Consultants: Shut Down an Elementary School

A third-party efficiency review has recommended some ways to cut costs in city schools, Rachana Dixit writes in today’s Daily Progress. The 331-page report recommends $17M in savings, coming from closing an elementary school and eliminating six of its assistant principals (about half of them), thirteen teachers, and 62 of the instructional assistants (again, about half), among dozens of other recommendations. Interestingly, the report makes no recommendation for eliminating staff at the school system’s central office, suggesting only a “restructing” that would be “revenue neutral.”

62 Responses to “Consultants: Shut Down an Elementary School”

  • I didn’t read the report and am not up on current stats, but what’s the current students:teacher ratio in the city?

    I know when I was in high school, it was something like 35:1 or 40:1. That was in a much larger city and I certainly wouldn’t want to see C’ville head towards that.

  • At the elementary school level it’s something like (on average) 19 to 1. It’s very, very low.

  • Knowing a thing or two about young kids, even 19 to 1 is a pretty high number. I can only think back to my own experiences babysitting one or two kids, and can’t even imagine that multiplied by ten.

    To really make a 40 to one ratio work, they’ll need to distribute some kind of stimulant and/or performance enhancing drug for the teachers.

  • I find it quite interesting that a study initiated by Central Office does not recommend dealing with the obvious bloat in Central Office. Instead, they want to cut back on those things that actually contribute directly to the students’ educations. We should definitely cram more kids into each class, take away instructional assistants, and eliminate other things that actually help our kids learn. All this will definitely help close the achievement gap.

  • As a parent with three kids in city schools I do not want to see class sizes increase any more than necessary. But given the current economy, coupled with the decrease of students attending city schools, changes are overdue. Closing an elementary school is probably a good start. That increases class size only incrementally while cutting teacher and administrative costs. (Though larger classes and fewer instructional assistants might be counter intuitive).
    Do we close the worst performing school, or the school with the fewest kids, or the school with the priciest real estate value?
    Wouldn’t selling the property outright be one way to offset the dwindling budget?
    I’m looking forward to the upcoming school board meetings.

  • Gov. Tim Kaine has just called for establishing admin/student ratio in schools, as we have for teachers. That’s a great idea, perhaps the only way we’ll see admininstrative costs cut.

    I’m really disappointed that the size of Central Office was not properly examined by MGT. It’s so easy to make the numbers say what you want. (The warm public kudos from the lead auditor for Gertrude Ivory and Ed Gillaspie gave one the sense of a relationship that is a bit too cozy.) Why don’t we just count the number of people? If the School Board isn’t up to that task of counting, then the City Council should step up and ask for it. And ACPS and CCS should be doing MUCH more in the way of cost sharing wrt administrative overhead. I think I’d like to see school leaders start to talk about merging the divisions. Not today or tomorrow, but soon. Together, we’d have 16,750 kids–perfectly manageable size–with the potential for more AP classes, etc., and an overall free lunch rate would be 22% (vs the current 15% for ACPS and 45% for CCS).

    About closing a school: no mention was made of Walker Upper Elem in the report, but I was glad to see Kathy Galvin quoted in the DP about returning 5th graders to the lower elementary schools. That move is long overdue. What about 5 neighborhood-based elementary schools and one slightly larger all-city magnet school (at Walker or Buford) with orchestra, foreign languages, swimming,???

    Cutting half the asst principals is a non-starter.

  • Jennifer B, while I would never in a zillion years disagree that something like a “Central administration” for the City schools would have obvious bloat I am curious just what the bloat is and what specifically you base this on?

    The issue is that if we had solid functioning youth only with parents that were supportive and held their kids accountable we could get by with far less staffing. However, the city has lots of alternative issues to deal with in their population.

    Meanwhile admin are likely chasing their tails with state and federal requirements, parents all expecting them to deliver diamonds from dust and a never ending mess of legal worries.

