Consolidation frustration continues: A community member’s concerns around the Monroe reconfiguration

by Contributing Writer Darryl F. Bright

Attached [below] is a Coalition presentation that I made to TPS Board of Education July 15, 2019 regarding Monroe. The document attached below was the basis for my presentation. It would have been impossible to deliver the document in 5 minutes. The attached was delivered to Dr. Gist and to each Board member:

To: Dr. Gist and Tulsa Public School Board members 

From: The Community Coalition for Academic Excellence (CCAE)—Presentation by Darryl Bright— Citizens’ Comments 

Re: Comments, questions, actions needed regarding the process for changes and improvements for Monroe Middle School 

Date: July 15, 2019 

We have been made aware by Monroe Demonstration School’s teachers, staff, families and other stakeholders of their deep concerns regarding critical issues now (and in the near future) facing Monroe Middle School. CCAE have those same concerns. We have developed this presentation and created this document to demand immediate and deliberate actions by you Dr. Gist and Tulsa Public School board members. Furthermore, we have detailed immediate actions we deem necessary to resolve these critical issues (not inclusive of all issues) in this document. 

The “new” Monroe process for change and improvement has left teachers, staff and stakeholders on the outside—disengaged and uninformed about their essential role in making changes at Monroe. As a consequence, in July 2019, several teachers  resigned from Monroe. Those teachers were angry and in despair because of their relationship to the process (i.e., not being strategically and formally engaged in the creation, development, and implementation process for the “new” Monroe Middle School). This has been the relationship since the North Tulsa Community Taskforce unveiled their presentation for change at Monroe and the feeder pattern to the TPS Board of Education from January 22, 2019 to June 2019. 

From the first Taskforce meeting held discreetly from October 1, 2018 up until June 2019, there was an intentional closing of those meetings. There was a “gag order” imposed by Dr. Gist on the Taskforce. All meetings were closed to the public. Furthermore, the order demanded that the Taskforce members should not convey the workings, discussions, etc.of the Taskforce to anyone outside of their meetings. This prevention of transparency has been a detriment to the Monroe change process. 

In the five months since the Board voted to approve the Taskforce’s January 22, 2019 presentation for changes at Monroe, there had not been a strategic or formal engagement of teachers, staff, and stakeholders in the process outlined by the Taskforce. In June 2019, the North Tulsa Community Taskforce’s January 22, 2019 document was presented by Taskforce members to a small audience of teachers for comments, questions, discussion and/or feedback. From teachers in attendance, the presentation occurred after a meeting that the teachers were invited to attend; but not welcomed by TPS administrators or Dr. Gist. 

Since the taskforce’s creation, teachers were not involved in the forming or implementation of the “new” Monroe changes. The change process did not allow them to be strategically engaged in all aspects and stages of the upgrading of the school—specifically teaching and learning. Teachers were kept “informed” after the fact, regarding administrative, operational, and some of the organizational changes. 

Without the teachers, staff, stakeholders and families engaged in every aspect of the change and improvement process, it is impossible for them to take authentic ownership of the school and the educational process. They represent the invaluable Monroe institutional memory, history and experiences of the good, the bad and the best of Monroe. They are closest to the day-to-day operations of the school. They are invaluable in planning changes and improvements that pave a path to realizing Monroe’s mission, a new vision (yet to be created), culture, end in mind for the students and the future picture for Monroe. Without them, systemic and strategic changes and improvements are a pipe dream. 

The reality is evident to us as advocates and expressed by teachers who have resigned that we are experiencing the same things over and over again—Monroe will be mired in a cycle of low performance and indeed, the miseducation of our children. 

For the upcoming 2019-2020 school year, Monroe’s population will increase by approximately 3.5 times that of the school’s past enrollment numbers. 

  • Is Monroe’s staff ready for the projected 954 students? 
  • Will the Monroe staff be prepared for the projected 33% of the children (approximately 315) who will be Special Ed/Special needs? 
  • How many will be inclusion (included in regular classrooms)?
  • Will the staff be ready to accommodate the various and sundry categories of children who will be enrolled per the Federal law—Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA)? 
  • Have those children’s Individual Education Program (IEP) been undated?
  • At the start of school: Will all resources for accommodation be in place? Will certified staff be on board per IDEA? 
  • Will the school be in full compliance per IDEA at the start of school? 

If the current principal, other administrators, teachers, and staff for whatever reasons could not address the needs of the historically small enrollment of regular students and IEP students, what will be done differently? Doing the same teaching and learning for 954 children will not meet those children’s academic and developmental growth needs. The problems will be greatly compounded by the new and voluminous issues and challenges. 

Have historical issues facing Monroe (e.g. drop in enrollment, low test scores, etc.) been analyzed for root causes? Are those causes being addressed? If yes, what were those root causes that were identified? If not, why not—those issues and problems will still have life in the “new” Monroe and will negatively impact teaching and learning. 

