Meeting Minutes, April 18, 2012

ELPC Meeting Minutes – April 18, 2012

Marshall Orson, ELPC co-president, welcomed the audience to the last meeting of the 2012 school year and recognized visitors including DeKalb County School Board members and other elected officials. He suggested that the ELPC postpone the voting of any changes in Officers on the ELPC Board until the Fall. A motion was made, seconded, and all present voted accordingly. Ms. Julie Martin, Principal of Sagamore Hills Elementary school then welcomed everyone, recognized her Administrative team and thanked the Sagamore Hills PTA and custodial staff for assistance in hosting the ELPC meeting. She also made mention of the upcoming Sagamore Hills fundraiser.

The topic of the meeting was “State of the System Revisited…and Renewed.” DCSD Superintendent was the featured speaker, but she was delayed in order to attend an awards ceremony at her son’s school. Other members of the Senior DCSD staff were in attendance and opened the floor to questions. Kendra March, Deputy Superintendent, School Leadership & Operations, began by outlining the newly unveiled Leadership Academy which has 4 components: 1) Aspiring Leaders Program for teachers who want to become Principals or Assistant Principals, 2) Executive Leadership for Principals who want to become District Superintendents, 3) a program for training Principals who are in the 1st 3 years, and 4) training for current Principals. Ms. March also spoke about the Safe Schools Initiative which enhances the current Code of Conduct which will become Students Rights & Responsibilities. There will also be a move to standardize discipline across schools so that a student in one school who has a specific behavior infraction will have the same consequence as a student in a different school with the same infraction. Following her planned remarks, Ms. March moderated the question and answer session, but other Senior Staff answered questions that fell under their jurisdiction.

Q regarding Special Ed and the need to revamp and enable parents to be more involved in IEP
A Dr. Kathy Howe responded that she would get that person in touch with the correct person

Q previous discussion of laptops in schools, aware that funding is an issue. What is the update?
A Dr. Howe, Mr. Brantly& Ms. March are currently working on a plan but they do not have any concrete information to share at this point.

Q Who will be writing and delivering the instruction for the Leadership Academy?
A It will depend on the topic. We will be using Mercer University personnel to both help write some of the curriculum and teach it. Some will be taught by current Principals, Department Heads, whomever is the most appropriate to teach the given topic. Curriculum will be differentiated based on the candidates and their needs.

Q regarding stolen laptops that were purchased by school PTA but insurance didn’t cover because they were deemed the property of DCSD. How do we address this issue?
A current policy is the district owns any donations to the school. Mr. Brantly is currently working on a new policy. Investigating using Computrace which recovers stolen computers.

Q What is the plan for empty school buildings?
A currently 3 buildings are leased to charter schools. Some are being used as storage. Are looking at plans for the others. Ideally would lease to charter schools where possible – best for school, DCSD and community where school is located.

Q Professional Development for Teachers – can there be more training before the school year starts and not take the time out of the classroom? Is there a consistent policy about what is allowed to take teachers from instructional minutes?
A They asked all the campuses about 2 weeks that they would be willing to come – May 29-June 8 will be timing. They are beginning the process of signing up buildings and finalizing plans. Encouraging teachers to do training on evenings & weekends. Teachers will be eligible for stipends when in the summer or outside of the business day. Professional learning needs to be ongoing. Early release is being considered. Needs to be job inveted and also content and context specific.Won’t be available next school year, but down the road.

Calendar discussion ensued. The Calendar committee met on Monday and reviewed the 37,000 responses from the survey. Themes that emerged were: stay with previously adopted calendar for the 2012-13 school year and explore a balanced calendar option with early release for 2013-14.

Questions about Early release emerged. Parents expressed that they want to be involved in the decision including the day of the week, the length of time, and the importance of having supervised childcare available.

Q Preparedness for Fall in terms of staffing – previously used FTE points or STARS, based on October FTE counts which means every year we’re not ready for the number of students who start the school year in the fall. For example, at their particular school there are 400 8th graders, but based on the number of students at the feeder schools and past experience, there will be 600 coming in for 6th grade. We know we have no AYP transfers, so that is a pretty known number. Is there some way we can have the right people in the right place at the beginning of the school year?
A Now we are looking at May FTE count as well as current student enrollment. Principals are currently submitting information to HR. Friday we will be going to the Area Superintendents to check/confirm each school. Same thing for textbooks. We are creating a readiness plan for the Fall.

