School Board Recap - September 18, 2017

Highlights

The Richmond Public Schools School Board convened Monday evening in the City Council Chamber of City Hall. There was not a large audience present, which may have been due to the school year just beginning to get underway.

Recognitions

Presentation from the Richmond Fire Department

The Board meeting began with a presentation from the Richmond Fire Department. The Fire Department came forward as a united body to present a donation of school supplies to Richmond Public Schools, a donation that they said would not have been possible without the effort and support of members of the community. The spokesman for the Fire Department stated that he and the other Firefighters were there not only on behalf of the Mayor’s initiatives to reduce poverty and open doors to opportunity; they were also there because of their dedication to quality education and public safety in Richmond Public Schools.

The Fire Department was thanked for being there by Dr. Sapini, Mr. Kranz, and the other members of the Board. Mr. Kranz stated that RPS “truly appreciates the money, as we are always in need.” He further thanked the Fire Department for helping the Board to educate the 24,000 students in Richmond Public Schools.

Public Information

Don Coleman: The Importance of Public Input

Former School Board member, Mr. Don Coleman, came to the podium to speak as an individual about the process of filling the vacant seat for the 7th District. He emphasized the importance of ensuring that the people know about the appointment of someone in the interim, as “It is critical that the 7th District have a representative.” He stressed the difference between an elected official and an appointed official, and asked that the Board allow the citizens to influence the decision, since they would not be the ones formally voting on who fills the vacant seat. “This is good work and important work,” Mr. Coleman said. He just wanted to make sure that the citizens were not excluded from this process of appointment

Board Business

Report on the Superintendent

The Board received a report on the Superintendent from Hazard, Attea, Young and Associates. The report was presented by Ann Monday, Hank Harris, and Brad Draeger. Ann Monday spoke first, presenting the Richmond Public Schools Leadership Profile Report and the results from the focus group meetings that had taken place over the last few months.

Ms. Monday reported that 104 people had been interviewed and 653 people had completed an online survey. Of those people interviewed, nine (9) were members of the School Board, thirteen (13) were administrators, two (2) were teachers, forty-three (43) were community members, and thirty-seven (37) were students. Of those people who completed the online survey, fifty-four (54) were administrators, one hundred and ninety (190) were teachers, one hundred and two (102) were community members, three hundred and twenty-four (324) were parents in community forums, eighty-one (81), and ten (10) were support staff.

Ms. Monday commented that the number of support staff who answered was rather disappointing before going into the Consistently Reported Themes section of the presentation.

The Strengths were:

  • Community partners support schools in many ways

  • Competitive compensation

  • Long term and committed employees, support staff, teachers and administrators

  • Neighborhood schools: foster community pride

  • Potential for positive change – there is a huge opportunity to make a difference in RPS

  • Rich history of Richmond schools with distinguished alumni and students returning to work in the schools

  • Richmond – Capital City – is an attractive place for families to live

  • Resources: lower student-teacher ratios; parental support/volunteers

  • School choice allows parents and students to decide curriculum focus

The Challenges/Concerns/Issues were:

  • City Council, School Board, Superintendent and City Manager relationships need to align to a common vision

  • District communication and transparency need improvement to overcome negative and incorrect assumptions about RPS

  • Employee morale is low, and majority of media emphasis is negative

  • Facilities: maintenance, cleanliness and funding of the CIP are critical needs

  • New and inexperienced School Board

  • Poverty and increasing numbers of diverse students require additional resources, but cannot limit expectation of academic achievement for all children

  • Standard operating procedures are lacking at many levels, with particular emphasis in Human Resources

  • Strategic plan and vision needed for long term direction

  • Student emotional, social and behavioral issues impact learning

  • Student achievement: gains have been made, but accreditation of schools must be addressed

The Desired Characteristics were:

  • Ability to attract, recruit, select, develop and retain a high-quality staff

  • Ability to build trust and strong relationships with all constituencies, especially Mayor, City Council and School Board

  • Approachable, accessible and visible in schools and all aspects of the community

  • Creative thinker, independent and not afraid to challenge the status quo with out-of-the-box thinking

  • Educationally experienced; preferably including urban educational experience

  • Excellent communication skills

  • High integrity, honesty, and ethics

  • Operational and facility experienced

  • Passion, vision, skills and talents that can improve student achievement in an urban school system

  • Supervision for accountability and decisiveness

  • Willing to become a committed and integral part of Richmond

Following Ms. Monday’s presentation of the Consistently Reported Themes, Mr. Draeger presented the Executive Summary of the Online Survey, which he noted is still ongoing. This summary answers two crucial questions: (1) how is the district currently doing? and (2) what type of leadership profile are you looking for in a superintendent. Mr. Draeger presented many graphs, charts, and other data and statistics, noting that “the online survey backed up what they had seen and reflected what the community had told them.”

