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Monday, May 30, 2011

Two surveys open until June 5th at 8 AM

I have opened two surveys and they are located at the top of the blog to the right of the page.  Please take the time to express your opinion.  It is completely anonymous.

The first survey is in regard to your opinion of the new 2011/12 school year teacher developmental days.

The second survey is in regard to your opinion of school of choice / open enrollment in Clarkston High School.


Thanks!

The surveys are now closed.

Sunday, May 29, 2011

May 23, 2011 board meeting - board approved School of Choice for an unapproved program...

I was at the 5/23/11 meeting.  It was one of the most frustrating school board meetings I have ever been at.

Mr. Hyer, Mr. Bomier, Mrs. Egan, and Mrs. McGinnis voted to implement school of choice for the "Project Lead the Way" program in Clarkston High School for the 2011/12 school year and the curriculum has still not been approved for the "Project Lead the Way" program for the 2011/12 school year!  How could the board approve the school of choice program for curriculum that has not yet been approved?  It's putting the cart before the horse.  I'm not sure that it's even legal.

Mrs. Lieblang, Mrs. Patterson, and Mrs. Boatman tried to bring some common sense and logic to the the rest of the board, but the "rubber stamp" board members would have nothing of it.

At the 5/23/11 board meeting the "rubber stamp" board members also approved the strategic plan that Dr. Rock put together.  If the Clarkston Community Schools residents were aware of all the things on the strategic plan, they might revolt...

In regard to the strategic plan, I believe that the district should have engaged the public for input on where they would like the district to be going.  Dr. Rock set up a phone survey in February and none of the ideas from the strategic plan or expanding school of choice was on the survey with the exception of trying to get the public's opinion of another bond and/or sinking fund to try to fund some of his grandiose plans...  The way the questions were worded, you would have to be anti-child and anti-public schools to answer negatively to the pet questions in regard to expanding new funding.  I can only imagine what Dr. Rock "thinks" he has the authority to do now that his "manifesto" has been approved by the board.

The strategic plan included: 

From the "Partnership Committee" part of the strategic plan - possible "partnerships" that include:

    * a recreation bond
    * an ice rink
    * a community center
    * opening an international school with students from other countries
    * opening an Arts and Sciences Academy
    * opening a Montessori School
    * universal preschool
    * opening CCS in other states and countries!

I imagine some people may be interested in some of these projects, but at what cost?  The district just cut aides in the kindergarten, 1st and second grade classrooms for next school year and they want to have universal preschool?  Get real.

However, I believe that some of these projects are well beyond the legitimate scope of a K-12 school district.

I would like to see public buy-in to the district's strategic plan, especially the "Partnership Committee".

Dr. Rock also calls OUR kids, "my kids", but interestingly, he still has not moved his family to this district and "his kids" go to school in another district 50 miles from here...

If Dr. Rock wants to be the 21st Century version of Horace Mann, he should leave Clarkston Community Schools and put his own money and his own children at risk and start his own school system and see what happens. He has no right to ruin our school system and put our kids at risk.  This is not "Dr. Rock's Social Experiment School System", it is the Clarkston Community School System.

Dr. Rock needs to go.  He talks collaboration, but he listens to no one and answers to no one.  The rubber stamp board members - Hyer, Bomier, Egan, and McGinnis also need to go.  These board members are not voting the will of the people.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

Freedom of Information Request (FOIA) submitted 5/12/11

Here is a copy of my latest FOIA request that I requested on 5/12/11.  I requested the contracts and the "letters of understanding" because the district is refusing to put the employment contracts on the Transparency Report page on the district website and because administration has made many "letters of understanding" agreements (per Anita Banach at a recent board meeting) between administration and various individual/groups without going to the board for approval.

According to the email I received from the superintendent's secretary, I should have a "response" by 5/27/11. 

"Please consider this my newest Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) request. 

Here are my requests:

  1. A copy of Dr Rock's signed employment contract.
  2. A copy of the Master Agreement between Clarkston Community Schools and Clarkston Supervisors and Directors dated July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2011.
  3. A signed copy of the current version of Westley Goodman's Administrator Contract.
  4. A signed copy of the current version of the Administrator Contract for any and all employees (besides Westley Goodman) covered under the Master Agreement between Clarkston Community Schools and Clarkston Supervisors and Directors dated July 1, 2009 - June 30, 2011.   
  5. The final 2010 W-2 forms for the following employees:
    • Westley Goodman
    • Matthew McCarty
    • Albert Roberts
    • Anita Banach
    • Kyle Hughes
  6. A copy of the current ACCORD Bylaws.
  7. A copy of the minutes to any and all ACCORD meetings that were not closed sessions from 9/1/10 to today.
  8. A copy of any and all letters of understanding against any and all current bargaining unit or employment contract.   
Thank you.

Dawn Schaller

My comments at the 5/23/11 CCS School Board Meeting

Strategic Planning Outline", Item 5.6

"In regard to the strategic plan, I believe that the district should be engaging the public for input on where they would like the district to be going.

