Thursday, October 30, 2014

Strategic Plan Update

Yesterday staff presented an update to the Board during a Work Session on the Strategic Plan.  I did not attended but just read thru the presentation.  It includes survey results of both parents and staff.

Here's what I wrote the Board:

Dear Directors,

Looking at the Strategic Plan Presentation, I see this notation:

At this stage, we are highlighting data but do not yet have root cause analyses or proposed solutions.

I can help.
Root causes
- turnover of staff
- culture of bureaucracy at the district (Moss-Adams said this way back when but no one listened; if anyone HAD listened to MA and the CACIEE report, our district would be a lot better off right now).  I think there was some movement about 10 years ago over silos but they appear, to the outside eye, to be back.
- basic structures not in place.  It's 2014 and the district still has issues over issuing district cars, field trips, etc.  Basic things.  I can't tell you how many times I've sat in an A&F meeting and heard Kathy Technow say, "We don't have a procedure/system for that but we're getting one." 
- TOO many new initiatives that are seemingly part of the Strategic Plan but are not really necessary to get the basic work of the district done and up-to-speed.  In a word, OVERREACH.  In two words, MISSION CREEP

You need to get the basics right FIRST.  You will never see this district get ahead until you do. 

Proposed Solutions
- go back and look at MA/CACIEE.  Although dated, they could be a good first start. 

- ask the front lines - teachers, principals, school staff and front-line district staff - what is your biggest challenge (high-level and low-level)?  What keeps you up at night?  What interface with the district is the most difficult?  You might find solutions in those answers. 

- I'll be frank on this one.  It looks, again to the outside eye, that a few at headquarters don't seem to be working for the district.  Maybe it's the Gates Foundation, the Alliance, the Chamber of Commerce, I don't know.  Everyone has to be on the same team, NOT looking down the road at the next best thing.  I appreciate that these are careers we are talking about but since the rise of entities like charters, TFA, Gates Foundation, apparently there is money to be made in making a name at a school district in a fast 2-3 years and then jumping ship. 

On the survey results in the presentation:

- the school is responsive to input and concerns of families 65.5%; district, 27.8%.  Houston, we have a problem.

- ease of website, just under 40%.  Not good for a nearly new site. 

- for subjects/programs - no surprise where parents/teachers are unhappy.  Not a single data point for Advanced Learning or Special Ed was above 32%.  Enrollment, 37-31% staff; 37% from families.  And where is the Enrollment Director?

- Transportation and "timely, accurate and useful info" - 31% from staff, 49% from families; meanwhile nurses get great marks from both staff (98%) and families 85%.

- Customer Service - families - 55% (I'll add a plug - front desk staff at JSCEE are not friendly or welcoming - the phone people are). 

- Data and staff; 54% use data or reports from ADW (data warehouse); 40% receives timely, accurate, useful info; 36% district leadership meetings organized by Central are informative and effective use of time; 19% district systems/process for student data reporting

- Powerschool and staff; satisfied w/accuracy/quality of data accessible there - 12%

- Custodial; parents say custodians give good service 71%; customer service from Maintenance, parents- 53%, staff 30%

The presentation on page 27 says to:

- look at what programs/services can be cut internally.  Start with anything new, first. 

- a special levy.  No and no.  Look, this is not an emergency. The district will, eventually, have more dollars flowing to it via McCleary. Do not create mistrust in voters for asking for money when there is no true emergency.

- Request a major grant from "local philanthropy."  You mean like the Gates Foundation?  Or Bezos?  Look, both those foundations have huge numbers of strings attached for their grants.  Don't do this either. 


Anonymous said...

Thanks, Melissa. Is this presentation available online? I couldn't find it on the SPS website.


Patrick said...

This is a great message, and frankly I'm surprised at how high the score for the website and JSCEE customer service scores are.

What are "silos" in this context?

Anonymous said...

Unrelated alert - Melissa - just received weird suspiciously spam-like email from your account with a link. You may have been hacked. Might want to change passwords etc.


No Thanks said...

Special levy? No thanks. We get asked to fund special initiatives, but I'm not seeing dollars flow into the WSS.

Let's just fund McLeary and move on from there. We're being asked to fund prek, and Murray will have more funding requests. Really, it is getting ridiculous.

Greg Linden said...

HIMS Mom, I think Melissa linked to the presentation in the original post. Last word in the second sentence of the first paragraph, "presentation", should be a link? Worked for me when I tried it.

Melissa, on reader47's comment, I also just got a spamming looking e-mail from you trying to get me to click through to a website hosted in .nl. Looked pretty bad, you may have had your e-mail or computer hacked, sorry to say.

On the topic of this post, the survey results look pretty dismal. I wonder what the reaction to this will be from the Superintendent and Board. Anyone attend or have any insight on that?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just added the link; thanks for the reminder.

What did the silo comment mean? The Moss Adams report had said that several departments had silos. Meaning, that they worked independently of other departments with little overlap.

