Friday, September 28, 2007

MNPS accountability

I'm pulling this comment from the MNPS-PD thread below as a jumping off place for some additional comments about MNPS accountability.

din819go said...

Kay -- everything in this district is under-reported when it comes to violent episodes and uniform infractions. The checks and balances on the tests scores is the State of Tennessee report card. Tennessee even selected which kids could and could not answer the NAEP questions so its scores would look better. how can we believe anything of what we are being told about this district?

Three things immediately to mind.

One way is to actively encourage fuller vetting of the information provided by the system.

While on the school board in the summer of 2006 I quickly realized that the agenda provided to the public (all of two pages) was no where near the full agenda. Additionally, the web page to access the agenda and minutes had fallen more than 6 months out of date. It was one of the very first things I complained about when I got on the BOE. I did so 5 days later at MNPS Director of Schools Dr. Pedro Garcia's regular Monday meeting with his staff.

Without the full agenda no interested citizen had half a chance at being able to counter information that was being carefully crafted at taxpayer expense for presentation just 5 days later. The 2 page BOE agenda would be made public on Thursday or Friday for the following Tuesday evening's meeting. 2 days of that 5 day notice were weekends which would make it difficult to contact offices to verify or research information needed to rebut or clarify the administration's position. I took it upon myself to create .pdfs and started publishing portions of it to and this blog, eventually uploading entire "Board packets" for the public to peruse over the weekend. It was still too small a window to adequately prepare counter information, especially when the deadline for getting on the agenda for a mere 3 minute comment had already passed.

At most BOE meetings a portion of the time is set aside to grade the BOE's one employee, Dr. Garcia, on his performance. The plan is that over the entire year all aspects of his job performance would be examined by the BOE and in the fall when it came time to evaluate his performance it would just be a matter of adding up the scores and we'd know whether he'd done a good job or not. The problem with this system is that the only side the BOE formally hears is their employee's. It takes a man of remarkable integrity to self-disclose all his faults. We shouldn't rely on that. The BOE must make provision to formally hear alternative views. Then weigh the information they've received and then vote on his job performance.

Eventually, after conversations with the BOE secretary, the BOE packets were regularly uploaded to the website. Sadly, I see they've fallen out of date again the last agenda uploaded is dated September 11, 2007 and the last set of minutes is dated August 30, 2007.

I'd like to see a subscription service similar to what the Metro Council, Planning and Zoning already provide where the agenda and minutes, or links to them, are routinely sent out.

Another way to get full information is to vow not to shoot the messengers of information that conflicts with the agenda of those in charge.

We need to get past the constraint that criticism of the system is equal to not supporting public education. It does not always follow. So when groups like Save Our Students present comparative information about our district and others in the state they were not given a legitimate hearing. They were immediately shouted down by people who had much to gain by keeping the SOS information out of the public eye. Instead of examining the information in an effort to improve the education of the children in MNPS their motives and political affiliations were used as a distraction technique. My own run for the school board was regularly questioned by these same people. In their eyes despite my tax money and my vote being necessary for running the system I had no business helping run it because my children weren't in public schools. What they could not accept was that public education requires public input and sometimes, sometimes, not being in the system provides a perspective that could be used to improve the system for the children.

Finally, we need to ask much more of our BOE members. Elections are coming up for 4 of these slots in August.

From Left to Right:
MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden, on the BOE since 8/24/2004 , George Thompson, 4 months on the BOE in 1991 and then continuously since 8/1/1996, Gracie Porter , elected in August of 2006 , Ed Kindall , on the BOE since 7/9/1985.

I suggest folks take a serious look at their track records (and most of them have long histories on the BOE or in public education itself) and if they find they've done an inadequate job advocating for the children, work at recruiting, funding and electing a replacement.

1 comment:

din819go said...

Kay -- thank you! While the board packets do eventually get posted to the website, they are still not the complete package. It would be helpful for MNPS to come back and update the agenda packages with the info that goes first to the board and then to the public.

Still the district under reports stuff all the time and the board does nothing about it...too easy to paint the tape on somethings but not on others --