Saturday, December 22, 2007

Consultants Help District Comply with Standards

At Tuesday’s school board meeting, two presenters explained how they are helping the district address problems uncovered by state monitors.

Nancy Stern of the New Jersey School Boards Association said her work helped the board show that the district was actually in compliance in many areas that monitors found deficient. The board applauded her draft plan.

The school board received a score of only 11 percent for governance, reduced from the evaluation team’s score of 22 percent because ethics disclosure forms were not filed on time.

Stern said she is assisting in updating the board’s policy manual and formulating a professional development plan. She gave the board a step-by-step list of actions the board must take to comply with the state standards for governance. In addition, she gave the board a “four seasons” timetable of board tasks.

A Dec. 1 meeting on goal setting yielded four items, including hiring a new superintendent by July 1; hiring a board secretary/business administrator and high school principal as soon as possible; starting the compliance process for the New Jersey Quality Single Accountability Continuum, in which the district failed to meet four of five performance standards’ and adhering to all board policies, including confidentiality.

Late Tuesday, the board approved the hiring of Gary Ottmann as board secretary/business administrator through June 2009 at a salary of $155,000. Ottmann previously served the district in the same role for 13 years before leaving to serve in the Wayne school district.

Stern said the board had made a good start on goals that are realistic and attainable.

In the second presentation, Phil Esbrandt of the New Jersey Association of School Administrators gave a slide show on Leadership Energies, a performance improvement agency that uses a medical model of diagnosis and prescription. Esbrandt said the NJQSAC compliance process could be seen as an “improvement performance opportunity.”

Plainfield’s scores were 61 percent of indicators met for operations management, 38 percent for personnel, 8 percent for instruction and program and 32 percent for fiscal management, in addition to the previously noted 11 percent for governance. Scores over 81 percent were considered satisfactory, while those under 50 percent were to result in state assistance. In an August report on the scores, Department of Education Commissioner Lucille E. Davy said the district had to make an improvement plan in conjunction with state staff and could face partial state intervention because four of the areas fell below 50 percent.

Esbrandt developed a chart for the district with a “compliance key” for each improvement needed. Click here for more information on Leadership Energies.

Board member Martin Cox said the state monitors marked some areas incomplete when in fact they were done. Board President Patricia Barksdale said just 15 out of more than 600 school districts were monitored by the state and the rest will perform self-evaluations.

“Plainfield was not afforded that opportunity,” she said.

Barksdale also was dismayed to learn that the presentation Tuesday wrapped up two months of assistance. She said she thought the aid would continue for a year. Stern said she couldn’t answer Barksdale and suggested that the board take up the question with members of the state Department of Education.

At the same meeting, Interim Schools Superintendent Peter E. Carter lauded “our own Dr. Phil” and distributed responses to the state and corrective action plans for instruction and program, personnel, finance and operations management. He said, “Ninety percent of the noes became yesses, because we have fixed them.”

The state may revisit the findings by March, he said.

Carter’s last day in the district was Friday (Dec. 21, 2007). Human Resources Director Garnell Bailey will also serve as Interim Superintendent while the search for a permanent superintendent continues.

--Bernice Paglia


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