Proposed School Budget Received Badly

At the first of a series of four forums being held about the school budget, Superintendent Scottie Griffin’s budget proposal resulted in hisses of derision last night. She proposes cutting five positions and adding four new administrators, using the bit left over to raise teacher salaries somewhat. The five positions cut would be three P.E. teachers and two guidance councilors, all at the elementary school level. Critics, including City Councilor Kevin Lynch, object to swapping out student-contact staff with a “top heavy” administration. Some proposals were met well, though, including a 5% increase in the starting salary, a new ESL teacher, and making some coordinator positions full-time, including fine arts, P.E., and health & family life. James Fernald has the story in today’s Progress.

29 thoughts on “Proposed School Budget Received Badly”

  1. really ? Hisses of derision? How many hisses were there? I thought that was a mid 1900s` (or 1800s) thing. Hmmm. An odd way, in this enlightened time, to express displeasure. How mature.

    Parents, sometimes, have motives not always pure, regarding school budgets (any change which requires extra "sitter" money for example) although that doesn`t seem to be the case here.

    I don`t, for the life of me , understand the uproar about Griffin`s proposal.

    Why can`t we, just once, let someone in the school system do their job without an outcry from every parent ?

    It is my understanding Griffin has excellent credentials and has been sucessful in other school systems. What has occurred to indicate she cannot be successful here?

    More to the point – what has occurred to infuse parents with a vast store of knowledge as to the proper way to run a school system?

  2. I assume that the parents want someone with experience to teach their children – thats why they sent them to school instead of teaching them at home. I agree with cornelious. Griffin has been resisted at every turn. She was hired because parents and the school board wanted improvements. She can’t do it without making changes. Be as sarcastic as you want, but a school administrator with training and experience probably does know better than these parents.

  3. I’ve got a kid in school in Charlottesville and right now I’m just watching and wondering.

    Some of the howling is over the Flanagan tests that are being given to help evaluate the schools. I’ve seen the Flanagan test for history and I don’t have a problem with that like a lot of the complainers do. I do believe that they need to evaluate the teachers job performance, find the weaknesses and bring up the SOL test scores.

    I do wonder about the wisdom of getting rid of PE instructors. That said, the PE instructors have done a pretty crappy job in the past but I’d rather they were retained and made to improve their performance. I think that generally PE is not done very well in most schools in this country.

    I’ve always thought that the system was top heavy with administrators so I am not real happy with the creation of even more administrative positions.

  4. I’m a teacher in Charlottesville and I too am watching and wondering. While I don’t have an issue with using a common assessment throughout the division, I do take issue with the Flanagan tests as they have numerous errors. I am most familiar with the history tests and I know the one we gave our kids had factual errors and questions that had more than answer or were ambiguous.

    It is my understanding that Dr. Flanagan uses released test items to help construct his tests, as he is not in a position to see the actual SOL tests adminstered to students at the end of each year. Unfortunately, the state has never released any history items because their bank of test items is not large enough to allow the release of these items. This did not necessarily present a significant problem since his organization had the standards at their fingertips, but my collegues and I have looked over the tests administered to our students and we submitted a list of the mistakes on the test to our principal. It is our hope that if we continue with these tests next year they will be of a higher quality.

    While I believe this administration has made mistakes, asking the district to use a common set of assessments was not one of them, they just didn’t pick the best assessment. Some schools already had (and continue to have) an assessment and data analysis system in place that was used to drive instruction and had been in place for years.

  5. Just a thought– should we just let President Bush do his job without any sort of outcry over policies we dislike?

    It’s our town/country, and our tax dollars, so I think people should speak out when they disagree with government officials.

    You don’t need a Ph.D. to know PE are important, for example.

  6. Griffin’s proposal is taking money out of the classrooms and putting it into administrators that are not necessary for this town.

    As for her qualifications- she was in New Orleans for 5 months in her last position and was an area supervisor for about 40000 per year. She has alienated many of those that she needs to succeed- principals and teachers.

    Check out how many jobs she has had in the past 5 years. Talk to the real professionals- the teachers. My child’s pe teacher is terrific so the criticism is a little strange to me. The people being left out are the ones who are most important- the teachers. I guess in this system highly educated professionals- many from UVa don’t know enough to be asked.

