The board also went over their seven objectives for Mr. Manuel: Relationship with the Board; Relationship with the Community; Staff and Personnel; Facilities; Finance; Vision; and Student Achievement. Then discussed how he fared.
Superintendent's Evaluation Results:
Mr. Manuel was rated low in his ‘relationship with the board.’ All board members wished he would keep them better informed on happenings in the district, for example hirings and firings. Linda Fisher scored Mr. Manuel very low in board relationship stating that she would like for him to provide more advice to the board.
Relationship with the Community
In the area of 'Community Relationship," Mr. Manuel was rated very high. All board members agreed he was an excellent and effective spokesperson for GMSD.
The board also rated Mr. Manuel very high in the area of finances, saying they appreciated the monthly finance reports. The district is struggling with low cafeteria sales but Natalie Williams said she is not concerned because Mr. Manuel will handle it.
While the board did give Mr. Manuel lower scores in the ‘vision’ category, Lisa Parker felt that this area should not be applicable since it was the first year of operations. The vision for this first year was a work in progress and the GMSD mantra has been ‘operational before aspirational’. So, while Mr. Manuel did score lower in the ‘vision’ category, the board felt that it was really not fair to judge him on that and agreed that one of their biggest jobs for next year will be to create a ‘vision’ for the school system.
The board felt that student achievement is going great. There was some discussion of how ‘student achievement’ is best measured. Mr. Manuel would like assessments to model the ACT test, where students are tested not so much on body of knowledge, but their ability to interpret the data presented. He would also like something that would follow the students all throughout the years (similar to the “discovery ed” tests that were used in the past.) Mr. Manuel pointed out that there will be some flux in scores as our student population shifts and changes as the new district settles.
Upcoming School Year...
Mr. Manuel was asked to give his top three to five objectives for the upcoming year. He listed the following:
- Facilities and capacity issues. This would include adding classrooms or possibly a new school. Mr. Manuel acknowledged that this objective would involve the city of Germantown as far as providing funding. He plans to meet with city officials week of 3/30 and hopes to get promises from them. He stated, “Students can’t learn if there is no facility.” Mr. Manuel and Ms. Parker hope to break ground at Riverdale this January, and open it for 2016-17.
- Facility condition. He pointed out the parking lot at Houston Middle School, roofs, and HVAC systems need major attention.
- RTI/Student achievement. There was a discussion on how hard it is to show growth when so many of our students are already extremely high achievers. Also mentioned was that Houston High School is on a state watch list due to the gap between low income students and our highest achievers. Mr. Manuel said that “low income students” at HHS are achieving higher than top students at “blue ribbon” schools in other districts. Mr. Hoover stated that if that was the case, then, he was not too concerned about being on a state “watch” list.
- 21st Century classes/moving away from print material. Mr. Manuel believes it is important to move forward with the 1:1 technology initiative. He stated that the components to a “21st century class” include a physical plan, such as wiring, then working out the details, such as, whether students bring their own devices or the district provides them, etc. Also, it includes professional development to bring about a change in school culture and student development, for example, keyboarding classes early in elementary school. Lisa Parker stressed that we cannot be slow to implement the 1:1 initiative. Mr. Manuel stated that “We are not leading the way, but we can be in Shelby County.”
Excellent teacher in every classroom/development and upgrading of teachers. Lisa Parker said teachers should be able to travel to other place in Tennessee and outside the state to bring back ideas for best practices. Natalie Williams added that we will need some accountability for teachers who do that.
Next Year's Objectives
- Formulating a strategic plan.
- Facilities including capacity and condition issues.
- RTI/continued high student achievement.
- 21st century classrooms.
- Professional development for instructional staff.
Start Times Discussion
The board next turned to Mr. Hoover’s second proposed idea, which involves having “flex time” at HHS. There was some discussion about the logistics of flex time along with concerns over when sports/activity practices would be held, how early-arriving students would be supervised, teacher schedules, etc. Mr. Dely noted that flex time would not be easy, but that our district was capable of it. He also noted that for those parents and students who did like a 7:00am start, this proposal would allow them to continue to have the same start time.
Discord on the Board
She asked that the board spend less time on “problem solving” and more time listening to teachers and principals about ways to improve student achievement. She then asked Mr. Hoover if the superintendent had asked him to come up with his “budget-neutral” ideas to change start times. Mr. Hoover said, “no, he did not.." Ms. Fisher responded by saying, “Then, I guess to me, I just don’t see why we should discuss it further.”
Mr. Hoover expressed his frustration that the board was never able to discuss the start time issue. He stated that the board continually pushed off any meaningful discussion of start times until it was finally time to approve the budget. He was very frustrated that there are several ways to change start times without costing a lot of money, but those ideas never were given an opportunity to be discussed.
Ms. Fisher said that the board has “sort of made a decision, let’s move ahead. Let’s all be committed to working together, because if we don’t work together we’re not going to be an effective school board.”
Mr. Hoover expressed confusion on how discussing different budget-neutral start time options is not working together. He said he only wanted to discuss this with other board members, not start an argument.
Ms. Fisher stated that she is not against changing start times, but her priority is student achievement, and that she is willing to look at changing start times next year.
Mr. Dely stated that he believes there’s nothing we can do better for student achievement than to fix this issue.
Ms. Fisher said that she disagrees.
Mr. Dely said, he believes that the sleep deprivation caused by early start times does affect student achievement and is the reason that he continues to bring up this topic. He thinks that it is wrong for students to go to school in the dark. It affects his own children. And although, he has accepted the budget voted on, he still thinks it is wrong not to change the school start times and wants to continue working on it. He said that if the impediment to changing start times is money, then he supports discussing budget neutral ideas.
Ms. Parker stated that the board directed the staff to come up with possible ways to change start times and that they spent many hours working on different options.
Mr. Dely stated that he thought the staff came up with good ideas but the board failed to entertain their solutions.
Natalie Williams then stated that she thought people wanted school boards and leaders to make a decision and move on. She felt that if the board “continued to waffle” on decisions then it would give rise to uncertainty. She also said that the board would have more information in April when the registration process was complete and at that time they would receive firm bus ridership numbers. She expressed her confidence that the staff would use the allotted money in the budget to “do the best thing that they can next year for the kids.”
Hope for Next Year...
Mr. Hoover said that if there is to be a hope for start times to change for the 2016-17 school year then a group to study the issue would need to start work very soon. He also said that he felt the lack of consensus on this issue had “snuck-up” on them. At the June, 2014 business meeting, everyone was in agreement on the start time issue. He said that by December that had changed and it was obvious that the board's feelings on start times were no longer unanimous.
With that, the meeting then quickly concluded.