The "Partnership Committee" has possible partnerships that include:
  • a recreation bond
  • an ice rink
  • a community center
  • opening an international school with students from other countries
  • opening an Arts and Sciences Academy
  • opening a Montessori School
  • universal preschool
  • opening CCS in other states and countries!
I imagine some people may be interested in some of these projects, but at what cost?

However, I believe that some of these projects might be beyond the legitimate scope of a K-12 school district.

I would like to see public buy-in to the district's strategic plan, especially the Partnership Committee.

I believe that if the district is looking to engage in a partnership, one of the best opportunities for a partnership would be between CCS and other local school districts or the ISD to keep from duplicating programs, being able to go into more depth in the programs that would be utilized in the schools, and keeping the student class counts high enough to have the classes.

I heard tonight that some of the board members checked into the engineering program at the Oakland Schools ISD OakTech program, but has anyone in administration looked into it?  Although I don't have intimate knowledge about the OakTech Engineering programs or the Project Lead the Way Engineering program, I understand that it does not cost the district anything at all to send our students to the ISD's program and does not cost us anything in the per pupil allotment.

I fear the approval of this strategic plan would be accepted by administration as a mandate to go ahead with these programs."

**************************************************************************
"Open Enrollment" (item 5.7)

"I think that the district should be asking the public how they feel about open enrollment before voting on
expanding ANY open enrollment programs.

I did not see what college credit the Project Lead the Way classes would earn on the CCS website or on the "Project Lead the Way Michigan" website. 

I still have concerns about the presentation for the Project Lead the Way Program on 5/9/11.  It said that the district would not accept school of choice students who had:
  • been suspended in the last two years
  • been convicted of a felony,
  • been expelled from another school.
However, the resolution for "School of Choice Option for the Project Lead the Way Career Pathway program" says, that the superintendent has the DISCRETION to refuse to enroll students that have:
  • been suspended in the last two years
  • been convicted of a felony,
  • been expelled from another school.
The district's phone survey back in early/mid-February did not include any questions on an open enrollment / school of choice program. 

I had concerns about the district combining the original vote on Project Lead the Way with the annual renewal of the Advanced Studies, IB, and CMS Tech school of choice programs.  This shows the district was being disingenuous."

Sunday, May 22, 2011

Dear fellow parents of/or concerned residents of the Clarkston Community Schools area,

Update:  The board meeting on Monday, May 23rd at 7 PM, will be at Clarkston Junior High's auditorium rather than at the district boardroom. 

Please get involved by expressing your opinion to the superintendent and the school board about Schools of Choice, passing the word, and come to the meeting on Monday.

I received an "eblast" from the district in regard to the School of Choice from Dr. Rock.  Here it is below with my embedded comments in red and bold.  

May 18, 2011
To Those Whom I Serve:
Many rumors are circulating regarding open enrollment for the Clarkston Community Schools. I'm sending you this note to clarify some of the misinformation. At this time, we have no plans to open enrollment for the entire district. True, it's only for the HS, not other schools at this time, but the two specific programs are very limited and are not in the same caliber as the AP, IB, or CSM Tech programs that currently have school of choice options. These programs would not attract the same type of student as the AP, IB, or CSM Tech programs. Besides, all students in the high school take the equivalent of five courses per trimester for three years (5 hours x 3 trimesters x 3 years = 45 trimester hour credits for all of high school). Both the Early Childhood Education and Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering programs are only four trimester hours worth of "program" classes over three years, or less than 9% of the student's total course credits. The entire program courses could technically be completed in one school year as just the student's electives, but the rules say the students must take at least one class per year. That means, in the case of the Early Childhood Education program, the students would take one trimester class in the program and 14 non-program classes in two years and two one trimester classes in the third year and 13 non-program classes... That leaves the students to fill their high school years with 41 of the remaining 45 trimester hours of normal high school classes (see the contrast with the CSM Tech, IB, and Advanced Studies programs below).

We have had success opening enrollment for our CSM Tech, International Baccalaureate, and Advanced Studies programs.  There are currently fewer than 25 School of Choice students total between CSM Tech and IB at CHS.The CSM Tech, IB, and Advanced Placement programs are very demanding immersion programs and the required program classes are a large percentage of the students' school day. They CAN attract top students. The two programs being proposed as School of Choice now would not attract the same caliber of students and the programs are not equivalent.  

We have attracted the type of student who can succeed in our environment, and we are exploring extending this success by opening enrollment JUST for the Project Lead the Way engineering (http://www.pltw.org/) and the Early Childhood Development programs. The board packet has the board voting on this program, but Dr. Rock combined it with the annual SOC renewal for the AP, IB, and CSM Tech programs. Dr. Rock is pulling a fast one.

