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Posted at 3:15 PM ET, 03/ 1/2011

DCPS to re-think cuts after revised revenue forecast

By Bill Turque

As late as 9 p.m. Monday, Interim Chancellor Kaya Henderson was poised to inform principals that her proposed 2012 budget would bring deep cuts to their schools, possibly forcing layoffs. That's when she learned that revised revenue estimates by Chief Financial Officer Natwar M. Gandhi showed an additional $105 million for the District in the fiscal year that begins Oct. 1. Henderson and her aides are now revising their allocations to schools, which were due Jan. 18 but stalled by the budget crunch.

"It definitely changes my plans," Henderson said at Mayor Vincent C. Gray's press conference Tuesday afternoon. "The mayor has been incredibly generous in extending the opportunity for DCPS to take advantage [of the new projected revenues]." In a follow up e-mail, Henderson said: "My first priority is softening the blow to schools in any way I can. So our team is working with the mayor's team to rethink some of our school level cuts."

Both Henderson and Gray both indicated that while the encouraging new revenue forecast would take some of the bite out of the impending reductions, the days of DCPS being held harmless by budget cuts -- a practice of the Fenty administration -- were over.

"You've got to remember, spending continued to flow because there was a fund balance to dip into," Gray told reporters, but that cushion as gone. "We're going to do the best we can."

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By Bill Turque  | March 1, 2011; 3:15 PM ET
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Here's a great way for DCPS to save money: cut the Master Educators. They do the same job principals already do, evaluate teachers. Why pay 2 people to do the same job? That's budget management 101 people! Cut the instructional superintendents Rhee hired last summer pulling in 130k+. They don't have any impact on the classroom. Cut the mentor teachers and instructional coaches. DCPS is EXTREMELY top-heavy. Time to cut those who never or rarely step foot in a classroom but are pulling in big salaries.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 1, 2011 5:49 PM | Report abuse

@UrbanDweller: I disagree with the idea of cutting the master educators' role. If DCPS is going to heavily weigh the opinion of ANYBODY outside the classroom in the decision to retain or remove (or highly reward: $$) a teacher, please let it be someone knowledgeable in that teacher's specific subject area and someone who can be OBJECTIVE. Administrators' evaluations can easily be tainted by preconceived notions (consciously or not), personal conflicts, favoritism, etc. All the MEs I've dealt with have been extremely helpful in providing very specific, targeted feedback. Where you might have a point is the other staff who are paid to do similar roles (instructional coaches, mentor teachers, etc.) --- it seems to me these roles (IC, mentors, MEs) could be combined in some way.

Posted by: DC_Teacher | March 1, 2011 6:09 PM | Report abuse

While I am glad that there is a chance that cuts aren't going to be as deep as feared, why does the District continue to employ a CFO who routinely "finds" millions of dollars of unexpected money?

I agree on dumping the master educators. I think some are really good and some are not, but they are a luxury that we can't afford. If we are going to have cuts, they should try to cut people who don't provide direct support to students first.

Posted by: Wyrm1 | March 1, 2011 6:29 PM | Report abuse

I agree we have too many people making money at the top that does not have a direct impact/connection with the classroom. We need to let these people go and hired reading and math resource/specialist to work with children.

Posted by: aggie | March 1, 2011 6:42 PM | Report abuse

Let's start with Kamras, MEs, the invisible Instructional Superintendents, the non-certified professional developers housed at Logan and the unqualified ex-aide to Rhee who heads the mentor program also housed at Logan.

DC_Teacher you must be a TFAer if you think that the group of MEs are truly qualified to evaluate your effectiveness. TAKE THAT DAMN CHECKLIST AWAY FROM THEM AND THEY WOULD RUN LIKE HELL.

Posted by: dccounselor72 | March 1, 2011 7:05 PM | Report abuse

At the moment, Mr. Kamras has been unable to provide in writing the mathematical formula used to calculation IMPACT score.

Posted by: edlharris | March 1, 2011 7:50 PM | Report abuse

Wait until we get closer to October 1st when the last raise is supposed to kick in under the current contract. All of a sudden, there will be NO money based on some sort of miscalculation in the budget or some sort of error in projection of funding.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 1, 2011 8:12 PM | Report abuse

I agree completely w UrbanDweller about cutting the instructional supts.

