Franklin residents respond to CAP

Published 9:55 am Friday, May 16, 2014

FRANKLIN—There were several schools of thought amongst Franklin City Public Schools stakeholders Wednesday evening in regard to the system’s Corrective Action Plan.

The CAP is being developed as part of a memorandum of understanding with the Virginia Board of Education. It is designed as an outline to define steps to fix problems found in the schools when the department of education did its academic- and division-level reviews. When the Virginia Board of Education learned that the Franklin school board approved a plan without any public input, they declined to approve it on their end until that had been rectified. For the first time ever, four VBOE members and new state Superintendent of Public Instruction Steven Staples descended on a city to provide some direct support in hosting a public forum to learn what the public thinks of the plan. The Franklin City School Board had previously hosted a public hearing, but no one attended.

“Why are we here,” asked Board President Christian N. Braunlich. “No matter how well some students are doing, we have to make sure that all students have the opportunity to do as well.”

With all three schools being accredited with warning, federal sanctions coming down and numerous issues including personnel not properly licensed, Braunlich said the system needed a plan to ensure that it was pulled out of this, and also that it never happened again.

“Your views are important to us,” he said. “We need to know what you think works well, what could work better and what doesn’t work. No one on the board wanted to vote without hearing from Franklin.”

City resident Howie Soucek came out first, and said that in reading the corrective action plan he saw no evidence of creative initiatives that grow from a passion for the best interests of our children and their teachers.

Soucek suggested three things that the plan needed to show: including a culture change with how the system treats teachers, through respect, meaningful collaboration, teamwork, and also relieving them of unproductive procedures; a research and development mentality that searches out successful programs to glean ideas from; and building better community relations, one that goes into the community to “light a fire in its belly” and draw upon its resources.

“Ladies and gentlemen, we need more than a checklist of minimum compliance with the mandates of the Memorandum of Understanding,” he said. “We need a paradigm shift within the school system; one that most-values our children, our teachers and the future well-being of our community.”

Chuck Lilly suggested that in the corporate world, where he has a background in, employees often view corrective action plans as a distraction. To reach everyday people, he suggested getting rid of the jargon and spelling out the acronyms.

“A more user-friendly version would better engage the community and be less onerous,” he said.

Tom Jones of Franklin said the plan, in all but a few instances, is missing key elements to hold people accountable to the plan, such as deadlines and expectations of measurable results.

“Many of the results use terms like improved, increased or more consistent with no measure of the degree of improvement or increase,” he said.

FSEDI CEO Amanda Jarratt and the Rev. Ed Pickup were among many other speakers who echoed Jones, stating that there needed to be timelines and where possible, the outcomes needed measurable results.

Pickup added that there was too much on the shoulders of two people, the director of instruction and the director of human resources.

“These people would need the shoulders of Atlas to carry the weight assigned to them by the corrective action plan,” he said. “Another thing of concern, the director of human resources is the same person providing the same function that got us in this in the first place.”

From here, Braunlich said a summary would be compiled of what people came forth with, and that would be provided to the full board of education on Thursday. After that meeting, the Virginia Department of Education staff will be in contact with the Franklin system, after FCPS makes and approves any necessary changes. He was hopeful that by June or July, the VBOE would then OK the plan of action for Franklin. He thanked the people for coming out, and said that they would take their suggestions seriously.

“We are in this together,” Braunlich said. “We need to be working together on this — all parties need to be talking to one another in building an effective education system.

“There is nothing more important than improving education at every level.”