  7. You must remember there are TWO city schools! The parents that are crying the loudest are those that are worried changes are in the works for their private/public school.

    For C’ville to be a "true #1" city, there must be one school system for each and every child, despite their address and who their parents are…or know! Teachers of the "second class school" need to be the best teachers in the system, Honors/AP kids learn despite the teacher! Our money, our time and our energy needs to be spent on helping the "other kids" raise above expectations. At one time, Charlottesville was famous for the amount of kids that broke out of the pattern. That was decades ago!

  8. Parents who are "crying the loudest" are those who take an active interest in their children’s education and have a strong belief in the value of public education. Many of them can send their children to private schools, but choose not to.

    But, I suspect, that if those parents find that their children’s educational needs are being ignored and, if they find that, because they think it’s important to speak up, they’re being accused of being racists… they’ll go away. They’ll tire of being good citizens and just concentrate on getting a good education for their kids. They’ll send their kids to private schools.

    And Charlottesville public schools will be the poorer for their departure, because they will have lost energetic advocates for funding of public education. Don’t blow these parent off.

  9. One might hope that our school board did its homework when they hired Dr. Griffin, but it is clear that they did not. She was in New Orleans for less than a year and had numerous jobs – one member of the search committee stated that she had 7 positions in the last 10 years. If that is not a red flag, I don’t know what is. Clearly the school board hired her for one reason – to reduce the achievement gap between students in the city schools and clearly, for reasons I cannot fathom, she convinced them that she could do this. Since she arrived her administration has been nothing short of disastrous. The wonderful goal of reducing the achievement gap will be left in the dust of the principals and teachers brushing off their resumes and getting the heck out of dodge.

    Am I resistant to change? Not at all. Change is vital and necessary in any organization to stay on top of things, but Griffin’s disrespect for the professionals that she has come here to manage is inexcusable in anyone at an administrative level, her lack of knowledge of this school district seven months into the job is most puzzling because she has shown no interest whatsoever in interacting with teachers or the community – possibly the best way to really get to know the Charlottesville schools. Her inability to answer questions at meetings, such as Ned Michie’s question about starting pay for a new teacher in our system, without asking one of the four staff members that must all accompany her everywhere she goes is astounding. It is clear that her idea of accountability is to rudely berate the people beneath her, and to cushion her position with several layers of associate and assistant administrators in order to make herself unreachable and ultimately unaccountable. The school board was gravely misled and for the sake of our schools and our children they need to acknowledge the disastrous state of affairs and find someone who will really address the problems. By all means add accountability testing, by all means coordinate diverse initiatives in the schools so that students moving from one school to another can do so seamlessly, and by all means load the schools and the students that need the most help with extra resources, but please demand civility from our chief administrator and accountability from our chief administrator and admit when you have made a terrible mistake.

    If the school board does not ruthlessly attack this budget, (particularly the padding of central office with jobs that don’t even have job descriptions, and a clear directional bias against investing in the front line people who have the most impact on our students’ achievement), then it is clear that they are unwilling to be held accountable for their actions. I have been a parent who volunteers (and not just for my own kids), who lobbies for the city schools, who supports teachers being the best that they can be, and I am despondent over the current situation. I hope that Kevin Lynch and Blake Caravati who have the decency to attend these meetings and who seem to realize how bad things are will consider this when it comes time to approve this inept and poorly prepared budget.

  10. as Jerry S. said to Elaine—-

    Citymom -You seem to have a firm grasp on the dynamics of all this.

    Now I don`t have a problem with an executive asking key members of her staff to accompany her and maybe, or maybe not, you may be unfairly citing her reasons for doing so. In all honesty that is a tough call for anyone to make.

    That aside , your remark, " The school board was gravely misled ………." ,coupled with your comment:

    "One might hope that our school board did its` homework when they hired Dr. Griffin, but it is clear that they did not…." places the issue in a vastly different light.

    How and by whom was the schoolboard misled? Or, conversely, are you questioning the board`s competence? If Dr Griffin misled the Board then we have a different "kettle of fish". If you have such knowledge then the specifics should be made known .