There are three primary reasons to recommend open enrollment for these programs:
.
1. Project Lead the Way was instituted in Clarkston with the requirement that the program is and will remain self-sustaining. Currently, we do not use general fund dollars for program costs (the teachers were employed by Clarkston Community Schools before Project Lead the Way came to Clarkston). One of the ways we can sustain the program is by having students, who meet stringent entrance requirements, come to CHS from other districts, bringing with them their foundation allowances. This benefits our Clarkston students by helping to sustain the program.  This was a one year grant program that was supposed to be self sustaining.  There are no "stringent entrance requirements".  The applicants must write a hand written essay of "why the student wishes to enter the program and describing how past experiences in school have prepared them for the program".  It must be 2/3 of a page long and no longer than three pages long...  According to the resolution from the board packet at the last meeting (as well as the new resolution for the 5/23/11 meeting, they would be voting to accept the program with the following parameters, "Superintendent or his designee shall have the DISCRETION to refuse to enroll" potential SOC students who had been "suspended in the last two years", "ever expelled from another school", or "convicted for a felony at any time".  At that meeting, the parameters were presented as hard and fast rules, not as recommendations, but the resolution actually called for the "Superintendent or his designee" to have the right to over rule those "parameters".  The new resolution does not take away the superintendent's right to accept students who have been suspended in the last two years, have a felony on their record, or been expelled from another school.

2. STEM- (Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math) related careers are hot right now and our Early Childhood Development program is the on-ramp for any child care/teaching field. We feel strongly that we need to offer our students opportunities in high school to explore these career fields.  The four one trimester only classes consist of one class that appear to be a scare tactic on expectations of parenting to keep kids from "becoming" parents too soon, the second class appears to be a Daycare Worker 101 class, and then the third and fourth classes appear to be training courses for students to learn how to work with toddlers and create their own day care centers.

3. These programs are not offered in other area school districts. Opening them at CHS expands opportunities for students who wish to explore these career fields. The Oakland Schools Technical Center in Clarkston (part of the Oakland County Intermediate School District) offers more developed engineering courses than the Project Lead the Way courses and the classes are available totally free to the school district (the district does not pay for materials, teachers, or the buses to bring the students back and forth and does not have to share the per pupil funding  with the ISD for that student). With the district swimming in red ink, that would be a far
better program for our students than starting an Open Enrollment Program...

If you have any questions regarding limited open enrollment for our Project Lead the Way or Early Childhood Development programs, please contact me at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us. I expect the board to vote on this at their next meeting, which will take place on Monday, May 23 at 7:00 p.m at Clarkston Junior High School. Please do come to the meeting!
Thanks for your time,
Rod Rock, Ed.D., Lead Learner
Clarkston Community Schools

School of Choice / Open Enrollment vote on 5/23/11 CCS Board Meeting (part 2)

Documentation from the 5/23/11 board packet with my hand written in comments:
BAR for the School of Choice vote:
Second page of the Bar:
more:
 
 
 
More:
More:

 
More:
 


Dr Rock's "Superintendent’s Call to Action: Part II, EducatiokNOW!, Horace Mann, and Boiled Frogs" with my comments

Dr Rod Rock's "Call to Action II, EducatiokNOW!, Horace Mann, and Boiled Frogs" was available here: http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/page/download.php?fileinfo=U3VwZXJpbnRlbmRlbnRzX0NhbGxfdG9fQWN0aW9uX19JSS0xLnBkZjo6Oi93d3cvc2Nob29scy9zYy9yZW1vdGUvaW1hZ2VzL2RvY21nci9BTExmaWxlNDU2MDgucGRm

It's now available here:  http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/page/download.php?fileinfo=U3VwZXJpbnRlbmRlbnRzX0NhbGxfdG9fQWN0aW9uXzIucGRmOjo6L3d3dy9zY2hvb2xzL3NjL3JlbW90ZS9pbWFnZXMvZG9jbWdyLzU4NTdmaWxlNDU4NTkucGRm 

In the "Call to Action II", Dr. Rock says, "Maybe it makes more sense to change the Governor’s approach than it does to put in place more punitive systems (like Race to the Top) and unneccarily (sic) cut educational funding. Maybe it’s time for the Governor to partner with MEA, AFT, MASSP, MEMSPA, PTA, MASA, MAISA, Learning Forward, Michigan ASCD, preschool groups, local school districts, and postsecondary educators to ensure that every child receives a world class education. I can’t imagine a counter argument for this line of reasoning." 


I can imagine a counter argument:  Dr. Rock has a conflict of interest...  Dr. Rock is the president of the MSDC Executive Board. The MSDC is the Michigan Staff Development Council, an affiliate of the National Staff Development Council. "It is a statewide organization that provides leadership and support which enhance the personal and professional growth of Michigan educators and their organizations" (that means "teacher unions", yet he is "management" now).  That national organization is now changing their name to "Learning Forward" and eventually MSDC will become "Learning Forward Michigan". It is an organization that gets $40/yr in membership dues per teacher who signs up to be a member. They provide teacher lobbying, professional development to the member teachers at a discount, and they also post job openings for school related positions - in teaching and administration.  The MSDC Mission Statement says: "The MSDC advocates for quality research-based professional development policies and practices to increase the capacity of those who work to improve student learning." (that means lobbying for teachers). 

Dr. Rock posts his CCS school email address as the email address to contact him in regard to MSDC/Learning Forward business.  See it here:  http://www.msdconline.org/BoardofDirectors/tabid/291/Default.aspx Therefore, as he receives emails regarding MSDC business, he receives it via his CCS email.  Appropriate?  Do you believe that he in a compromising position with teachers due to his position in this organization?  

