09-14-2015 School Board Workshop

The School Board of Brevard County, Florida met for a Board Workshop on Monday, September 14, 2015, at the Educational Services Facility, 2700 Judge Fran Jamieson Way, Viera, Florida. Notice of the meeting was advertised in The Eagle newspaper on Thursday, September 3, 2015. The affidavit of publication with a copy of the ad attached is filed in the Affidavit File in the Board Office.

Opening Exercises
1. Opening Exercises

Minutes: Chairman, Amy Kneessy, called the meeting to order at 9:02 a.m.

Roll Call
2. Roll Call

Minutes: Members Present:  Misty Belford, John Craig, Amy Kneessy, Karen Henderson and Andy Ziegler.

Pledge of Allegiance
3. Pledge of Allegiance

Minutes: Chairman, Ms. Kneessy, led the Pledge of Allegiance.

Order of Business
4. Legislative Platform

Minutes: It was determined by Ms. Kneessy, Chairman, and Dr. Blackburn, Superintendent, to remove this topic as an item to address at the workshop.
5. Differentiated Accountability
Attachment: DA presentation.pdf

Ms. Van Meter, Associate Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction, presented information to the Board and viewing audience regarding Differentiated Accountability, which included:

  • 3 DA Support Categories and Identified Schools 
    • Prevent Schools:  Schools w/ a Current Grade of "C"
    • Focus Schools:  Schools w/ a Current Grade of "D"
    • Priority Schools:  Schools w/ a Current Grade of "F"

Ms. Henderson asked Ms. Van Meter if teachers were involved in the determining process. Ms. Van Meter stated that she was going to explain later in her presentation what happens in the schools.

Ms. Belford asked Ms. Van Meter how many of the "prevent" schools would have been "focus" or "priority" schools without the safety net.  Ms. Van Meter explained that she would get Ms. Belford the information at a later date as there are so many different scenarios that were looked at.  She stated that she has information that shows what schools earned and what they should have earned without the safety net.

Mr. Ziegler stated that in this same year we raised cut scores and increased the rigor of the test; therefore, there were schools that increased their school score but were still below the cuts scores so their grades went down.  So when we have a conversation about "how do we help the teachers" we have to do it sensitively on how we address this as some of the teachers did a better job in a tougher situation.  Ms. Van Meter informed Mr. Ziegler that he was spot on and gave him an example of a school who was affected by this scenario.  Ms. Van Meter stated that those were some of the things that the team really looked at as they moved forward to determine which schools really needed the support from the district.

 Ms. Van Meter continued with her presentation, and discussed the following:

  • DA Changes
  • Florida's Continuous Improvement Model

Ms. Kneessy stated that on this slide all that she sees is that the students are getting tested like crazy.  Ms. Van Meter responded that the assessments are summative as they can be exit slips, but they still have to monitor whether the child is learning the standards and based on the results they either have to do remediation or push them forward.  Ms. Kneessy stated that it concerns here that we are testing the students to death.  Ms. Van Meter explained that our elementary assessments actually decreased two years ago and it depends on the child.  Ms. Kneessy stated that when she sees the word assessment over and over again, it concerns here because the child is no longer a child but a test score.  Ms. Van Meter explained that they were not but you have to have some assessment in order to understand where that child is and their needs for instruction.  Ms. Kneessy expressed that it is important that we don't loose the focus that this is a child and Ms. Van Meter agreed.

Ms. Van Meter continued to discus the following:     

  • DA Schools for 2015-16
  • 2015-16 Decision Points
  • Regional Executive Director (RED) and BPS Support
  • DA Way of Work
  • Superintendent's Vision
  • Way of Work for 2015-16
  • Progress and Next Steps
  • Tiered Support Framework Information Gathering Tool

Ms. Henderson stated that in some of these schools there have a been a turn-over in teachers and it has come to her attention that we have hired brand new teachers which is not a bad thing, but they get in the school and after three months they leave because they interned at a non Title I school.  If the teacher interned at a Title I school, they would understand and be more empathetic to the issue.  When another teacher is hired within the school year it disrupts those students lives and of course you don't know how long that teacher is going to stay.   It is about continuity for these kids.  Ms. Van Meter stated that Ms. Pace's office has been targeting this issue and has looked at hiring students that have done their internship at a like school and based on the principals recommendation some of them are getting hired on very quickly because they have been successful in a like school.