    If Dr. Griffin did not "mislead" the Board, and is, in fact, incompetent, then the Board is at fault here (possibly guilty of negligence in a matter of prime importance) and the ire of the parents should be directed towards the Board rather than Dr Griffin. My experience has been when one makes a bad hire then the" hirer" is at fault, not the applicant , unless, of course, false references, or etc, were submitted. Interviews are used for a purpose and in-depth interviews by competent people will uncover a lack in experience and qualifications. I do not know how much experience in hiring executives exists on the Board. If you are correct – then "not much" would be the obvious answer.

    Perhaps the action should be to recall the Board on the grounds of incompetence, that is, unless they were "misled" , then the culprit should be exposed.

    I hope you have the time to respond and enlighten those of us who are interested.

  11. I wish I had the answer, but I think the School Board definitely needs to take the blame for messing this up. I do think, however, that their goals were worthy ones and that the biggest mistake made was that they hired someone to do one thing–improve the achievement gap, which apparently Dr. Griffin was able to convince them she could do, without paying close attention to the entire picture and the entire candidate. As far as misleading the board, the behavior of the superintendent since she was hired points to someone who presents well initially, but lacks the follow through. City school teachers are demoralized; she has repeatedly delivered negative messages to these people, and publicly stated that she has welcomed and sought their input, when that simply is not true. This budget simply confirms that. It is an exercise in insulating herself and diverting accountability away from herself. It’s a lose/lose situation. I think the board needs to take responsibility for this mistake, fix it, and stop acting like we have anything resembling appropriate leadership. I would be delighted if our next superintendent were a minority or a woman or Siberian for that matter as long as it is someone who is competent, understands the variety of needs of this school community, cares about people, and works collaboratively to get his or her vision for improvement implemented. We deserve that. I say rectify the situation and then, by all means, change the members of the board. I imagine several of them would be delighted to step down.

    Oh and as far as an executive asking key members of her staff to accompany her, in principle, I don’t have a problem with that either, but I haven’t seen her answer one ouf ot three questions (a rough estimate at best) without asking one of them to jump in. She clearly lacks not just the detailed knowledge of our schools that she should have, but even very basic information is not readily available from her. Had you attended the meeting last night, (perhaps you did), you would have noticed repeated examples of this. Watch the tape on public access if you missed it. It’s scintillating. By the way there’s a lot to like about Elaine’s grasp of a situation – even when she’s off, she’s on.

  12. WHERE were you when Dr. Daniel was hired to be the principal at Buford???????

    When Dr. Symon was spending money like it was being cranked out on Dairy Rd. The best of the best teachers fled from the city. Scores were dropping faster than a lead weight!!! City principals and teachers were taking pay cuts for jobs in the neighboring counties. Where have the parents been the last 5 to 10 years?

    It took time for the city schools to get in this predicament …it’ll take time and a different leader to bring us all back up again! The parents HAVE to speak up and "take back the power"! We back the paychecks, we need to act like it!

  13. If I were to read your comments, and judging only from them, my analysis would be to question the qualifications of the members of the school board , at least in their role of selecting senior school system executives, and thereby reach the root of the problem.

    Your description "Dr Griffin presents well……………" is to me indicative of Board naivete rather than Dr Griffin "misleading" the Board.

    Assuming you are correct in your conclusion to the effect "the Board must admit its` mistake………" then a much larger problem is presented.

    Shall the Board take action to terminate Dr Griffin`s contract or will the Board smooth over the matter by her retention and thus saddle the system with poor leadership and coincidentally causing others to take the lead and bear the burden? This assumes your conclusions are correct.

    So, given those choices are paramount, I wonder what Elaine would say? Probably turn to Kramer – who can fix anything.

    I appreciate your insight.

  14. What’s racist here is the white parents’ militancy against any changes being made in the way the schools are being staffed and run despite the fact that

    the black children in Charlottesville public schools are doing so very poorly. As long as their lily white little darlings are getting what they want, everyone else can be satisfied with the hind tit.

    Ms. Griffith clearly intends to do something about this shameful situation, and the white parents, captained by the Ackermans et al are leading a witch hunt against her. They assume (we don’t know why) that anything done to improve the educational experience of black children would disadvantage their children. You would think the woman had suggested substituting Swahili for Spanish, or abolishing computers.