This isn't good from a systems point view (because the work does interconnect) and a cultural POV (as you are trying to work to one goal). But I know headquarters HAD been working on this in the past and got some good things done.

But my perception is that people are somewhat hunkering down again. I think we have a good person in Ken Gotsch so his department is likely to get better. But HR is a bit aimless; ditto Enrollment;ditto Sped. I'm not saying they don't get work done but obviously without good, stable leadership, the work suffers.

Anonymous said...

I was struck at some of the long timelines involved on the "Corrective Action Plan" sections - like under HR - the audit finding was "Create a written policy or procedure to protect employees’ private information, including restrictions on access and storage of sensitive information." with with an original finding date of 9/2012 and an expected resoluti0n date of 12/1/2014. Really? It takes TWO YEARS to write a policy to protect your employees sensitive info????
Out here in the real world - someone would have been fired after months - not years on that one.

wow. just. wow.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for adding the link, Melissa.

Can anyone explain how to interpret slide 14 re: curriculum mapping/eval/implementation? And does this really match up with efforts underway?


Greeny said...

Who is in charge of the Strategic Plan within SPS? Who owns it? At every company I've worked for (Fortune 100 & 500), it's been the CFO. Is that true here?

Greeny said...

this is strategic planning by...customer service polling? What?! Market research should inform the decisions of priorities and actionable strategic initiatives - not 'become' them. What is all this stuff doing in here, besides obfuscating?

Items for "discussion" are - where are we vs. where we're supposed to be. Really? If you're working on truly strategic priorities, THOSE are not "discussion items" - THOSE should be the heart of the presentation - including facts and data. With real dates, and peoples names. Because they are your critical path to get where you want/presumably need to go. I would have expected to see clear strategic initiatives in Special Ed, Advanced Learning, Enrollment, Curriculum Alignment. Positive progress reported re: getting world-class math in (elementary - check. MS/HS?). Teacher job satisfaction. Ie CORE areas. If not these, what ARE the strategic initiatives they been working on, and what is their status? I'd be open to hear. But a cautionary note - Strat Plans are not for the tip of the triangle - they are not "what we'll get to after we maintain basic operations. If you are not executing on your core mission well, as others have rightly noted, we would do well to focus ALL strategic initiatives there. If I were on the Board, I'd be P*** at the waste of my time, send this back to the drawing board for a real report vis-a-vis progress on current strategic initiatives, and...probably chew out whoever is in charge at SPS of strategic planning for not having guided the presentation/or cut it. And if the SP owner doesn't see the problem, well, I hope the Board would see they have something else to discuss.

mirmac1 said...

HIMSmom, it was flashed on the screen as more of a "see, we also have this extraneous stuff to deal with so don't expect us to jump when you say jump". Serious. Really, a ransom note.

Greeny, Charles Wright owns the Gates/ImeanStrategicPlan business. I think all those presentation "data" slides flashed quickly and in a disorganized manner sought to (un?)intentionally obfuscating the questions and catching the board off-balance (ala the board retreat and the questions about "uh, what do you want from us?").

As the presentation slide 4 or 5 in showed, the triangle purports to show a tiered structure beginning with foundation items. A number of board members noted that this district operates top down: what do philanthropists want for the pet projects and how do we deliver with the minimum of board interference? Blanford and Wright have side conversations as if to strategize to advance this upside-down set of priorities. Thank GAWD Carr and Harium have not drunk their kool-aid. I suppose getting reamed by the Times minions has opened their eyes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Greeny, I would say that the Board and Superintendent "own" the Strategic Plan. It was created by both.

Greeny, maybe we need you to work for the district. I long for the day when someone like you does. We need that kind of "what??" action person.

Wow said...

A Chemistry teacher told me that books were 20 years old. The teacher felt books were ok, but there are books that are much better.

Information in the Stragegic Plan confirms that the last high school adoption was in 1995!

Curriculum mapping and evaluation was done in 2011.

Wow. Any wonder science isn't a strong point within SPS?

2009-2010 2010-2011 2011-2012 9-12 High School Science (excludes 10th grade) 1995

Charlie Mas said...

With this presentation the District begins to take the last step in un-doing every single decision made by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson. It was she who started the whole "strategic plan" thing with all of the little pet project initiatives.

With this presentation, the District and the Board confronts the fact that they need to focus on improving their basic operations to the point of competency before they indulge in any pet project initiatives.

When the Strategic Plan is dead, and this was a spear in its heart, the District will have undone all of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's misguided efforts.

mirmac1 said...

Julian gave me this message: "The smorgasbord of Strategic Plan projects with implementation steps is on There is also some City records on PreK. You may wish to "follow" me so that you can get alerts to the latest uploads."

Apparently district staff has time to work on Seattle Teacher Residency (1.1.D), Human Capital, PreK-5 alignment (1.3.A) funding source the SP (2.2A) etc - but no time for Bell Times analysis.