Ms. Belford asked if there is any variance in staffing allocations for the struggling schools.  Ms. Van Meter stated that the "D" and "F" DA schools have to get additional support but the schools in the "C" category do not.

Mr. Craig asked Ms. Van Meter to expand on the teachers needing to be in-field and he asked how it applied to ESOL.  Ms. Van Meter stated that if they get a child and they don't have the ESOL certification, they have a certain window to receive it.  Dr. Pace explained that one of the things that we have put across the table with BFT is some language that would require our teachers who signed agreements in 1995 to obtain their ESOL requirements over the next two years because as our demographics shift it is becoming more and more of a need.  Ms. Pace stated that it is going to be a push over the next few years to make sure we get everyone certified in this area.  Mr. Craig asked if ESOL is something that is looked at in determining the DA schools.  Ms. Van Meter stated that ESOL is not something that they have considered but that it would be a good addition.

Mr. Craig asked Ms. Van Meter how she as a staff evaluates the effectiveness of this DA program.  Ms. Van Meter stated that she gathers data based on assessment sand looks at if they are showing improvement with a focus on getting them out of the "prevent" focus category and up into the "A" or "B" range.  She explained that we monitor that the teachers are teaching the standards, adjusting their curriculum based on the needs of their population and then we provide them with the support that they need.

Dr. Blackburn stated that he has so many thoughts and opinions around this topic and he is trying really hard to listen and learn before being critical and offering change unless there is a burning building, which he has articulating to many people and the Board.  He explained that this is an area if we have "failing or under-performing" schools and within those schools we have children who are really hurting then it is as close to a burning building that you can get.  Dr. Blackburn qualified some of his thoughts around this topic and how we as the district and leaders within the school should be held accountable.

Dr. Blackburn stated that all the DA models come from some noble places but they are assessment driven and that is the format that we are given and there tends to be an absence in dealing with root cause and that is culture and leadership in the school.  He stated that he met with the DA regional director as he didn't have the best experiences with the state directed kind of accountability and he wanted to make sure that we didn't have teachers and principals that were trying to be creative and innovative being held back.  Dr. Blackburn stated that he was assured of that prior to the meeting and was reinforced during the meeting with the state, so he felt some sort of a comfort level. He explained their conversations on the support being provided and gave an example of a school.  Dr. Blackburn stated that the same or similar levels of support are being provided to each school and if one school stands out, than that tells him that there is something going on in that school or community that is allowing them to separate themselves and we need to find out what that is.  If it is determined that it is culture or leadership than the support should be directed in that area.  Dr. Blackburn stated that if the state is not willing to provide the support needed in the area of culture/leadership or the root cause issues, than he would rather we not waste the teacher or principals time.  He stated that it is on his radar to look at what we are doing for at-risk students and at-risk schools.

Ms. Kneessy introduced Janet Stephenson, School Improvement Resource Teacher, who stated that the Board are asking the correct questions as these were questions posed during their DA meetings. The DA's mantra is looking at what we are doing and developing an effective system, because solving problems one school at a time is not effective use of our resources.  Ms. Stephenson then explain their on-going efforts to ensure that we are getting the results we want.

Mr. Craig asked how we integrate our top performing school in a peer-to-peer relationship to make sure that we have on-going success.  Ms. Van  Meter stated that we have voluntary meetings with specified topics and principals come together and they are learning from one another.  Ms. Van Meter stated that when new principals come on board, Ms. Pace creates mentorship programs for them to work with a team.  She stated that they are always looking for opportunities for people to learn from one another and share their experiences.

Dr. Blackburn said that he is listening and learning and they are definitely talking about the richness of programs and our strategies, but he asked Ms. Van Meter or Area Superintendents what they would we say is missing or what we have yet to do, yet to uncover or a nut that we have yet to crack when it comes to schools who need support.  Ms. Van Meter stated that to make a difference in schools it really comes down to the extra people to help (smaller groups, smaller classes, interventions, etc.).