In regards to the first question, the following were noted as district strengths (according to the Executive summary):

  • The district engages with diverse racial, cultural and socio-economic groups

  • The district engages the community as a partner to improve the school system

  • The district is working to close the achievement gap

  • Technology is integrated into the classroom

  • The district employs effective teachers, administrators and support staff in the schools

In regards to the second question, the top rated leadership profile characteristics constituents desire in a new superintendent are:

  • Recruit, employ, and retain effective personnel throughout the District and its schools

  • Foster a positive, professional climate of mutual trust and respect among faculty, staff, and administrators

  • Establish a culture of high expectations for all students and personnel

  • Effectively plan and manage the long-term financial health of the district

  • Understand and be sensitive to the needs of a diverse student population

Mr. Harris then took to the podium to talk about the desired and preferred characteristics of a superintendent, before he or she is chosen to assume the role. After conducting both the interviews and the online survey, it was determined that Richmond Public Schools is seeking a strong educational leader who possesses the following characteristics:

  • Communication skills, visibility, openness, and transparency: The Richmond Superintendent will need to be a superb communicator who can develop relationships with all stakeholder groups and work to unite the staff and the community. The superintendent must be visible, approachable and willing to listen to different points of view in order to promote positive, respectful relationships in offices and schools. He or she will be the “face” of Richmond Public Schools and, in this capacity, must be able to articulate a positive vision for the future and secure the public trust by being authentic, transparent and honest.

  • Ability to hire and develop skilled people, set high standards for performance: The superintendent will need to put practices in place to ensure that quality people are recruited, hired and retained. The superintendent must develop a strong team in central office that will model high expectations and create a culture of excellence in the district. Being able to develop a quality workforce, to collaborate and to build functioning teams are important leadership characteristics for the position.

  • Expert, knowledgeable change agent and problem-solver: The critical and academic and operational issues that must be solved in RPS require someone who has a track record as a problem-solver and change agent. While one person cannot know everything, the new superintendent needs to have the experience and knowledge needed to deal effectively with the serious, long-term social, emotional, and academic challenges of a diverse urban school district. At the same time, the superintendent will need to be able to manage school operations, and address facilities and fiscal challenges. The superintendent needs to have expertise in an urban setting and have passion for this work.

  • Strong, courageous, committed: “Confident, strong, respected, not afraid to tell the truth, bold, willing to make changes, courageous spirit.” These were some of the ways that stakeholders described the ideal characteristics of a new superintendent. The district wants a strong leader to look up to who will provide the direction, change and support it needs. The staff and community want a leader who will commit to Richmond and stay long enough to affect lasting change. The City will strongly embrace someone who takes the time to get to know and understand what is special about Richmond, sees its challenges as opportunities, and instills hope.

Those four points are the desired characteristics and attributes; the following are the required characteristics for a new superintendent:

  • Demonstrated visionary leadership in a diverse school district or large organization

  • Eligible to be certified as a superintendent in Virginia

  • Doctorate from an accredited institution (preferred)

  • Experience as a superintendent (preferred)

Mr. Draeger returned to the podium to talk about the current process of screening applicants for the position. He stated that he “feels good about the current candidate pool and feels good about the process.” He added that the night’s presentation and other important documents would be published for the Board and the public to access.

Mr. Barlow said that he appreciated the substantial work being put into the process, but also noted that while he was encouraged by some of the feedback but not by others. He expressed that he had expected to hear more from faculty, staff, and administration in both the interviews and the online survey. Mr. Draeger noted that the lack of response may have been in part due to the fact that the school year has just begun and that Irma and other factors have been interfering in the process of getting feedback from certain individuals.

Mr. Young had a question regarding the candidates: “How many persons have applied?” Mr. Draeger responded that the number of applicants in the pool is fluid, but stated that there are well over fifty (50) applicants in the pool, which is a rather large number. Mr. Young followed up on his initial question by asking whether Mr. Draeger was “prepared to opine on the demand for the position?” Mr. Draeger’s answered that were many factors that could have contributed to the demand for the superintendent position: Richmond being a Capitol City, redevelopment, the faith-based community, the urban environment, or simply just the timing in which the opportunity is available.

