Tuesday, December 3, 2013

What the Joplin R-8 Administration is not telling you- part three

(From Oct. 15, 2013) Thirty-four people working in the central administration office pulled down more than $50,000 during the 2012-2013, as noted in a Turner Report post earlier today.

That amount does not even include the teaching/learning or 21st Century learning coaches, who as I have noted in past reports, spend more time attending meetings or serving as the "eyes and ears" of administration in the buildings than they do coaching struggling teachers.

The positions were added several years ago under a grant, but as so often happens during the Huff-Besendorfer reign, once the grant ended, somehow money was found to continue the positions- even at the expense of personnel who were actually in the classroom, making a different in the children's lives.

Millions have been spent on administration, technology and non-classroom expenditures during C. J. Huff's six years at the helm and judging from the district's 2012 Race to the Top application filed with the U. S. Department of Education, that is still the way the district leadership is thinking.

District officials asked for nearly $10 million for technology, more 21st Century Learning coaches, software, hardware, and another few million for items that would bolster Huff's Bright Futures initiative.

One item was included in the application that would have brought money into the pockets of some of the teachers, 200 of them, who would have added a couple of hours of time to their day for mentoring.

In the application, district officials said they would find money in the budget to continue everything they were asking for...except for the money for the mentoring. Less than six months after district patrons passed a $62 million bond issue, the largest in the district's history, C. J. Huff and Angie Besendorfer were already ready to go back to the taxpayers for a levy increase to pay for the mentoring program.

Room would be found in the district's already tight budget to pay for seven more 21st Century learning coaches and all of the other items on the administration wish list.

The district requests $9,998,737. The major cost items in the budget are:
Project manager – $313,000
7 21st Century Coaches - $2.2 mil
5 Career Pathways Coordinators to manage development and implementation of new pathways - $1.6 mil
Stipends for Academic Advisors - $3.5 mil (1 hour a day for 170 days for 200 teachers x 4 years)
Data manager to oversee development of new system - $312,000
Data management system - $425,000
1:1 iPads for middle school - $1 mil
3 Additional tech support personnel - $414,000

The items listed above were in the regular part of the application and included money to hire 17 people, none of whom would be in the classroom and would include at least 14 people who would add to the already bloated Joplin R-8 Administration. (Of course, if you remember, in her e-mail to the teaching/learning coaches after the Turner Report revealed a state investigation of the Joplin R-8 School District and noted that state officials had been provided documents that indicated some of the coaches may have been paid illegally out of  TItle I and IDEA funds, Besendorfer told the coaches they were not spies and they were not administration...just in case anyone asked them, like say, an investigator.)

The application was rejected, but the learning coaches and pathway coordinators have been added, at a time when the district's funds are at a dangerously low level and no one has yet explained how it could be afforded.

In the district's bid for supplemental funding, the reviewers were unkind to two Bright Futures projects, Operation College Bound and the Reading Initiative, saying they were not innovative.

Joplin seeks $1,892,643 to expand and implement Operation College Bound and to implement a Reading Initiative, both in partnership with Bright Futures Joplin.

Operation College Bound is designed to support a college going culture starting in elementary school. Joplin and Bright Futures have launched in one elementary school an effort that includes annual college visits, research on college and career opportunities, and information on the college application process. The grant would fund expansion of the program to other elementary schools and ultimately to middle and high school.

The budget would fund curriculum development, support for school implementation, and a transition coordinator who works with counselors and post-secondary institutions, among other costs.
The Reading Initiative, scheduled to launch in 2013, will strengthen elementary reading through parent engagement, improved assessment, new instructional models, digital learning tools, and volunteer tutors for struggling readers. The grant would fund 5 staff to carry out assessment, engage the community, and recruit and support tutors, and purchase 2,581 e-readers and digital content.

The proposal does provide a basic rationale for focusing on early reading and on college awareness starting in elementary school. However, the proposal is not highly rated for the following reasons:

Based on the limited description of the project that the district provides, it does not appear to be an innovative solution; There is no evidence that the proposed solutions are being designed with replication in mind or would produce tools, documentation, software, curriculum that would support replication;
There is no plan, or even reference to, how this would be co-developed and implemented across two or more LEAs. The budgets, while reasonable for what the district is proposing,do not support the over-arching goal of the budget supplement to create innovative solutions that can be replicated.

That proposal received just one of a possible 15 points.

The reviewers did not think much more of Huff's signature achievement, the Bright Futures program:

In 2010, Joplin partnered with the community to create Bright Futures to connect community resources with students and families in need. In 2011 a non-profit was established to work with Joplin and 5 affiliate communities that were using the framework first developed in Joplin. Details of the framework are not provided in the proposal.

Joplin seeks $454,972 to complete development and implementation of an on-line software that catalogs local community resources, allows listings to be regularly updated by community providers, and allows staff to connect student needs to readily available resources. The application includes a detailed budget which appears reasonable and sufficient.

While it is likely that an easily accessible compendium of community resources would be useful, the proposal is not highly rated for the following reasons:

Based on the limited description of the project that the district provides, it does not appear to be an innovative solution but rather merely placing a typical catalog of resources on line and allowing providers to update. The district does not explain how the solution is linked to the academic outcomes outlined in the Absolute Priority, and on its face there is not a tight connection.

The 2012 Race to the Top application was soundly rejected, but most of the things on the approximately $12 million wish list are now firmly in place.

The eighth graders have IPads, the 21st Century learning coaches have been added, the pathways coordinators are in place. Operation College Bound and the Reading Initiative are going full force.

It's just money, after all, and it is not C. J. Huff's money and it is not Angie Besendorfer's money.

It is our money, millions of it, being used in what looks, to all intents and purposes, like an educational pyramid scheme.

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