On the Agenda, MMSD Board of Education the Week of June 7, 2010

The 2010-11 budget is mostly finished and the work of governing the schools begins again.  I have a couple of “in the works”  posts on budget things that may never get posted.   The short version is the process is in great need of reform and that when you don’t use over $13 million  of the revenue authority authorized by the state and voters many, many things get much harder (and I can’t think of one thing that gets easier).  The old Pogo phrase “We have met the enemy and he is us” keeps going through my head.  Leaving the budget stuff with  a big thank you to all who testified or contacted the Board.

On to this week’s Board of Education Committee meetings.  They commence at 5:00 PM, Doyle Administration Bldg, Room 103 and should be carried by MMSD-TV.

Student Achievement and Performance Monitoring Committee is first.  After Public Appearances comes a report on High School Initiatives including,

1. Individual Relationships/Engagement/Learning (REaL) School Action Plans for 2009-10
2. REaL District Action for 2009-10
3. American College Testing (ACT) Educational Planning and Assessment (EPAS) Overview and Implementation Plan
4. Advancement Via Individualized Determination (AVID) Overview
5. Individual Learning Plan (ILP) Overview and Implementation Plan

There is so much in the REaL plans that it is hard to grasp and I would think hard to evaluate what works and what doesn’t.  On the ACT, I’m just glad to see something other than the WKCE prominent in the mix.  AVID is  a great program in the Rigor for All, with supports mode.   In theory, I like the Individual Learning Plans, but I’m skeptical about how much individualization can happen when Counselor case loads are so high (300, if I remember correctly).  I fear that this will end up being current practices repackaged and not much of a change.

Student Code of Conduct and Expulsion Process reforms are next.  These are being presented as a greater alignment with Positive Behavior Support principles.  The current Code is here; Expulsions and Suspensions here.  You can compare for yourself.  A proposal to eliminate the Expulsion Navigator position was floated during the budget process.  The administration advised that the $83,000 budget line was needed for the proposed reforms.  The cost of the new expulsion process is $183,732.  This means that one week after the budget vote, there is a request for an amending vote.    There has to be a better way to do budget things.

SAGE options are next.  This is another item that has a potential big budget impact and should have been dealt with as part of the big budget song and dance.   To review, legislation was passed last session allowing SAGE class sizes to increase from 15/1 to 18/1, allowing for unlimited new SAGE contracts in  30%+ poverty schools and eliminating waivers that had been given.  MMSD has/had four schools where there were waivers for SAGE Block (small class sizes in Math and Literacy only).  I believe these waivers were unique and a remnant from when MMSD had extensive locally funded class size reductions.

SAGE block requires less general operating funding than 18/1 and much less than 15/1.  This means that all the options — except increasing class sizes — will cost more.   With no public discussion, the SAGE Block classrooms were allocated at 18/1 in the budget just passed.  No discussion.

The administration is recommending that the current SAGE Block schools go to 18/1 (really an accomplished fact, requiring 5 votes to change)  and that the current full SAGE 15/1 schools be allocated with “flexibility” between 15/1 and 17/1.  It isn’t clear if that was also part of the allocation assumptions in the budget just passed.  There are figures, but no discussion concerning expanding SAGE at any allocation level to those 30%+ schools currently allocated between 22/1 and 26/1.  These figures do not include current allocations.  A document sent to the Board earlier this year has a little more.

Class size has consistently been something community members care about.  maybe that’s why they are doing this after the budget-related public attention has waned.

Internet Access, Student Records and Evaluation of Learning Materials are also on the agenda.

Operational Support is next.

The Monthly Financial Statements (first on the agenda) again include millions of dollars in ARRA projects where the “budgeted” money has not been spent.  I’m not clear if the ARRA money is being treated as “outside the budget” or if it buried in the 2009-10 and 2010-11 budgets.   It is bad policy and probably illegal to not include it as part of the regular budget.  I hope that’s not the case (it was to at least some degree last year, where ARRA was not part of the Spring budget).  I’m also very confused about what “budgeted” means in this context and why this money has not been used, why these projects have been approved but not implemented.

Also on this agenda are lots of contract approvals, including the Global Academy and Human Resources Transactions.   Some of the effects of the Reorganization (and perhaps other things) can be seen in the recommendations for administrative non-renewals for Career and Tech Ed Coordinator, Asst. Director of Equity and Parent Involvement, Expulsions and Truancy Coordinator, Library Media Services Coordinator, Fine Arts Coordinator,  Public Communication Director and Legislative Liaison.  I hope that the last doesn’t mean that in the future MMSD does not have  a lobbyist.  I can see redefining the position, but government relations should remain part of the mix.  MMSD’s voice needs to be heard on a regular basis in the halls of power.

Also in the HR Report (but not in the MMSD Today story on retirements) is the sad news that one of my favorite MMSD teachers — Barb Rubin – is retiring.  Barb is just a great teacher who cared about her students and about equity.  Here are some links to her Classroom Action Research projects.  Congratulations on a fine career.  She’ll be missed.  I also want to express my thanks to another fine educator who is retiring.  Kathy Lyngass staffed the Equity Task Force and earned my respect and affection.  She too will be missed.

The last Committee is Planning and Development.  The only item is a Strategic Plan update.  This includes more on progress than the version distributed prior to the recent Strategic Plan meeting and little or nothing about “narrowing” the goals.

That’s all I have time for…

Thomas J. Mertz

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Filed under "education finance", Best Practices, Budget, education, Equity, finance, Local News, School Finance, Uncategorized

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