Ms. Kneessy asked to weigh in on this topic.  She shared an idea that was brought up to her by Jane Cline, Central Area Superintendent.  Ms. Kneessy said that her conversation began with Ms. Cline because she is worried that we spread people so thin and she asked her what would make her job easier.   She stated that Ms. Cline had suggested a team of academic coaches who would work with a group of schools instead of having a resource teacher at each school.  You could divide up those resources to our Area Superintendents and let them direct how they are to intervene with each school.  Ms. Kneessy stated we are doing what we find irritating with what the state is doing and that is too much from the top down as opposed to handling it locally. Instead of having the one district person who jumps from school to school, let's give an Area Superintendent four people who would focus on areas within their feeder chain.  This would become a systemic issue that they work on as a team that really has an impact.  This was a new way of looking at the resources and it would take people from the district level and into our schools. 

Chairman Kneessy called for a brief recess at 10:12 a.m. The workshop resumed at 10:23 a.m.

6. Review of Policy 7120
Attachment: Policy 7120.pdf

Ms. Kneessy introduced Stephanie Archer, Director of School Choice, who walked the Board through policy 7120 which is the criteria for balancing school membership to capacity.

Ms. Belford asked how much changes do we typically see in student membership between October and the end of the year, because often we look at the fall FTE count to make decisions for our schools, but if we are already in April or May and have seen a huge increase or decrease of students in a school, that isn't necessarily being taken into consideration.  Dane Theodore, Assistant Superintendent of Facilities Services, explained that the Student Accommodation Plan and the freezing of schools is based on the projected membership for the following year which are developed by a group of district staff.   Mr. Theodore explained that schools who are frozen to incoming students is anyone who exceeds 91% or above and schools who are frozen to outgoing student is anyone 74% or below.

Ms. Henderson stated that by looking at the list of schools based on capacity you would have two schools right next to each other ... one frozen to incoming and one frozen to outgoing.  She stated that this could be something that could be fixed with boundary changes.

Ms. Kneessy stated that we try not to redistrict less than five years from when it occurred in past and requested that Mr. Theodore get the Board the years that we redistricted in each area.  Ms. Henderson stated that in her district there is going to be a problem in the next few years and we need to at least let the public know what is coming that way because of all the new growth in the area. 

Dr. Blackburn asked Mr. Theodore to educate him on capacity and why we use the words permanent capacity as a trigger.  Mr. Theodore gave a overview on how this policy was developed.  In 2008 we had a lot of schools with disparities in their enrollment while at the same time legislature passed the implementation of school concurrency, which means that schools had to be concurrent before local governments were able to address new development.  The concurrency requirements were based on permanent capacity throughout the state versus temporary (such as portables).  Ms. Henderson provided some examples of how using temporary capacity negatively affects the school and students. Dr. Blackburn said that permanent capacity triggers the conversation and was wondering if we added a total capacity would it also add in options for solutions.

Ms. Belford expanded on Dr. Blackburn's point and stated that our response to a school reaching 100% permanent capacity has been let's move in portables, maybe that is not the solution and we should be looking at other solutions to that situation.  Dr. Blackburn stated that before he recommends a solution he would want to know that first there is a legitimate problem and he would like to look at a series of options, a cost benefit option and then come up with a solution and it seems that I would limit my ability to do that when I limit the scope of information being provided.  Dr. Blackburn provided an example to the Board to further explain his reasoning.  Mr. Theodore stated that Dr. Blackburn is exactly right when it comes to capacity planning, but he mentioned that the intent of the policy is to recognize that the maximum enrollment in a school would be their permanent capacity and what it is trying to do is eliminate or restrict in-coming out-of-area students exacerbating the problem and causing a need for an additional portable. 

Mr. Craig stated that we may need to step back and he asked that Mr. Theodore explain the FISH formula that is telling us what we are going to drive our policy by.  Mr. Theodore stated that the FISH formula is the state's database.  The state assigns a student capacity for each type of space.  Ms. Kneessy asked if this is the same formula that gets us into trouble because they don't take into consideration how we use the space.  Mr. Theodore state that yes this was the case.  Mr. Ziegler stated that they made some adjustments because of all the districts complaining.  Mr. Theodore responded that once the space is designed and built that capacity is set in the state database.  Mr. Craig stated that how do we define a policy based on something that is possibly not even relevant to the individual school because it has changed.  Mr. Theodore clarified that every week staff go out and look at schools and the capacity information is updated in FISH based on how the schools are utilizing the space. 

