Board of Education, June 2018

August 24th, 2018  |  Published in Observer Reports

Board of Education
June 12, 2018

Board members in attendance: William Clawson, Lisa Cremer, Ayesha Bell Hardaway, Jeffrey Issacs (president), Heather Weingart
Also: Superintendent Dr. Gregory Hutchings Jr., Treasurer Bryan Christman

The meeting commenced at 5:30 p.m. and adjourned at 9:30 p.m.

As this observer arrived at 6 p.m., Ms. Lulling Li from the Equity Task Force was finalizing her report to the board. Updates about the Equity Task Force can be accessed on the shaker.org website.

Dr. Hutchings then presented his “Years in Review” report, summarizing his tenure as superintendent. He is soon to leave the district to become the superintendent of the Alexandria, Va., schools. He thanked his cabinet and all staff at the Shaker schools, expressing specific appreciation for the opportunity to serve as superintendent. Dr. Hutchings called attention to former board members, some of whom were in attendance and had been on the board when he was hired. He noted that he was fully aware of the opportunity given to him as a young African American who hadn’t had extensive superintendent experience and who was following a predecessor who had long held the position.

For much of an hour, Dr. Hutchings listed accomplishments during his tenure at Shaker. Saying he was “hired by the board to make changes,” a stated his belief he leaves the district in a better place than when he arrived. Below are some specifics from his comments:

 Strategic Plan 2014-2019: Thirteen months remain on the current plan. This five-year plan was expanded from the previous two-year plan. It established specific goals and adopted metrics to align with those goals. It extensively details action steps addressing the challenges facing the district and is used as a guide for all day-to-day operations. During its development, many stakeholders in the community had opportunity for input. Periodic strategic planning chats are held within the schools among staff to connect identified priorities to what goes on in the classroom. With the continued goal of transparency, the 2019-2024 strategic plan is in its planning stages. (See shaker.org)

Development of Innovative Programs: 1.The establishment of the Innovative Center for Personalized Learning (IC) provides nontraditional learning experiences for students and staff. 2. FACE, the Family and Community Engagement center, coordinates opportunities for engagement and volunteerism among parents and serves as a liaison between parents and school. 3. The creation of Shaker’s First Class—a Pre-K program that can be seen as another way to tackle the achievement gap at the nursery school level. 4. Creation of a multi-grade Summer Enrichment, Learning and Fun (SELF) program. Previously, the summer programs offered were for failing students or students with challenges to prevent summer loss. The SELF program provides a camp-style environment with varied choices for all kinds of students. It’s also an affordable, convenient way for high school students to attain credit recovery. In three years, program attendance has tripled.

Communications: Dr. Hutchings noted much improvement in this area. He feels it has been important to find a way to “tell our story.” He cautioned that communication to the superintendent should be respectful, and he encourages community members in their future dealings with the new superintendent to find “proper channels to communicate,” including the courtesy of communicating an issue first with the superintendent before going to the public. Improvements in district-wide communications include the creation of “Measuring What Matters,” a yearly report sent to every household, the superintendent’s newsletter, a comprehensive shaker.org website, Board Memos posted on the website, and the weekly board packet posted on the website under BoardDocs. In addition, everyone gets a Shaker app for iPhones.

 Security: There is greater collaboration with the Shaker Heights police and fire departments. All school entry doors are locked and visitors must be buzzed in by a security person. There is enhanced and increased video surveillance. Safety summits are held and safety plans for all schools have been developed. Security officers have received updated training and they are expected to “roll the building.”

High Quality Learning Environment Building on a Legacy of Excellence: District assessments are now a part of Strategic Metrics. Student achievement has risen and the district is in alignment with Ohio Standards. All schools, Pre-K -12, teach the IB curriculum. Former barriers to upper-level courses have been removed. Social promotion guidelines have been examined to avoid promotion without proper skills. The district is in compliance with the English Language Learners and Special Education audits. A Gifted Education Program complying with Ohio Department of Education requirements is currently being developed.

 Organizational Culture: Dr. Hutchings implemented higher standards in hiring practices, including the use of a leadership profile to determine who attains an interview. As an example, potential hires are asked to meet with a panel of interviewers and asked to teach a class as part of the interview process. Vetting protocols have been developed, but there is a need for continued organizational changes.

