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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Board Meeting Notes – January 12, 2015

Attendance at board meetings has fallen again. Very few Hoover residents are paying attention to what our school board is doing.

Which is exactly what school leaders hoped would happen.

Last Monday’s meeting was one that needed 100 witnesses. The treatment of the public by the school board once again deteriorated to that seen during the initial days after the ill-fated decision to eliminate school buses.

Serious matters including the cleanliness of our schools, the ethical behavior of our school principals, and whether the concerns brought by the accreditation team last year have been addressed were brought to the attention of the school board.

And the public was nowhere to be seen.

Former Superintendent Andy Craig has started his new job at the state department, leaving Hoover City Schools in the middle of an incredible mess…a mess of his making.

  • Will rezoning happen? If it was so important to get it done, when is it going to be done?
  • What are the Department of Justice, the NAACP Legal Defense Fund, and the federal judge going to do about the rezoning application?
  • What is the plan for future growth in our schools given the number of new houses being built?
  • Where is the plan to continue to chip away at the operating deficit approved by the Board of Education every year?
  • Will the plan to charge for buses go into effect during the 2015-2016 school year as approved by the Board of Education last April?

And the big question: who will be Hoover City Schools’ next leader?

What role will the public play in the search?

Will we be pacified and asked for input, only to have the decision rest with the five members of the board who will disregard our input as they did in 2007?

News from the January 12 Board Meeting

Here’s a look at what happened at the January 12 regular meeting, thanks to Jon Anderson at al.com.

Hoover school board silences former councilman about ethics complaint

Hoover school board to pick superintendent search firm on Friday

Hoover teachers concerned about dirty schools after contracting out custodial services, AEA rep says

Patton Chapel Road realignment, widening project set to begin this summer (discussed during the work session)

Here is Dan Fulton’s audio recording of the meeting.

During the public participation portion, Arnold Singer asked the board to please ensure that their board meetings do not conflict with the City Council meetings. Typically the Board holds their meetings on the second Monday of the month, where the Council holds their meetings on the first and third Mondays of the month. However, both the Council and the Board are scheduled to hold their separate meetings on February 2.

Trisha Crain (that’s me writing this, BTW) asked where the accreditation process stood, as AdvancED visited last February and gave us homework to do. Two improvement priorities.

The meeting where those results were to have been shared publicly with the board and the public was cancelled. It was not rescheduled.

We have heard absolutely nothing about the results of the accreditation team’s observations. Instead, we have been left to fish out those results for ourselves.

Here are the improvement priorities brought to the attention of the board. Pages 30 and 31 of this report.

Pages from report-of-the-external-review-for-hoover-city-board-of-education_Page_1 Pages from report-of-the-external-review-for-hoover-city-board-of-education_Page_2

Crain then asked about the meetings between the attorneys looking into whether Hoover City Schools is ready to proceed with asking for unitary status (meaning the desegregation order could be, in effect, lifted).

Hoover Board attorney Donald Sweeney stated that the next step is to file reports with the Court on January 30. The attorneys have discussed which data sets and information needs to be exchanged in order to determine the direction of the efforts to move toward unitary status.

AEA Representative Dana Clement spoke with the board about concerns about the quality of the contract custodial services in our elementary schools. This is at least the third time I have heard this concern brought to the attention of the board. CSFO Cathy Antee shared that the company was new when they first contracted with them (so why did we contract with them??) and that the company continues to try to resolve the problems. (It’s been 18 months. How long do we give them??)

Clement reminded us all how reluctant teachers are to step forward with the concerns they have. One has to wonder why teachers are not more comfortable sharing these types of concerns with their principals. What type of climate exists where teachers are afraid to even share concerns about cleanliness? 

This link takes you to the point in the meeting where Clement began her presentation. Listen carefully to hear how board of education member Earl Cooper addresses Clement.