Here is how Dr Rock (aka "Superman") signed off on his "Call to Action II" (Where is his cape?):


"Sincerely,
Rod Rock, Ed.D.
Superintendent, Committed Servant of Children, American, Michigander, Teacher, Voter,
Citizen, Fervent Advocate of Local Education, and Horace Mann
Clarkston Community Schools
rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us
Claimer: I make no apologies for standing up for the people I serve. The stakes are high, the
challenges great, and the possibilities profound."

School of Choice / Open Enrollment vote on 5/23/11 CCS Board Meeting (part 1)

Fellow parents of, or concerned residents of the Clarkston Community Schools area,

Were you aware that this coming Monday, May 23rd, the Clarkston School Board will be voting to open up Clarkston High School to "School of Choice" (SOC) / "Open Enrollment" students (students from other districts)?  You may be surprised to know that the district has had School of Choice for some high end programs for a few years.  There are fewer than 25 SOC students in the programs, but they were accepted into the very rigorous educational programs and I am not aware of any issues with those students.

However, the board packet material shows administration is requesting approval from the board to extend school of choice to two programs that are significantly less rigorous and encompass far fewer program classes than the current SOC programs.  Both new programs only require four total credit hours of classes (out of the standard 45 credit hours taken over three years in the high school - 5 classes per trimester x 3 trimesters per school year x 3 years).

The proposals are supposedly for "Early Childhood Education" and "Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering".  They call for the applicant to write an essay called a "Career Immersion Program Application Student Narrative Essay".  The essay is to be a minimum of 2/3 of a hand written page long, or up to three pages long.  They require the students have passed 8th grade math and language arts, but this is for a 10th to 12th grade program...  Also, the documentation in the board packet talks to the SOC program requirements for the "Career Immersion Program", as if all of the programs within the "Career Immersion Program" were included in the SOC program...  It would be interesting to see if the superintendent is trying to toss in all nine of the programs in the "Career Immersion Program" under this vote...  Regardless of what they will actually be voting on, there are so many contradictions in the board packet material that it is really impossible to figure out WHAT they will actually be voting on.           

At the 5/9/11 board meeting, the original board agenda called for the board to vote to approve school of choice for nine separate educational programs (all under the "Career Immersion Program".  By the time the meeting started, administration had changed it to a "discussion" of approving School of Choice for just the "Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering Program" and the "Early Childhood Education Program". 

Now they have changed it again!  I received the board packet for the 5/23/11 meeting and I was angry (although not totally surprised) by what I saw!  The superintendent had combined the vote for approving School of Choice for the new program(s) with the annual approval for the continuation of SOC for the Clarkston Math, Science, and Technology Academy (CSM Tech), the International Baccaluareate Diploma Programme, and and the Advanced Studies Program.

The Board Action Request (BAR) Form from the 5/23/11 meeting board packet for "Resolutions for School of Choice Programs"Action item says, 
"It is necessary to for the district to resolve to authorize the Superintendent or his designee to accept applications for enrollment by nonresident applicants for the purposes of school of choice for the Clarkston Math, Science and Technology Academy in grades 9-12, the Advanced Studies Program in grades 8-12, the International Baccalaureate Diploma Programme in grades 10-12, and the Project Lead the Way Career Pathway in grades 10-12.  In the past, enrollment for some of these school of choice programs was limited.  The limits established have never been met.  We are recommending that the CSM Tech, Advanced Studies, and IB programs be "unlimited" for the purposes of better enabling the district to seek applications in an ongoing manner.  Furthermore, we recommend that the Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Programs be limited to up to 10 (ten) non-resident students."
I am not sure how the district is twisting the definition of the "Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Programs" (Programs, with an "s")...  There is only one "Project Lead the Way" program.  It is called "Project Lead the Way Pre-Engineering".  The other program they will be presenting is regarding "Early Childhood Education", but it is not a part of the "Project Lead the Way" program, yet they did not ask for approval of that program for school of choice...  HMMM...  This needs to be looked into in order to figure out if the district is trying to include new programs under this umbrella of "Project Lead the Way Career Pathway Programs".  There are other "Project Lead the Way" programs, but they are currently not offered at CHS.  It also talks about a limit of ten students, but they don't say if that is 10 students per individual program or a total of ten students under all of "Project Lead the Way".

The program had been presented on 5/9/11 as excluding any students that had been suspended in the previous two years, or had been convicted of a felony or expelled from another school.  However, the resolution in the board packet says, "The Superintendent or his designee shall have the discretion to refuse to enroll a nonresident applicant" even if the student had been suspended in the previous two years, or had been convicted of a felony, or had been expelled from another school.  That means the Superintendent (or his designee) can overrule the parameters...     

The vote is to be on Monday, 5/23/11.  If you do not want "Open enrollment" / School of Choice for this kind of a program or you do not want the district to be able to admit out of district students with previous, recent behavioral issues or criminal histories, express your opinion to Dr. Rock and the board.  Here is the link for the board member's email IDs: http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=12100& and Dr Rock is at rdrock@clarkston.k12.mi.us , and please come to the board meeting.   

