At last night's meeting, the board was asked to approve spending $133,000 for training with Action Learning Systems, ALS. This latest round of training is to train our teachers to train each other.
I want to start by saying I have nothing against ALS. Last year ALS was the Beaumont Spirit Run's largest financial supporter. They contributed $5,000 to the run. Without their contribution the Spirit Run would still have been a huge success but we would have had $5,000 less to contribute to the run's beneficiaries, parents and students.
After a teacher addressed the board and asked the board to pay our own teachers to provide the training ALS would provide, the board made a motion to approve the contract.
Mr. Orozco and Mrs. Poulter began the discussion by questioning the administration's support for spending so much money for outside training with more budget cuts on the way.
Dr. Latham said the administration's plan all along has been to get to the point where outside training is no longer necessary and the district could pay its own teachers to train the district's other teachers. Dr. Latham went on to say teachers have told her they are in support of ALS and she also believes "We wouldn't be where we are without ALS." She doesn't believe our teachers are ready to abandon 3rd party training yet, "maybe next year."
After Orozco and Poulter spent a considerable amount of time grilling the cabinet about using a 3rd party for training instead of the district's teachers, the real show began.
Mr. Hackney asked a brilliant and difficult question (note my sarcasm). He asked Dr. Latham if our API and AYP scores have been going up since the district began working with ALS. I'm sure this former atheletic director knows a softball when he sees one.
Then Board President Mrs. Lara expressed the difficulty she was having with this issue and asked if there was a principal in attendance that might want to help her out. Next thing you know, principals began lining up to give their praise for all that ALS has done for the district.
After hearing from four principals in support we heard from a teacher, Monica Rice. Ms. Rice said she wanted to make everyone aware that she knows negative comments by district employees were not appreciated by the administration and she asked the board to consider this when making their decision. She went on to point out some of the problems she, and other teachers, have with the ALS training. She said she was speaking for all the teachers she had heard from.
Mrs. De Longchamp then made her contribution to the discussion. She asked Ms. Rice if she was really speaking for all the teachers. Rice responded that would be ignorant of her to say she was speaking for all teachers. Then De Longchamp asked why weren't there "more teachers here tonight?"
Both Mrs. Poulter and Mr. Orozco made it clear they weren't questioning the quality of ALS's service. They both asked for data showing the level of support the teachers have for the outside training. Mrs. Poulter said she was hesitant to authorize $133,000 without collecting data from the teachers regarding their opinion of the 3rd party training. Dr. Latham responded, "We have the data." Mrs . Poulter said "I don't have the data." Latham explained that was because she was a new board member. Mr. Orozco pointed out there were three new board members and all should be provided the information before making a decision. Poulter wanted to know why Dr. Latham was bringing this to the board for a decision without providing the data. No one answered her question.
One final note. This issue took more than 45 minutes of discussion. The combined comments by the administration's three board members, Lara, Hackney, and De Longchamp accounted for less than 5 minutes of the entire discussion
I thought it would be useful to conduct my own survey. I'd like to try and find out what teachers really think. I think we know what the adminstrators will say. I don't think parents, at least not yours truly, have the insight to make an informed decision. I think teachers are the best judge of what's working.
I've designed the following non-scientific survey with teachers in mind. I don't want to discourage parents or administrators from taking the survey, I just ask that you answer the first question regarding your relationship to the district truthfully. I will report the results in a future post.
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