Monday, April 21, 2008

Stakeholders and money

Bit and pieces that have collected over the last couple of weeks.

Stakeholders: The City Paper editorialized on 4/7/08 in regard to the number of people running for the MNPS BOE and how several current members got on the Board with 'business' support:

That being said, there is not only a debate that needs to take place about where the schools are headed but also what has the quality of the board’s stewardship been sine the 2006 elections.
It happened again, chatting up another citizen while waiting to give blood they sheepishly admitted they occasionally watch Channel 3 and the BOE meetings. Then they shake their head and make a comment about how unbelievably inept the BOE is and then they tell me what numbers their child has for the lottery to magnet schools. Their zoned school isn't an option.

Frankly, the Board's stewardship has been lousy. They have failed over and over again to hold their only employee responsible for the failures in the district. They gave him pay raises and extended contracts. No one who voted to keep Garcia at the helm of MNPS should be reelected. As the current candidate list stands the only person we can actually hold accountable is MNPS BOE member Ed Kindall (District 7-Downtown-Glencliff) as MNPS BOE member Gracie Porter (District 5-East Nashville) has no opposition and MNPS BOE member George Thompson ( District 1-Bordeaux) and MNPS BOE Chair Marsha Warden (District 9-Bellevue) have wisely decided to move on. Kindall has been on the board for nearly a quarter of a century. He's got a lot of explaining to do.

And so the 'business community' referenced above has decided that more community input is necessary. But they didn't mean community community. They meant special interests community. Again from the City Paper we learn that several entities have written the mayor and BOE expressing their desire to help find the new schools director.
The letter was sent March 27, and was signed by leaders of the Chamber, IMF, Metropolitan Nashville Education Association (MNEA), the local NAACP chapter, Service Employees Union, Steelworkers Union, Stand for Children, and Nashville Hispanic Chamber of Commerce.

Seems to me several of these entities have already put their money where their interests lie and have, essentially, bought and paid for their representation on the board. See Gracie Porter's contributors in 2006 as an example. <<<----- What we need is some vetting by parents and taxpayers. We need some specific statements from the candidates. We need a person who is an excellent administrator first and then someone who can work with the educators, parents, the council and citizens. Oh, and the Metro Council (those that hold the purse but don't have the authority to direct its spending) also wants a voice in the process. As quoted in the City Paper on 4/8/08
Council member Jim Gotto said, “It is fine and well for all of these individuals and groups to want to give [board members] input, but board members, you make the choice. You’re going to have to live or die with who you choose.”
Ah, but that requires some accountability by the voters. Which is something that has been sorely lacking.

MNPS budget: CM Emily Evans (District 23) has a series of lessons regarding the Metro Budget. Here's the link to her MNPS overview.
The Director of Schools, Chris Henson spoke at great length tonight about getting input from the schools themselves on how to improve and working to eliminate top-down decision making. This notion that the people that spend each day with your child are best equipped to decide what they need to get the job done is irrefutable and represents a cultural change that can only bring us good things. Chris also said that not every school needs the same thing.
Which fits very well with this City Paper article of 04-18-08.*
In accordance with what has been asked of the district by the Tennessee Department of Education (DOE), Metro schools will soon submit “action plans” on a quarterly basis that will monitor student performance and play a role in school funding. The plans complement the annual School Improvement Plan structure, which is already in place but in the process of being overhauled.
At some point we've got to recognize that each school, each district isn't the same. The Central Office is too far removed from the front lines to mandate how every dime of this money is spent. Schools have got closets full of 'central office ideas' that are going to waste because they don't fit that school's population or are yesterday's hot idea. We have got to hire great principals who, like the superintendent should be, more managers (and teacher mentors) than educators and let them manage their portion of the budget as their student needs warrant. I believe that will create better neighborhood schools AND create a cadre of experienced administers that can move up that career ladder and mentor the next generation of principals.

Things are looking up:
It's looking like between Interim Director Chris Henson and the State DOE some major improvements are being implemented in MNPS. Throw in the obvious relief as expressed by many folks including today's Rex in the City
Principal hiring procedures are now what they were before Garcia arrived; the district is now completing school improvement plan forms using the same template as other districts in the state — MNPS had its own form during the Garcia administration — and district leaders have been told in plain language to shut down the “culture of fear” pervading many Metro schools.
and things haven't looked so good for MNPS in almost a decade. If Henson keeps this up and we get through this BOE election season in August we should seriously consider offering him the job--if he'll take it.

MNPS website still quite frustrating. Some sub-domains would be handy...., /Schools, /Budget. No one remembers numbers. Where's Interim Director Chris Henson's page? Why can't the BOE member page also include info on their district...or at least a link to that separate page that MNPS provides?

*[Man I HATE that the City Paper doesn't include a date on their articles. If no one comments you've no idea when it was published. I finally found the date by searching for the article. Thankfully, they've finally started including dates there.]

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