Our new school superintendent, Dr Rod Rock, said in the Clarkston News' 5/18/11 edition, "Our local community, I argue, should be able to make decisions about what they want for their children."  If he is serious about that, then he should listen to the parents, residents, and taxpayers of the Clarkston Community Schools area (all 60 square miles worth of us).

Unfortunately, Dr. Rock also said, "I'm trained as a researcher, and I feel that I have the best perspective, along with our teachers, principals, and other administrators, to make informed decisions about what is best for our kids. We will base these decisions on research and data. I serve our teachers, community, and children. I will do all I can for them. I will not back down from my commitment to them, no matter how much pressure and press comes from those who oppose my perspective."   Dr Rock has publicly stated that he wants Schools of Choice in CCS because he believes in the concept.  Based on his comments above, he apparently doesn't intend to be overruled by the board or the community.  He also calls OUR kids, "my kids", but interestingly, he still has not moved his family to this district and "his kids" go to school in another district 50 miles from here...     

Dr. Rock also said, "I work for the Clarkston Community's Schools Board of Education. I do not work for the governor."  What he said is actually true, but the Board of Education works for the voters, so Dr Rock ultimately works for us.  Remind him of this fact if it seems he has lost that understanding.  Unfortunately, there are four members of the Board of Education who approve anything the superintendent wants (Steve Hyer, Barry Bomier, Elizabeth Egan, and Cheryl McGinnis).  Apparently, as long as he can get those four board members to approve SOC, CHS will have SOC next year and in the future in these programs.  Make sure ALL of the Board of Education members are aware of your opinion, tell them that you are watching what they are doing, and if possible, come to the meeting on Monday.  We need to make the board and the new superintendent aware of what the community does and does not want…

In Dr. Rock's first "Call to Action" he said, "Should you choose to join me, perhaps we could brand our collective cause, EducatioNO!: We're Not Going to Take It."  In your opinion, should a school superintendent be creating an organization called "EducatioNO"?  I don't think so. 

On the May 9th board meeting, SOC was originally an "action" item (for the board to vote on), but was changed to a "discussion" item (just talking about it) after word got out about it.  There was no public discussion on the subject of SOC.  The vote is now expected to occur at the next board meeting on Monday, 5/23, at 7 PM at Clarkston Junior High.  You must get to the meeting before the agenda gets to item # 3 (usually by 7:10 PM to 7:15 PM) in order to speak before the board votes on an item on the agenda and you must sign in to speak by that time or you will not be allowed to speak until item # 9 at the end of the meeting (which will be after they will have already voted on this item). 

You may receive an emailed copy of the 5/23 board packet by requesting it be emailed to you.  If you would like it, email the superintendent's secretary, Heidi McClain at: mcclaihs@clarkston.k12.mi.us and ask for the entire board packet to be emailed to you.  You can ask for next meeting and all future meetings to stay on copy so you know what the board is doing.

Saturday, May 21, 2011

Dr. Rock's "Call to Action 1" with my comments...

Here is Dr. Rock's "call to action" by the superintendent printed in the Clarkston News this week with my comments inserted in red and bold:

"Words from the Sup't

Superintendent's call to action

May 11, 2011 - I did everything that was requested of me, and so did fellow Michigan citizens.

The majority of our elected officials did not hear our voices and instead chose to unnecessarily reduce K-12 educational funding, which will negatively affect our schools, our children, and their teachers.

I'm angry with and disappointed in those elected officials who chose to vote this way. It's left me wondering about the longterm agenda of these elected officials. Is this the beginning of the end of public education as we know it? No! Not on my watch.

As the superintendent of the Clarkston Community Schools, I am not just the supervisor of employees, I am the "lead teacher and lead learner," a steward of the learning process as a whole, and an advocate for children and their learning. It is my responsibility—to the community, teachers, district employees, administrators, parents, and students—to ensure an excellent education for every child.

Further, I serve all children in Michigan, regardless of the district in which they reside. I fully intend to fulfill my responsibility, especially now when many of our elected officials have seemingly abandoned us.


In response, I simply choose to say, "No. I will not idly accept this devaluing of public education.

I'm going to act instead in accordance with my values." And, I believe that we must act collectively. Instead of 500+ school districts individually cutting budgets and multiple agencies singularly developing and acting upon agendas, let's act as one voice for our children.

Should you choose to join me, perhaps we could brand our collective cause, EducatioNO!: We're Not Going to Take It. (Is he serious with the name of "EducatioNO!: We're Not Going to Take It"?  What self respecting public school superintendent would actually come up with such a name as "EducatioNO!"What happened?  Were the names, "We Won't Accept a Funding Cut Although the State is Broke", "We're Selfish, Others Can Take the Cuts", "Let the Prisoners Eat Rocks", "Those Guys in Lansing Are a Bunch of Idiots", "Our Teachers and Administrators Deserve to Be on the Over $100k Pay List on the District Transparency Report", and "School Sucks!" all taken? 