    I ‘ve never seen anything so repulsive as a bunch of closet racists in full cry– oh wait, they’re not really racists, it’s because of their children. truly, this is a disgusting spectacle.

  15. Your generalization makes it appear as though you believe that all "the black children in Charlottesville public schools are doing so very poorly." and all the "lily white little darlings are getting what they want." That is not the case. I know black chidren that are doing very well in Charlottesville schools and I know white kids that are failing. I suspect that the income and educational level of the parents is a better indicator than race of how well students will do in Charlottesville’s schools.

    How is getting rid of PE teachers going to improve any students (rich, poor, black or white) educational experience?

  16. I would imagine the "racists in full cry" would be a repulsive sight, but I’d urge caution about jumping to conclusions about what thoughts lie in people’s hearts and minds.

    Parents ought to be expected to advocate for their children without that being expressed as "their lily white little darlings… getting what they want". These folks want the best for their children, just like you and I want the best for our children.

    Folks need to take a deep breath, stop assuming the worse about their neighbors, and start looking for common ground. If the local educational establishment can’t provide a forum for establishing that common ground, maybe some other community organization (perhaps religous communities) needs to step up and offer leadership.

    This invective is just so wrong.

  17. Are we again at the issue of having an elected vs. appointed school board in the city? I agree that the school board needs to be accountable to the parents (and students), and to the community as a whole, not simply to the community’s representatives.

    If the parents want to take back the power, they have to take the power to select the school board away from City Council, and put it where it belongs.

  18. So sorry.

    I’ve been busy attending meetings. I agree that before the School Board resigns en masse, or at least if the Chair would have the decency to step down, they need to oust Dr. Griffin and then say we’re out of here.

    However they have been put in a very difficult position. I ultimately have to agree with you. They did a dismal job of investigating and ultimately hiring someone to lead our schools. If they were misled, which I still believe they were, ultimately they must take responsibility for that grievous error.

    Now Kramer would probably have a lovely twist on the racism issue – perhaps a Pacific islander might rescue us, eh?

  19. MIlitancy?

    Whoa – call off the dogs. Ms. Griffin [not Griffith – perhaps your misinformation goes further than knowing or spelling someone’s name correctly?] clearly has no intentions since she has resolutely refused interviews, shamefully insulted the people who work for her, told principals that they are stupid (and really, even if it were true, we don’t pay someone $135,000.00 a year to alienate and insult her entire staff and then try and give herself a 15% raise), hire her cronies, and basically have a field day with the money that might actually help these children – but clearly you and Dr. Turner can’t see beyond skin color, so what’s the point of even discussing it.

    And, P.S., you know the one step raise for support staff whose health insurance rates are going up so high that they will actually be taking home less money next year than they were this past year – what do you think the majority of them think. And they, by the way, are the bomb. Great people clean our schools and interact with our children daily and if Dr. Griffin had her way, they’d sink even deeper into poverty. Get a grasp on reality here!

  20. Citymom commented…………

    "However they have been put in a very difficult position. I ultimately have to agree with you"

    Please allow me to rephrase that a touch.

    However, they have put themselves in a very difficult position.

    And Kramer? Worlds collide!

  21. No,

    You are wrong! They messed up royally – give them a chance to clean up the mess or we all will pay, DEARLY, for their mistake. At this point, the least detriment to the community would be to allow that at the very least. Do you think most of these people want to serve again? Worlds collide, but at quite a cost. I honestly can’t walk away without thinking:

    Despite everything, I believe that people are really good at heart.

  22. Where online do we find the proposed budget or even last year’s budget? How do we get our suggested changes to the decision-making officials? How do we know when those ideas are considered? Do you have to be a parent with kids in the schools to have any say?

    If you were king (superintendent) for 1 year, what would you do? What suggestions have recent high school graduates made– both college bound and those who start work right away? What do the dropouts say.. other than the tired old, unhelpful "stay in school"?

    As someone who attended city schools from kindergarden to graduation, I think city council should reduce the school budget by at least 5%. This symbolic cut would wake up the schools and school board and represent the logical reward for their declining performance ever since integration. I still haven’t forgotten Jefferson School from just a couple years ago.