Q Accelerated Reader – offline since January. Found out it is a funding issue. What is the status? When will it be back? Is there a way to notify parents both of the stopping and bringing it back?
A Need to discuss with the Principal about notifying parents. The new Administration is in the process of identifying challenges & problems but are not looking to place blame, just to move things forward. In this specific instance, it is related to the fact that Accelerated Reader is funded through Title 1 money, which is a 15 month grant. The contract therefore covers 2 school years – from the beginning of one school year through November of the following year. If the renewal of the contract is delayed, the funding drops and the school loses service until the funding is restored.

Q Are there Leadership Academy programs for current Principals who are already in the system but haven’t been properly trained?
A Yes, there will be month to month professional development for current Principals

Q Math…need to work on math instruction. There is a gap in students using technology with older teachers not using technology.
A We are moving to the Common Core Aligned curriculum which gives us an opportunity for changes. We need to look at the 50,000 foot view to bring teachers together to show what we’ve been building. We are committed to giving stakeholders input before making decisions. We have conducted a Professional Development in the schools survey with building level instructional staff understanding what their needs are. I have been involved with national experts and we are making sure we get the curriculum right. We will keep you informed as all this shapes up.

At this time Dr. Atkinson had arrived at the meeting and gave her prepared comments. We are in the process of getting a copy of her remarks to include here.

There was a Q & A Session following Dr. Atkinson’s prepared remarks:

Q Define “boutique” schools
A when we build a school there are lots of costs associated with it including hiring the architects etc. each neighborhood has nuances but we cannot build a custom school for each neighborhood. We need to have standardized schools that are “tweaked” depending on the needs of that particular location

Q Is there any plan to increase the number of Pre-K classes in the system,especially in low income areas?
A this is a constant struggle, there is little funding for Pre-K, it is a priority, at the top of our agenda. We are working through the budget and looking at outside money like grants and other sources, like the philanthropic community. We know that the greatest part of the achievement gap is in the 0-5 year ages.

Q Communication – how will you communicate to parents so we know the situations for fall?
A new K-12 Alert System, series of town hall meetings and community forums, looking at social media (current policy forbids their use) and at changing the policy. We believe in a grass roots model – we inform principals and expect them to transfer that information to their community.
Q Are Pre-K students counted in a schools allotment?
A No

Q What is the deadline for ESEA transfers? Is it safe for Principals to plan after that deadline? Are you going to stand by the deadline?
A We are working with Principals on a case by case basis and asking them to check with parents they have not heard back from to make sure the information was received.

Q Calendar suggestion – late start instead of early release for teacher planning
A The reason for Wednesday after school was to couple them with most common time for staff meetings but need to look at all options

Q What happens to those 60 minutes of instructional time?
A If we keep doing what we’re doing we’ll keep getting what we’re getting. We need to look at other options. The calendar options have the required minutes to get us to 180 days.

Q Parent had information that was leaked from the recent Board Meeting that included explicit policy about a 40 hour work week for teachers. Previous versions had never listed that before. Is that a new policy or just a clarification of an existing policy?
A Was “practice” but now aligned with the policy

Q Target date for Teachers having contracts and knowing their positions?
A April 30 contracts will go out for most. They will be looking across district for total needs – make sure they don’t let someone go somewhere but end up needing them somewhere else and end up having to re-hire, so a few contracts may be “pending”. As soon as they know them, they will post openings of needed positions.

Q Is there a plan to move Principals from successful schools?
A Yes, but mostly in an interview situation where the Principal is looking to move to a different situation, but there may be some movement out of necessity

Q Inconsistency of Discovery Program from school to school. Entry issues getting into program if coming from outside the District.
A Part of the Strategic Plan, we arelooking at how we can revamp and revise the program. It’s clear we currently do not have enough options. We need to look at identifying students who are ready for more rigor and start the pathways sooner, not make them wait for Advanced or AP classes. Also need different delivery systems – what works are not the same for all students.

Q Can we anticipate furlough days for next year?
A We are trying to base the budget on the current calendar but we don’t know for sure right now.

Q If the Principal or other administrators will be moved, when will the parents be notified?
A Notification will be at the end of the school year through June so they are ready to roll July 1

Q If you are considering furlough days, please look at the impact of last year where they were the 1st day of each semester. The reality is the teachers still had to use that time to plan, they just didn’t get paid for it. Do better planning so it doesn’t impact teacher’s planning and preparation time, e.g. the Friday before a vacation.