Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Big Day for TPC Recommendations Tomorrow

At the last school board meeting (Oct. 30 Business Meeting), a "Special Call" meeting was announced for tomorrow, November 15, 2012.  Here's the agenda.  There's a committee to be appointed.  But the big news is that there's going to be a big update (and hopefully, discussion) of the TPC recommendations.

Here is the useless, uninformative document that is attached to the TPC agenda item.  The agenda item itself states only that "It is recommended that the Shelby County Board of Education approve the recommendations from the Transition Steering Committee (TSC)."

We're clearly still having some transparency issues.  The document lists the recommendations and has a "progress tracker" next to each recommendation.  The progress tracker is color-coded.  There is no explanation of what the color code is - just the actual colors.  For example, it's unclear if "red" means that the TSC is recommending that the recommendation not be pursued, if there's been no progress, or if the Board decision has been made.

Several of the recommendations that have already been passed have the designation of "addressed," others have "yellow" or "green".

I am convinced that the TSC will, tomorrow, as part of its presentation, explain what all of this means.  The problem is that the agenda and the document still do not indicate to the public what will actually be discussed at the meeting tomorrow - whether they should show up, whether they should speak, or even whether they agree with the School Board or district staff on the particular issues that are most important to them.

There is plenty that is good in the TPC recommendations. There is also plenty that is controversial - items that would be properly classified as part of the privatized, corporatized education reform movement. Somehow, the TPC managed to adopt these recommendations without having the real discussion about where these "reforms" originate, what the unintended consequences may be, what the actual impacts have been, and whether these recommendations are the right route to take. The TPC's shortcut was to look at the current state information carefully assembled by BCG, and then jump to a discussion of BCG's recommendations. The TPC's review of BCG's recommendations seems to have consisted of "wow, that sounds like a really good idea!" instead of any sort of critical analysis. Some of the committees were divided in what they submitted to the full TPC, but the TPC unanimously adopted its plan.

The TPC lost its first critical fight for its plan when it became clear that the School Board would not take an up or down vote on the plan. The TPC's best shot at getting some of the more painful, locally controversial recommendations adopted (for instance, the recommendation to close 21 schools, or the outsourcing recommendations - both currently classified as "green" in the document for tomorrow's school board meeting) was to avoid consideration of the recommendations one by one. SCSB Commissioner Kenneth Whalum proposed early on that the recommendations be considered one by one. He withdrew the related resolution, but the writing was on the wall. By the time the district staff submitted its proposed process for how it would work through the recommendations, it had been decided that the School Board would consider the recommendations piece by piece.

I think that's the right way to go, but it's the harder way to go.  And so far, the Shelby County School Board is missing its mark in trying to unwrap these recommendations in an open, transparent process.


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