I would agree with cutting the MEs, but don't because someone, more objective than a principal, needs to be able to evaluate teachers using Impact or a refined, successor system. Only alternative to having fulltime MEs might be hiring consultants or contractors with the right credentials to do the evals. But this might not save $$ or provide mentors.

On second thought, so many DC schools are so small (because we have wayyy too many buildings), principals should be able to mentor. If they are just bosses and administrators, they are not good enough.

Posted by: axolotl | March 1, 2011 8:54 PM | Report abuse

There has not been any DCPS audit since Rhee came on board in 2007. Why? What did she have to hide? Why did she fail to submit any DCPS financial documents so as to enable the CFO to conduct a proper financial audit? This is highly irregular and suspicious, or seen in the most benign light, contemptous of the law.

Posted by: jurisprude | March 1, 2011 9:36 PM | Report abuse

My only concern with cutting ME's is that most teachers are getting better evals. from the ME's than they are from their principals. Downtown is scrambling because the "outside, objective" observers are going back and telling them that the teachers in DCPS are actually effective. Many of the ME's who were "let go" at the end of last year were let go because Kamras felt their scores were too high. This can't happen because it would force the central office and the "new reformers" to actually acknowledge that poverty and home environment actually DO play a large role in student achievement--something they want to continually ignore despite solid research and evidence which consistently proves it.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 1, 2011 9:46 PM | Report abuse

ax: I agree with you regarding principals: they are supposed to be instructional leaders. Problem is that most of them are NOT.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 1, 2011 9:48 PM | Report abuse

dccounselor: I agree with you: without the checklist most ME's would be clueless. Me and 3 of my colleagues compared our evals. from our ME. All the ME did was "cut and paste" comments. Our evals. were almost identical when it came to comments and recommendations. Seems this ME has a list of comments and suggestions and just cuts and pastes them into evaluations. I'd like to be able to just "cut and paste" for 90k+ a year!

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 1, 2011 9:52 PM | Report abuse

Oh and by the way, those of us who were called to the central office last year to sit on panels and make recommendations to improve IMPACT overwhelmingly told them to STOP with the checklists and take a more holistic and common sense approach to the observations/evaluations. Our recommendations fell on deaf ears--par for the course when you try to tell central office anything. They think they know everything. They don't value input or critical feedback. When they ask for feedback and call for teacher panels, it's only for show and PR so they can say they "involved" teachers and solicited teacher input.

Posted by: UrbanDweller | March 1, 2011 9:56 PM | Report abuse

Seems like we will be waiting until May again for local school budgets.

Posted by: Mulch5 | March 2, 2011 10:21 AM | Report abuse

UD--any thoughtful, reform-oriented person acknowledges the effects of poverty and home environment on the kids and their educational attainments.

To make this some linear problem--first cure poverty and make parents attentive, then you can educate--is just silly. But that's what parents, govt officials, and many others hear from too many teachers, far more than 1-2 percent of them. No parent wants a teacher who is not committed, not skilled and not ready to deal with kids the way they are. As a highly effective teacher, that has got to be one of your beliefs. We don't expect miracles.

Low expectations are poison. And you just might be upset when a Randi Weingarten proposes a whole year for ineffective teachers to get their act together. It is difficult to think of a job or a profession of any kind where such a cure interval would be tolerated, not to mention exposing the customers (kids and their families) to ineffective teachers that long.

Good teachers deserve are strong support. Delay and chaos will soon be more difficult to sustain.

Posted by: axolotl | March 2, 2011 2:38 PM | Report abuse

dccounselor72: I have no basis to rate whether MEs are more or less qualified to evaluate me than my admin., I only said that I feel they are able to be more objective. Someone later posted that they compared ME comments and they were identical --- I could see where this might happen --- I just appreciated that in my experience, those comments (cut and pasted or not) were more specific about "next steps" so to speak than others have been. I understand your point about the checklist. But it is the same checklist my admin. uses.

My concern is not necessarily that someone outside my school needs to be paid 90K to evaluate me, but that at the very least, I should not be evaluated based on 5 observations from the same exact person. They can tell me all day they have trained people and "normed" observations so that 2 people watching the same lesson would give the same score, but this is not true.

Posted by: DC_Teacher | March 2, 2011 6:31 PM | Report abuse

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