Ms. Kneessy stated that she would like to eliminate "soft" redistricting (letter L.) as it caused some problems.  She explained to the new Board Member what the definition meant.  Ms. Henderson expanded on the explanation and the problems that occurred as a result of its establishment.

Ms. Kneessy also suggested that on letter J. we are consistent that they have to reach the entry requirements. Ms. Archer stated she can add that language to this item. 

Ms. Kneessy also wanted to discuss school-based employees and what we consider to be a school-based employee.  She would like to see these special circumstance added to schools that are adjacent to each other.  Ms. Henderson stated that she understands that you have the adjacent of the middle and elementary schools but we would need to ensure that the adjacent schools on either end are balanced before you do that rather than creating another problem.  Ms. Henderson feels that the solution is to balance capacity first.

Ms. Archer explained that a school-based employees caveat kicks in when a school is at 100% or higher.  She also stated that we need to be a little more direct on who qualifies to be a school-based employee.

Ms. Belford would agree with Ms. Henderson regarding balancing capacity as a whole but does not feel that it is exclusively to that situation.  She reiterated on an idea that she brought forth initially when the topic was brought up and if she lives in Titusville but teaches in Palm Bay and my child is in Titusville because there is no room in Palm Bay for my child to attend ... the district is loosing, my child is loosing and my students are loosing.  Ms. Belford said to her this seems to be a simple fix as we are not talking about hundreds of children, only a handful of children.  We are talking about a handful of employees that this is going to impact and she understands that there may be some negative consequences that we would have to adjust to moving forward but she feel the positives would outbalance the negatives for letting those employees have their children closer to them.  Ms. Henderson stated that she did not know how we would do that without including schools that are next to each other.  Ms. Belford said that she would love to eventually incorporate the school that is a mile away, but if the Board collectively could agree to adjacent properties we can get an idea on the impact and we can plan going forward to incorporate the other schools with input from Dr. Blackburn, Mr. Theodore and Ms. Archer.  She feels that at least the adjacent properties would be important for those employees. 

Ms. Kneessy referenced a scenario where the school nurse did not qualify as a school-based employee because they are employed by the Health Department and not by the school.  She feels that the school nurse should fall under the policy.  Ms. Kneessy asked that Ms. Archer inform the Board who does not fall under school-based employees.  Ms. Archer stated that it is anyone who isn't employed by the district, such as school nurses, SRO, ect.  Mr. Ziegler stated that this could be an easy fix by changing the language from school-district employees to school-based employees.  Ms. Archer stated that she thought the language change would work.   The Board and staff ensued discussion on who would qualify as a school-based employee and the best language to use to avoid confusion.  They also discussed how this would affect capacity.   

Ms. Belford noticed that we referenced Magnet and Choice programs but don't have a definition of what qualifies for those programs.  Ms. Archer stated that her team is working on changing the phrases and talked about education program options which would include any school that has a program that would attract families as opposed to a locational education option.  She also identified other areas that she was going to be focusing on while working on the re-phrasing.

The Board reopened the conversation about adjacent schools and discussion ensued regarding this topic.  Mr. Craig suggested that Dr. Blackburn bring forth two or three solutions to this matter, then policy can be adjusted based on solid information.  Dr. Blackburn stated that he would bring back recommended language to the Board.

Ms. Belford stated that she has concerns of telling children that they cannot leave a school regardless of the capacity.  She feels that we have to do a really good job to ensure that the students want to go to the schools as opposed to telling them that they can't leave.  She asked Dr. Blackburn to consider this when developing the language for the Board. 

Mr. Craig stated the possibility of building new capacity and the projected capacity certainly supports the need, but he referenced Cocoa where we put ourselves in that position and he asked Mr. Theodore what we are going to do about it.  Mr. Theodore explained what is looked at when looking for the need of new capacity. He stated that for Cocoa they have looked at potential relocation of programs, potential rezoning and have brought in two additional portables to address their growth.  This topic was decided to be readdressed at an upcoming Workshop to dive deeper into the conversation.

Closing Remarks
7. Closing Remarks

Minutes: There were no closing remarks.

8. Adjournment

Minutes: Chairman Kneessy adjourned the workshop at 11:40 a.m.

For further details pertaining to this meeting, please refer to the published video on the School Board of Brevard County's website (www.brevardschools.org).