A couple of heads up for anyone attending the other meetings. One, for some reason they had the sign-in sheets in the auditorium instead of when you head in. So look for those if the building you are in is using an auditorium. Also, they had two tables at Eckstein and different handouts at each so check if you want to make sure you get everything. Two, get those questions ready because they took any and all questions.
I was surprised to see a table of Starbucks coffee, bottled water and granola bars for the audience. It's a nicety but I thought we were a poor district. I asked Dr. Enfield and she said she didn't know what budget this came out of. Apparently I hit a nerve because Dr. Goodloe-Johnson later said the district didn't pay for it. (Alliance for Ed gave SPS a food budget? Who knows?)
It took awhile to get started as there were introductions to all the principals, some of the staff and the Board members. The meeting was introduced as the "Superintendent kicking off her public engagement plan." We were told that Job #1 for the Executive Directors is to support principals as instructional leaders. Also, parents, if you have a concern, you must go to your teacher first, then the principal and THEN the Executive Director. This was pretty much the extent of explaining the new regional system which I thought a little odd.
The Superintendent seemed quite relaxed. She told us a fairly long story about her daughter wanting to pick her own kindergarten teacher and being told she couldn't but that her daughter was happy in the end. She said Maya was filled with joy and that she wanted every parent to be "filled with joy" with their child's teacher. She emphasized that she wanted parents as partners in the district.
She had ended her remarks saying something about an excellent classroom so I was the first question of the night, "What is an excellent classroom?" Her reply was that it means teachers are supported as professional and so they can support students whether they are ELL, special ed, etc. and provide a way that provides access to standards and creating that ability to do so.
I had to laugh a little. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson always has so much to pack into a thought that somehow, sometimes the thought gets a little lost. Also, she suffers from my disease which is speaking too quickly.
- movement of principals? Yes, there was a lot of movement but they couldn't anticipate all the moves, "life happens and people make choices". They hired 20 new to the district principals.
- testing and the district's view? An odd question so she basically outlined what tests the students take.
- question on quality teacher versus what we find out from testing, something of a "sanity check" on teacher performance? We expect students will grow and that it will be typical growth against standards. (I think I know what the parent was asking here but I don't think Dr. G-J wanted to answer. I think it was how do you measure all the qualities of a good teacher versus a test score.)
- teacher contract and the supplemental levy? This was interesting because the parent said he knew virtually nothing about the levy which is not good for the district. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had Peter Maier answer the question about the levy but he really bobbled it. He said the levy will "fill the gap by the cuts by the legislature." He explained that some of it would be for teacher raises, paying for collaboration time, career ladder stipends but he left out the $2.4M implementation cost. (The levy sheet says it will reduce the gaps and so there's this big question of whether we are restoring money that was cut or just partially filling hole and if so, which ones. The levy sheet says " ...we can't specify the services and programs at this time." Ah, so just give us a blank check.)
- Then there was an interesting question about the music programs at Eckstein, Roosevelt and Hale. I want to do a separate thread on this but basically, the parents are worried that due to lack of students in the orchestra at Hale, they want to try to allow those students to go to Roosevelt at the end of the day to work with their orchestra. They also have a long-term plan to "grow" students so that all high schools can have an orchestra program (which needs a critical mass). Parents working out solutions; there's the partnership that Dr. G-J could embrace.
- Coming middle school crowding in NE? Dr. G-J kind of danced around this one saying that in December, the district will be looking at issues that have arisen from the new NSAP. She didn't directly address this question but that's the time they will be addressing any and all issues. This parent did press on and Dr. G-J did mention the October 1 counts for each building.
- Unhappy parent over the NSAP. This was a funny question only because this parent was obviously foreign-born and said she had come to this country for choice and now there isn't any in SPS. Dr. G-J did explain that the process had come over 3 years. Sherry said they did it, in part, to save transportation dollars.
- Parent who is part of the less than 30 families left with two kids in two schools because of the NSAP. She had brought both her children and said that she couldn't move her oldest to the youngest new school because of the program at the older child's school. So she is homeschooling the younger one for this year. It was asked if the waitlist could be continued for these families? Basically Dr. G-J said no, that it ends on Sept. 30th.
- Chris Jackins asked that the transportation savings be submitted in a report. Dr. G-J admitted that they were supposed to and it was late and "I'll be happy to check" which I'm hoping isn't a Don Kennedy "I'll get back to you."
- Question about "standardized curriculum" and what about schools that have other things that work? I could tell the Superintendent was not happy because yes, she said, "We are not standardizing the curriculum. We are aligning it." She did mention that teachers can supplement and do creative things and that it doesn't change what alts do. My question would be about pacing guides and the district not paying for supplemental materials so how possible IS it for teachers to be creative?
Then we broke off into informal groups to ask the various staff questions. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson circulated the room. She even came up to me and asked if all my questions had been answered. I said yes but really, what else could I say that late in the day?
In summary, I was a little surprised that more wasn't explained about the benefits of the new regions to parents. However, this was a great time to have access to key staff including the Superintendent. I guess the jury is out on the Superintendent's new charm offensive but in the spirit of wanting to believe the best in people, I give her credit. (This doesn't mean that she and I are new BFFs or that I have changed my mind on her agenda but it does mean that she's a human being making an effort - albeit a lot late - to reach out.)