    I also suspect the 80/20 rules applies more than ever in CCS, 80% of the energy is spent on 20% of the kids.

    I wish I had a solution, but I do question why it costs 13K per kid for basic education and why this goes about 40% higher than the state average, although it is interesting to note that we only spend 1% more for admin costs than the average. (NO statistics lectures or I quit Waldo!)

  • danpri: The most immediate example that comes to mind is Kenneth Leatherwood’s new job in HR that is very similar to Faye Giglio’s.

    Has anyone ever noticed that principals don’t retire — they go spend a couple or few years in Central Office. Conveniently, retirement benefits are based on the highest three years’ pay, so why not spend a couple of years in a cushy Central Office job without too much stress but with a nice salary?

  • danpri–Last night, the MGT consultant who delivered the power point said that our administrative costs were 58% higher than the three “peer” divisions we were compared with (Winchester, Fredericksburg, Wmburg-Jamestown).

  • Karl: I cannot even think that any of those “peer” divisions have a remotely close level of SES or urban issues found in CCS. Do they have a 45% free lunch rate?

    Again, regular readers know my leaning and that I am the first to assume overspending in an administrative setting using public funds. ust looking for more details.

  • Karl: Is it so implausible that Ms. Ivory or Mr.Gillespie might be deserving of the kudos given them by the auditor? Also, simply counting people discounts the time and work these people put into their jobs. What is an acceptable number? 5,12,20?

    The town where I lived before I moved here operated on a magnet school basis that set up an atmosphere of failure, frustration and resentment. Giving all the advantages to one school while depriving the remaining schools sets up an elitist situation that benefits a very few.

    I do agree that fifth graders should be returned to the lower elementary schools.

  • Yes, it is frustrating when we are compared to school divisions of similar size but with very different demographics. Charlottesville has unique strengths and challenges; Alexandria is probably the closest match in the state.

  • Just to clarify, I meant that 19:1 (or whatever it is) is low in a relative sense. I believe the ratios are lower in the city elementaries than in the county elementaries. I would not try to argue necessarily that 19:1 is an ideal number of elementary-school aged children for one teacher to work with.

    I have friends with kids in city elementary schools who describe classrooms with 12 or 14 kids, a full-time teacher, and a teacher’s assistant. We don’t see anything like that kind of ratio in our county elementary, nor in our preschool.

  • FormerCville Teacher

    Currently central office has over 60 positions. When I was a teacher in the city I rarely saw many of these people, except when they might be working on the occasional pet project (usually data related, and very rarely ever seen again). Currently, I’m in a much leaner district and I think it not only pushes people to work harder and smarter, but it also increases communication. 60 central office staff equals about 1:65 central office to student ratio. My current district is closer to 1:110 and while we could use more help at least everyone knows what everyone does and who is responsible for what.

    Karl is right, eliminating assistant principals is a non-starter, although some schools may have more than needed on the surface. The VA Standards of Quality call for “Assistant principals in elementary schools, one half-time at 600 students, one full-time at 900 students; assistant principals in middle schools, one full-time for each 600 students; assistant principals in high schools, one full-time for each 600 students.” So according to the SOQ Buford, with less than 600 students wouldn’t need an AP, Walker with less than 600 students wouldn’t need one, none of the elementary schools would need one, and CHS would need only 2. Now, these are definitely unreasonable numbers, but they are worth considering as a guide. And I would certainly not consider eliminating AP’s from CHS and leaving Buford without one, but . . .

    It’s also worth noting that CCS is probably going to recieve some extra money this year from the city when most districts are losing money. CCS is in pretty good financial shape, but it certainly isn’t financially efficient. A look at central office and personnel who don’t directly support instruction would be a step in the right direction.

  • danpri: Fredericksburg & Winchester’s free & reduced lunch percentages are in the ballpark: F: 46%, W: 45% to CCS’s 54%. (Wmburg-James City: 23%!)

