Much was discussed at last night's very, very long meeting, presented with a really bad sound system. Had the board not tabled several items, they surely would have gone on until the wee hours.
First, during the public comments portion, there were several speakers requesting a reversal on the board's decision to join Gwinnett County in suing the state of Georgia over its formation of the charter school, Ivy Prep Academy. People are thrilled with this middle school for girls and very sad and angered that the local systems are threatening to take it away. Dr. Lewis stated that he had nothing against the school, just the constitutionality of it's existence. I hope Dr. Lewis is considering the requirements for states to earn "Race to the Top" federal money – apparently Obama and Duncan are big proponents of charter schools and allowing them to exist will help open the flow of those dollars to the state.
Several bus drivers addressed the board regarding the cut-backs they have endured. It seems as though these loyal folks have taken the worst hit of anyone. One lady compared her cut in hours - resulting in a 29% pay cut ($1715/month to $1225/month) - to the 2% pay cut and two day furlough the transportation management has had. This really is a travesty. Our bus drivers are some of our lowest paid people in the system, yet are entrusted with our most precious cargo every day. Dr. Lewis promised to meet with the bus drivers and stated that Dr. Alice Thompson would set up that meeting.
Barbara Colman gave us the CIP update, highlighting several projects still currently in progress - Redan HS, Cross Keys HS, Tucker HS, Stone Mountain HS and Mountain Industrial Center. She presented a Powerpoint overview stating that they are currently working on 97 projects, 59 Local School Priority Requests, 51 ADA projects for a total of $351 million currently being managed. She did say that the new managers have visited several projects only to discover that they had been "under-scoped" - meaning all of the scope necessary for the project was not addressed in the plan. The lack of a replacement weight room at Avondale HS was an example. Ms. Colman will be meeting with the Avondale community tonight and the Cross Keys community tomorrow night to discuss their projects. Hopefully, she will be able to help those communities regain trust in the school system.
All in all, it seems that although expensive, the construction managers have really jumped in and taken charge professionally. Pat Pope's ability to make progress had surely been hampered by the fact that she had been living under a microscope for the past year - it must have been nearly impossible for her to get any work done with the District Attorney and the GBI monitoring her every move. Hopefully these new managers will be given the freedom and autonomy they need to get these projects done at long last.
Jamie Wilson presented a new software program by Gallup for evaluating principals and teachers called "Teacher Insight" and "Principal Insight". This software program appears to be capable of predicting teacher and principal success, based on more or less a personality test which determines their skills, talents and passions. This will help place teachers in the most appropriate positions, and may even result in helping to remove teachers who appear to not actually be well-suited for their job. At a cost of $160,000, which is funded by Title II money, the software will be a bargain if it delivers it's promises.
The board voted to table the resolution to limit the size of the board without much discussion. They also voted to table the proposed ethics policy with Walker angrily moving to table saying, "table it so we don't have to listen to it" and that it was simply in reaction to Kevin Levitas' ethics proposal for the board at the state level. He then publicly dressed down state rep Kevin Levitas for having the audacity to propose such a policy in the legislature, while citing his own legislative background as being much more vast and experienced. Walker's comments always speak for themselves, there's no need for us to say any more. To read about it, visit this article at Atlanta Unfiltered.
Additionally, the board voted to change the bylaws requiring that school councils or some other citizen review panel be allowed to interview a new principal for their school. The bylaw has been changed to only include interviews for principals hired from outside the system–the superintendent can place principals from within the system at his pleasure, without input from the public. They have accomplished this by redefining the word "vacancy" by now stating, "A vacancy occurs in the position of principal when the position is to be filled from applications submitted to the district and not from reassignment of existing personnel."
Other than that, Dr. Lewis tabled the plan to use the Elk's Lodge property for transportation since finding out that the property is in a flood plain. And the calendar issue endured much discussion. The start dates and the way the second semester backs right into a very heavy testing period are at issue. These tests determine AYP status, so ensuring that students are prepared and rested is vital to earning a good score. The calendar issue will prove to become very important as we move into national standards and testing.