Wednesday, June 13, 2018

June 2018 GMSD Retreat Video

A GMSD Board Retreat was held on June 8. All Board members were present except for Suzanne Jones, who was out of town. The retreat was not recorded by the district, but instead was recorded by a citizen, Sarah Wilkerson Freeman. She was unable to arrive at the beginning of the retreat, so the three videos (uploaded to YouTube) only cover the last portion of the retreat. I do regret that I do not have access to the content of the meeting other than what is captured in these three videos. I wish that the school system had recorded this. I and my readers surely miss a great deal of the presentation about all the wonderful things happening at GMSD! The GMSD website yielded this material that was presented at the retreat. 


The three videos, in the YouTube presentations below, are as follows:

 #1 partial  Superintendent Manuel presents successes of the district in this video, and begins explaining each category in his evaluation process. This is his pitch to earn high marks on his evaluation.

#2 Mr. Manuel continues to explain each category in the evaluation process, and his role in the successes in each one. Valerie Speakman, the attorney for Arlington School district, and also an independent contractor, takes over. This is where the retreat takes a strange twist. She has a powerpoint that lists the duties of school board members.

#3 Ms. Speakman continues to talk about the legal duties of school board members. Movie clips are generously used in her presentation to make various points. Many seem gratuitous, such as a movie clip of an intoxicated woman on a airplane. This was to show the legal principle that school board members should not be intoxicated. For this (public intoxication), they can be removed from office. I am unsure why this subject is germane to GMSD.

Just food for thought: Surely a school board member being intoxicated on an airplane without otherwise causing problems is not as objectionable as an intoxicated principal climbing a ladder in the middle of the night to peep into the window of the nineteen year old daughter of a teacher? Why would the school board member be dismissed for intoxication, and the principal simply be given a reprimand?  


Superintendent Manuel's presentation is straightforward. Much of Ms. Speakman's presentation is not. Sometimes she never really gets to the point she is trying to make--we therefore have to assume what she meant. 
This may be something she does not want to voice, but merely hint at. Sometimes the illustrations she gives are not pertinent to the point she is trying to make. This is a little disconcerting to the listener. It is literally impossible for me to avoid interjecting my personal comments on her presentation.

I time stamp some of the things discussed, so that you may listen to the particular portions that interest you. (Click on the time and it should take you directly to the discussion). 

The above video (#1 partial): 

0:00 Manuel speaks of effective teacher recruitment, retention, and professional development. 

08:15 Community engagement, social media "like"s, views, broadcasts, log-ins 

10:30 indicates they note particular individuals and how often they log-in. (privacy implications!, belittling unnamed individual)

11:45 Individuals want tours of schools, partnerships with other organizations, bring in experts, community volunteers 

16:00 providing students personal engagement devices and software 

18:30 long-range facility planning, partnership with city, light at end of tunnel 

23:34-end Superintendent evaluation process categories discussed. The evaluations are to be--ineffective, developing, effective, highly effective, and each criteria is discussed.  Mr. Manuel explains each category and his role in successes of same. "Not just evaluating me, evaluating the performance of the school system."

The above video (#2): 

0:00 Mr. Manuel continues his presentation on the categories of the superintendent evaluation, and pitching how he is fulfilling each one.  

19:40 Mr. Manuel's presentation stops, and Betsy Landers speaks and thanks Jason Manuel, then a break.  

21:40 Valerie Speakman begins a presentation "When board members aren't happy, everyone is unhappy."  

22:42  Asks each Board member why they wanted to be on the Board, and how it is different from expectations. You can listen to what they each say.

38:40 Ms. Speakman says she was bullied as a kid. But people who said they were victims and that they were being bullied, were the bullies, in her legal field. (my note: Although she never makes the connection, given the CTBH at the last meeting where citizens spoke of bullying, one wonders if is she vaguely implying that the some of the parents and students complaining about bullying at the school could really be the bullies? Because otherwise, I do not see why her experience in the legal profession re: bullying is relevant to the school board retreat. Again, she made no specific accusations. This was an instance where her point was just hanging out there.)

42:23  What expectations should be, according to the law, ("real reality") per Ms. Speakman. The Power Point goes over various sections of the law.

52:15 notes that Mr. Manuel was never given a description of his duties.  

52:27 The presentation takes a stranger turn after viewing a video clip of a simulated car crash, and more talk about expectations. 

53:13 An old 1991 state case against Wilson County School Board members is discussed, about the district misstating various funds and falsifying records. The chief responsibility of the board was to make policy for the school system, and therefore the Attorney General wanted to hold them responsible for $800,000 in errors to their financial records. However, the Court found that since the budget starts with the Superintendent, and he has responsibility for the budget throughout the year, the Board was not held responsible.   

(My interjection--of course the School Board should not be held responsible for the various misallocations of funds that were under the direct control of the Superintendent. However, I fail to see how this relates to the broader point that Ms. Speakman seems to want to make-- that the Superintendent has broad control of the overall budget. After all, the Board has the power to vote on the budget. I am not understanding the relevance of this case to GMSD. Or was the point that the Attorney General can attempt to remove a school board member if she is not doing her duty? A lot of time was spent discussing this case. I was scratching my head about its significance. I don't think any GMSD school board member has ever claimed they have day-to-day responsibility for the way that the accounting procedures are handled. However, that doesn't mean that the Board does not have control over the budget. Again, they approve a budget.

There are also a few too many movie clips in this presentation to suit my taste. Two or three would be okay but this is ridiculous. It makes me wonder about the database she is using to find all of these. Please note in general I like the idea of using video clips of movies to make points. But most of these do not hit the mark, with me at least.) 

Goes into more of the duties of the School Board members.

Video #3:  

0:00 More movie clips, this time one of lava crossing a road. This has something to do with school board members, but I am not sure what. Board members should be happy! Be happy!  

4:11 While most of this presentation seems to be a lecture about getting along and individual school board members not having much power to do anything except for voting, I note here the following statement that at least seems to recognize that individuals do have free speech rights:

"When individual Board Members or the Director of Schools express their views on any issue which is in opposition to a view expressed in Board policy, they have the duty to make clear that the view expressed is not the official view of the Board or school system." 

4:28 One of the most important duties of the school board is to evaluate the Director of Schools (superintendent). 

10:35 All documentation, strengths and weaknesses, shall be supported by objective evidence. 

12:21 There should be measureable performance goals.

17:24  If you like Sly and the Family Stone, "We are Family" click here. This is probably a YouTube clip, rather than a movie clip. 

18:45 Questions and Answers: I suggest you just listen to all of this, if you are interested in how the Board responds to cases of bullying. A lot of this deals with privacy issues, the media, etc. Ms. Speakman also notes that schools are not legally required to have a time set aside for citizens to be heard. Ms. Parker seems to be really disturbed about the people speaking at CTBH at the last meeting, and alludes to some sort of investigation. Some of the discussion is difficult to hear.

27:55 Notes that the schools are required to report cases of bullying to the state, since GMSD doesn't have many reports, must not be much of a problem. Amy Eoff does note that there may be under-reporting, and she talks of school environment, although, again, this part is difficult to hear. Betsy Landers speaks but is difficult to hear. Lisa Parker again complains about people who came to smear the schools. Ms. Speakman: Haters gonna hate. "Half the people who are accusing us of being bullies are bullies themselves."  There is a discussion among the three Board members about training (excluding Lisa Parker). Valerie Speakman: "Kids will be kids" is not an excuse for bullying. Although this discussion is hard to hear at times, it is worth a listen. 


Thank you, Sarah Freeman, for providing us with these videos.

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