Saturday, June 27, 2015

Memo to our next FCPS Superintendent....It's about a lot of things, but it's not the kids

Source: Fayette County Public Schools

Legal Disclaimer:
This is not an official FCPS memo, this is my personal blog.
This is not letterhead, you are reading a computer screen.
If you are confused by this, you are not the intended user.

Stop reading now.


Date: Saturday, June 27th, 2015

To: Our Next Fayette County Public Schools Superintendent
From: Lucy Jett Waterbury, Member, Parent Interview Panel

Let me start by thanking you for spending 45 minutes with me and the panel of 37 incredibly passionate, intelligent, well spoken and diverse parents. We were chosen to represent an exceptionally diverse population of kids, with needs that vary dramatically. The parent selection part of this process was done brilliantly, as this group of parents was phenomenal! But I would like to state that I, and most of the parents serving on our panel, found the interviewing process protocol to be unbelievably maddening.   If you think that Lexington is full of passive parents that gladly sit there silently, and not engage with you in follow up discussion, this is an incorrect picture that was painted before you.  But alas, we didn't get to make the rules, we just had to "tow the line" or resign from the panel.  Getting to hear your responses to the "cleansed & newly improved" questions was worth it to us, so we stayed. 

The 11 questions you were asked, of the 65 questions that were submitted, were not ours.  Okay, well they started out as ours but then they were run through a sterilization system of hiring consultants, human resource professionals, legal counsel & district staff before they were spit out on the other end, barely recognizable.  They needlessly made sausage out of our filet mignon questions, to use an analogy. I considered "going rogue" and actually asking you my question, as it was written, but figured that I might get removed by security. (After this blog, they may not even let me back in the FCPS headquarters!) If you want to know how my original question you go:

 "Given a lack of Federal funding and minimal state funding of Gifted & Talented programs, as a transformational educator/leader of a district with higher than national average percentages of gifted & talented students, how would you meet the unique needs of all gifted and talented students, in every school, remedy the inequities that currently exist regarding the under served, yet identified gifted/talented students, generally, and more specifically in high poverty, under identified and lower achieving G/T student populations and schools?"  (Shout out to my education guru, first grade teacher, 6th grade English teacher, assistant principal @ Model Lab & Sunday School teacher, and grandparent of FCPS kids and stakeholder Jackie Vance for helping me formulate this question!)
So you say you don't recognize my question, that was supposedly chosen as one of the 11 that were actually asked, from the one above? Yep, I don't recognize it either.

While we wanted to be able to engage in a dialogue with you, you know, like a real interview, we were told that all we could do was listen, take notes, and then when you left the room, talk amongst ourselves.

Regardless of which candidate actually receives this memo, there were elements of the parent interview process that I believe put each of you at a disadvantage, and for that let me apologize on their behalf.  That sucked and hopefully we have learned something this time around.  We were told that the board didn't have to let us interview you at all, as this is their decision, not ours, which is true, so we should just be happy. I don't sound happy, do I?  I will work on that. But once you read the rest of this memo, you will begin to understand.

A bit about me....

For better or worse, and richer or poorer (just ask my husband!), I am a change agent. Call it a disease, call it a form of madness, call it what you will, but it is not a quality that I have chosen, it is just in the fabric of my being. Fundamentally, I just can't keep my mouth shut when my voice is needed. (You could blame my mom for this, but she is no longer of this planet, but watching from heaven and laughing her ass off)

I believe in public schools.  Let me continue by saying I am not the product of the Fayette County public school system (or any public school, I attended Model Laboratory School in Richmond, KY, which explains a lot), but my 2 children will be.  

You only know me as the head nodding blonde sitting in the second seat down on your right side, but I am not a kick 'em while they are down kind of gal, preferring to see the best intentions in people and I try to be part of the solution, not a thorn in their side, but if taken that way, so be it.  

After having had a child in the Fayette County School system for the last 3 years, I have received my own public school education in what it seems to be about in this district,and at the district level, it's not about kids. 

I would like to share just a few of my observations from being a parent in the system, a PTA member, a newly elected PTA board member, a newly elected Site Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) member, a school board meeting survivor (watch for the alliances to be able to Outwit, Outplay and Outlast these folks!), & finally a member of the 2015 superintendent screening parent interview panel.  Here are my observations:

  • It's about keeping up appearances, not keeping up best practices
  • It's about investing in buildings, not in brains
  • It's about covering collective asses, not covering the bases
  • It's about the dog and pony show, not the talent show
  • It's about the bond rating, not the school rating
  • It's about cleansing the message, not sending the right one
  • It's about hiring the familiar, not the fantastic
  • It's about who is in charge, not who are the leaders
  • It's about resting on laurels, not fighting for Laurels
  • It's about budget gaps, not achievement gaps
  • It's about saving gas, not saving lives
  • It's about passing the buck, not multiplying the dollar
  • It's about speaking in hushed tones, not speaking up
  • It's about saving money, not saving children
  • It's about making excuses, not making gains
  • It's about regressing to the mean, not reaching for the stars

    Here's the thing, in the Fayette County Public School system, we do well in spite of ourselves.  As your research would indicate, we have some of the highest achieving schools in the state but we also have some of the worst.  Lexington, KY is a community full of highly dedicated, educated, and passionate people, who care deeply about kids, many of whom they don't even know. In case you missed it in your research, if you would like an example, you can read about yours truly in last Saturday's Lexington Herald-Leader article:Parents Raise Concerns about Fayette County Schools' Handling of Gifted and Talented Students

    Here is what I know after hearing your responses to our diluted questions, in a bastardized process. Both of you care deeply about kids.  Both of you are qualified to lead this district.  Both of you are capable of being change agents.

    I wish you the best of luck in your Skype interview this morning.  You have to be thinking WTH?!, why are they doing this interview via Skype when I was just in town!  It's like they didn't know you were coming or something! Don't ask me how a school board fails to call a school board meeting to interview you in person.  While you were being received with light refreshments, paraded around town, being "interviewed" in a sterile environment for hours by students, staff and parents, somebody let the dog and pony show get in the way.  (From what I am hearing it had something to do with an unread e-mail sitting in a staff inbox.  People make mistakes, I get it, but we have emergency board meeting protocols for a reason but I digress...) Instead of admitting the mistake, and calling the emergency meeting to remedy the oversight, they decided eh, let's just Skype 'em and make it look like it was supposed to happen like this all along.  It's like Keystone Cops around here but perhaps the bullets above are helping distill in your mind why we need you so badly.

    Should you and my best friends on the board (ha!) decide that Lexington, KY is your next home (speaking of homes, I know a great Realtor, as I don't get paid for this change agent gig!), don't say I didn't warn ya. 

    You heard it here first.  Don't let the logo fool ya.