    The school system needs policy changes that don’t cost any money. But they require new ideas from the people we don’t usually listen to. And a shift of power away from people whose only idea is more money, more money.

  23. An elected school board??? Do you really think the "powers that be" will allow that?

    Politics being what they are…and who they are…will not allow an elected school board. There has only been two laspes in control in nearly 30 years. First the "pairing" of the middle schools when Joe Mooney was school board chair and the second was when Rob Schilling was elected. It will be a snow day in June before city council will give up their power to appoint school board members.

  24. There’s not a lot to add: all most all of the salient issues have been

    touched on by one poster or another. I wanted to summarize a bit, based

    on my experiences with the City Schools:

    – Attended city schools from ’72-’82 (Venable, Walker, CHS)

    – Taught in city schools (science teacher)

    – lifelong city resident, homeowner and taxpayer.

    I’m no longer a teacher or student, but I have been a long term observer,

    and count a wide range of educators and former educators in the system, of

    both races (in the ethnic and not ‘physiological’ sense) and all economic

    levels, and professional grades, as both respected colleagues and


    The poster who admonished that there are two schools is dead on; there are

    two schools within a school: one comprised of academic elites and another

    of basic/applied students. You can sugarcoat this with any number of

    different euphemisms, but until you’re willing to accept, without

    reverting to inflammatory cliches like Rick Turner does, that these

    differences are real and reflect the ability of students to learn at any

    given grade/subject level, you’re not going to solve any problems. Any

    intellectually honest attempt to grapple with the city school problems

    requires an honest look at the problem.

    It is imperative that the system serve ALL students, based on their real

    needs. I can’t really speak to the issues of the Flanagan test

    specifically, but being honest about student’s needs and tailoring

    curriculum to meet that need is so obvious it goes without saying. A

    previous poster’s analogy to the President was actually not too bad: the

    broad outline and general values of Dr. Griffin’s ‘plan’ are widely

    shared. Unfortunately, the devil is always in the details – it’s

    important to read the fine print. And, again, as with the President, the

    fine print reveals something perhaps quite different from the broad

    rhetoric. More on that later.

    In my experience as a student, it was clear that students were stratified

    based on academic ability, starting very early on. Without a doubt, some

    racism played into that process: whether the ‘soft racism of low

    expectations’ (to borrow yet again from the President) or something more

    overt. But by focusing on that alone, as Dr. Turner would have us do, we

    deny and overlook some of the larger and no less difficult or real


    In my experience as a science teacher, I found over 80% of my students

    failed to meet a basic pre-requisite for the course – one which I would

    have expected to be included in a pre-requisite course. I was shocked to

    find this deficiency in such a high percentage of my students, and I

    approached the teacher of the other course about it. She indicated that I

    was mistaken: I was looking for an "advanced topic" not included in the

    SOLs for the level of the course taken by my students. Indeed, she was

    right; more to the point, she had already worked a miracle in getting them

    up to the level she did, given the level they had attained before coming

    to the high school.

    For many of our students, the School system begins working on remediation

    from the very first day they show up. In many cases, students are

    significantly behind before they ever get out of the elementary schools;

    folks will note that Clark and Johnson appear to be the schools on the

    bubble for certification. This is not because Clark and Johnson are

    chock-full of hardcore racists, or even given poorer resources. It _is_ a

    reflection of socio-economic factors more prevalent in the neigborhoods

    those schools draw upon.

    It seems to me quite obvious that we should be testing our kids to see

    what their achievement levels are at many steps of the way. I can tell

    you I would have found the SOL testing quite daunting (and threatening)

    given the way many of my students came to me: they were utterly unprepared

    to begin to learn the material. They had to learn two classes at once:

    math and science. This is tough for a strong student; it’s just unfair to

    set weaker students up for failure this way. I’m not advocating

    excuse-making for either faculty or students – that _is_ the soft racism

    of low expectations – I am suggesting we should not be surprised by

    problems that arise when trying to hammer square pegs into round holes.

    I will suggest this: the approach of simply denying the very real

    differences among students and ramming them into the same level has been

    tried by our system, and it has failed in a number of interesting ways.

