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Archive for August, 2013

“Strategic” Churn

The DeKalb Board of Education recently approved a new strategic planning process. I use the word “new” purposefully. In 2011, DeKalb engaged the GSBA (Georgia School Boards Association) to assist in the development of a strategic plan. As Ronald Reagan would say, “There you go again,” because DeKalb has once again asked the GSBA to perform the same task.

You can read all about the 2011 effort online. Click here to read about the community engagement sessions that were held. The district formulated a strategic plan for 2012-2017 entitled the Excellence in Education Plan.

So here we go again. Given the GSBA’s political stances, it is highly unlikely they’ll build in autonomy or innovative governance structures for schools in DeKalb. The GSBA lobbied against the Charter School Amendment that was overwhelmingly passed statewide and in DeKalb. The GSBA routinely advocates against legislative measures that put more power in the hands of parents and taxpayers. Wonder what they think of the charter cluster idea? I say this to illuminate that the entity, tasked with helping DeKalb (yet again) build a strategic plan, holds positions that are at odds with the majority of citizens in our county. So, back to that strategic plan…

The current DeKalb BOE voted to approve this work at their August 5th meeting. The bid review sheet that awarded the contract to GSBA indicated their proposal would cost the taxpayers $300,000. However, the “action item” read to the board and the public listed the cost at $250,000. If one can get past this discrepancy and the political leanings of this organization, one would still wonder, why the need to jettison the plan that the district adopted in 2012. Was the board made aware that there was a fairly new plan? Why wouldn’t they review it, possibly amend/edit it and see to it that it was implemented with fidelity? Why reinvent the wheel; hiring and paying the same entity to do this all over again?

Better yet, perhaps they should read up on “strategic planning”. I wrote this article, Strategic Planning, about it in June. Here’s a paragraph I wrote about what an expert in the field said about strategic planning:

“In his critique of strategic planning, Mintzberg tells us that, “Because analysis is not synthesis, strategic planning is not strategy formulation.” He adds that, “Ultimately, the term `strategic planning’ has proved to be an oxymoron.” … “…..strategy emerges over time as intentions collide with and accommodate a changing reality.” Indeed.”

Even more important, read what I uncovered about the relationship between student achievement and strategic planning.

“…Vicki Basham and Fred Lunenburg found an ‘inconsistent and weak’ association between district participation in strategic planning and student achievement, as measured by standardized test scores in reading, language arts, and mathematics in grades 3, 5, 7, and 10. Basham and Lunenburg wrote in their review of prior research that ‘no other study shows a direct tie-in between strategic planning in school districts and school district performance on standardized achievement tests,’ and they can add their own work to the list.” So, as I stated earlier, I want results and strategic planning does not drive results.”

So why are we paying $250k or $300k (which is it?) for a product we already have that will likely do little to nothing to improve the educational lives of our children?

If we are looking for a mission statement, I suggest we look to Hall County. I had the pleasure of meeting the Hall County Superintendent this summer. He’s a different breed of superintendent – more on that in another blog. He told me that the best organizations have simple mission statements – no more than 5 words – that every employee knows from the custodial staff up to the CEO. Hall County’s mission statement: Character, Competency, Rigor For All.

posted by Nancy Jester in DeKalb County School District,Strategic Planning and have Comment (1)

Follow The Money

Follow the money.  That phrase was popularized during the Watergate tumult.  It is also a wise directive for all taxpayers in our state and beyond when it comes to how we spend your tax dollars on education.

So, what happens when you can’t “follow the money” because the government and the Iron Triangle Education Bureaucracy puts obstacles in your way?  The Cato Institute has released a study about the transparency in spending by departments of education.  It turns out Georgia earned an “F”.  Click here  to see their study. About Georgia, Cato points out, “Georgia is missing the most recent year of expenditures and fails to provide a table or graph that would allow citizens to easily compare changes in spending over time.”  In fact, Georgia is missing the most recent 2 years.  The financial data that is provided through the state DOE website is the 2010-2011 school year – a full 2 years behind our current fiscal year. (School districts have fiscal years that run from July 1 through June 30.  The fiscal year is referenced by the year in which it ends.)  So we are missing FY12 and FY13 on the fiscal reports.

