On the last night of both Dr. Moore’s and Dr. Richardson’s tenure, the school board continued to hear recommendations from Dr. Richardson that they should ignore “any complaints that you hear about my recommendations.” Particularly complaints from parents.
Isn’t this at least part of the reason that we find ourselves in a mess?
As those making recommendations to the board are not required to actually distribute their recommendations to the public before the meeting starts, what follows are simply my quickly taken notes. They are likely incomplete.
Dr. Richardson recommended the follow action items to the board:
- Reduction of Huntsville City Schools vehicles from 109 down to about 56. Madison County will maintain the remaining fleet of vehicles. He has previously stated that this will save approximately $1.2 million dollars.
- Altering the system’s cell phone contracts and better managing who has a cell phone and why. Richardson claims that this will save approximately $32,000.
- Maintain the non-tenured employees who were laid off, but who will be rehired (evidently they already know who these people are), at the same salary level they were employed at before being dismissed. This will cost the system $77,000, but Richardson believes it’s a justifiable and reasonable cost. He added that he had to run the numbers five times before he believed he had accurate numbers. (Why exactly would determining salaries require running numbers five times? Again, we have no reason to trust any of the numbers that come out of the central office. This may be the first and last time that Richardson has recommended something that I agree with. These teachers should be paid at the level they were paid last year. Frankly, if we know by June 16th that we’re going to re-hire them, why were they laid off in the first place? Also, Richardson has shown remarkable persistence in getting precise numbers where $77,000 is concerned. Why hasn’t he shown similar persistence in getting precise numbers for the closings he’s recommended?
- Transportation Efficiencies Recommendations:
- Increase the runs each bus makes from one to two. As the cost is approximately $50,000 per year for one or two runs, two cut the transportation costs in half.
- Reduce the number of monitors from 55 down to ten. This will save approximately $45,000 per year. Here he claimed that due to a coding error in how some special needs students were labeled, the system lost $400,000. I suspect that these are funds that could have been reimbursed to the system had the coding error not occurred, but he did not go into sufficient detail
- He doesn’t recommend any cuts in insurance because, as he says, the moment you cut insurance is the moment you discover you need it. While a witty statement, he provides no evidence supporting this recommendation.
- He has requested that Elementary school begin at 7:30am instead of 8:00am. Again, while recommending a staggered schedule that would require elementary parents to begin their day a half hour earlier, Richardson insists that the board should ignore any statements from parents of inconvenience.
Dr. Richardson closed out his final board meeting by thanking and praising Dr. Ann Roy Moore’s leadership and willingness to work with him on, among many other things, closing down 21% of our schools.
Really, that moment of zen is about all you need to know about the tenure of Dr. Richardson at Huntsville City Schools.
In addition to these recommendations, the board also voted to extend the contract of Dr. James Wilson of Education Planners, LLC, the “stand-in” demographer for Dr. Steve Salmon of both Eduction Planners and the GUDE Management Group, LLC (to whom we’ve paid $70,000 for their flawed recommendations), at a rate of $500.00 per day.
(For an excellent page by page review of the report, please see “Huntsville City Schools 2011 Debacle, Part 1. What $70,000 + Buys These Days” and “Huntsville City Schools 2011 Debacle, Part 2: What $70,000+ Buys These Days, cont’d.” Havealittletalk rips the report to shreds. Not only should we refuse to follow these recommendations for closing, but we should also demand our money back.)
There was no clear explanation offered as to why since we paid Dr. Salmon and GUDE Management, we should now pay Wilson and Education Planners instead. What, did the $70k not cover someone coming to the meetings to discuss the recommendations?
Finally as reported in the Huntsville Times today, the fired principal of Butler High, Jacqueline Wyse, has been moved up to the central office to serve as a “reading specialist.” Ms. Wyse will, for the next two years, receive her principal’s salary while offering “specialized” recommendations concerning reading.
As I predicted, the Board did not allow any time for public comments in the board meeting.
Allow me to offer two pieces of advise to the board should they wish to try and regain the public’s trust:
- Stop ignoring, interfering with, and silencing public comments. We are your employers. We have the right to be heard by you.
- From now own, when you receive a specific report at a public meeting, share that report with the public in writing.
This isn’t that difficult, nor does it have to be expensive (although, seriously, you just paid $70,000 for a PowerPoint that copied slides from the Chamber, BRAC, and the City; you have no right to complain about money). You could just post it on the web with the agenda. This would allow the public to actually follow your actions. For example, I attended the meeting and took extensive notes, but I didn’t know Ms. Wyse had a new job until I read it in the Times.
Of course, publishing the recommendations and reports will also allow the public to follow your actions. You, of course, have no problem with this. Right?
With few exceptions, I have found the board to be remarkably accessible. Most of them, most of the time go out of their way to talk to the public. I have personally had many extended conversations with both Mr. Birney (or Topper as he was kind enough to offer) and Dr. Robinson my board representative (Jennie). I have found them both to be ready and willing to email, call, and even meet with an individual parent when the parent needs to discuss something. I’m please to report that they do not seem to be willing to follow Richardson’s recommendations of ignoring the public at least privately.
However Dr. Robinson’s has been the most vocal supporters on cutting public comments out of public meetings, and their refusal to publish the actual reports they are receiving and approving will alway leave the public wondering what they are hiding; thus, leading directly to a loss of faith in their leadership.
Either way, godspeed, Dr. Richardson. I’m sure you’ll be happy to return to a system where consultants aren’t paid $600.00 per day to tell your school board not to listen to your issues with their plans.