Who Is In Charge

SB 191 rules bill advances

Regulations intended to implement the state’s new educator effectiveness system continued their untroubled way through the legislature Monday as the Legislative Legal Services Committee voted 9-0 to advance House Bill 12-1001 to the House floor.

Legislature 2012 logoTwo weeks ago the same panel unanimously approved the form and content of the rules (see news item). Under the terms of Senate Bill 12-191, which created the new evaluation system, the legislature has to act on approval of the regulations by Feb. 15. HB 12-1001 would authorize the rules.

Separate legislative review of the effectiveness rules was a compromise inserted into SB 10-191 in an effort to gain support. The long process of drafting the rules involved agreement by all major education interest groups, and Monday’s brief hearing provided a kumbaya moment.

Amy Spicer, representing Stand for Children and a variety of other reform and business groups, said, “The development of these rulings has been a truly collaborative process” and predicted the rules “will set a high standard for educator effectiveness nationwide.”

Diana Sirko, deputy education commissioner, and Rep. Carole Murray, R-Castle Rock and a prime sponsor of SB 10-191, made similarly glowing remarks.

Kerrie Dallman, a member of the State Council for Educator Effectiveness and president of the Jefferson County Education Association, stressed that the rules reflected the consensus decision of the council, adding, “The hardest work lies ahead of us.”

Much work does remain to be done on the evaluation system, including pilot testing in selected districts this year and next and addition of regulations on the evaluation of non-classroom educators and the appeals process for teachers who lose non-probationary status because of low evaluations.

Gun bill meets expected fate

The Senate State, Veterans and Military Affairs Committee Monday split on party lines to kill Senate Bill 12-025, which proposed to allow people who otherwise are allowed to carry handguns to carry them concealed without obtaining a separate concealed weapons permit.

The so-called “constitutional carry” bill is a perennial proposal by conservative Republicans but has gotten nowhere in the past. Every year there’s confusion about whether the bill would allow carrying of handguns on school grounds and college campuses.

Sponsor Sen. Tim Neville, R-Littleton, explained that the bill wouldn’t allow the carrying of concealed weapons on public school grounds but would allow that to happen at private schools unless schools took action to ban carrying.

Neville said colleges and universities could prohibit carrying of concealed weapons. But he was corrected by legislative lawyer Richard Sweetman, who was asked to clarify the question by Sen. Rollie Heath, D-Boulder and committee chair. Sweetman said the bill would mean anyone who was 21 or older and not a felon could carry a concealed weapon on a college campus.

After taking testimony for witnesses pro and con and having some polite discussion, the committee killed the bill on party lines, with three Democrats opposing and two Republicans supporting.

The state affairs committees in both houses are known as the “kill committees” because that’s where majority leadership assigns bill that are to be defeated before they get to the floor.

A similar measure, House Bill 12-1092, has been introduced in the Republican-controlled House. If it passes there (the GOP has only a one-vote majority), its defeat in the Senate is expected – probably in State Affairs.

Use the Education Bill Tracker for links to bill texts and status information.

Who Is In Charge

CPS to enforce nine training sessions for local school council members

PHOTO: Elaine Chen
Local school council members at a training session on Tuesday

In a classroom at Bogan High School Tuesday, trainer Jose Ortiz quizzed four local school council members on why they have to hold public meetings before approving their school improvement plan, a key document outlining school priorities and direction. The room fell silent.

“Because,” he answered himself, “the worst thing that the local school council could do is not consult the community.”

Ortiz’s training session illustrated the challenges that Chicago Public Schools faces in ensuring that all members of the powerful councils understand their roles and responsibilities.

The district requires those who help govern its 646 schools each attend around 18 hours of in-person training, or nine online modules. But not everyone complies: Ortiz said that last week, around 10 people attended each module he taught, and on Tuesday, only four people sat through his class. Most council members take the training online, but the effectiveness of those modules is questionable, council members said.

In a district whose school board is appointed by the mayor instead of elected by city residents, the councils, as Ortiz pointed out, serve as important channels enabling residents to drive the direction of their children’s education. Normally consisting of 12 members, including the principal, teachers, parents, and community members, the councils hire and evaluate the principal, approve the budget, and help craft two-year school improvement plans for their schools.

Chicago schools have another problem with the councils: 47 percent of schools have failed to field enough candidates to fill seats, which then allows sitting council members to fill the vacancies. That means less electoral control for residents. It’s unclear if the training requirement deters people from seeking council seats.

Nevertheless, district officials said that this year they will enforce the training requirement and will contact members who fail to finish it.

