Tuesday, July 19, 2011

Program Placement

I know that I harp on Program Placement a lot more than folks want to hear about it, but here I go again.

The Program Placement Policy, C56.00, isn't particularly enforceable. It does, however, have two elements that can be enforced.

1) It requires the superintendent to make an annual report to the Board of program placement decisions. The District claims that this is that report. However, this report does not meet the requirements of the policy - not by a long shot. The policy requires:
On an annual basis, the Superintendent shall report program placement decisions to the School Board, including describing how the decisions work to achieve the above listed criteria.
This report makes no reference whatsoever to how the decisions work to achieve the criteria that are supposed to guide program placement decisions.

The report is inadequate. The superintendent is in violation of the policy and the Board has a responsibility to demand compliance.

2) The Policy also requires that
the Superintendent shall establish administrative procedures that set forth the program placement process, including an annual review cycle, and distribute the same annually to the School Board, Principals, and Program Managers, and make them available to the community.
There are no administrative procedures for program placement available. I can't find them anywhere on the District web site. In addition, I have been told that program placement was done differently this year than how it was done in previous years, which means that even if the old process was still posted online somewhere it is out of date.

The absence of current administrative procedures is a violation of the policy and the Board has a responsibility to demand compliance.

I have written to the Board about this, but have not received any response.


Melissa Westbrook said...

What's interesting is that Kay Smith-Blum constantly refers to program placement as a key driver to choices parents make and capacity management. I think she's right.

So you'd think this would be one area the Board WOULD focus on in terms of getting things right. Do any of them ever attend these placement committee meetings? I don't know.

Also, since it means so much to parents, why don't they make sure that a through report is done every year?

It's a mystery.

Charlie Mas said...

For a long time, years and years, program placement proposals were reviewed by a program placement committee. The committee was chaired by the Chief Academic Officer but the other members of the committee were not known. The Program Placement Committee's meetings were not open to the public and the minutes of their meetings were available only through a Public Document Request.

The Committee would review the proposals through a process and based on criteria that they made up as they went along. Some proposals were subjected to high barriers to approval, some were recommended without much, if any, critical review. The committee would sometimes allow principals to veto the placement of a program in their school and sometimes they were not. The process was corrupt, secret, and political. It was driven primarily by internal politics and operational expediencies. Programs were placed where there was room for them - in unpopular schools.

The previous board, upon learning of this corrupt practice tried to reform it with their new policy (C56.00). There effort was not successful.

The program placement process, in 2009 and 2010 was conducted just as corruptly as before and in exactly the same manner as before - by the secret committee.

I have been told that the process for program placement decisions was done differently in 2011, but I was not told what new process was followed. Whatever it was, it was no more transparent than the old process.

Program Placement stands as a shining symbol of the District's failure to live up to its stated ideals of openness, honesty, transparency, engagement, data-driven decision-making, putting students first, and accountability. It's a cesspit of corruption, secrecy, and politics.

Jan said...

Thanks, Charlie -- I had just asked you for basically this exact explanation -- on the Lowell thread.

Here is my follow up question. We only have 2 board members who we can even HOPE might care (maybe 3, if DeBell is having a good day -- but he has never done anything to date in defense of this policy or the underlying process it was supposed to protect). Is there anything, at this point, that Betty and Kay alone can do -- or are they (and we) just SOL unless and until we can elect a new board?

WV agrees, the whole thing is auffule.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yup, Jan, we are out of luck until some new people come in. I thought there was some hope when Michael and Sherry started speaking up at Committee meetings but there was no real follow-thru so I don't think they are willing to ask hard questions until they get solid answers.

Charlie Mas said...

There is only one Board member who has any interest in enforcing policy. The etiquette of the Board precludes any Board member from getting too far away from the rest of the Board, so that Board member can only go so far without her colleagues.

I'll give you an example.

During a recent Strategic Plan Update, Director Smith-Blum asked when we would see the promised corrections to the School Reports. The staff member gave a vague response. Director Smith-Blum pressed for a more definite answer and the staff person gave another vague response. At this point it would be acceptable for another Board member to press again and specfically ask for a definite answer, but it would be unseemly for Director Smith-Blum, who had asked twice, to ask a third time. Since no other Board member asked for a definitive answer - I guess none of them were interested - the vague answer stood unchallenged.

mirmac1 said...


What you just described has happened at just about every meeting/work session/touchy-feely work session. Those Board retreats, facilitated by Broadie flunkies, sure have been effective.

Jan said...

I agree with you, Charlie. But here is something else that could have -- but didn't happen:

The Superintendent (not sure whether this occasion happened on MGJ's watch, or SE's) could have stepped in and pressed for one as well -- or for the explanation as to why one could not be promised, and what the follow up might be.

And -- since the Board didn't get one (and got no help from the staff person's ultimate boss, the Superintendent), they can take it up with the Superintendent in connection with performance reviews, contract extensions, etc.

Really -- Board -- how hard can it possibly be to let the Superintendent and the staff know that vague non-answers (while they may not be called out publicly in recorded meetings) will not be tolerated -- and that their opinion is that any Superintendent who allows this to occur is not the right person for the job and won't survive the next performance review?

I know -- it seems like such a teeny thing. But really - "Answer the Damn question!" is at the heart of so much that is wrong with governance in our district.