Testimony to MCPS Strategic Planning and Budgeting Forum

By Cindy Kerr, MCCPTA President

 

Goal 3: Strengthen Productive Partnerships for Education

Goal 4: Create a Positive Work Environment in a Self renewing Organization

October 7, 2004

 

 

Good Evening, I am Cindy Kerr, President of the Montgomery County Council of PTAs.

 

On behalf of the 56,000 members of the MCCPTA, I want to again thank the BOE for the opportunity to provide input into the MCPS’ Planning Phase with respect to MCPS Goal 3: Strengthen Productive Partnerships for Education, and Goal 4: Create a Positive Work Environment in a Self renewing Organization.

 

At MCCPTA we are proud of the thousands of hours of free labor parents donate to the school system each year as volunteers and the countless thousands of dollars donated to schools by the work of local PTAs. Taken together, the contributions of concerned and committed parents make MCCPTA your largest “business” partner by far. For this reason, one might be surprised by the minimal discussion of MCCPTA in the Strategic Plan discussion of Goal 3: Strengthening Productive Partnerships for Education.  Parents of public schoolchildren and their PTA organizations are the primary stakeholders of MCPS and are therefore the primary collaborators with MCPS.

 

However, MCPS has chosen to adopt a strategic planning methodology that focuses almost exclusively on “Transformational Initiatives”, and it appears that there are no transformational initiatives that deal directly with MCCPTA. MCCPTA, as a key stakeholder for MCPS, would like to work with the BOE to remedy this deficiency. MCCPTA has long enjoyed a mutually productive relationship with the BOE and MCPS and we are sure that together, we can define ways to continue and improve that partnership. In addition, we urge the BOE to take care that the intense focus on Transformational Initiatives, does not come at the expense of other on-going, yet crucially important, activities and academic needs especially since exclusive focus on the Transformational Initiatives means that the Strategic Plan will generally only be able to drive a small portion of the entire operating budget

 

One possible “Transformation initiative” is for MCPS to partner with local PTAs to “pilot” programs in their schools.  There are a myriad of examples of parent and PTA driven initiatives at the local level, which are designed to address needs recognized within local communities. MCPS could help evaluate these grass roots programs, and if proven effective, MCPS would take over funding of the program.  For example, for the last several years, the Bethesda-Chevy Chase Cluster PTAs, with minimal funding support from MCPS, has provided a two-week Summer Scholars elementary program for students who are one or more years below grade level in math or reading.  MCPS could partner with the PTA to evaluate the effectiveness of the program, and it’s suitability for adoption by MCPS on a county-wide basis.

 

In addition, MCCPTA urges a transformation initiative that allows for greater involvement by non-English speaking communities in “productive partnerships for education”.  Our local PTAs identify the lack of adequate translation resources as a critical gap. In addition, they decry the decreasing availability of wrap around services in middle and high school. These gaps suggest that MCPS could be doing more to bring community resources into the schools. Partnerships with community-based social services to better support the health and welfare of our children in the secondary programs are critical.  Work with community ethnic leaders and ethnic media must be more fully explored to tap into networks that will better serve our non-English speaking students and their families.  MCPS needs to form stronger local coalitions if we are to reach ALL the children. 

 

Finally, as we focus on MCPS Goal 3, Strengthening Productive Partnerships for Education, it is distressing for MCCPTA to realize that the BOE has chosen to unilaterally disrupt a 20-year practice of hearing concerns from MCCPTA and from each cluster in our County in testimony.  These strategic planning forums involve a much-needed avenue for greater public involvement in the identification of selected long-range strategic planning issues before the development of the recommended operating budget, but they do not offer a meaningful substitute for the traditional public hearing in January where PTA can comment on the actual allocation of funds as recommended in the MCPS Operating budget. We once again urge the BOE to reinstate preset designated testimony times for MCCPTA and for PTA cluster coordinators.  As your largest partner, MCCPTA merits the designated time to offer coordinated, thoughtful input from the local schools whose input should be evaluated rather than dissipated randomly among the spectrum of diverse community interests.

 

Examining Goals 3 and 4 it is difficult to judge whether specific strategies and initiatives are on target to achieve the goal based on available performance and cost information. As always, the critical question for our children is—do the partnerships and initiatives MCPS has undertaken benefit the children directly? For Goal 3, what do our children gain from the time and effort put into building and maintaining these partnerships? At a time when we are losing staff support resources, do we have partners in the business and academic world who will volunteer their time to tutor students regularly in math or science?  At a time when so many of our students need to work, are there alternatives to the Saturday Schools program that might better suit their needs?  At the end of last academic year, roughly 20% of our high schools students had below a 2.0 grade point average making them academically ineligible.  We need to explore new and more creative ways of reaching out to these kids.

 

For Goal 4, development, retention, and recruitment of talented teachers are fundamental to maintaining a high quality of education in Montgomery County. Investment in training for staff members is critical to effective instructional delivery and improved student achievement; including enhanced teacher training and development, aligned with student educational needs for all students and improved academic performance. MCPS must ensure that the system for monitoring strategic and tactical plans, and evaluating the performance of the organization and the leadership system, is not too resource intensive and benefits students.

 

In addition, consider the following brief comments on a few of the Goal 3 and 4 initiatives:

 

Goal 3

·        Montgomery County Business Roundtable for Education (MCBRE) shows promise in helping to improve MCPS' financial management and operational efficiency. MCCPTA would caution MCPS from too direct an alignment of school programs to the needs of the business community, as the local business community is only one of many possible futures for MCPS students.  MCBRE should be self-supporting and not require MCPS funds.

·        Partnerships with County Government School on health, mental health, educational support, and social services provide needed support for MCPS students.

·        Montgomery College Partnerships are vital.  In addition to the direct benefit for current students, forty percent of MPCS students attend the College within two years of graduation.

·        MCPS Partnerships with Employee Organization are fundamental to a well functioning school system.

 

Goal 4

·        Professional Growth and Development System for: Teachers, Administrators and Supervisors, Supporting Services Staff are fundamental to Recruitment, Retention and Placement of Highly Qualified Staff.

·        Curriculum, Assessment, and Instruction Grade-Level Training must be provided in time for Teachers to effectively implement the revised curriculum

·        Diversity Training and Development is crucial with our increasingly diverse County

·        The Baldrige Criteria for Performance Excellence, if properly executed, should provide MCPS with mechanisms for better management, alignment with goals, and a Nationally know framework that can help assess performance on a wide range of key indicators such as: student learning outcomes, student and stakeholder satisfaction results, budgetary and financial results, faculty and staff performance, and operational outcomes.

 

We are looking forward to hearing back from MCPS on the results of these forums, and to having our MCCPTA clusters testify during preset designated times in January.