Here are my values:

Locally controlled schools; excellent teachers; engaged, globally connected students; and collaborative communities & parents.  (The communities and parents can be as "collaborative" as they want to be (or think they are), but it doesn't mean the superintendent is going to listen to, consider, or act on any of of their input.  I believe that Dr. Rock had his own idea of what "his" school district was going to be long before he even became a superintendent in Clarkston and he is trying to push his ideas through, no matter what WE want.  Dr. Rock never asked the community or the parents what they thought about or how they felt about "Schools of Choice" (SOC)...  He just put a School of Choice action item (to be voted on) on the 5/9/11 school board agenda.  Although, I must say, that by meeting time, the district had changed it to a discussion item and pared down the program options to two programs.  Here are the other ideas he has already put forward, some relating to what I believe the superintendent of a local school system should be concerned with, many are not, and others are just puzzling, but they are a bit unrealistic given the financial state of our community (decreasing property values) and the state:
  1. Sharing services between the townships, Village of Clarkston, and CCS 
  2. A recreation bond (in partnership between the townships and CCS) (Recreation belongs with the townships...  Dr. Rock, you are running a school district, not a "Second Life" account as a megalomaniac.)
  3. Shared purchasing 
  4. An ice rink  (Really?  An ice rink?  Is he serious?)
  5. A community center  (Nice, but is this the business of the school district?)
  6. The Clarkston Commitment (partnership with OCC, OU, Flint U of M, Baker, Mott)
  7. Sharing teachers with private and parochial schools
  8. Sharing services with other school districts
  9. Opening up an international school with students from other countries (Really?  Is he serious?  We can approve a bond to create a boarding school to educate kids from other countries?  We need to focus on OUR kids.  Please!!)
  10. Internships in partnership with Oakland University's School of Business
  11. Opening an Arts and Sciences Academy  (Will this require another bond?)
  12. Opening a Montessori School  (Will this require another bond?)
  13. Universal preschool  (We can't afford what we have for K-12 and he wants preschool provided free of charge?  This is the same man who just cut aide support in the kindergarten, first and second grade classrooms! )
  14. Opening CCS in other states or countries (What?!?!?!  Does he plan on franchising his program and thinks someone would pay for his "plan", or does he plan on Clarkston Schools becoming a huge multinational conglomerate?  )     
What do you value?

Here are some points, representing a possible platform for EducatioNO!:

1. Every child deserves and shall receive an exceptional education with an excellent teacher, every minute of every day of every year.

2. Improving schools is not the function of government. Governments do not improve schools.

3. The governor, state representatives, state senators, and the Michigan Department of Education are not knowledge authorities on education.  (Does this mean that Dr. Rock believes he is the "knowledge authority on education" over the Michigan Department of Education?  The governor and state representatives and senators are involved by being responsible for the finance end of education.  They also have to balance the state's budget.  However, I don't believe I ever saw any of the politicians come out and say they were "knowledge authorities on education".)  

4. Education is not political. Education is fundamental.

5. Local communities must control their school systems.  (You can take this two ways.  I think Dr. Rock interprets this as control of anything in the school district must come from him, rather than Lansing.  The second way this could be interpreted is that local community members should have input into/control what happens in their school districts, but I don't see this happening in CCS currently.  The communities vote in their school board members who are supposed to vote the "will of the people" to direct the superintendent on school issues.  I see the "will of the people" coming out in comments and votes by three of the school board members (Mrs. Boatman, Mrs. Lieblang, and Mrs. Patterson), but they need a majority (4 of 7) to make policy.  They are overruled time and again by the four board members (Mr. Hyer, Mr. Bomier, Mrs. McGinnis, and Mrs. Egan) who always vote the "will of the superintendent".   It does not appear that those four board members are looking out for the "will of the people" in the local community.)  

6. The government needs to get out of the education business. Instead, the government needs to act to make an excellent education a fundamental right of every child.

7. Excellent schools require consistent funding. Local schools require options for raising revenues.

8. Research and practice have informed us, and will continue to do so, as to the elements of an excellent education. Technology is one of the quintessential tools in this pursuit. We must use research and practice to inform our work, constantly.

9. Local school districts must work together, with other entities to increase efficiency, decrease redundancy, and improve effectiveness.

10. One size does not fit all—children, families, teachers, schools, communities, people, alligators, onions, fruit trees, fingernails, political parties, transmissions. Schools require different options, depending on their needs.  (What IS this?!?!?  Alligators?  Onions?  Fruit trees?  Fingernails?  Political parties?  Transmissions?  What does this have to do with the school funding or education?)

As I travel across our school district observing kids, listening to teachers and other district employees, and conversing with parents and community members, I feel as though I have let them down. I asked them to remain hopeful. I promised that we would figure things out, no matter how bad they get. Our people work very hard; doing whatever they have to in service of each child.

Our educators, parents, and citizens were hopeful their elected officials would notice and support them. When I told the teachers of the House's vote to cut funding, I could see the hurt in their eyes.