    But, when you look at free lunch only, it appears we have many more kids (as a percentage) living in poverty: CCS: 45%, Fred: 39%, Wmburg: 17%, Win: 36%

    It was utterly ridiculous to pick Williamsburg-James City as a peer division. Cvilletchr has it right: Alexandria with the same number of kids as Wm-James City (10K) has a free/reduced lunch rate of 51%–39% free lunch. Much closer to ours.

    B.Wilson: The auditors did not spend enough time in the division to know (much less comment upon) who is or isn’t doing a good job. That wasn’t their job. Their job was to look at how the division was organized vis a vis other divisions. As a “shareholder” in this division, I was appalled to observe in a public meeting a chummy relationship between the lead auditor and senior staff of the division. Would you want see such a relationship between the auditing accountant and the senior executives of a company whose stocks you owned?

    You do ask the right question: what is an acceptable number of administrators [per students served}? Until we get that answer, our Central Office will keep growing.

    Here are some Central Office numbers gleaned from division websites that I shared with MGT auditors:

    7 senior staff 42 prof. staff 25 support staff = 74 total C.O. employes, or 1 per 51 students (3800 students)

    Albemarle County:
    9 senior staff 71 prof. staff 29 support staff = 109 total C.O. employees, or 1 per 116 students (12,700 students)

    Harrisonburg City:
    9 senior staff 18 prof. staff 18 support staff = 45 total C.O. employees, or 1 per 98 students (4400 students)

    Last point: p. 3 of Appendix A of the MGT report, a survey of staff, show a glaring disparity between how teachers and C.O. administrators rate the division organization. One example:

    Responding to the statement: “Central Office administrators are responsive to school needs.”–85% of C.O. administrators strongly agreed and 8% strongly disagreed; while 39% of teachers strongly agreed and 27% strongly disagree.

    Repeat: more than a quarter of our teachers have strong feelings that Central Office is unresponsive to the needs of their schools. Ouch.

    I wish the auditors had asked this question: “We have way too many Central Office coordinators.”

  • Jennifer B.-
    YES, in Albemarle County, many parents have recognized that principals go on to a second life in Central Office rather than retiring!! It should not be an option in any public school system especially now that we are in a difficult economic period.

    For a zillion years people in both AC and Charlottesville have noted that we should have one school system. It is one of the mysteries of living here, that it is apparently never going to happen. How ridiculous is it that one county middle school transports children to the middle of Charlottesville?

    B. Wilson-
    Flexible/budget oriented school systems around the country do not cling to having schools end at particular grade levels. This should be a capacity driven issue. If it makes sense in one neighborhood to have elementary schools end in 4th grade-fine, if it makes sense across town to have elem. schools end in 6th grade-fine. For the kids there are advantages/disadvantages either way and they will be ok either way. Ditto for the number of grade levels of middle schools.

  • I read bits of the report, and the assistant principal recommendation might not be as dire as it seems, since, according to the report, “the position of instructional coordinator is considered an administrative position (assistant principal) because of the curricular supervisory responsibilities of the position and as indicated in the position description for assistant principal/instructional coordinator.”

    I am also sad the bloated central office was left intact. We need more people actually working with students, particularly in the critical learning-to-read years.

    For me, a former CCS teacher, I am heartened to see that the top-down communication model was criticized. If our schools can fix this and this alone, it will be a great day for our teachers and students.

  • Karl- kick me an email.

  • Ed Gillaspie here. I’m the Finance Director of the schools, the parent of a Buford student and a Greenbrier student, and a product of the Charlottesville City Schools(CCS). I have been working for the school system since 1997.

    While it goes against my better judgment to weigh in, in the interest of getting the truth out, I’m going to anyway. I am also going to resist further comment, though I’m sure it won’t be easy. Finally, I would like to emphasize that I am sharing my own thoughts here – I am not speaking on behalf of the school division.