Professional Learning: The Department of Professional Learning was established in 2014. The following practices have been implemented: executive coaching for principals, Google training for staff, instructional coaches (selected among faculty) to assist fellow teaching staff.

Assistant Superintendent Dr. Terri Breeden updated the board on the development of the Gifted Education program. At this point, the gifted planning timeline is in Phase I. Dr. David Brazer, Stanford professor and educator on leadership and equity, has acted as a consultant in the early development of a plan suitable for Shaker students. The district is required by the Ohio Department of Education to yearly assess students for identification purposes. While using instruments in compliance with ODE identification, the remainder of the Shaker plan will be developed according to the aims and needs of the district. A workgroup, headed by former board member Alex Dykema, has been involved in working on drafts of a potential plan. Students will be assessed in the area of core academics, artistic ability, and creativity. The Shaker plan states that “an array of identification tools to ensure equitable identification” will be used.

Questions and comments by board members included: what are the implications for students and parents, especially through the lens of equity; who will do assessments, what are the assessments and when will they be administered; what are the differences between the gifted program and enrichment opportunities; are there possibilities for re-assessment; how advocating for your child will be handled.

Dr. Stephen Wilkins and architect Dennis Paben reported on the ongoing capital plan and the summer construction projects, including the Woodbury, Mercer, and Onaway roofing projects, asbestos containment for boilers, work on the Middle School auditorium and outside painting, updating of security cameras and phone systems. Progress on the pilot classroom projects looked specifically at lighting components, finishes, acoustics, flexible furniture, and room arrangements. Feedback from teachers on the pilot classrooms was sought.

The board voted on approving the resolution to eliminate certain teaching positions. In April possible plans for declining enrollment were discussed by the board. From 2014 through 2018, enrollment has declined by about 100 students per year. Options addressing the issue looked at trend data, class size data, and staffing data. The resolution specifies the elimination of 10.8 full-time equivalent teachers. The effort has been to keep loss at a minimum by not employing replacements for employees who were retiring or resigning and not renewing limited contracts. This school year, no current employees will be losing jobs. The board passed the resolution 4-1, with Ms. Cremer being the dissenting vote. She was concerned about class size due to decreased staff. Assurances were made that class size will be minimally impacted at any grade level.

The board unanimously accepted the bid for the pilot classroom improvement project from Sterling Professional Group, approved using Total Environmental Services for abatement services at the high school and Mercer, and approved AVI Foodsystems as the provider of food services.

The board voted unanimously to approve the following action items and resolutions: authorization of the interim superintendent employment contract (Dr. Stephen M. Wilkins) for the term July 1, 2018, to June 30, 2019; approval of a three-year bargaining agreement between the Board of Education and the Ohio Association of Public School Employees effective through June 2021; approval of a summer hours-secretarial/clerical Memorandum of Understanding.

The board also voted unanimously to approve the Ohio Dept. of Education (ODE) District Gifted Identification Plan.

Mr. Christman presented the treasurer’s monthly report consisting of financial statements and interim investments. The board approved adoption of the 2018-19 Temporary Annual Appropriations; adoption of the Shaker Heights Public Library tax budget; a resolution authorizing agreements for software and support services with NEOnet Information Technology Center and an end-user agreement for eFinancePlus.

Dr. Hutchings presented his last superintendent’s report, which was brief due to his earlier comments. He introduced Mr. David Berger who will serve as Director of Operations while Dr. Wilkins is interim superintendent for the upcoming school year.

At June’s graduation ceremony, Earline Hooper and Mary Lynne McGovern received recognition for pioneering integration of the district. Dr. Hutchings added that the district raised $17,000 for the annual American Heart Association Campaign.

As the board seeks a new superintendent, Dr. Hutchings’s last word of advice was to consider candidates carefully, with the top priority being what is good for all students in the district. Then Holly Coughlin, executive director of the Shaker Schools Foundation, shared news of the Hutchings Family Fund, initiated by the Hutchings family, which will serve as a legacy of Dr. Hutchings’s work and service to the Shaker Heights School District.
Anne Batzell

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