Until we fix the financial issues that plague Georgia’s educational spending, we won’t fix education in our state. Unfortunately, Georgia’s Department of Education has not held districts accountable for how they spend your tax dollars.  It appears the DOE’s only retort is to ask for more of your money.  Our DOE continues to send hundreds of millions of your dollars to districts that do little to improve the educational lives of our children or even provide transparency in their expenditures.  It’s all a bit cozy.  Sadly, administrators have grown their take of your money over time and let smaller amounts accrue to the teachers in the classroom.  Dr. Scafidi’s study, The School Staffing Surge, on how administrative staffing has grown over time in excess of student growth.  In an upcoming “Coffee Talk”, we’ll cover the finances of education in Georgia and how they have hurt taxpayers, students and teachers all while benefiting the educational bureaucrats.  Follow the money, indeed.

posted by Nancy Jester in Finance,Georgia Education and have Comment (1)

Coffee Talk Highlights

We had a terrific Coffee Talk last week.  Thank you to all of our speakers and attendees!  We recorded the speaking segments so you can catch up if you missed the event.  Click here to view the videos and summaries.  Here’s my rundown of our speakers and topics:

Thank you to Congressman Kingston for talking with us about his work at the Federal level.  Congressman Kingston is a senior member of the House Appropriations Committee.  He is Chair of the Subcommittee on Labor, Health and Human Services, Education, and Related Agencies.  He works to rein in Federal spending and hold the government accountable for how they spend your tax dollars.  Rep. Kingston’s discussion at Coffee Talk showed how he uses data to inform his decisions.  I’m thankful we have Rep. Kingston serving our state in Washington.  He is also running for the U.S. Senate.  Click here to learn more about his campaign.  I am thankful that Rep. Kingston joined us for Coffee Talk and look forward to seeing him again soon.

We were also fortunate to have Sen. Fran Millar and Rep. Tom Taylor, update the group on educational issues that will be important for the next legislative session, beginning in January 2014.  Rep. Taylor discussed H.R. 486 – a resolution that proposes a constitutional amendment that would allow independent school districts to form in Georgia.  Currently, the Georgia Constitution prohibits the formation of new school districts; capping the number of districts to the 159 county districts plus the 21 city school districts that were grandfathered in with our latest Constitution, adopted in 1983.

Kelly Cadman, VP with Georgia Charter School’s Association, Michael O’Sullivan, Outreach Director for StudentsFirst Georgia and Rich Thompson of 100Dads, gave us valuable information about Charter Schools in Georgia and the roll of parents and citizens to effect needed changes in our state’s educational structure.  Ms. Cadman updated Coffee Talk on the recent submission of the first Charter School Cluster application in our state – the Druid Hills Charter Cluster.  The application is now before the DeKalb County Board of Education.  The Board must render a decision on the application within 90 days.  Mr. Sullivan discussed the importance of parent empowerment and how you can make your voices heard at the Capitol.  Rich Thompson told Coffee Talk we must improve rigor for all of Georgia’s children.  He reminded us that we should be talking about “raising the bar” for all of our students rather than “closing the gap”.

Tying all of the subject matters together, Melvin Everson spoke to Coffee Talk about the connection between education and economic development.  As a former Exec. Director of the Governor’s Office of Workforce Development and the current Exec. Director of Georgia’s Commission on Equal Opportunity, he has seen first-hand when education works to unite students with a meaningful career and when our system fails to train workers for high-paying jobs that go unfilled across our state.

Stay tuned for upcoming Coffee Talks!  If you would like me to come speak to your group, please email or call me.

For your calendars…

Dunwoody Chamblee Parent Council (DCPC)
September 11, 2013 at Dunwoody High School
(Note the September meeting date has been changed.)
October 2, 2013 at Huntley Hills Elementary
November 6, 2013 at Dunwoody Elementary
December 4, 2013 at Kittredge Magnet School
February 5, 2014 at location to be determined
March 5, 2014 at location to be determined
April 2, 2014 at location to be determined
May 7, 2014 at Chamblee High School

RunDunwoodyOctober 20th!

Click her to register for this 5K race!  It’s a qualifier for the Peachtree Road Race.  You can also sign-up to be part of a team challenge.  The proceeds from the race go to support Rotarian efforts in local schools and law enforcement and to the world health efforts supported by Rotary.  Click here to read about the specific groups and areas that benefit from this event.

–Nancy

posted by Nancy Jester in Charter Schools,DeKalb County School District,Georgia Education and have Comment (1)

Coffee Talk with Nancy and Friends!

Thursday, August 22nd @9am

Cafe Intermezzo – Dunwoody

 Please join us to hear updates on education in Georgia, including:

  • Charter Schools
  • Parent Empowerment
  • School Choice
  • College, careers and the workplace
  • Legislative update

 

Sponsored by:

posted by WUWT Moderator in Charter Schools,Georgia Education and have Comments Off
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