    First, I cannot think of a way to analyze an entity in a more objective fashion than what I have just witnessed. The efficiency review was requested by the School Board in response to some members of the community AND in hopes that a third party inspection of all of our processes and staffing levels would yield greater efficiency toward improved student learning. The state Department of Planning and Budget (DPB) controlled the process from there. They put out a request for bids, known as an RFP, and selected MGT of America. MGT reported to the DPB, NOT the School Board or central office. Staff responded to requests for data, gave interviews, and responded to surveys. What MGT did, how they did it, what they reported, and how they reported it was completely between them and the DPB. Central office had no control or influence – period.

    The Charlottesville community has always been amazingly supportive of education and, as a parent, I would not have my kids anywhere else. Like any organization, CCS has prioritized where money is spent and makes greater investments in some areas, less in others. Unlike other organizations, these investment decisions are made during annual public processes known as the budget season. We are now in the middle of the budget season for the 2009-2010 school year, and will have an approved budget by the end of February. Conversations related to the larger issues contained in the MGT report will no doubt go well beyond that point.

    So, where has CCS placed its highest investment to date? Simple: small neighborhood schools (we have elementary schools of 200 – 300, where most divisions are 400 or more), small class sizes, and significant levels of assistance in the classroom and at the building level.

    Moving out of the school buildings then, you build the support functions necessary to maintain that investment. These functions are: transportation, facilities maintenance, food service, finance, human resources, and curriculum and instruction. The level of staff required to carry out these support services is driven by the number people served and buildings maintained, not the number of students.

    The recommendations in the report that MGT produced merely reflect where the heavy investment is, and where it is not. Ignoring the specific recommendations, what the report does is verify what we already know – that the community has valued small neighborhood schools, small class sizes, and significant building level support staff. The report also indicates that the support structure, including central office, is correctly staffed to support that investment.

    In reference to the current bleak revenue forecast, we will analyze ALL areas of the school division and seek informed feedback and participation as we look for ways to save money toward achieving a balanced budget. Our priority has always been to focus on students first as we consider how best to reallocate resources.

  • I’ll take the high road and give a loud AMEN to the last line of Ed’s post.

    That’s why we need to look at C.O. staffing.

  • If our central office staff worked effectively with teachers, I would have no complaints about the size of central office. As we stand, however, quite a few teachers feel that central office staff have no idea what is happening in the schools. Communication is a one-way street from central office to teachers and a one-way street as well from central office to the school board. New teachers and teachers who have worked in other divisions don’t stay long in the city schools, though the city schools to this point don’t seem too worried about losing teachers. This would all be well and fine if our schools were more successful. However, Buford is a behavioral nightmare and a significant number of students reach CHS with elementary-level reading skills. I have even heard, sadly, that the CHS administrative team has reached the point, yet again, where they are no longer accepting referrals from teachers. I don’t know if this is true, as rumors abound. Can any CHS teachers speak to this? I do know that in other school systems, central office staff get into the schools with frequency, to keep their fingers on the pulse. This does not happen in our city schools.

  • Any budget cut recommendations that exclude an entire group, should be taken with utter contempt. There is absolutely no excuse for this. Administrative staff in any organization are viewed as overhead and should be the first to be cut. Not the individuals who actually do the work to keep the organization functioning. There is no reason that administrative staff functions cannot either be eliminated or combined so that fewer staffers are required.

    It really smells like the central office gave the “efficiency experts” marching orders to not touch the central office staff. Everyone should be appalled by this.

    I think an FOI request is necessary to get to the bottom of this.

  • VOD, at one point in your comment you assert (as essential fact) that teachers feel that CO staff have “no idea” what is “happening” in the schools, but later that “rumors abound”. Seems the former may fall under the category of the latter, potentially.

    As for CO staff going into the schools to see what is “happening”, I know from past conversations with CCS teachers that they used to with regularity (and not so long ago). It may not be the case any longer, which would be to their detriment.

