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Saturday, June 18, 2011

June 13, 2011 Board meeting - UGLY and school administrators getting 9 extra vacation days?

The board meeting was ugly, but then again, most of them have been for the last seven months or so.

This was the last meeting before the board has a closed session on June 20th at 5 PM to discuss Dr. Rock's performance evaluation.

Here were some of the concerns:
  • Action item 5.5 - "Approval of Board Operating Procedures: Steve Hyer"
1.      This was a project to look at the possibility of utilizing some of the Berkley School District's Board operating norms. This was a problem for Mrs. Lieblang, Mrs. Boatman, and Mrs. Patterson because the current and proposed changes to the board operating procedures/norms call for items to be officially discussed in an open meeting before they are brought to the board for a vote, but Mr. Hyer and Dr. Rock brought this complete package forward at this meeting for a vote although the board had not discussed the final document previously.  The Board members had been asked to email Mrs. Lieblang with the list of the five or fewer Berkley School Board norms they could not live with implementing in CCS.  They were not allowed to have issue with any more than five items.  Mrs. Lieblang forwarded the combined list of all of the "can't live with" items to Mr. Hyer.  Mr. Hyer then took the list of norms and included some of the items that Board members had said they absolutely could not agree with.  Mr. Hyer said that he showed an asterisk identifying the items that Board members had identified as the items they could not live with, but some Board members said that there were no asterisks against some of the items that they had identified as "can't live with" items...  After much heated discussion, this document was approved by the board with the understanding that the items that were asterisked would be removed and that the document was a working document and there would be changes in the future due to Board member concerns with items on the list.  I foresee issues in the future with Mr. Hyer refusing to reconsider items on the list "because they were already approved" and because it will take four members to agree to the changes and the four "rubber stamp" Board members will vote against the changes...  I can see it now.  This reminds me of a kangaroo court.
  • Action item 5.1 - Approval of Personnel Changes: Anita Banach" (plan is to vote on the item)
1.      bringing back seven teachers and two part time clerks,
2.      a resignation of one employee and a deceased employee,
3.      and the hiring of three full time "behavior interventionalists" for each of the middle school, junior high, and high school and showing a reason of "Work with At-Risk students, Level 1 discipline, intervention strategies" to be funded from "Title I and general fund".  There was no job description for the "behavior interventionalists", no explanation of who these individuals would work for in the schools, what the reasoning was for bringing them into the schools, what their educational/experience backgrounds would be, etc.  With all of the cost cuts in the district, there was concern about why there was no dialog with the board about bringing in these three new positions, nor about what priorities there are about bringing back personnel in the district as funds become available.  Mr. Sean Ryan, the deputy superintendent, explained that the district believed this was necessary due to all of the counseling, building aides, and social workers cut in the schools in the last year and the increases in behavioral issues that have resulted.  I know there were increases in bullying in Clarkston Junior High.  Also, per the federal government's website, available here, Title I funds are supposed to be used for low income kids to:
  •    "Title I is designed to help students served by the program to achieve proficiency on challenging State academic achievement standards. Title I schools with percentages of low income students of at least 40 percent may use Title I funds, along with other Federal, State, and local funds, to operate a "schoolwide program" to upgrade the instructional program for the whole school. Title I schools with less than 40 percent low income students or that choose not to operate a schoolwide program offer a "targeted assistance program" in which the school identifies students who are failing, or most at risk of failing, to meet the State's challenging academic achievement standards. Targeted assistance schools design, in consultation with parents, staff, and district staff, an instructional program to meet the needs of those students. Both schoolwide and targeted assistance programs must use instructional strategies based on scientifically based research and implement parental involvement activities. This means that Title I funds are supposed to be used to help low income students achieve academically with instructional strategies based on scientifically based research and implement parental involvement activities...  What does this have to do with "behavior interventionalists"?  After questioning by the Board, Mr. Ryan advised that they had made a mistake about the Title I funds...
  • Action item 5.2 - "Approval of Project Lead the Way Program: Rod Rock"
At the last board meeting, the superintendent was asking for approval for the "Project Lead the Way" program for an additional year due to the second (and probably final) year of grant funding from four different sources.  It was converted to a discussion item because there were many unanswered questions and comments from board members, especially due to far superior engineering classes available at OakTech Center (from the Oakland County ISD), so the district was to get answers for the board members and bring the answers to the June 13th board meeting and it was to be voted on at that time...  This time, Dr. Rock and Mr. Hyer set up the agenda item asking for a vote for PERMANENT approval for the classes, although funding is expected to end after the fiscal year 2011/12.  At the previous board meeting, the rubber stamp members of the board overrode a request to hold off voting on school of choice for the "Project Lead the Way" program (requested because the program had not yet been approved for next year - cart before the horse) and they voted to accept open enrollment/school of choice for "Project Lead the Way". 