Mrs. Page thanked Mr. Draeger, Ms. Monday, and Mr. Harris for their hard work and for providing this detailed and comprehensive report. “This will be beneficial to us as a School Board, as we make one of the most crucial decisions of our term,” she said.

Discussion of the Process of Appointing an Interim 7th District School Board Representative

Mrs. Page took a moment to thank Mrs. Nadine Marsh-Carter, who served as the 7th District representative of the School Board. Mrs. Marsh-Carter resigned from the position over the summer following the death of her husband in July. Mrs. Page said that Mrs. Marsh-Carter “was the voice of reason, who led the charge and had a commitment to initiatives.” Mrs. Page added that Mrs. Marsh-Carter “will be greatly missed and hard to replace.”

The School Board’s attorney, Ms. Lilly, spoke on the process of appointment and proposed a timeline for the reappointment. Ms. Lilly informed the Board that an interim appointment must be made with 45 days from the date of the vacancy. She informed them that a petition to the Court on the matter must be made by September 20, or else the Court would step in and appoint someone on their own terms. She further explained the time frame of newspaper and social outlet notices, interviews, public hearings, and special elections. According to Ms. Lilly:

  • Ten (10) days’ notice of the interviews/public hearing to the newspapers and other social outlets is needed

  • A public hearing must take place seven (7) days prior to the deliberation to vote

  • The interviews can take place on the same evening as the public hearing

  • A special election would take place following the vote, and the candidate would take an oath upon being sworn in to the position

Ms. Lilly noted to the Board that, in keeping to the proposed timeline, the interviews would need to take place on October 2 in order for there to be a vote made by October 17.

Mr. Barlow asked what exactly a special election would look like. Ms. Lilly replied that the special election could either be held during the general election or a new date could be selected. She noted, however, that a special election could not take place this particular November.

Mr. Barlow commented that a year is a while to wait to fill this vacancy; he asked whether a special election could be held during the primary election. Ms. Lilly responded that she did not believe that a special election could be held during a primary election. She later confirmed that it could not be held then.

Mr. Young asked Ms. Lilly about the proposed timeline, asking whether the timeline had to be adopted now or if it could be adopted later. Ms. Lilly answered that the Board would need to make a decision immediately, as an appointment must be made by October 20 (a month from notification of the vacancy) or else the Court would intervene.

Mr. Young then solicited his colleagues about having a special meeting on the matter, noting that although he knew that everyone’s schedules were tight, he felt it would be necessary to have a special meeting on the issue. Mrs. Page noted to Mr. Young that he must take into consideration the fact that input from the public was a necessity, as they would have to be given the opportunity to weigh in on the decision. Ms. Lilly also noted the limited amount of time available and that reconfiguring the schedule at this point may be difficult.

Mrs. Owen asked whether Columbus Day (Oct. 9) was a City holiday, as that day could be a potential date for a special meeting. Ms. Lilly noted she would have to see; she also noted that the special meeting, if held, need not be held on a Monday (although the Board tends to hold meetings on Mondays).

Ms. Cosby asked if the candidate interviews are open the public as well. Ms. Lilly responded that they were open to the public, and that a public hearing would then follow the interviews.

Mr. Young commented that with so very much to do, he wants to ensure that the Board does not “shortchange the new appointment.” Mrs. Page chimed in that the current timeline, as proposed, allows the opportunity for the public to weigh in, which she emphasized is very important.

Ms. Lilly informed the Board that they would need to reach a consensus on the timeline or establish a special meeting.

Mr. Young proposed the holding of a special meeting, as was done when making the appointment for the 3rd District representative. Ms. Lilly warned of the compressing and adjusting of the schedule, as the Board could not do anything after the 9th of October. She pressed the Board to either keep the timeline as presented or add the special meeting. The special meeting would have to take place on October 2nd or the week thereof.

Mr. Barlow wanted to ensure that there was adequate time for interviewing, and expressed that he had faith that the schedule could be adjusted.

Mrs. Menz-Erb noted that the Board would have to have two meetings during the week of October 2nd in order to keep to the schedule.

Mr. Young noted that he would be fine with the timeline being adopted as proposed. Ms. Cosby inquired as to whether a vote was needed on this timeline, to which Ms. Lilly replied “Not necessarily.” Mr. Barlow moved to accept the timeline as proposed, seconded by Mrs. Doerr. The motion passed after the Board reached a consensus.

