|Dr. July Elliott: Photo: Mike Desmond, WBFO News|
She presented a report to the School Board at a meeting on Wednesday, March 26. Elliott presents quarterly reports as part of her contract with the district.
Elliott, quiet as it is kept, has been mentioned as possible superintendent of the Buffalo Schools, though she left the area to pursue her career goals, some have asked why not?
Her appointment as distinguished educator generated controversy because the Buffalo School Board had to hire her whether they agreed to her appointment or not about 18 months ago. She works as a consultant from her home in Tampa, Florida after spending a tumultuous period as Chief Academic Officer in the L.A. Unified School System after a new superintendent allegedly wanted his own team and disagreed with her advocacy of a controversial homework policy in the district.
Her contract bought out in 2011, she has been moonlighting as an educational consultant in the nation's public schools, Buffalo Schools is one of these schools she works for around the country. When appointed it was rumored, the distinguished educator was the first step in the State Education Department move to take over the Buffalo Schools, "something prefaced by the proposed take-over legislation discussed back in 2009. And it may happen if there is as she noted at the School Board meeting Wednesday night, …"the number of low-performing schools has not changed."
"Judy's here to help - be a source of support for the superintendent and the board," present recommendations to them and ultimately to us at the (State Education) Department on how to move things forward in Buffalo. The only thing I'm interested in is improved student outcomes." Commissioner King (10/7/2012)Tiffany Lankes blogged in the School Zone blog , Buffalo News, it was the second time in three months she had seen Elliott. This information cited here mostly comes from her blogging at the March 26, Buffalo School Board meeting
She described her role as a new one for the state education department and said it was "meant to be a technical resource and assistance." Lankes blogged, Elliott provided, "…an overview of her role and the system she is using to assess progress."
Elliott said there are two key questions in doing this work: "Are you happy with your data and is every classroom one you would put your own flesh and blood?"
She spoke about her collaboration with Superintendnent Pamela Brown to develop the new Common Core Formative Assessments and the audit on special education by the Great City Schools, working with the Educational Partnership Organizations and walking classrooms. And she has been working with the Chiefs of Leadership in Central Office more closely this year on student support plans.
Lankes blogged, Elliott, Elliott mentioned, "Student placement is a huge issue in this district, especially students with special needs, English Language Learners and those overage and under credited ." She said, "some areas of concern are promotion and retention, student placement, service for suspended students, attendance taking, discipline data, general use of data to improve outcomes for students."
Elliot continues, "We are working on a better system for taking and tracking attendance. "(The Buffalo Schools introduced the student information system Infinite Campus, the summer of 2012, but personnel have complained they were offered minimal staff development to understand how it worked from the clerks to the administrators. And the system is a problem because teachers have to document attendance period by period though last year home room attendance introduced).
She cited as "our big picture issues…support for students with special needs and those learning to speak English."
A "Comment from Kim" on the blogged mentioned, "we were directed to change IEPs in the building to reflect whatever services we happened to have available. We told the state, Barb Trunzo. Nothing ever came of it." News blogger Lankes responded, "Kim, I'd like to hear more about this can you e-mail me, so expect a story sometime about this issue if "Kim" follows through and e-mails Lankes.
Elliott recommendations included "…improving instruction for struggling students, increasing collaboration with principals and help them to understand policies and procedures. School Board member, Carl Paladino responded, "It seems to me we spend an awful lot of money hiring consultants to train our principals." To this, Superintendent Brown responded, "that with all of the new mandates and standards you don't always have expertise in the schools."
Eilliott adds, "we are spending a lot of money on professional development, but need to do a better job tracking or return on investment."
Hmmm, does it include her work and reports about the Buffalo Schools? How is the district return on investing in a distinguished educator? How is it helping to move the failing schools she oversees, the Priority schools from the state list? Some have questioned in a cash strapped school district facing a $50 million budge deficit why is a distinguished educator needed at nearly $200 hourly in addition to daily paid expenses who principally resides out of town? That includes Dr. Mary Guinn and Company from Evans Newton Consultant group.
Lankes blogged, "Elliott was taking about the retention issue and the need to track kids throughout the year to make sure they are not sliding. Right now, the number of low-performing schools has not changed. It behooves us as a district to go in and look at our focus schools to make sure they don't slip into priority school status."
Superintendent Brown chimed in that district still"... waiting to hear from the state on whether any of our schools can come off the priority list." While School Board member Paladino said, "it's nice to say we're making progress, but it's hard to see it."
Elliott sees as a problem, …"disconnect between Central Office and the schools, and that's typical in large urban districts. If we want to show improvement, we need to listen to the people at the building level." How? In what way is Elliott proposing this listening should be done? Isn't there suppose to be a "one-stop shop" mechanism Superintendent Brown proposed the different Chiefs of Leadership are suppose to do through their offices in Central Office to help the leaders in the school buildings?
At large School Board member Florence Johnson chimed in saying " I am amazed at how long it takes the state to get us data." Elliott responded , she "…thinks you have the data you need to make decisions." And Elliott continued to respond to School Board member Johnson, "the last thing you want to do is wait for someone to give you a report to take action. The challenges with students who are overaged and under credited are well-documented in this district."
If so what is Elliott doing to contribute to the discussion to remedy the situation some ask? And she added, "you're held accountable for all of the kids who show up in your building. You can calculate that right now." And, "theres's lots of stuff in the district's power and authority that we could be doing."
Elliott commented, " if we're suppose to be taking attendance, we need to make sure we're doing it. Principals have Apps on their telephone to help track which teachers are taking it."
A secondary staff member making a "Comment From Guest" said something very interesting why attendance is challenging to keep up with on the new student information system Infinite Campus:
"...students come in at any point in the period (especially in chaotic schools). It becomes unreasonable for teachers, who need to be teaching, to keep updating Infinite Campus throughout the period. Especially when they need to be in the hallway during transitions and therefore can't do it between classes."
Attendance is an issue. I have the same class all day but have to take attendance eight times.....its time consuming.
Interesting Elliott quoted as saying, "this is not necessarily a safe environment for people to speak their truths." Hmmm, did she mean her own truths or district staff in general?
Elliott presented for about one hour at the meeting. Her reports are on the district website .