Saturday, April 26, 2008

Meeting RECAP

Were you one of 40+/- attendees today? I want to hear from you all in attendance. What did you think ? Did you feel your questions were answered? Your concerns heard? What were your feelings and thoughts as you came away from the meeting today. What are the next steps toward positive change in this district in your opinion?

Update: Andre Gensburger has added the audio of today's meeting onto his blogsite:

Update 2: Andre Gensburger has posted an excellent piece about the meeting today at his site:

This meeting was a tough one to recap as the questions were flying and emotionally charged at times. There was a lot of verbiage in the answers, but not always alot of substance (in my opinion) and in many cases there was no answer within the dialogue. I know I left with more questions leaving than I did coming in. There were many teachers today with a lot of common concerns, there were many questions about the budget, the process, the Superintendent and his role, etc. ...


  1. I'm not sure any questions were answered. People were still asking the same question 2 hours later hoping for an answer.

  2. I appreciate April and Dick coming to meet with the community, especially because they both knew it was going to be a tough gig.

    Were questions answered? I really don't think so. We got answers, but not of substance. I basically am still concerned that April and Dick, and possibly Linda, do not understand the depths of discontent in the district.

    To contrast the meetings I have attended with Paul and Gary, the difference was like night and day. April and Dick's responses were general and airy, while Paul and Gary talk in specifics and facts.

    I was frustrated by April and Dick's responses, especially regarding how they intend to remedy the current situation. It is clear that Paul and Gary are not going to back down on asking for the Superintendent’s resignation and that a large number of parents and teachers believe that despite his work over the past eight years, that it is time for a fresh face. I don't believe that any one thinks that just asking the Superintendent to leave is going to solve all the district problems, but it is a step in the right direction.

    I know that there are parents who support the Superintendent, but in their posts, there are never concrete examples of why he should stay. He is a nice man--yes--but seriously, how can he be effective when there are so many voices calling for his resignation? I saw the Superintendent at a recent meeting and he seems more chastened, than leader-like. I am sure he takes the criticism to heart, but I think it might be too late for him to effect the change that we are all looking for.

    If there was any benefit to the meeting, I hope it is that April and Dick now see that this situation is not going to get better. Their call for unity may have to come from them shifting their position, because as more information gets out to the community, it is going to be really hard to put up their defense against cold, hard facts.

  3. What I got out of this meeting was that the teacher's are angry and want the contract settled. This was said in several different ways by several teacher's. One teacher spoke up at the very end and suggested that if the contract can be settled by the end of this school year that it would make a huge difference in moral and the beginning of the 08/09 school year. What I also heard from a teacher was that the MDEA representation does not present all information and only partial facts when speaking to their membership. This one greatly concerns me because I have heard this before and now to hear it in front of a group and MDEA did not respond today. This same teacher also praised the administration for their support and visits to her school site. They asked for support and visits and it happened.

    I did hear some of the same questions but these people arrived late and did not hear the question earlier in the meeting. I also felt that questions were answered but some people did not appear to like the answers.

    Parents have different idea's of what should be covered at the Board Meetings (such as facts and solutions by one parent, she does not want to hear about what the Board Members have been doing in the community and schools) while teacher's have another, they want to be listened too and valued.

    Todays meeting was well attended and as a parent I heard a lot of information. I am taking all this information and making my own decisions. I still support our Superintendent. I feel this divide on the BOE has done more harm than good and appreciate the acknowledgement of Mr. Allen and Mrs. Treece that this indeed needs to change.

    There was a lot more said and I am sure everyone has their own take on today's meeting. Thank you for setting this up Cathy and thank you to Mr. Allen and Mrs. Treece for coming.

  4. Were the questions really answered though? Did you ever hear what McHenry has done to deserve his job? Other than he's a "data guy" and that he puts together some great executive summary? I can't wait to hear the 5 things the Sup has done to improve the district or whatever that question was. I think what you heard is that underperforming schools are getting more... high performing schools are left suffering with inadequate leadership, lowering test scores, huge turnover and retention issues and little support. The teacher who says they visit and support them is an underperforming school in Bay Point/Pittsburg.

    I am very very concerned for the insinuation that they are in no way ever going to change their mind about the Sup no matter WHAT anyone says. They cite some emails in support of the sup. That was not the majority there today. I can assure you that of the parents in the three schools my kids attend, they are not supportive of a parcel tax with the status quo. They never answered what they are going to do about that. And April saying she read a book that we need to give a Sup 10 years or more to see results? So is she basing her decision to support the Sup on this "study" ? At what cost?

  5. I heard the budget was balanced by Mr. McHenry, something that was an issue before him. MDUSD has to provide a three year budget and it has to be approved. He has also had to deal with numerous years of having to recommend budget cuts, sadly we are there again.

    What was said about underperforming schools getting more, more of what? Yes the teacher that requested the visits is at an underperforming school, what difference does that make? She asked, she received. I did not hear another teacher say they asked and did not receive the visit.