Not one of them said, "What about me? I need more money. I need my retirement. I need my health care."  (Outside of the board meeting on 5/9/11, I asked a teacher if she knew about the proposal for school of choice in CCS.  She said she did and that she felt it was necessary to balance the district's budget.   I responded that if the teachers had taken even a minor pay cut, it would not be necessary.  She told me the teachers took a pay freeze for next year.  I responded that I knew that, and that was nice, but that it was not enough - that the rest of the workers in Michigan were taking (or had already taken) pay cuts and massive increases in medical contributions and it was now the teachers' turn.  The bus drivers and custodians took massive pay cuts already.  She responded that, working in the public sector, when times were good, public sector workers got huge raises and bonuses...  I responded that for an owner or officer of a company, I would suppose that would probably be true, but not for most of the people below them...  I am not sure what kind of brainwashing the teacher's union utilizes, but it apparently works well on the teachers.  Keep drinking that Teacher Kool-Aid!)
 
Just as I would expect of people who love kids, they said, "What about my kids? What about our colleagues?"

You see, schooling is local. It's people. It's relationships. It's first, middle, and last names. It's personalities. It's laughter. It's school spirit. It's hope. It's service. It's collective and collaborative. It's fundamental.

So, I'm standing up. Who is with me?  (I'm picturing John Belushi in Animal House!)  Please send me a note to let me know what you think.

I will have more to say next week.

Rod Rock, Ed.D.

Superintendent"

FOIA findings and results

Over the last 14 months I have FOIAed thousands of pages of documents from Clarkston Schools and found plenty to be concerned about. When I have come to administration to confront them about financial documents I have found that have been improper, I have been roundly ignored and/or given disingenuous explanations.

I found and presented evidence to Dr Rock that the woman who runs the Team Rush program for the district, Kyle Hughes, allowed three other people to utilize her district "Purchasing Card" (credit card) to purchase thousands of dollars worth of robotics supplies for the group.  I also presented evidence to Dr. Rock that Kyle Hughes charged 45% of all of the Team Rush field trip expenses to Washington, DC from June of 2009 to various district general fund accounts instead of against the Team Rush (club) account.  As Team Rush is considered a "club" and not a part of curriculum, the expenses for the trip were to have been sourced from the "club" funds.  The school board president, Steve Hyer; the teacher responsible for Team Rush, Kyle Hughes; Kyle's son; and six other Team Rush students went on the trip.  I have received an acknowledgment from Dr. Rock that he has received the letter and that is it...        

I looked forward to the State mandated "transparency reports" this past summer. There is a small icon of a blue circle with the shape of Michigan inside with the words, "Budget and Salary / Compensation Transparency Reporting" on the right side of the home page of the district website located here:  http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectionid=1  .  Click on that icon and it takes you into the Transparency reports.

All Michigan school districts were obligated to post important financial information on their website to bring some clarity and truthfulness to the public. Unfortunately, some of the district's data was incomplete, missing, or false. I brought multiple issues to administration regarding the incomplete, missing, or false information. The district grudgingly complied with some requests, flat denied others based on their assertion they don't have to put that information on the website, and ignored other requests.

I contacted Glenda Rader at the State of Michigan who is responsible for the Transparency Reports. Glenda confirmed the district had the obligation to supply the information I was asking for. Unfortunately, Glenda also advised that the state mandate has no teeth. The district cannot be fined or cited for failing to supply information, they can only be shamed into supplying it if they have not already supplied the information. Glenda advised me to 1) take it to the district/superintendent. If ignored, 2) take it to the school board on an open meeting. Then, if still denied, 3) take it to the press. I have been denied by administration and ignored by the board, so I have recently created this blog to publicize some of what I have found.


I submitted another FOIA request on 5/12/11. I asked for additional employment contracts and information related to pay and "letters of understanding" against employment contracts. There are currently six employment contracts on the transparency reports (seen here: http://www.clarkston.k12.mi.us/education/components/scrapbook/default.php?sectiondetailid=38950& ).  I am asking for different employment contracts not currently online, but mandated to be on the transparency reports based on the instructions the state put out and sent to the school districts across the state.

Anita Banach, the new human resources director (former public relations director), advised at a recent board meeting that there were multiple "letters of understanding" that the district has against various employment contracts. Anita also advised that the board has never seen them (so the board obviously never approved them). Therefore, the contracts that are on the Transparency Reports are incomplete.

