Red Apple Mom

November 20, 2011

FCPS Survey Results Cost How Much?

On Monday, Superintendent Dale is releasing the results of a survey about public trust and confidence in the Fairfax County Public Schools.

I’m sure you can guess where this is going to go.  Cue the cheerleaders and the band.  Several sources sent me a copy of the FCPS survey results, but I won’t  post the full report until after Dale’s press conference on Monday.   Here are some details I will share:

Focus group comments from the 2011 survey results (slide 29) show that stakeholders are concerned about the following areas of improvement for FCPS:

  • Concerns that FCPS is becoming a business and not a community-parent based institution.
  • Some initiatives go under the radar such as the decreasing honors program in the district.
  • Too much trimming on the budget and parents do not know how decisions are being made on these items (this includes the thought process for and not only who is making decisions)
  • Schools are not being treated equally in terms of funding, programming and class-sizes

The FCPS survey was conducted by the District Management Council.  This is the same consulting group that surveyed FCPS stakeholders in the fall of 2009.   DMC’s  survey findings at that time showed “a lack of confidence in the Administration’s ability to allocate resources.”  It’s interesting that the focus group comments detailed above seem to indicate the public still has a lack of confidence about FCPS’ resource allocations.

Think the press will ask the tough questions about these results tomorrow?   Or will they parrot back FCPS’ carefully crafted press release?  I’m betting on the latter.  But just in case, here are some questions the press should consider asking the Superintendent.

1.  How much did FCPS pay to the District Management Council (DMC) for this survey?

2. Does FCPS have a consulting contract with the DMC – and if so, for how much?    DMC has done a lot of work for FCPS the past couple of years and lists several case studies about their work for FCPS on their website.  Here’s one called:  Improving Budget Communications with the Community:  Fairfax County Public Schools.  DMC doesn’t list their consulting fees on their website.  But earlier this year, Lancaster County in Pennsylvania paid the DMC $75,000 for help in improving its schools.  One Lancaster taxpayer posted a comment saying, “Wow – these administrators are being paid top dollar at the taxpayers expense to run the school district and they have to hire a firm to tell them how to do it.”  Lancaster is a small district compared to Fairfax County, so what are we paying?!

3.  In the interest of transparency, will FCPS release all the raw data for this survey?  Will newly elected School Board members who campaigned on the issue of transparency have access to the raw data?

4.  What is FCPS’ plan to address the needed areas of improvement as identified by the surveyed stakeholders?

Related Articles:

Price Tag for Ann Arbor Public Schools Consultant:  $441,130 (June 14, 2011 – AnnArbor.com)

Seminole Schools Spend a Bundle on Education Consultants (August 31, 2010 – Orlando Sentinel)

Boston Schools Seek Pricey Consultant (September 26, 2011 – Fox 25 Boston, MA)

$1 Million Survey on Newark Public School Reform Proves Inconclusive (January 6, 2011 – Dana Goldstein-The Nation)

More Consultant Spending Approved at January PEP Meeting (January 25, 2011 – NYC Public School Parents Blog)

Stimulus Leads to Frenzy of Demand for Consultants (January 28, 2011 – Edmoney.org)

The District Management Council Homepage

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November 7, 2011

Voter Guide for Fairfax County School Board

It’s going to be an exciting week.  By Tuesday night, we’ll know who our next school board will be.

How will you vote?  

Do you value the status quo that ignores community and teacher concerns?

– OR –

Do you value a new dynamic that engages the public as true partners for making improvements to our public schools?

The Washington Post values the status quo.  They’ve endorsed a nearly straight Democratic party ticket.  Actually I should say “She” has endorsed a nearly straight Democratic party ticket.  Contrary to popular belief, these Washington Post endorsements are not issued by an objective editorial “board.”  A single person at the Washington Post makes these endorsements – and she doesn’t even live in Virginia.  Weigh the value of a Washington Post endorsement with some skepticism.

The Fairfax County Democratic Committee (FCDC) also values the status quo.  They have stated they want a full Democratic-endorsed slate of candidates elected to the school board.  They only care about party – not effectiveness or qualifications to serve.

Don’t the Washington Post and FCDC realize that Republicans and Independents send their children to public school too?

Are we to assume that if a parent is a Republican or Independent, their child doesn’t matter to Fairfax County Public Schools?   They don’t seem to matter to the Washington Post or the Fairfax County Democratic Committee.  And if a whole slate of Democratic-only endorsed candidates is elected, how will they represent you and your child if you aren’t an anointed, partisan Democrat?

You know who isn’t focused on party affiliation as the marker of a good School Board member?  Parent and teacher groups.  Parent and teacher groups are focused on talented candidates who have ideas for reform – irrespective of party label – so that we have officials advocating for the community instead of  rubber stamping the superintendent – reform that will lead to the hiring of an independent auditor so the public can find out why administrative spending has so grossly outpaced student enrollment growth and reform that will lead to data-based, decision-making instead of a system that hides the ball and ignores the facts.