Ms. Lilly informed the Board that the notice of the vacancy would go out on Tuesday, September 19th. The deadline to submit resumes and letters of interests would be September 29th. On the scheduled October 2nd meeting, the interviews and public hearing on the candidate would take place. The vote for the new candidate would take place on October 16th.

Memorandum of Understanding

Mrs. Page took a moment to talk about the governance training that the Board went through on September 8th to go over their norms, their established goals, and how to operate as a Board. She noted that it is crucial that each member of the Board understands their roles as an individual member, but also remembers that they work together as a Board and not as individuals. “We operate under a memorandum of understanding” she said. “And everything must be aligned.” She stressed the difference between the Board operating in a role of governance versus a role of administration.

Formation of Finance Committee and Culture and Climate Ad Hoc Committee

Ms. Cosby had a suggestion about the process of forming these committees, noting that Board members should submit any comments or edits to the plans to flush out during the work session.

Mr. Young, referring to the Culture and Climate Committee, emphasized the importance of identifying and ensuring that each school has safe culture and climate that promotes optimal student performance.

Mrs. Menz-Erb noted that she did not see any proposed persons for the Finance Committee. Mrs. Page explained that she, Mr. Barlow, and Mrs. Doerr had conveyed interest. Following up, on that question, Mrs. Menz-Erb asked how the choosing of chairs for the committees worked. Mrs. Page replied that the ad hoc committee chooses the chair, and then informs the clerk. She noted also that the administration does the work in choosing the chairs, not the Board.

Mrs. Doerr expressed that she agreed with Ms. Cosby on members giving input on the plan and then formalizing the committees.

Mrs. Menz-Erb asked who from the administration would oversee these committees. The response was that Mr. Meyers would oversee the Finance committee and Mrs. Jones would oversee the Culture and Climate Committee.

Administration Business

Update on State Accreditation

The Board received an update on school accreditation for the 2017-2018 school year from Mr. Kranz et al. Of Richmond’s forty-four (44) schools, eighteen (18) are fully accredited, five (5) are partially accredited/warned, and nineteen (19) have been denied accreditation. The table below shows the changes between this years’ Accreditation Report and the report from the previous year.

Update on State Accreditation

The School Board was encouraged to “celebrate the gains” despite the figures of this report. Fifty-two (52%) percent of Richmond Public Schools are accredited. It was stated that the State looks at these progressive changes in the schools, and it was further noted many of the schools received percentage gains in several of the core subjects. For example, Martin Luther King Middle School had a six (6%) percent gain in Science; Henderson Middle School had ten (10%) percent gains in both English and History; and Blackwell Elementary had an eight (8%) percent gain in English and a twenty-nine (29%) percent gain in Science. All three of these schools are noted “Priority Schools.”

“These ‘pockets of success in RPS’,” Mr. Kranz noted, “need to be expanded and built upon.”

It was stated that the issue in RPS is the warned schools; instead of the partially accredited/warned schools moving back towards full accreditation, they are moving towards accreditation denial. “We need to move partially accredited schools and denied schools back to fully accredited,” Mr. Kranz et al. said. “We need to look at education programs, we need to look at individual schools, and we need to look at how we can better support students.”

Mr. Kranz stated that there were a lot of successes to be proud of and expressed that he was proud of the 40,000 RPS employees who made them possible. He said that by parlaying off of this strength, RPS could be successful in moving these schools “as quickly as possible” to accredited status. He acknowledged that the biggest challenge will be the middle schools (None of RPS’s Middle Schools are accredited) and that it is going to take hard work to change that.

Mrs. Doerr thanked Mr. Kranz et al. for the data, noting that it is crucial information for the Board to have. However, she expressed that she hoped that schools are being “assessed on other things and not just the tests.” She stressed the importance of values and character development within the schools, concluding that “a test score does not make a child.”

Mr. Barlow echoed Mrs. Doerr’s points, stating the need to be cognizant that there is more to look at than just testing, which include things such as the school environment. “They’re not just testing machines,” he said. He asked Mr. Kranz et al. how accreditation standards affect our assessment of the schools. Mr. Kranz et al. noted that the Virginia Department of Education (VDOE) is making changes to the standards, making them more rigorous.

Mrs. Menz-Erb thanked them as well for highlighting the progress points and asked them how they are doing assessments beyond just the test. Mr. Kranz et al. noted that they are talking with teachers and principals and discussing how to assess the growth measures of individual children. They are also trying to move beyond “teaching to the test” and trying to determine which schools need to be remediated and with can been advanced.