Mrs. Cheryl McGinnis went on a rant about how disappointed the kids might be if they had been accepted in the "Project Lead the Way" program and it were rejected.  I was expecting to hear violins playing...  Mrs. Patterson reminded Mrs. McGinnis that this was just a few elective classes and not a true "program".  Mrs. Lieblang said that the district did not seem to have the same level of concern about the students in the "gifted and talented program" or other programs that had to be canceled due to funding issues.

Mrs. Elizabeth Egan then went off on Mrs. Lieblang in the most disrespectful rant as I have ever seen in a public official outside of the Detroit City Council or the Detroit School Board.  The whole audience was speechless...

Mrs. Rosalie Lieblang then reminded Mrs. Egan that multiple new board norms they had approved as a working document in that meeting had already been violated in the meeting relating to professional/courteous behavior and not voting on any issue that the board members had not had sufficient discussion on to render a decision.  I looked them up and found the following violations:  Operating Procedure 1.3.1.A stated, "Board members will maintain professional and courteous behavior throughout the meeting."  Operating Procedure 1.3.1.B stated, "Board members will demonstrate respect to fellow Board members and public participants through the following behavior: listen and treat each other respectfully, be cordial when disagreeing, refrain from condescending or critical comments to members of the staff, public."

They had also violated the new (and existing) Code of Ethics standard, that "as a Board member: I will assist in making policy decisions only after full discussion at publicly held Board meetings, and I will render all decisions based on available facts, and I refuse to surrender judgment to individuals or special groups" (due to the placement of the "Project Lead the Way" action item for a vote for "permanent" approval after discussion had only been for extending the classes in the 2011/12 school year while grants covered the expenditures for the classes).  However, this is not a new phenomena as I have seen this happen time and again with Dr. Rock and Mr. Hyer in control of the agenda and that Board Norm has been in place for some time in CCS (it's not a new requirement)..
  • Action item 5.4 - " Approval of Paving Projects: Wes Goodman" (plan is to vote on the item)
Estimate of $46,216 in "safety issue" paving repairs at six schools, but no actual  bid information because the bids were due in the the district at 10 AM on June 13th (the day of the meeting).  Funds were to come from the Building and Site fund 2003 (fund #471) and the General Fund - Contracted Maintenance and Repair Budget.  None of the Board members questioned this and they approved it, so I believe they must have received the bid documentation, but I was not sent this information as a follow on to the Board Packet I had received on Friday, June 10th.

Other items discussed at the Board meeting:
  • Mrs. Rosalie Lieblang pulled the request for approval for the Team Rush trip to Washington, DC out of the Consent Agenda and had it voted on separately from the Consent Agenda items.  Mrs. Lieblang wanted to be certain that all of the expenses for the trip would be covered by "610" (student/parent/Team Rush club funds) and not from school operating expense funds as happened in 2009 as she had been advised by a letter with backup documentation that I sent to Dr. Rock (as Superintendent) and Mrs. Lieblang (as Board Treasurer) back in March of this year.  I had received the evidence of this violation of school funding laws in my various FOIA document requests.  This request for Board approval for the trip was being voted on in the evening of June 13th for a trip that was to begin on June 15th and attendees included the School Board president, Mr. Steve Hyer.  The approval for the trip was granted after confirmation was received that 100% of the funds for the trip would be coming from non-school funds.   
  • Mrs. Susan Boatman asked about the "summer hours" for school/Central Office administration, stated to be 8 AM - 4 PM Monday to Thursday during the summer.  Mrs. Boatman had a problem with those salaried employees who would not be working on Fridays who would be getting nine additional vacation days via that change and that the Board would have to be asked for approval to grant additional vacation days.  There was discussion back and forth after that, but it didn't make any sense.  I don't know what Dr. Rock is trying to do with this.

1 comment:

  1. I hope that the custodians, bus drivers, food service,mechanics, gounds and maintenance personnel took a big enough cut to offset this admin perk. Or maybe since the peasant staff above gave up sick days, personal days, 2 paid holidays to allow the administrators to have the time off that hey earn from all their hard work delegating the tasks that are neccessary for the district to function. They deserve that time they do the hard work, not easy like pushing a broom, cleaning up your kids feces, sterilizing and sanitizing, getting up at the crack of dawn to get kids to school safely, fixing stuff, or mowing. Give them a break they deserve it just ask them!