Thursday, June 13, 2013

Designing dream schools

Principals are described as lead designers of  "a dream school house"  in a presentation Superintendent Heath Morrison made to the school board Tuesday. He talked about the growing  competition from charter, private, online and magnet schools,  which can pull students away from traditional neighborhood schools.

"The iceberg is straight ahead,"  says one slide,  illustrated with a graphic of the Titanic.  "Do we continue on our same path with the same result?"

Plans handed down from central offices are part of the old path,  Morrison said.  "I believe that transformation and reform happens best when it happens at the schoolhouse."
Morrison talked a lot about finding ways to make each school  "a school of choice" that offers high-quality teaching, programs and schedules that suit the needs of the community.  Board member Ericka Ellis-Stewart suggested he consider a different label,  given the baggage that "choice" carries in Charlotte-Mecklenburg Schools  (the post-desegregation assignment plan that debuted in 2002 was called "the choice plan.")

There aren't a lot of specifics yet.  Morrison said he and principals will be hashing those out during the summer leadership institute and in the coming school year.  But there was some interesting discussion of the strategy.

A couple of board members asked how far the district would go in backing up a principal with a bold vision for change.  Morrison waved a caution flag.  If the vision is only the principal's,  he said,  it's going to fall apart when that principal leaves.  Any plan for change needs to come from the whole school community, he said.  And that means reaching beyond the handful of parents who may be regulars at the PTA meetings:  "It can't be a neighborhood school of choice if you haven't involved the neighborhood."

Any plan that's based on reports of success elsewhere will require in-depth research to make sure that model really works,  he added.  "I want to reward boldness,"  he said,  "but it's a calculated boldness.  You have to do your homework."

Morrison talked about helping each school market itself,  but added that  "I don't want our principals to be used car salesmen."

Also at Tuesday's meeting,  the school board approved this $36 million plan for Title I spending in 2013-14  (read more about the plan here).  It calls for supporting 1,800 Bright Beginnings prekindergarten students,  well under the current total of 3,000.  Deputy Superintendent Ann Clark says that's not a cutback;  it's just because Title I money only pays for part of the program.

References to FOCUS schools may also prove confusing.  In this context,  it's a state label for schools with weaknesses in test scores or graduation rates,  which qualifies those schools for help from academic coaching teams.   The CMS  "FOCUS school"  program,  which provided extra money and supplies to high poverty schools,  has been phased out,  officials said.

The list of Title I schools targeted for special aid also notes that Sterling,  Windsor Park and Allenbrook elementary schools have been named  "reward schools," a state designation based on high performance or growth.  I asked Clark what kind of reward they get.

If you have any familiarity with the way these things work,  you won't be surprised at the answer:  None.


Anonymous said...

I wish CMS luck but, based on actions taken by CMS, the public (parents) would be shocked by the "behind the scenes" issues at the school level and above. Wish doing the right thing for the students was in vogue, but apparently trying to make national news and on the cutting edge (ie: changing things every year depending on which way the educational winds are blowing)is more important to Heath and Co.

Anonymous said...

What is he smoking? He is losing his best students and teachers by the minute. Its a good corporate speach , but pal really the ship has left the port. When you BOE went to bed with LIFT the bus even left the station. Heath really sorry to say its going to take more than this "talk" to win teachers and parents. Good luck with that Pete I mean Heath.

Anonymous said...

Ericka , You got your "choice schools" in Project LIFT so take a walk in the park. Dont you have a plane to catch ? Or have you stopped taking vacations on the Chambers dime?

Wiley Coyote said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Wiley Coyote said...

Ms. Ellis-Stewart.

Let me remind you of something since your history is a bit fuzzy.

The opposite of choice is no choice.

We went through no choice with a forced busing policy to achive diversity and it failed miserably. We're still trying to fix that mess with little success.

The quickest way to fix this is stop trying to manage education by diversity.

Teach each to their ability and take race out of public education once and for all.

You might just achieve something.

Wiley Coyote said...

Dream School

Functional, up to date buildings with the latest technology and teaching aids.

Teachers who are allowed to do their job and teach.

Programs that give every child the same opportunity to learn and succeed. if additional funds are needed to target certain students who need additional resources, then allocate those funds once the need has been factually vetted (National School Lunch Program).

In-depth magnet programs where there are NO waiting lists.

Vocation oriented programs for students who choose a different path to success.

An in-depth guidance counseling program that all children and their parents must participate in each year, which looks at their progress and what they hope to achieve after graduating high school.

A strict discipline policy that is spelled out to all students and their parents in advance of attending school and what the expectations are for manners and respect so there is no misunderstanding of what is expected of them.

Music and art(s) programs available.

Require students to take one year of a foreign language before graduation.

After all that, if some students and parents don’t get it or don’t care, too bad. Let them drop out.

Anonymous said...

Forget the principal. Go down to the grass-roots level - the teachers. Principals anymore are data managers, yes men or women put in place by a bureaucracy to do what they are told. They goose step with the Superintendent; there will NEVER be real change if you do not go down to the teachers, and then respect and implement what they recommend.

About that...hey Heath, where's the vaunted Compensation Plan CMS was to present to the State? Haven't heard anything in a while...Ann, could you follow up on that??

Anonymous said...

Dream school...treat each school like a Magnet school. CMS can then stop transporting students all over the county, at a huge expense, to Magnet schools (although the long, lonely rides to and from schools are free day care for the parents).

Ann Doss Helms said...

11:40, what a coincidence. I was just talking to a teacher and asking about that plan -- he said teachers haven't seen a thing. I'm going to see everybody at the CMS board retreat tomorrow; I'll try to get an update.

Anonymous said...

You of all people requiring one year of foreign language? Every student from K up should have at least one hour of a foreign language every day. It doesn't have to be immersion, but some form while students can acquire it easily. Late language acquisition is difficult enough. Otherwise, spot on.

Wiley Coyote said...

One year of foreign language can be implemented any year; elementary, middle or high school.

It was required in my school district before you graduated high school.

Anonymous said...

Dream school MUST HAVES:
1. Sign on principals closed door that says "I am on campus walking around"
2. Sign on administrators door that says 2 things
1. I will never say " welcome to my world"
2. I will never say " because that is the way downtown
told us to do it"
3. Every classroom door wide open and never closed with
paper over the window.
4. All class sizes capped at 25 regardless of EOC or EOG tested.
* I think that would be a great start.

Anonymous said...

Dream schools must have good principals with good leadership. Not wannabes who are good talkers, but don't know their rear end from a hole in the ground. I've just left a 20 year position - not because of teachers or students but because of terrible administration. Fix that and a whole lot of other things will fall into line.

Anonymous said...

Ann, where is the board's retreat being held?

Anonymous said...

Ann, never mind, I found it.

Anonymous said...

Management by walking around. That's what I learned in Business school. Our elem principal rarely left his office all school year, saw him twice in the hallways.

Anonymous said...

As long as CMS continues to have its bloated admin the admin is going to continue to interfere with the education process. Downsize admin to get the improvements.