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What we need to do first

A vision and a strategic plan are basic building blocks that every well-functioning large organization requires. That PPS has gone so long without either speaks volumes. Here are my top operational priorities once elected to the school board:

  1. Board Effectiveness: I will build on the positive relations I have with other school board members to improve board cohesion. It’s no secret that the current board, composed of seven people who are dedicated to our kids, is not working well together. It is essential that we have a well-functioning board with members who support each other and can disagree with each other in a civil manner. We need to model what we expect from our students.

  2. Improve central office functioning. It’s also no secret that much of our central office lacks basic management systems. We are hamstrung by a high number of vacancies in key positions. We presumably will have a new superintendent by then. That superintendent needs to demonstrate the ability to clean up the central office or to hire an assistant who has those skills. I will track hiring from day one and check in with the superintendent monthly to assess progress in filling key vacancies.

  3. Engage the community in an educational vision process. PPS currently does not have an education vision; this lack of vision and values leads to a lack of cohesion and coherence. The facilities visioning process from 2014 showed that in a relatively short amount of time, PPS can engage its staff and the community in consensus building a process that increases “ownership” and excitement about the possibilities in our schools.

  4. Develop and implement a strategic plan for the district based on the educational vision and values. I will prioritize systematic solutions that support the entire district running more smoothly and equitably.

Without an effective management system, PPS will be unable to implement basic improvements in education. For example, last year the district tried to move towards a more inclusive model for kindergartners with behavior issues. Analysis showed that kids who were placed in separate behavior classrooms (“B rooms”) were disproportionately male students of color, rarely made it back to a regular classroom, and ended up with a poor education. PPS had a plan to that looked good in the PowerPoint, but was poorly implemented, resulting in unsafe conditions such as kids chasing others with scissors. A number of kindergarten teachers testified to the school board about lack of training and support promised during the rollout. Discussion with PPS staff revealed that there were multiple breakdowns in the process: some principals were not on board with the change, professional development was not delivered completely, and some educational assistants were not provided. Efficient but intentional planning can support new processes, but requires an effective management system starting in the central office.