The Superintendent Search Survey

Hoover parents and school employees have until February 6 to complete the survey created by New South Research, at a cost of $7,200, to gather opinions on what qualities are wanted in  and what priorities should be focused on by a superintendent.

Community members hoping to be surveyed will have to wait on a phone call.

Taking a peek through the survey, I couldn’t help but notice the leading questions within the survey. And the glaring omissions.

First the omissions:

Liz Wallace, former Hoover Parent Teacher Council president and current Hoover resident, shared this on her Facebook page (I placed the red box and arrow into the image for this post):

“This is a page [page 3] from the Community Survey that Hoover City Schools has commissioned to get input about the experience, skills, and priorities we would like to see in our next Superintendent. I find it disturbing that while the characteristic of ‘maintaining quality athletic programs’ is on the survey, ‘maintaining quality fine arts programs’ is nowhere. The applicants for the position will have no way of knowing the desires of the stakeholders with regard to the fine arts, because there is not even a place to write it in on the survey.

This school system produces award-winning and nationally recognized musicians, singers, actors, artists, sculptors, and dancers. Students put hours and hours of hard work into those endeavors, and dozens upon dozens continue those studies in college and beyond. Shouldn’t quality fine arts programs rank a mention on the survey?”

Great question, Liz. So the arts didn’t even rank a separate mention.

Next, the leading questions.

How did “managing transportation cost” even get added to the survey? Didn’t former Superintendent Andy Craig tell us that money was no longer a problem in Hoover schools?

From this November 20, 2014, al.com article:

The Hoover school system’s overall fund balance stands at about $90 million, which is 7 1/2 times the amount recommended by the state, Craig said. “We’ve got a very strong position.”

What about managing supplement costs (that rise exponentially every year as a percentage of an ever-increasing step-raise for teachers) or managing consultant costs (like the consultants hired to search for the superintendent) or managing technology costs?

Why pick on transportation?

Look a few lines down in that same image to find “Rezoning to maximize resources”….what does that even mean? When was rezoning about maximizing resources? Didn’t Craig tell the community that rezoning was about dispersing minority children throughout the community to avoid an intervention by the “Justice Department”?

From the “Student Reassignment Plan Proposal”:

The current realignment and rezoning process is therefore seen as an opportunity to rebalance the student composition of Hoover’s schools, not merely because this is a compulsory external requirement, but also because it supports the Hoover Schools community’s values related to diversity and positioning all schools and all students to be successful. By embarking on the realignment planning process now, Hoover City Schools has the opportunity to “do it right”, to be proactive, and to afford itself and its constituent families as much time as possible to prepare for plan implementation. When done properly, as we have sought to do, rezoning can be characterized as “preventative maintenance”. Realigning student population before schools become overcrowded or segregated is akin to rotating and balancing the tires of one’s car. Doing so addresses uneven wear and prolongs the life of the tires, protecting one’s investment. To extend the metaphor, proactive and periodic tire maintenance may also prevent a catastrophic blow-out (the equivalent of running out of room for students or facing Justice Department intervention). (page 4 of this document)

[The tire-rotation and -balance metaphor is still perplexing. Children are akin to tires on a car?]

And how can you not find irony in the ordering of items, with “maintaining a culture of trust” listed just above “managing transportation cost”?

Were the Superintendent and the Board working to “maintain a culture of trust” when they eliminated buses in the middle of the summer, without announcing it or asking for community input?

The Full Survey

Here’s the full survey, captured from screenshots.

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Welcome to the Table of Discussion

Welcome to those of you who are new to this site. Likely you found it because you or your neighbors are going to be affected by the rezoning proposal being floated around by Superintendent Andy Craig.

This site was created as a way to share information about the decisions being made about school buses for Hoover’s children. The info already posted here is relevant to many different decisions, including the zoning of our children.

Check out who we are on our About page.

Arming yourself with facts and context will help as our community grapples with where our children attend school.

Best (but longest) way to find what you’re looking for is to scroll through all of these posts. Some posts will interest you, and likely some will not. Check out what’s useful to you.

The search box is helpful. Just type in a keyword.

And here are a few posts and links that you might find useful as a place to start getting to know your school district better.

The schools in Hoover belong to the people of Hoover. The decisions that are made about zoning should be made in collaboration with not ONLY the Department of Justice and the “select” group of parents and others that Craig chooses to meet with behind closed doors. Information should be freely shared with all of the community.

The success of our schools affects all of us whether we have children in Hoover schools, own a business, work, shop, attend church, play sports, visit the library, or simply just live here.

While a whole bunch of wonderful and interested people attended the August 4 Hoover BOE meeting, no one group of parents (or PTO leaders) has stepped forward to lead the community effort through the rezoning maze. During the Save the Hoover Buses effort, we found that having a central repository of facts and information was helpful as we marched forward.

Here’s hoping that Craig and the Board of Education learned some communication lessons through the Hoover Bus Debacle.

But in case they didn’t, we will be around to post useful info throughout the process.

Please let us know if there are facts you’d like to know. Make sure to ask school officials for the same information, but we’ll help out if we can.

If you know of any community groups that are sharing information about rezoning, please let us know and we are happy to share. Best way to let us know is post on the Facebook page.

Bus Fees – The Numbers

The Board of Education unanimously approved the following schedule of bus fees “for planning purposes” at their April 17, 2014, Regular meeting.