Hoover parent Jody Patterson spoke…um, tried to speak….next about the exorbitant charges for all-things-graduation at Hoover High School. He reminded the board they set the policy and had the ability to influence these types of practices.

That’s when Sweeney shut him down. Sweeney claimed Patterson was there to “defame” (presumably Hoover High Principal Don Hulin, whom Patterson reported to the Ethics Commission for practices related to graduation supplies) and should not be allowed to speak. Board members Craig Kelley and Earl Cooper joined in gang-bullying of Patterson at that point. Sweeney did some extra-special lawyer speak, and Patterson stepped away from the podium.

In short, Sweeney and the Hoover Board of Education denied a citizen his constitutional right to address the board of education without due process or the opportunity to defend himself.

Perhaps Sweeney and the Hoover Board of Education should review a recent court settlement resulting in a $147,000 award to a parent who had been barred from speaking at school board meetings who was also denied due process.

Could get interesting.

This link takes you to the point in the meeting where Patterson tried to address our Board.

For those of you who think this was the first time Sweeney has tried to limit public participation, think again.

We saw Sweeney attempt to limit discussion about the buses many times.

Before the start of the July 29, 2013 board meeting, Sweeney informed the public of a “new policy” to limit time at the podium. Before the board voted on it (Open Meetings law, anyone?).

The Board then picked and chose when they would implement the two- or three-minute rule in an extremely arbitrary manner. Without warning. Sometimes there’d be a time limit. Sometimes there wouldn’t be.

On multiple occasions at multiple board meetings, Sweeney arbitrarily decided who would be allowed two minutes to speak and who would be given more time. No rhyme or reason. He stopped some folks from speaking when the time hit two minutes and didn’t interrupt others. Completely arbitrary and capricious.

When a board’s attorney (that the citizens pay for, remember) can keep a citizen from speaking to the board of education about a serious problem…the hundreds and hundreds of dollars that Hoover’s families spend on graduation supplies…all bets for meaningful participation by the citizenry are off.

The board went into executive session at that point. Folks in attendance then departed for private conversations.

A special called meeting is set for 7:30 a.m. on Friday morning to choose the search firm.

It should be noted that no other firm has approached Hoover City Schools. Sweeney said he and interim Superintendent Dr. Reese will contact other firms to determine if they have an interest in submitting a proposal. Before Friday.

Next regular meeting is scheduled for Monday, February 2 at 5:30 p.m. No word on whether a work session will be held.

The State of Hoover Buses

You may recall that Superintendent Andy Craig recommended eliminating buses for students in general education on July 15, 2013.

After Craig flew to Washington in November 2013 for a meeting with the U.S. Department of Justice, the Hoover Board of Education  (HBOE) voted at the December 9, 2013, regular meeting to rescind their vote at the July meeting, effectively reinstating the buses.

I still wonder why Craig couldn’t simply recommend reinstating the buses and why the Board chose to use a parliamentary procedure to do the right thing.

Late in the day on December 2, 2014, James Knickrhem, Coordinator of Pupil Transportation, sent an email to parents of Hoover students announcing a job fair on December 3 and 4. Here is the content of that email:

Dear Parents, If you, or someone you know, would like a fantastic part time job with excellent benefits as part of an incredible team supporting our children, our school system is seeking school bus drivers as well as substitute drivers. Find out more about becoming a certified school bus driver,http://www.hoovercityschools.net/?DivisionID=9928… [the link no longer works, BTW]

The Transportation Department provides all necessary hands-on training. Preliminary interviews will be held on Wednesday, December 3, 2014 and Thursday, December 4, 2014 from 8:00a-4:00p at the Transportation Office of Hoover City Schools’ Operations Center, near Hoover High School.

For more information please contact Transportation Coordinator James Knickrehm at 205-439-1126, the Transportation Department at 205-439-1120 or email jknickrehm@hoover.k12.al.us.

