One of the most important thing this Board must do is watch how public money is spent. Yes, our district is underfunded. But we have to keep an eagle eye on where the money we get goes. Like most issues, it comes back to listening to the stakeholders. APPS members have attended hearings on all of the initiatives introduced in the past 5 years. That includes: Transformation schools, Redesign Schools, Priority Schools, Community Schools, Turnaround and Internal Turnaround Schools. Perhaps the first question could be: do any of these schools have a fully function school library with a certified school librarian?
Because that is one of the most important indicators of whether these schools are getting superfluous programs, spending money on consultants and outside PD, or in-school companies like Jounce Partners and ISA doing…something.
We did not hear parents at schools like Gideon and Blankenburg and McDaniels say, “Please send outside companies to our school to carry out some kind of teacher training which we know nothing about.” We didn’t hear parents complain about the quality of the teaching in their schools, in fact, just the opposite. We did hear parents say that they wanted their library back, that they wanted smaller class size, more staff, more counselors and classroom aides, that they wanted the insects and rodents and mold and asbestos gone and the building non-toxic and safe.
The district can afford all of those things. This Board must turn around the misguided spending priorities of the SRC.
The Board cannot continue the practice of failing to examine the initiatives and programs of the superintendent, whoever that may be. The Board controls a $3 billion budget. It is your responsibility to see whether those dollars are being spent on programs that are actually benefiting students.
School started this week for teachers in the network formerly known as the Turnaround Network, renamed the Acceleration Network. How much is being spent on these 5 PD days for teachers at those approximately 20 schools? From the teachers I have spoken to who have attended, little of value is being imparted. Again, the problem at struggling schools is not the quality of the teaching, it is the lack of resources and services.
The Board must begin, as soon as possible, to audit the spending and outcomes of the Redesign, Transformation, Priority, Turnaround, Internal Turnaround, and Renaissance programs. How much money has been spent, and is being spent, and from where is that money coming? Does cherry-picking a few schools each year mean that the other schools don’t get what they need? Where is the data to support continual funding?
The Board must also examine the other costs of these programs. Most of the schools in these programs have forced out most of their teachers and some principals. While the administration takes steps to address trauma, the first step should be to stop inflicting it.