    And I think Ed G.’s post lends credence to the idea that sometimes, just sometimes, what you want to be the case may not entirely be. Sometimes there are people who have more actual information than you (not everyone can have all the information, after all) and maybe your assumptions based on your beliefs are not actually true.

    (the “you” and “your” are not directed at VOD, just in general)

  • I think an FOI request is necessary to get to the bottom of this.

    FWIW—putting my VCOG hat on hereany request made of a government agency in Virginia is a “FOIA request.” If there are specific documents or facts that you want from the Charlottesville school system, you need only request them, and you’ll get them.

    None of that is to suggest that anything revealing would or would not come of such a request—I’m just very briefly explaining the process.

  • Just to clarify. I’m not saying that “all” administrative staff are expendable. However, when money is plentiful, more staff (including teachers) are hired so that all can focus their attentions on more specific duties. So, it makes sense that when money is tight. All staff positions should be looked at as to the possibility of being reduced.

  • Waldo,

    Please, please, please, add what you just wrote above to the top of your blog so people can be reminded of that every day. It is amazing how uninformed city employees can be of the basic facts regarding their obligations to provide information when asked. If enough citizens know the law, eventually city employees will get to know it too.

    Even making a formal request isn’t really a guarantee of getting what you ask for in this city. On two different occasions after two different written FOIA requests, I have been able to gain access to documents that should have been proved in response to my requests, but which weren’t. One time I was shown a whole folder, another time I managed to obtain a copy of a document which led me to believe that still more were missing from what had been provided. It is hard to say whether simple incompetence or a willful intent to withhold information was at work. The sad thing is that both are equally believable here.

  • I do wonder why we are spending so much on a super as well as so much on consultants. Seems like the super that makes the jack we are paying should be able to sort this stuff out on their own and move the programs forward. You know,walk around the office and says…”hmmmm…not much work going on here…or there. And that is just busy work in that office.” Of course, a bureaucrat mentality might make this too hard to shake. Paying even more for what seems to be her job makes me wonder.

    I would also be curious how many hours a week are put in the office for the salary workers.

    And if we are going the consultant route, should we not have waited on the results of the suggestions prior to major hires/fires?

  • from Appendix A of the efficiency report, survey responses:

    21% of Central Office administrators and 17% of teacher strongly agree that “Teachers who do not meet expect work standards are disciplined.” 40% of teachers strongly disagree with this statement.

    32% of C.O. administrators and 13% of teachers strongly agree that “Staff (excluding teachers) who do not meet expected work standards are disciplined.”

    37% of teachers and 61% of C.O. administrators strongly agree that “Teachers and administrators in our division have an excellent relationship.” (25% of teachers strongly disagree with this statement)

    1/3 of teachers strongly agree that “Most administrative practices in our school division are highly effective and efficient.” (1/3 of teachers strongly disagree with this statement)

    1/3 of teachers strongly agree that “C.O. administrators are easily accessible and open to input.” (35% strongly disagree with this statement)

    Half the teachers strongly agree that “Teachers and staff are empowered with sufficient authority to perform their reponsibilities effectively.” (26% strongly disagree with this statement)

    Half the teachers and 1/4 of the C.O. administrators strongly agree that “Our school division has too many committees.”

    Half the teachers strongly agree that “Our school divison has too many layers of administrators.”

    89% of C.O. administrators and 39% of teachers strongly agree that “Central Office administrators are responsive to school needs.” (27% of teachers and 8% of Central Office administrators strongly disagree with this statement)

    3/4 of C.O. administrators and teachers rate “Principals’ work as the instructional leaders of their schools” and “Principals’ work as the managers of the staff and teachers” as good or excellent.

    82% of Central Office administrators, 94% of principals, and 72% of teachers strongly agree that “The student-to-teacher ratio is reasonable.”

    Half the teachers strongly agree that “Our school buildings provide a healthy environment in which to teach.” (1/4 of teachers strongly disagree with this statement) 89% of C.O. administrators strongly agree and 4% strongly disagree with this statement.

