principal to implement plans for the future. Plans that apparently yield little results.
Ms. Tyson got it though. She knows she needs to dig deeper into this kind of spending to find out if we are getting our money's worth and if we should in fact, drop a program or two when they continue to not show results. And as Dr. Walker pointed out, apparently we're just not privy to how this data is being used. Perhaps some detailed reporting is in order. What's that old definition of insanity?
Overall, I'm just very pleased to see them roll up their sleeves and have lengthy, deeper discussions about education. This is really, the first meeting I've ever witnessed much real work getting done. They were honest, forthright, thoughtful and respectful to each other. I really do think it has to do with Ms. Tyson's solid leadership.