Mrs. Menz-Erb followed up by asking how the factors that impact the schools are being measured. Mr. Kranz et al. noted that attendance, leadership, and staff (teachers being the most important) are the key factors that are looked at. Mrs. Menz-Erb thanked them for their response, reminding them that “one size does not fit all” and that it is important to “peel back the onion and look at all of the aspect (layers) in order to find the strengths and weaknesses.”

Mrs. Owen questioned the fact that History and Science were only tested in the 5th Grade, noting that 5th grade teachers would have to go back and teach the 4th grade curriculum in addition to the 5th grade curriculum. Mr. Kranz et al. acknowledge that this may be a cause of a dip in science scores.

Ms. Cosby asked for some clarification on the meaning and process of reconstitution. Mr. Kranz et al. explained that if a school that is in the third (3rd) year of being partially accredited/warned has made significant progress in all four of the core areas, the school can apply to VDOE for reconstitution. In addition to showing that progress has been made, the school would also have to explain to VDOE what changes will be made in the school(s) to keep the scores up.

Mr. Young compared the plight of the schools to the plight of a losing college basketball team that has to work hard to reach the “Final Four.” He stated, “KUDOS on the improvement, but we’ve still as long way to go to reach the Final Four.”

Dr. Sapini asked how to get the schools we need to get where they need to be (ie. the third (3rd) year partially accredited/warned schools), where they need to be, as that fourth (4th) year that determines reconstitution or denial is a crucial one. Mr. Kranz et al. said that meeting with school leadership to implement the necessary educational plans is a must. He noted that “the challenge will be going through each school’s individual plans” as each one has different needs. He stressed that the best thing would be to “replicate the successes of the fully accredited schools in the non-accredited schools.”

Mrs. Page had both a comment and an observation. She concurred with her colleagues on the Board that “students should not be measured by a test. Unfortunately,” she noted. “That is what the State looks at.”

Addressing the data, Mrs. Page noted that there is a huge disconnect when looking at the data. “We’ve worked hard,” she said. She asserted that schools should be supported in Year 1 partially accredited/warned to prevent the future denial of accreditation when they reach Year 3. “We need to be going into the schools and supporting the students,” she affirmed.

Mr. Kranz et al. (identified Mrs. Oakley) agreed, but noted that “We have to analyze the schools individually before being able to adequately support them.” Mrs. Page followed up by asking whether the administration is looking at a strategy to help support the schools. It was noted that the administration may have a strategy by October 16.

Ms. Cosby noted the need for continuous accountability. “This presentation implies that there were opportunities for growth that we missed,” she said. She suggested that it may be helpful to have a very detailed balance-score card in the future for the Board to utilize. Her statement was supported by both Mrs. Doerr and Mrs. Page, who echoes that a balance-score may be something the School Board desires.

Below is a list of Richmond’s Public Schools and their accreditation statuses according to this report.

Fully Accredited

  1. Broad Rock ES

  2. Greene ES

  3. Elizabeth Redd ES

  4. Fairfield Court ES

  5. Carver ES

  6. Fisher ES

  7. J.E.B. Stuart ES

  8. John B. Cary ES

  9. Holton ES

  10. Mary Munford ES

  11. Miles Jones ES

  12. Patrick Henry School of Science and Arts

  13. Southampton ES

  14. William Fox ES

  15. Franklin Military Academy

  16. Open HS

  17. Richmond Community

  18. Richmond Career Education and Employment School

Partially Accredited

  1. Elkhardt-Thompson MS

  2. Huguenot HS

  3. John Marshall HS

  4. George Wythe HS

  5. Bellevue ES

Denied Accreditation

  1. Blackwell ES

  2. Chimborazo ES

  3. G.H. Reid ES

  4. Ginter Park ES

  5. Francis ES

  6. Oak Grove ES

  7. Swansboro ES

  8. Woodville ES

  9. Overby-Sheppard ES

  10. Westover ES

  11. George Mason ES

  12. Binford MS

  13. Boushall MS

  14. Lucille Brown MS

  15. Henderson MS

  16. Martin Luther King MS

  17. Armstrong HS

  18. Thomas Jefferson HS

  19. Richmond Alternative School

To Be Determined by VDOE

  1. Amelia Street (Specialty School – Alternative Accreditation Plan)

  2. Albert Hill MS (Reconstitution TBD)

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