    28% of teachers and 75% of C.O. administrators strongly agree that “Funds are managed wisely to support education in this school division.” (31% of teachers and 4% of C.O. administrators strongly disagree with this statement)

    54% of C.O. administrators, 29% of principals, and 23% of teachers strongly agree that “The budgeting process effectively involves administrators and staff.” (15% of C.O. administrators, 30% of principals and 42% of teachers strongly disagree with this statement)

    Half the teachers strongly agree that “Our schools are safe and secure from crime.” 1/4 of teachers strongly disagree with this statement.

    42% of teachers strongly agree that “Our schools effectively handle misbehavior problems.” (39% of teachers strongly disagree with this statement)

    1/3 of C.O. administrators strongly agree that “Our division has a problem with gangs.” 39% strongly disagree. (Half the teachers strongly agree with this statement, and 8% strongly disagree.)

    1/4 of C.O. administrators strongly agree that “Our division has a problem with drugs, including alcohol.” 43% strongly disagree. (45% of teachers strongly agree with this statement; 9% strongly disagree.)

    18% of C.O. administrators and 46% of teachers strongly agree that “Our division has a problem with vandalism.”

  • At the Virginia Coalition for Open Government, we’re actively working on a promotional strategy to educate Virginians about how easy (and important) it is to make a request for information from the government. Though we’ll likely push print and broadcast media as venues, my pet project is to figure out how we can also spread the message online, via blogs like

    Sunshine Week is coming up in March. Here’s hoping I can get my act together by then. :)

  • What really stands out to me is the disparity of perceptions between CO and teachers.

    32% of C.O. administrators and 13% of teachers
    18% of C.O. administrators and 46% of teachers
    75% of C.O. administrators and 28% of teachers
    9% of C.O. administrators and 39% of teachers

    And these are perceptual things that more of than not seem based on political concerns rather than the reality. Now some of this would seem unavoidable for many reasons. Front line staff often complain about budgeting, pay, work loads etc without having a full grasp of the realities. Really, how many teacher understand the level of effort required for a cafeteria to meet all the different realties of state, federal, health code, budget, nutrition vs. what kids will eat stuff.

    But when the teachers feel 600% more than the CO that the school does not provide a healthy learning environment one really must wonder about the disconnect.

  • Citizens for a Sustainable Water Plan has unfortunately had to resort to FOIA to obtain significant information about the RWSA water plan. Without FOIA this infomation would never have been public and can be found at our web-site and at The Hook has done a comprehensive investigative series on this subject. We encourage all citizens to use this vehicle which is not difficult if you question what you are being told.

    there are many FOIA’ed documents in these articles

  • It seems to me that if the CCS school population is declining (which it is) and we are prompted by this consulting group to close a school and consolidate the Central Office, then doesn’t it follow that we will need fewer CO staff? Why wouldn’t the recommendation to reduce overall staff also include CO if we are going to end up with fewer schools and therefore less administrative responsibilities. Wouldn’t 10% fewer schools mandate a similar reduction in Administration?

  • Four or five years ago, the school system said it needed more coordinators and increased their number to around 20 to work on curriculum. Isn’t their work finished by now? If not, when do they expect to finish? They’re costing the system over $1M. I have never seen any explanation as to why each elementary school needed an assistant principal and I doubt if any school board member has any clue. Every year the elementary enrollment declines; principals in the seventies had 50% more students and no assistants to help them.
    I think this whole process will probably go up in smoke for the most part. The main thing, as usual, is the city and school staff will get the raises and continue on about their business. Cville will probably be the only locality in central Virginia with raises around the table. That’s why their budgets are going up, not down.

  • I think that the numbers Karl mentions are even more startling when you consider that things aren’t too bad in our elementary schools, behaviorally anyway….so, when you see numbers on things like “safe and secure from crime,” you need to realize that the 1/4 number really means that a big chunk of teachers at Buford and CHS believe that those schools are unsafe.

