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Posted at 9:28 AM ET, 12/16/2010

D.C. schools budget crunch could flatten community feedback

By Bill Turque

With the budget season looming, DCPS officials are bracing principals and parents for a winter of bad news. Initial FY12 allocations for schools are due to be released early next month, and a PowerPoint prepared to brief principals this week warns: "D.C. Government, and by extension, DCPS, is expecting serious fiscal pressures for FY12." District Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi "projects a significant adjustment between FY11 and FY12 total local school allocation."

The District has been working to overhaul and revitalize its LSATs (That's "Local School Advisory Teams" not the Law School Admissions Test), panels of teachers, administrators, parents and students elected in each school to advise principals on key policy decisions. The law requires that schools show "demonstrable community feedback" as they develop their individual budgets, and each principal is expected to convene two LSAT meetings in January discuss budget issues. According to the PowerPoint, principals are encouraged to conduct "a robust, two-way dialogue" with their LSATs. But it also notes that the bleak fiscal situation could make much of their advice irrelevant.

"Not all, or in some cases any, of the changes that LSATs recommend will make their way into final budgets given the fiscal realities we're facing. However, we must recognize LSATs as partners and engage accordingly. Creativity is encouraged."

LSAT members are scheduled to get their own "kick off" briefing at 6 p.m. this evening at Savoy Elementary in Southeast.

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By Bill Turque  | December 16, 2010; 9:28 AM ET
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Maybe Michelle Rhee was as sly as a fox like "Dr." John Deasy who left PGCPS before the money shrank.

Posted by: edlharris | December 16, 2010 12:36 PM | Report abuse

Start trimming the budget by cutting all the people Rhee hired in the central office drawing bloated salaries.

Next, cut the master educators. They are doing the same thing principals are doing: observing teachers. It doesn't take a budget management 101 course to know you don't pay 2 people to do the same job.

Next, cut the asst. superintendents Rhee hired over the summer pulling in more than 130k each.

Next, cut all the instructional coaches who have NO direct contact with students.

There are a lot of people in DCPS who are making fat salaries who have NO DIRECT CONTACT with students and therefore no direct impact (pardon the pun) on instruction.

The system is more top heavy than I've ever seen it.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | December 16, 2010 3:12 PM | Report abuse

We need to close another 15-20 schools. Let's also look at the use of "teachers" in non-teaching positions and also examine teacher absenteeism. These are much bigger and sources of operating cost cuts than the alleged overhead bloat.

Posted by: axolotl | December 16, 2010 8:29 PM | Report abuse

UrbanDweller, i agree that the Master Educators and central office staff need to go. With a salary of $90,000 for each ME, (and God only knows how much for the central office staff) cutting them will hopefully put some of that money back in the local school budget where it belongs.

Now are you saying that because coaches do not have direct contact with students they have no value or purpose within a school? With all the changes taking place, the teachers can do it all themselves right? They don't need any support or help from anyone? Please define what you mean by "direct contact." If you mean they are not in the classroom teaching students 5 days a week; then going by that theory the principal, assistant principal, counselor, SPED Coordinator and anyone else who does not have "direct contact" should be fired as well.

Yes I am a coach and have been for 4 years, starting as a Reading First Coach and then transitioning into the role of Instructional Coach. No I am not in the classroom teaching everyday, but I know all 283 students in my building by name, grade and teacher. When students are misbehaving in the hallway, cafeteria or playground I will address the misbehavior with the students instead of just walking by like i don't see anything. Do you know how many kids stop by my office each morning just to say "good morning"? Do you know how many stop me in the hallway before and after school because they want to talk about their new baby brother or sister, or their mom having surgery, or what they are doing for their birthday, or to ask if they can sit in my office and complete their homework so they don't have to do it at home?

I don't know your definition of "direct contact" but I am guessing what I just described isn't it because I am not standing in front of a class teaching students reading or math. My job is to support teachers; and, according to the teachers I work with, that support has a DIRECT IMPACT on student achievement.

If you have a problem with the way coaches are being utilized in the building, you need to direct your attention and questions to the principal. The principal is the one who decides how a coach is used within the individual school building. And this fat salary you think coaches have, is not as fat as you want to believe. We are not paid as MEs or Central Office staff. The scale used for our salary can be found within the salary scale for classroom teachers. If there are coaches that are making salaries equivalent to that of an ME, it is because that person has been in the system long enough, or has the work experience to earn that step on the salary scale.

Posted by: instructionalspecialist | December 16, 2010 9:17 PM | Report abuse

Close about 20 more schools. Then get rid the layers of instructional superintendents, master educators and the incessant layer of principal governance. You have principal recruitment, principal institute, human resources, planning principals, management teams and whatso ever else. But when chaos was evident at Dunbar the principal that resigned is then rehired without any intervention from the layers of principal governance. Also how can you have an Office of Parental Engagement and the Chief of that Division have no-dealing with DC-PTSA President. It is of full-knowledge that the DCPS Chief of that Office will avoid the DC-PTSA President at all cost. Therefore, it shows to me, that position is the first to go, because it is not worth it.

Also, the need for 1200 First Street, if the need was to get a larger building but you still have essential personnel at school buildings then it doesn't take rocket science. The old Hines Middle school needed to be retro-fitted into being the new DCPS headquarters. Hint, Allen Lew, let get it crackin!!! Also let's sale some property to those universities such as Banneker to Howard University and Hamilton Center to Gallaudet.

Posted by: PowerandPride | December 17, 2010 9:24 AM | Report abuse

PandP -- great suggestions.

Posted by: axolotl | December 17, 2010 11:17 AM | Report abuse

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