    I did not hear or feel that Ms. Treece or Mr. Allen would not change their minds, is that an insinuation on your part? Everyone does have their own take on converstions. Why can't Mr. Strange or Mr. Eberhart change their mind? Maybe a meeting with Eberhart and Treece would be a good idea.

    The book that Ms. Treece was referring too was given to the board by Strange/Eberhart and they wanted it to be required reading.

    Did someone ask specifically about a parcel tax? If they did, I missed that one.

  6. I think April should realize that people are sick of her non answers. She sure talks alot, never really answers anything. I still can't figure out why they think they need to be so blindly supportive of Mchenry.. they work for the PEOPLE, they are the oversite we voted in to keep watch for us.. they're not doing what I thought they signed up for.

  7. It's hard to think of something that hasn't been said already. What I got out of it is that apparently McHenry is responsible for a lot of stuff, yet he is not to be held accountable for anything - unless, of course, those things are good things.

    There certainly was a lot of double-talking jive going on there. I'm honestly curious, did ANYBODY understand the explanation involving the data that Dick Allen showed? Was there even one person who thought, after hearing that, "Oh, okay, I wasn't aware of this. Now my mind has been changed."

  8. I would like to read this book she's talking about. Does this book really say a superintendent needs to stay in 10 years ? Is that to run the district into the ground, or is it that somewhere near the 10 year mark things will be good again? What was it called? The Idiot Guide of How to Run a School District? I didn't get that... And is that why she is so staunchly supportive of him.. because a book says she should be? I hope she realized after today that this is not going away. Of the people there today.. they were just the tips of many iceburgs. You only see the one up top.. but that one has many down below.. simmering...

  9. This is the book:

    It is called "What School Boards Can Do" by Donald McAdam. I don't know what she means by required reading, but the reason we thought it would be helpful for them was that the book does a good job of describing the roles of a superintendent and the board. The board governs, the superintendent manages. In our district, the superintendent is the only one who is allowed input. There is no policy set by the board, he recommends it and we have no input (Gary and I try, but we are only two votes). He recommends it - they approve it. There are many things in the book we disagree with like charter districts and a short discussion of vouchers (which is not developed and reaches the conclusion that the vast majority of students will be educated by the public schools in the future, regardless of the political efforts, so we need to fix the public schools). The book describes the resources that should be provided to allow school board members to develop policy (we have none of them).

    On April's point about the superintendent staying 10 years. I don't have the book in front of me, but I would not characterize it the way she has - the book says that once you are committed to reform, you need to stay committed to it and expect it to reach fruition over a period of up to ten years. There is no magic in ten years, and I don't think it says that the Supt needs to be there that long. It just says that change takes time.

    The bottom line is that the book is directly contrary to what we do in our district as far as governance and management - but April seems to find that the book supports what we do.

    Neither Gary nor myself recommended the book as a be all end all, but felt it should provide a basis for discussion about change in our district (particularly the management style). You can read a bit of the book at the link above. I will look back at the book sometime soon and confirm my recollections about it.

    If we have gone 8 years without getting on the right track, I don't think that giving the supt two more years will magically fix the problems. As if on the 1st day of the 11th year, everything will magically come to fruition.

  10. I wanted to hear the other point of view. I assume that April and Dick are both reasonable, thoughtful people about their decisions - and so why is there so much disagreement with their perspective?

    That was the second question asked, if I recall. Basically, if so many folks are dissatisfied with McHenry - including two of your Board Members - then why are you not?

    Unfortunately, the group was so angry that they were unable to give a good answer the first time it was asked, and so I asked it again a couple of hours later.

    What struck me was the lack of an answer. I'll have to listen again to the response, but what I expected never came: a definitive answer that - ideally - inspired the ambivalent and caused the unhappy to at least understand the situation.

    Instead, I left the meeting at noon not knowing anything new about the situation and the ways that the Board will address its emotional and practical challenges (the despair of the parents and teachers, and the impossible budget).

    And, truly, I wanted to understand. I assume that this is a situation borne out of circumstances, errors in judgement, and miscommunication - but today's meeting gave me no hope. I can see why the move to change school districts has such popularity.

  11. I have posted my opinion of the day HERE

    There were lots of excellent questions and I have tried to break the whole thing down to one base question that I believe takes precedence over the rest.

    Let me know if you agree. -


  12. I attended the Rocco’s meeting as a concerned parent who is being introduced to the issues plaguing our district. I found that we are so buried in chaos, lack of communication, poor leadership and basic lack commonsense that I left disheartened and disappointed. I understand that our board members are OUR overseers of the sup. They are the checks and balances that the district needs. I did not get the impression that the duo of April and Dick see their position in those terms. Their dedication to this superintendent is unhealthy and unjustified. The questions asked were answered in a lot of double-talk, and rhetoric. They sounded like they were on a political campaign. I was getting a headache trying to understand the answers through all the fluff and verbiage. As an objective observer, I can say they sounded incompetent and totally out of touch. We may need a new board that actually is willing to understand the community, and its educational need. I know that the most qualified people in charge are our teachers and at the present they are undermined and unheard. If we are to improve the system, we need to give voice to the teachers and we need to do it now.