I would say this is possibly one of the most important Work Sessions of the school year and certainly will be a test for the new Board.
I'll let you peruse this at your leisure but it's certainly a mixed bag. You can say that compared to state numbers, the district is doing much better with green (for plus side improvement) everywhere on page 2. One down note is that for climate/satisfaction surveys of students, families and teachers, most of the numbers are down especially the family engagement survey.
• To provide an overview of the data that has informed the District’s previous and current strategic plan, the key factors influencing its implementation, and discussions with the board seeking guidance on how to move forward.
The landscape from 2008-2013
• Reduced budgets: Cuts from the State; Central administration budget reduced from 9% to 5%
• Turnover: Centrally and in schools
• Increased scrutiny for internal controls:New internal auditor, whistleblower hotline
I find that list of "landscape" items interesting. It covers budget which is of key importance and turnover at the top, also important but I have to wonder about "in schools." Does SPS have more teacher/principal loss than other districts? I haven't heard them say this so isn't some amount of turnover and movement common? As well, of all the possible items you could put in this "landscape," I'm not sure "increased scrutiny" would be one of them. Maybe that says something about senior staff's focus.
Page 8 shows where the district has grown for Grades 3-8th in math. On the upside, there's mostly steady growth in all groups. But where they all started from is quite different. Whites start at 76% and end at 83% while Native Americans start at 48% and end at 46%. I would say a bright spot is Hispanics who start at 38% and end at 54% while African-Americans start at 30% and end at 41%.
Page 9 shows growth in the SE which is great. You can see in Year 3 (2010-2011) the start of a good spike of growth in 3-8 grade math scores for all students in the SE region.
The next section is the Strategic Plan and here's where I think some questions should be asked. Not about the goals but what the district has in place to fulfill them.
For example, how is MTSS (Multi-Tiered Systems of Support) doing? What data supports its continued use? What do principals say?
Page 22 has the 2014-2015 Governance Priorities
• Bell Times Analysis
• Multi-Tiered Student Support (MTSS)
• Special Education – RC- CAP
• Stewardship of Resources – Systems and Internal Controls
So, let's check off the Bell Times Analysis and vote. Still needs to be implemented. MTSS, again, I'd like to see the data on this one. Special Education. Feels like the staff says one thing on RC-CAP and families seem to be experiencing something else. I believe the district has all or most of the state withhold of Sped funds back. Stewardship of Resources - the big elephant in the room. I don't think the district runs like a well-oiled machine and I don't think they are transparent will all the dollars. Until that happens, this is a big question. Here's the thing - if the district ran well, I think parents and the public wouldn't be as concerned about transparency. From here it gets quite interesting and I'm going to make this a lengthy thread in order to highlight the importance of what is being said and that this will affect how this district runs and what they do going forward. It seems clear that both the Board and the senior staff want clarity and crispness on what they are focusing on for the work of this district.
The presentation then does something I haven't seen before; it does a recap of a previous Oct 29, 2014 Work Session on this topic.
What We Think We Heard
- Fix the infrastructure and fundamental problems before building on the foundation or adding new projects
- Systems was broken even before district made cuts in 2009. For example, HR and SPED have identifiable problems but need strong management and clear theory of action.
- Mixed reviews about using external consultants
- Make sure process improvement focuses on student and quality of education
- Think Big....Get it Right
What We Think We Heard
- Fix the infrastructure before building improvements
– The Superintendent can propose course corrections to the strategic plan
- Identify highest value work
– We need to explicitly prioritize and sequence work
– We need to identify what will be pushed out to later dates or stopped
– Directors need to be able to clearly justify why we may not be addressing a particular initiative in year 1 or 2
- We need to be more effective/efficient, demand will always outpace money
– Support for Continuous Improvement so long as we are not talking about abandoning or modifying the strategic plan
Explicit or Implicit Questions To Be Addressed In Our Discussion
- What are our proposed course corrections to the strategic plan?
- What is our proposed process improvement rollout plan?
- Where are we shoring up foundational instability?
- How do we intend to use external consultants?
- How will we create “white-space” for leadership?
- How will the BTA levy be used to support this process
White space is a process management concept described by Geary A. Rummler and Alan P. Brache in 1991 as the area between the boxes in an organizational chart—where, very often, no one is in charge. It is where important handoffs between functions happen and it is where an organization has the greatest potential for improvement as things often "fall between the cracks" or "disappear into black holes", resulting in misunderstandings and delays. Managing white space entails improving an organization's process performance.
Back to the presentation:
Guiding Principles for our Course Corrections
- We have identified course corrections that must be made to implement the strategic plan
- We are focusing on a few key approaches for making course corrections:
– Enterprise Risk Management
- As we move forward, to have the greatest impact, it is imperative that we focus (narrow our scope) and increase our alignment
As well, with a 45-page presentation, the senior staff, as usual, seems to be leaving the Board with little time for questions or discussions.