A few quick updates:
1. The SC and administration will meet tomorrow night (Tuesday, 6:00 pm) for an un-televised round table discussion about the DESE report. It should be interesting to see what they think are the priority issues. My vote is: ceiling tiles and intervention services.
2. For the record, now that the dust has settled about new positions: Between budgeted and unbudgeted positions, the administration added a total of 4.5 permanent central office professional positions to the public payroll for FY15. With benefits, these positions will cost roughly $400,000+ dollars per year, and more than a million dollars over three years. Three of the positions were approved by the SC as part of the April budget process; the other full-time and half-time positions (1.5 total) were created, advertised, and filled before the SC knew about them. The full-time position was a resurrection and upgrade of a position that had been explicitly eliminated two years ago when the assistant superintendencies were created; I believe it is being paid for by moving one math coach off of a federal grant and onto the regular budget, and paying for the new position with the federal grant. (I.e. not with excess grant funds that were swishing around.) The half-time position is one that had been explicitly taken out of the proposed budget; it is being paid for, I believe, by eliminating a part-time contractual position with no benefits and combining those dollars with $25,000 approved by the SC for “temporary salaries.” The problem is that the money is being used for a permanent salary. It also looks like the administration eliminated the position of half-time LGBT liaison, though by policy, only the SC can create or eliminate positions. (The LGBT liaison position goes back to at least the late 90s.)
In addition, the administration appointed an “Acting STEM Director,” even though there was no existing position of “STEM Director.” Having a STEM Director but no Math Coordinator is being done on a “trial basis.” It may or may not be a good idea; but the most unfortunate thing about not hiring a new Math Coordinator is that it probably would be possible, with the right recruiting strategies, to recruit a Latina/o or African American Math Coordinator. I believe that 95-100% of the professional staff in the curriculum department is white. SC policy states, “The search for good teachers and other professional employees will extend to a wide variety of educational institutions and geographical areas. It will take into consideration the characteristics of the City of Cambridge and the need for a heterogeneous staff from various cultural backgrounds.” I know that the Math Coordinator position was advertised via standard public school recruiting websites and career fairs, but I don’t know that the search was “extended to a wide variety of educational institutions.” From what I can gather, CPS didn’t recruit amongst non-school institutions in the Cambridge area such as Algebra Project, TERC, EDC, etc., but I could be wrong about that. That is something the SC could inquire about if they wanted to know if their recruitment policy was being followed. It certainly seems that we need more diversity in the curriculum department. If the administration didn’t ask the Algebra Project to circulate the job description amongst their network of urban math educators, you would want to know why not. In any case, if this going-without-a-math-coordinator is a trial, they better decide before December, which is when they would have to start recruiting for a 2015-2016 Math Coordinator.
It was also interesting to find out this summer that the administration routinely reclassifies jobs without SC consent or without advertising these as new positions, such as reclassifying “Lead Teacher of Athletics” to be “Director of Athletics,” and retitling “Assistant Director of Special Education” to be “Director of the Office of Student Services.” It also looks like two “Coordinator” positions were upgraded to “Assistant Director” positions: the former Coordinator of Library/Media was upgraded to “Asst. Director of Library/Media,” and the former “Coordinator of Education Technology” was upgraded to “Assistant Director of Educational Technology.” (Even though there do not appear to be any Directors of library/media or EdTech!) It also looks like an additional Ed Tech Lead Teacher/Specialist was added to the Ed. Tech department, and an additional Lead Teacher was added to the Athletics/Phy Ed. departments; I don’t know if the SC knew about and consented to these positions. I also don’t know if salary increases came along with the reclassifications and changes in job titles or not. I would think that Directors get paid more than Assistant Directors, who get paid more than Coordinators, but I don’t know how CPS salaries work.
In any case, DESE data suggests that between 2008 and 2012, the cost of the CPS administration increased by $2.1 million (37%), and the cost of “instructional leadership” increased by $1.5 million (16%). Expenditures on teachers increased by $1.1 million (3%) over those four years, but expenditures on teachers per student actually declined by $375 students per teacher. Those numbers don’t take into account 2013, 2014, and 2015 increases. It’s hard to believe, but out of the $27,000 we spend per pupil, only roughly $7,300 goes to classroom and specialist teachers. For administration and instructional leadership combined, we’re up to $3,100 per student. The FY15 budget suggests that since 2009, the administration has added 19.4 professional administrative positions, including the 8 upper school Heads and VPs. (I.e. 8 upper school positions and 11.4 others.) So next time someone says that student learning won’t improve by spending more money and adding “more bodies,” think about our school department administration.
3. Tomorrow’s discussion about the DESE report should be interesting. One thing that was clear to me from the report is that the administration does not think highly of the School Committee. (Since they are our elected officials, does that mean that the administration thinks poorly of the people of Cambridge?) I say this because the Superintendent offered no corrective or rebuttal to DESE’s accusations that the SC is “uncollaborative,” “unfocused,” “fragmented,” and “exceeds their role and authority.”
- The “fragmented/unfocused” accusation is interesting given that the administration seems to have eight or nine major initiatives going on, all the while, according to DESE, our most vulnerable learners are not receiving consistent intervention services.
- The “uncollaborative” accusation is interesting given that: 1) the administration didn’t implement the SC’s policy on not withholding recess until parents complained on the listserve; 2) the SC asked the administration to hire a full-time program evaluator and the administration decided not to do it; and 3) the SC has approved basically every single request brought forward by the Superintendent, regardless of cost.
- The “exceeds authority” accusation is interesting given that the administration: 1) created new positions this summer and eliminated an existing position without prior SC consent, and 2) established their own budget priorities this year. The latter is clearly the domain of the community, as represented by the School Committee.
So it should be a very interesting roundtable discussion!
The current administrative initiatives that I count are:
- The City Manager’s Early Childhood Task Force (8 out of 22 members of the Task Force are CPS administrative staff)
- Learning “technical information” related to RTI with Ideal Consulting Services ($136,000)
- Curriculum work with Grant Wiggins ($107,000)
- All the administrators working with Jon Saphier ($155,000)
- Team Building of OSS department ($165,000)
- Switching up the math curriculum
- A Family Engagement initiative
- Teacher Induction initiative
- DESE mandated teacher evaluations
- Planning another teacher conference for June 2015? (This year’s was held on a day when teachers were contractually on vacation, so if they attended, they were unpaid. Administrators, however, were not on vacation, so if they attended, they were being paid to do so.)