The parent and teacher endorsements matter the most because they come from the people who have been observing and interacting with FCPS officials for years and they don’t have a political agenda guiding their choices like FCDC.

I’ve taken a lot of hits this campaign season.  I’ve had my blog comments inaccurately parsed and not put into context.  I’ve been personally attacked by many anonymous posters on community blogs and I am unfairly taking heat for campaign “activities” that I am not in the least way involved in.

But that’s what happens when you take on the status quo.  They will defend their turf no matter what it takes to keep their power.  When you dance with fire, you have to expect some flames will be thrown your way.

The status quo, the Fairfax County Democratic Committee and the Washington Post have all postured themselves to defend the Gatehouse castle.  They don’t want reform.  They like the incumbents and are pushing for their re-election at all costs.

Voters, you are the ones with the real power.  FCDC doesn’t get to vote.  The Washington Post doesn’t get to vote.  But you do.

Do you want leaders who will go the distance and fight for the community’s concerns?

Do you want leaders who are ahead of the curve on issues of concern to the public so that parent and teacher groups don’t have to drive change?

Do you want leaders who want to engage the public and teachers as true partners?

– Or –

Do you prefer incumbents (and some new candidates) who have sat on the sidelines for years defending the status quo because they ARE the status quo?

You decide.  Your Vote Matters.

Here are my picks:

Voter Guide for School Board

October 21, 2011

Hostile FCPS Work Environment – Even for a School Board Member’s Spouse

Patch.com ran such a great article today about Steve Greenberg’s speech to the School Board last night that I’m printing it in full here.  Steve is the president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers.  His outreach and dedication to his teacher colleagues show he has the true pulse of a good percentage of teachers who work for FCPS.

We already knew the discipline process was hostile.  So too, apparently, is the FCPS workplace.

School Board elections are in less than three weeks.  Your choices for School Board are more important than ever!  FCPS can only see real change if voters clean house and clean up the culture of how teachers, parents and students are treated.

Say NO to long-term incumbents like Strauss, Moon, Smith and Storck.  Take the lead from the teachers – make your voice heard at the ballot box on Nov. 8th!

 

Teachers To School Board: ‘Our Members Will Be Heard One Way Or Another’

President of Fairfax County teachers union says bad climate intimidates and bullies teachers, discourages feedback

By Erica R. HendryOctober 20, 2011 – A teachers’ union representing thousands of Fairfax County Public School teachers says its members are afraid to offer input or speak out about classroom or curriculum changes.

But intimidation and bullying of teachers at certain schools from FCPS administrators are not new issues, the union says.

Stephen Greenburg, president of the Fairfax County Federation of Teachers, said the climate in schools across the county has been deteriorating for a decade, and despite several attempts to create an ongoing dialogue about the issue, it hasn’t improved.

“Many teachers in this system are afraid to speak out for fear of retribution. Whether their fears are founded in reality or simply perceived, the fact they feel that way is not healthy,” Greenburg said in a speech to school board members Thursday night, adding “the attitude of ‘keep quiet and do your job, unless you want me to find someone else to do it in your place’ must end.”

The issue also came to light at a school board candidates’ forum last Saturday, during which School Board Member Dan Storck said his wife, employed by FCPS, doesn’t feel comfortable giving input in her environment, according to Greenburg and parents at the forum.

“This dynamic is real, and it’s out there,” Greenburg said.

Greenburg said the recent promotion of Phyllis Pajardo to Assistant Superintendent of Human Resources is  “a good first step in eliminating this culture of intimidation, one that had been established by her predecessor,” and his members have already seen positive changes in how the department handles employee issues.

“She is fair and consistent so far, and her approach is much appreciated,” Greenburg said. “She is the kind of person that can change [this culture].”

The issue plays into a long-standing request from FCFT and the county’s other teachers union, Fairfax Education Association, for more communication with the board and a consistent, open, ongoing avenue for dialogue.

In January, Greenburg and FEA President Michael Hairston told the board teachers were overloaded, overworked and burdened by administrative and technology demands in their classrooms, saying “morale is at an all-time low.”

At that meeting, during which the board approved student achievement goals for math, science and technology,Greenburg told the board that a key piece of data — teacher input — was missing from the goals. The goals did not include any current information about the success or downfalls of instruction and curriculum in the classroom, he said.

Since then, the unions have asked for dedicated monthly meetings with a committee of school board members, similar to how the board meets with other groups and advisory councils.

While Superintendent Jack Dale has since invited the board chair to sit in on his meetings with the unions, Greenburg said, a way for the unions to consistently communicate directly with the board has yet to be established.

Such a meeting could help school board members ask for teacher input, and also allow the unions to bring teacher issues forward — in theory, Greenburg said, addressing the ‘climate of intimidation’ before it escalated to the atmosphere that exists today.

 

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