More questions, concerns and solutions in the critical areas of concern: 

1) The principal must lead the teachers, staff, families and the stakeholders in a deep dive in developing a profile of the historical (including 2018-19) state of teaching and learning at Monroe since it was established as a demonstration school. It is essential that holistic analysis of the students AND holistic/root cause analysis of the school system and district is required to determine why the same issues and outcomes continue to exist. Does the principal have the capacity to bring all stakeholders together as a team committed to the belief, mission and vision building a culture reflective of the values needed to attain the mission and vision? Is he a role model/coach/mentor? This requires intervention from outside of the district by a well-vetted consultant. 

2) A vision for Monroe is essential and foundational—several teachers have stated a vision does not exist. Why? A vision must be created based on a consensus of principal, teachers, staff and stakeholders. A consensus regarding the purpose of schooling in the 21st century that must be established as the context for creating a Monroe vision. The vision guides the school and stakeholders in keeping everyone and all aspects of the school on track to making the vision a reality. The vision guides the instructional theory and establishment of the school’s culture. The school staff, students and stakeholders must be strategically engaged in the visioning process. 

3) The school’s culture is defined and based on Monroe’s vision and mission. Has this occurred? If yes, please explain the process. If not, why not? 

4) Create a site annual improvement plan. The plan is to guide the school’s problem solving and planning process throughout the year and help identify and organize strategies and resources that will lead to increase student achievement at the school. Does Monroe have a site improvement plan for the 2019-2020 school year? Does Monroe have a strategic plan for this school year? If the answers to both questions are yes, please forward copies of both. If either one or the other or both do not exist—why? 

5) There must be curriculum changes. The curriculum must be culturally responsive and relevant. If the curriculum is, what are the curriculum changes? Content? Structure? Is literacy woven into each subject area? 

6) When Monroe opens in August, will the curriculum and instructional delivery be culturally relevant and responsive to meet the academic and developmental growth needs of each racial, nationality and ethnic group for middle-school aged pre-adolescents? Will the curriculum address the academic needs and the developmental growth needs of the special needs and ELL children? Will the same be done for gifted and talented children? 

7) All of the teachers and staff must be in place for the school’s projected enrollment. If not, why? 

8) All properly certified, etc. special needs/special education/ELL teachers, etc. have been hired to the level required by the federal law– The Individuals with Disabilities Education Act (IDEA). If not, why? 

9) Electives–what are the electives? 

10) How will out of school and in-house disciplinary suspensions be handled? 

11) What will be the pod or class sizes (including students with special needs) What will be the teacher/student-ratio in all pods and classes? 

12) How many of the special needs/special Ed will be included (inclusion) into the regular classes/pods? 

13) Assessment tools must be used to measure achievement. For all subject areas, what are the measures and indicators of success? Detail the objectives that have been established to measure success. What are the key metrics of measurement that will be utilized? What areas have established baselines? What are the S.M.A.R.T. goals for the school and subject areas? What specifically are those baselines? Do the principal, teachers, staff, families and community stakeholders understand why metrics and baselines are necessary and understand how they are created? Do they understand their roles in meeting the metrics, etc.? 

14) What has the Monroe principal and staff documented about what our children need to learn? How will they know if they have learned it? What will be done in a timely manner if our children do not learn what is expected? 

15) Provide for wrap-around services and resources. Those services should be provided in a timely manner and be sustainable. 

16) The teachers, staff, principal, vice-principals must have the capacity to lead and teach, build loving, caring and compassionate relationships, have high expectations (What are the Monroe expectations?) for all children, etc. If the capacity is lacking, what actions will be taken? 

17) Time for teacher and staff collaboration meetings must be formally structured and sufficient time given for lesson planning. There should be time for separate meetings of all the 6th grade teachers, 7th teachers and 8th grade teachers. Establish time for the whole school, including all staff, to meet as a team. Moreover, there is time for “cross-grade” meetings of different grade levels (e.g. 6th grade teachers meeting with 7th grade teachers, etc.)

18) Teachers should decide what they need individually and collectively for professional development. Is there a schedule for professional in- service training, etc. created by the teachers? 

19) Establish in the feeder pattern formally structured and periodic meetings with elementary schools and McLain High School for Science and Technology for feedback and ideas for changes and improvements at Monroe and at the elementary school level. 

20) Provide information regarding the Monroe teaching staff per the tables found on pages 9 and 10. Patrons, community members, families have the right to know who is teaching our children. We need to know their experience and credentials. It is important to note that some of this document’s questions, concepts, issues and concerns can be applied to all the schools in the feeder pattern. 

What can our children, families, teachers and staff expect on the first day of school in approximately 5 weeks? Will the Monroe educational processes be ready for schooling or will we lose a semester or a year because the concepts and solutions and many other aspects were not detailed, forgotten, overlooked or ignored. 

For our children’s sake, we demand that these issues and actions be addressed to ensure quality in teaching and learning which our children must have for academic success, developmental growth, to reach their potential and to realize their genius. 

Sincerely,

Darryl F. Bright

Illustration: Patrick Norman