I requested documents from the school district this fall that included the pay (salary or hourly or both) for all district employees via the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA).    I discovered that one highly paid supervisor was showing his salary of over $100 k, plus he also showed an hourly pay of $95.73/hour (equivalent to $200k/yr as annualized pay).  I had talked to Anita Banach on the phone about it back in December.  Anita surmised it was a problem with the new computer program they were using and that she would get back to me on it...  She never did get back with me and no other employee's pay references on the report had similar problems...  Therefore, I emailed Dr Rock to verify if that hourly amount was a mistake or accurate, and if accurate, under what circumstances the supervisor would be paid the hourly amount.  I also asked Dr. Rock some other questions.  Dr Rock answered the "other" questions, but has steadfastly refused to answer the question about the hourly pay of the supervisor.  At the public comment part of an April board meeting, I brought up the subject again (and received no response from administration).  Anita Banach stood up afterward during the public comment period and admonished me for maligning such a stellar employee (although I never said ANYTHING about the employee - I just wanted administration to tell me if it was correct or not) and then said it was incorrect and was caused by the accounting program mistake and that she had told me that fact back in December.  After the meeting was over I went over to Anita to tell her that she was supposed to get back to me about that, but she never did and that Dr. Rock would not answer the question either...  The then told me, "Neither Dr. Rock, nor I have any obligation to explain anything to you or answer any of your questions." So much for Dr. Rock's collaboration with the public...  I have submitted a new FOIA request that specifically asks for that supervisor employee's employment contract and any and all "letters of understanding" that exist in regard to his employment.  The district has promised a response by May 27, 2011.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

School district phone survey

Clarkston Community Schools had a phone opinion survey in early/mid February.  The survey was being run by Linda Zara (Jaboro), Anita Banach's former secretary, who is now apparently a "Communications & Marketing Assistant" (assistant to ?? since there is no longer a "Communications & Marketing Director") and she is not a secretary to anyone.  Anita Banach has a different secretary since becoming the human resources director.

Linda advised the survey volunteers that the district paid an outside firm to develop the random list of CCS area phone numbers.  It would be very interesting to see the phone #s of their survey respondents and the full 400 phone number list to analyze it for just how representative the list really was.

There was one adult volunteer on the first night and four or five on the third night.  The vast majority of the callers both nights were CHS Honor Society members earning credits of some sort for volunteering.  Linda Zara was making some calls on Monday, but monitoring the volunteers' calls on Wednesday.  There were many "no answer" calls (called between 6 PM and 8:30 PM).  The volunteers were told if there was no answer to not leave a message and not to call the numbers back later.   Two numbers on one call sheet alone belonged to people who lived in the Brandon Schools area!  The adult volunteer I spoke to had connected with (talked to, not necessarily completed surveys for) people who were either brand new to the district; had distant CCS contact/connections; were former teachers; or were very highly educated people (not much else - a strange finding in this community).   Many of the new residents, former teachers, and "distant school contact people" opted not to take the survey because they did not feel they had enough information to answer a current school survey.  That left only the very highly educated people who chose to answer the survey questions...  

There is no way the results of the survey can be used to interpret any community opinion, although I know that Dr Rock will try to use it to justify a new bond fund and/or a sinking fund (you would have to see the questions to understand why I say that). 

The survey verbiage was deliberately worded to prevent any "no" answers to "pet" questions.  There was no option to say, "yes, but only if...", or "depending on the amount...", or "depending on what they want to do..." , or "depending on  how the district handles this...", etc.  In my opinion, the survey questions were tilted to ensure the respondent answered positively to the choice the district wanted to record and as such the survey did not have integrity.


There were no questions on the survey in relation to opinions on School of Choice or changes in the teacher developmental days.  THOSE questions would have been more appropriate for the survey than the questions that WERE asked...  

Any attempt to utilize the opinion survey results to justify any cause of action would be indefensible.

Monday, May 16, 2011

Michigan Capitol Confidential article about Clarkston Schools

There is an interesting article about Clarkston Schools in the Michigan Capitol Confidential available at this link: http://www.michigancapitolconfidential.com/15039 

Check out the comments.

Dr. Rock's outside interests...

Dr. Rock has other obligations outside of the Clarkston school system.  His 9/27/10 approved employment contract said: "2. The Superintendent agrees that he shall not have tenure as Superintendent of Schools or any other administrative position to which he may hereafter be assigned or cover and he agrees that by virtue of this Agreement, he shall not be deemed to be granted continuing tenure in any administrative or assignment capacity." and "4. The Superintendent warrants, represents and affirms to the School District: (c) that he will faithfully serve and be regardful of the interests of the School District during the term of this Agreement and will undertake no other employment, except during vacation periods, without the approval of the Board of Education."

However, Dr. Rock is the president of the MSDC Executive Board. The MSDC is the Michigan Staff Development Council, an affiliate of the National Staff Development Council. "It is a statewide organization that provides leadership and support which enhance the personal and professional growth of Michigan educators and their organizations."  That national organization is now changing their name to "Learning Forward" and eventually MSDC will become Learning Forward Michigan". It appears to be a non-profit organization that gets $40/yr in membership dues per teacher who signs up to be a member. They provide professional development to the member teachers at a discount and they also post job openings for school related positions - teaching and administration.  The MSDC Mission Statement says: "The MSDC advocates for quality research-based professional development policies and practices to increase the capacity of those who work to improve student learning.

Here is info on the MSDC.  Here is another link to the board of directors of the MSDC. It shows Dr. Rock is not just the President of the MSDC Executive Board, but he is also on the Communications Committee.  He posts his CCS school email address as the email address to contact him in regard to MSDC business.  Therefore, if he receives emails via MSDC business, he receives it via his CCS email.  Appropriate?  Do you believe that he in a compromising position with teachers due to his position in this organization?