At the December 8 board meeting, Human Resources Director Mary Veal reported that seven people are going to begin training as a result of the job fair.

Oh, the irony.

Hoover couldn’t get rid of our bus drivers fast enough last year.

The board even authorized Chief School Financial Officer Cathy Antee to negotiate with a transportation provider to contract bus drivers.

Last February, we posted the net loss of bus drivers since Craig made his recommendation to eliminate buses. 22 had resigned, and 10 had been hired. A net loss of 12.

As of the December 8 board meeting, based on personnel reports, since the July 2013 announcement to eliminate buses, 43 drivers had resigned, and 26 had been hired, for a net loss of 17 drivers.

According to state personnel reports, as of October 2014, Hoover City Schools employed 130 bus drivers, which includes drivers who drive buses dedicated to students with special needs.

In those same reports for October 2012 and October 2013, Hoover City Schools employed 151 bus drivers.

Are there fewer routes? There are six fewer regular education and three fewer special education bus routes than there were during the 2013-2014 school year.

As a result, there are a total of 171 routes being driven by 130 drivers.

So the next time you see a bus driver, please say thank you. They have an incredibly important job, transporting our children to and from school every day. The conditions in which they have operated since July 2013 have been less than ideal, from a human resources standpoint.

They could have all left, and for a while it looked like they might.

Our Hoover bus drivers deserve our gratitude.

NOTE: The two sources of information about the number of bus drivers are (1) reports all districts file with the Alabama State Department of Education, and (2) the personnel reports approved at each Hoover BOE meeting.

 

The Balanced Scorecard – Where’d It Go?

In 2008, Superintendent Andy Craig recommended, and the Board of Education approved, the implementation of a strategic planning initiative that utilized the Balanced Scorecard approach to tracking progress toward goals.

Hoover’s Strategic Planning page states this:

Hoover City Schools embarked on its long-range Strategic Planning Process in 2008. A strategic plan is a tool employed by any organization to ensure that its resources are being applied to the actions that can best help the organization to achieve its mission – an attempt to change perspective by moving above the ‘trees’ of everyday activities to see the forest of future possibilities. If a school system wants to improve, it needs a plan to do so.

A fluid and continually-updated plan, the HCS Strategic Plan incorporates three comprehensive goals representing key elements necessary to achieve the district’s mission: academic achievement; a collaborative learning culture; and organizational efficiency and effectiveness. The goals represent the things we do every day as a school district. As part of the Strategic Planning Process, it is necessary to collect data to determine whether we are accomplishing these goals. Data collection is achieved through ‘Balanced Scorecards’ – a system developed by the business community which, when adapted for education, tracks essential data sources over time which serve as indicators for system goals.

As students move from teacher to teacher, grade to grade, or building to building within our district, all of the adults helping your child will be focusing their efforts on the same mission. The collective success of the school or district depends on the individual success of each student, and the perspective gained through strategic planning process will help leaders to ensure that all of our children are given the resources and guidance to achieve educational excellence.

Here are the scorecards for the district:

2010-2011 Balanced Scorecard – Goal 1
2010-2011 Balanced Scorecard – Goal 2

2011-2012 Balanced Scorecard – Goals 1 and 2

2012-2013 Balanced Scorecard – Goals 1 and 2

It appears the Balanced Scorecard approach may have been abandoned, as Hoover City Schools Communications Director Jason Gaston responded to a request for the 2013-2014 Balanced Scorecard by saying, “There was not a scorecard for 2013-14 because that was the baseline year for the new Alabama PLAN 2020, the new assessment tool.”

While there are some components of the Balanced Scorecard that utilized scores from the standardized tests ARMT and AHSGE (both no longer used), there are many other components, such as The ACT, the ACT Explore, national merit semifinalist and finalist, AP, and other data that are still available and could be used in the Balanced Scorecard.

It is unclear at this time whether the Board of Education was informed as to the demise of the Balanced Scorecard.

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.