    There are two main ways in which this has been attempted here in C’ville,

    and both had some unintended and bad consequences.

    First, the elimination of the parallel middle schools. After the relative

    success with overcoming the race ‘riots’ at Lane by moving everyone to a

    new school which had never ‘belonged’ to either whites or blacks, a

    natural response to the unhappiness of some parents with Buford vis-a-vis

    Walker was to put all students through _both_ schools. This follows the

    logic of Brown, and really is intuitively appealing.

    However, it’s really only an answer to a political problem, not a

    fundamental education problem. If the real root of the discrepancy

    between these two groups was an unequal allocation of resources, then the

    differences would have dissappeared. Of course, they didn’t.

    The schools attempted to handle much of this in the second way: simply

    push everyone into the same levels. Engaging in true social promotion

    (here we go again with the creepy parallels to the oval office), students

    had their esteem boosted by being placed into inappropriate level courses.

    Alternately, levels were eliminated altogether. Of course, this doesn’t

    change the reality at all. Either the level label became meaningless, or

    the measurements of achievement did. To be certain, academic instruction

    lost out. Of course, this practice may have papered over

    the differences between the kids until they got to the high school, but

    then those differences become apparent again with a vengeance.

    And we all know it too: let’s be honest, we think differently when you say

    "Buford" or "Walker" or "Venable" or "Clark". We wouldn’t be having this

    conversation about acheivement if we weren’t very mindful of the

    differences between these schools.

    In response to this, many parents simply removed their kids from the

    school – why do you think outfits like Covenant and the Renaissance school

    appeared? These are the city school’s competitors and parent’s don’t fool

    around (experiment) with their kids. People will vote with their feet

    when they lose other options. Why do you think the county schools are

    chock full of kids in the middle?

    Now we have a new superintendant who will insist that these differences

    are all the result of racist differentiation and special treatment for

    elite kids. Her very first, quite politically shrewd move was to attack

    the structure of the ‘elite’ system by decapitating it. That certainly

    sent a very clear and strong message: the new boss was here and this is

    who or what she was going after. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to

    establish her authority; getting rid of an entrenched power structure in

    the administration by forcing out Dr. Dimberg was crude and harsh, but

    understandable (sort of).

    However, it’s another thing altogether to declare war on the top quartile.

    Certainly, it is possible to eliminate the acheivement gap by driving out

    half the dichotomy – you wind up with just one demographic pool. Of

    course, anyone who thinks a half a second ahead will recognize that this

    will leave us with a system full of Clarks and Johnsons. Where will that

    leave the city schools WRT the SOLs? Right now the High School skims the

    elite off from the surrounding counties’ schools, public and private.

    That does a number of things:

    – draws in ACTIVE parents (not the ones whose kids show up needing

    remediation on day one).

    – boosts the test scores on SOLs and everything else

    Moreover, looking at the details, her approach leaves a LOT to be desired.

    One of the few valid criticisms made of the previous central-office

    administration were the top-heavy nature of the structure. There is

    something unsettling about having >50% of personel costs in non-contact

    administrative positions. It begs the question: what are all the generals

    doing – there aren’t enough foot-soldiers to order around! However, Dr.

    Griffin appears determined to go further down the wrong road!!!!

    It’s time to have super who focusses on increasing early intervention in

    the form of additional CONTACT personnel in the elementary schools, and

    who doesn’t hide behind vendors and intermediaries.

    It is time for ‘the community’ to start being honest with itself (black

    and white) about the problems behind poor student achievement and

    addressing those head-on. Like it or not, children who are raised by

    children (black or white – themselves often in need of remediation) DO NOT

    generally bring their children into the system as well prepared as

    children from ‘elitist’ homes where one or more parents has some

    post-secondary education and the ability (time and financial resources) to

    spend time on their child’s early development. ‘The community’ SHOULD be

    far more up in arms against Dr. Griffin than they are: by attacking the

    contact level budget she is going after precisely the type of CCPS

    spending that would most benefit ‘their’ children.

    Of course, to adapt PT Barnum, and in yet another unfortunate parallel to the President, one should never underestimate the ability of people to shoot themselves in the foot.

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