Bus Fees Approved April 17 2014

At the meeting, it was believed the fee schedule would go into effect, pending U.S. Department of Justice approval, during the 2014-2015 school year.

On May 6, 2014, the Superintendent announced implementation would be delayed until the 2015-2016 school year.

We NEED a New Board of Education Member! Here’s Your Chance!

DEADLINE FOR APPLICATION IS MARCH 21st!! For more information, contact Hoover City Clerk Margie Handley via email at handleym@ci.hoover.al.us or by phone at 444-7557.

You witnessed the decision of the Hoover Board of Education (BOE) to eliminate buses in a 4-1 vote last July.

You witnessed the community uprising as a result.

You witnessed the BOE approve a budget with a $17 million deficit.

You witnessed the U.S. Department of Justice step in as a result of our BOE’s decision.

You witnessed the BOE rescind the vote to eliminate buses last December.

You witnessed the loss of our bus drivers and the inability of the BOE to replace them.

You witnessed the BOE bow down and obey board attorney Donald Sweeney’s order not to answer the public’s questions.

You witnessed the BOE call in a state-level education official rather than deal with its own personnel matter.

You witnessed this. And this. And this. And this.

All of it being the responsibility of the five members of our Hoover Board of Education.

We still don’t know if the BOE will decide to charge a fee (nor how much that fee might be) for families dependent upon bus transportation to and from school.

We still don’t know what programs or how many teachers may be cut due to budget problems.

We still don’t know what type of rezoning plan may be constructed during upcoming strategic planning sessions.

The current president of the BOE, Paulette Pearson, is not seeking reappointment.

That means there’s ROOM FOR YOU to apply for the BOE position. It costs nothing to apply.

Will You Serve

YOU can help make those decisions by serving on the Hoover BOE.

Our elected Hoover City Council is responsible for appointing the BOE. One member every year. For a five-year term. The appointment is made in April and the term begins in June.

Yes, you would serve with three BOE members who originally voted to eliminate buses. But they did ultimately change their mind (thanks, DOJ!).

The BOE meets once a month, the first Monday of the month (except for March, when it will be the third Monday – NEXT MONDAY, the 17th).

If you believe you are capable of looking out for the best interests of all children in Hoover, please apply. We desperately need good people to serve on our BOE.

In years past (except last year when Earl Cooper was reappointed without any opposition), the application process consists of filling out the application and being interviewed by the full Council in a public meeting (the questions are the same for every applicant). No word yet on when interviews will be conducted, though in 2012, the interviews took place the second week of April.

Here’s an al.com article with a little more info.

If you’d like to know a little about what is expected of school board members in Alabama, read this from the Alabama Association of School Boards. Training is mandatory and paid for by local taxpayers.

The main responsibilities of a board member are to (1) hire and fire the superintendent, (2) hire and fire the Chief School Financial Officer, (3) approve the budget, and (4) create policies. The budget and policies provide the framework within which the school system and its employees operate.

HOW TO APPLY

In years past, the application was made available online, but it is not available online this year. No word on why the application was removed.

Contact City Clerk Margie Handley via email at handleym@ci.hoover.al.us or by phone at 444-7557.

We Got Our Buses Back! But…..

At Monday’s Board of Education meeting, the Board rescinded their decision to eliminate buses. Which means the children of Hoover got their buses back!

But.

Superintendent Andy Craig stated that the model that has emerged is one where students would pay a user fee to ride the bus. It was unclear whether this meant that those fees would only apply to transportation to and from school or whether that would be the case any time a student boarded a bus (as in field trips, athletic or other extracurricular trips).

The fee would be based on whatever the difference is in what the state provides for transportation and what the remaining unfunded portion is. Craig said that he is working with Alabama State Department of Education Chief of Staff Dr. Craig Pouncey to determine exactly what the unfunded cost of providing transportation actually is.

Certainly any amounts for transportation or employees that were not directly related to transporting students to and from school would be removed from the equation. Right?

Craig has said all along that the unfunded amount of student transportation was $2.5 million for FY13. However, state Student Transportation Director Joe Lightsey told al.com that the amount is only $1.5 million.

[You may remember that we calculated the actual savings if non-special-education student transportation was eliminated to be only $850,000. Our calculation did not determine the current unfunded amount, only what the savings would be if general education transportation was eliminated but special education transportation was continued. Apples and oranges. Just want to keep the numbers clear.]

Al.com’s Jon Anderson calculated the cost per rider, on a sheer TOTAL UNFUNDED AMOUNT/NUMBER OF RIDERS to be

  • $380 a year per student if the unfunded amount is $2.5 million, or
  • $228 a year per student if the unfunded amount is $1.5 million.

However, the amount is actually unknown. And getting to that Actual Unfunded Amount is the key for Hoover’s families who depend on bus transportation.

But.

The U.S. Attorney’s office has gone on the record here, and the Department of Justice (DOJ) has gone on the record here to say that any plan would have to be cleared to ensure that access to public schools would not be impeded by charging that fee.

But.

State Department Chief of Staff Craig Pouncey said the state department is open to allowing city districts to charge user fees for buses.

But.

State Department Transportation Director Lightsey said that any fee would have to accommodate children eligible for free or reduced lunch prices.

Bottom line: we must stay vigilant.

We are just getting started.

Stay tuned for meeting announcements.