“We are going to start removing people this year, but it will be after contacting them by email, through phone and then giving them an opportunity before we schedule a hearing, and then we will consider removing them,” said Guillermo Montes de Oca, director of the Office of Local School Council Relations.

As Ortiz continued with his training, he asked if members remember approving their school improvement plan in the past school year. The attendees looked at him with puzzled faces.

“Oh yes, I remember now,” said Andrea Sanchez, a council member at Richard J. Daley Elementary Academy. But, she added, “it’s just overwhelming because you’re looking at numbers and pages, especially when you’re not used to seeing it.” Sanchez has been a council member since December, but she had attended only one out of the nine mandatory training modules before Tuesday, because most of the two-hour sessions were held in various locations throughout the city far from her home.

According to the Illinois School Code, council members must finish all modules within six months of taking office, so newly elected members who take office on July 1 have until Dec. 31 to complete the modules. CPS has never removed a council member for not finishing the training, said Guillermo Montes de Oca. However, that’s changing.

This year, CPS has also been encouraging council members to finish the modules by July 31, he said, because “if you’re going to be seated, discussing the budget and everything, you need to be informed.”

Sanchez said she didn’t know know about the six-month deadline until Tuesday. She wishes the nine modules would be held all at once at her school. “The information in the modules should be given to us right away [upon joining the council],” she said.

Montes de Oca said that the Office of Local School Council Relations encourages council members to take the training online. Especially because the office only offers a few modules per month, to meet the July 31 deadline, council members would have to take most of their training online.

But the attendees Tuesday seemed to prefer the in-person trainings . Denishia Perkins, a council member at Shields Middle School for almost two years, said that she had taken all the training modules online, but they “didn’t do much for me.” The online training consists of clicking through slides of bullet-pointed information and then taking a short quiz at the end of each module.

“It’s so possible to get elected and not know about this stuff,” Perkins said. So she decided to attend the in-person training on Tuesday.

Sanchez said of Ortiz’s class, “It felt one-on-one, and he’s really explaining it to you.”

The trainings are not the only impediment to filling local school council seats.

A representative from the parent group Raise Your Hand told the Sun-Times that people may not want to run for a council position because “people are a little frustrated at the weakening of the local school council.” Currently, 50 percent of principals’ evaluations rely on CPS’ data and metrics, when previously the evaluations relied solely on the council members’ judgment.

Sanchez said that the work of councils are just not advertised enough, and many parents like  her already are involved with jobs or other organizations.

“I don’t think the parents know that we’re that important,” Sanchez said. “I didn’t know either.”

performance based

Aurora superintendent is getting a bonus following the district’s improved state ratings

Aurora Public Schools Superintendent Rico Munn. (Photo by Andy Cross/The Denver Post)

Aurora’s school superintendent will receive a 5 percent bonus amounting to $11,820, in a move the board did not announce.

Instead, the one-time bonus was slipped into a routine document on staff transitions.

Tuesday, the school board voted on the routine document approving all the staff changes, and the superintendent bonus, without discussion.

The document, which usually lists staff transfers, resignations, and new hires, included a brief note at the end that explained the additional compensation by stating it was being provided because of the district’s rise in state ratings.

“Pursuant to the superintendent’s contract, the superintendent is entitled to a one-time bonus equal to 5 percent of his base salary as the result of the Colorado Department of Education raising APS’ district performance framework rating,” the note states.

The superintendent’s contract, which was renewed earlier this year, states the superintendent can receive up to a 10 percent bonus per year for improvements in state ratings. The same bonus offer was in Munn’s previous contract with the district.

The most recent state ratings, which were released in the fall, showed the state had noted improvements in Aurora Public Schools — enough for the district to be off the state’s watchlist for low performance. Aurora would have been close to the five years of low-performance ratings that would have triggered possible state action.

“I am appreciative of the Board’s recognition of APS’ overall improvement,” Superintendent Munn said in a statement Wednesday. “It is important to recognize that this improvement has been thanks to a team effort and as such I am donating the bonus to the APS Foundation and to support various classroom projects throughout APS.”

This is the only bonus that Munn has received in Aurora, according to a district spokesman.

In addition to the bonus, and consistent with his contract and the raises other district employees will receive, Munn will also get a 2.93 percent salary increase on July 1. This will bring his annual salary to $243,317.25.

At the end of the board meeting, Bruce Wilcox, president of the teachers union questioned the way the vote was handled, asking why the compensation changes for teachers and compensation changes for other staff were placed as separate items on the meeting’s agenda, but the bonus was simply included at the bottom of a routine report, without its own notice.

“It is clear that the association will unfortunately have to become a greater, louder voice,” Wilcox said. “It is not where we want to be.”