  • How many people actually filled out the survey?

  • Central Office administrators: 28
    Principals: 17
    Teachers: 221

    The report notes “MGT uses a statistical formula to set an acceptable return rate in order to declare that the survey results are representative of the population surveyed. In the case of Charlottesville City Schools, the response rates for administrators and principals were slightly below this standard.”

    Kudos to the teachers for completing their homework!

    Note: we have 4 Princ/APs at CHS, 4 at Buford, 3 at Walker, and 2 at each of the six elem schools = 23 (17 of 23 = 74%)

    I count 7 senior staff and 42 professional staff in Central Office. 28 of 49 = 57%. But maybe MGT isn’t counting the 22 coordinators? (I’ve heard the claim that these folks are really more like teachers…Are they? Not according to the teachers I’ve spoken with.) But this can’t be right because 49-22=27, fewer than the number of C.O. respondents. So who is MGT counting in Central Office? (\

    The good news, of course, is that SOMEWHERE there exists an official count of Central Office!

  • February is just around the corner. can hardly wait to see how much it will cost the city tax payers to operate the inefficent CCS for the upcoming fiscal year. $77M this past year.
    This report will be like all other reports. Looked at only briefly and put on a shelf with the other reports, never to be seen or looked at again. Shameful. Waste of taxpayer money.

  • 2Karl Ackerman, if you add the 22 coordinators to the 28, you’ll get 50, one more than the 49. Maybe somebody’s missing from your count or has retired.
    The coordinators’ positions were explained as working on curriculum, particularly its vertical articulation and alignment. I suspect they have finished their work, and, because they are in good favor and do not wish to return to the classroom, the system is rewarding them with administrative jobs. Remember it has been said that CO is working without job descriptions by two consultants in recent years. You’d better believe that it will be one big fight to get rid of the consultants, who spend most of their in meetings, I’m told.
    Perhaps they have been re-assigned to teach classroom mangaement techniques to teachers.

  • Cville Eye what the hell is vertical articulation and alignment. I just had my tires Aligned, rotated and balanced on my car. Did I forget to have something done that should have been done in this process?

  • Interestingly, more than half of the recommendations are revenue neutral & all we have to do is implement 50% of them to avoid paying the $30,000 penalty.

  • @jogger, vertical articulation and alighment is used to say that you don’t have students writing three page papers before they learn to write a paragraph.

  • Cville Eye are you saying that we have in our CCS been vertically articulating and aligning our students? If so, no wonder our city public schools are so F@#.

  • I’m saying that former superintendent Simons said that each elementary school could decide its articulation and alignment for itself. Since then, we’ve had two superintendents that were wiser and have said that they can’t and thus the coordinator positions were formed to better articulate the system’s curriculum and align it.

  • I never thought I would be around long enough to say this, but “everything old is new again.”

    Close a school? Raise class sizes? Limit our course offerings at CHS?

    All of these issues were part of the “Schools Talk 2000” series of discussions held during the 1998-1999 school year. (or maybe it was 1999-2000).

    Improve vertical alignment and coordination?

    yep, read the PDK curriculum audit done in 2004-05.

    Personally, I wouldn’t close an elementary school. I would close Walker, send the fifth grade back to the elementary schools and make Buford a middle school serving grades 6-8. (I suggest closing Walker because it is a smaller facility. In terms of meeting the needs of students, its proximity to CHS is a benefit for those who enroll in high school classes in 8th grade, and for those participating in high school sports).

  • Agreed, if any schools are to be closed then it needs to be Walker. I think Walker would make an excellent YMCA facility. The park can then be saved in its present form.
    Agree that 5th graders should be in elementary school. I can almost see elementary school running through 6th grade and middle school limited to 7th, 8th, graders or even 7th, 8th, and 9th graders. IMHO.

  • There is a lot of support in our community for increasing the grade level of our elementary schools. There is also quite a bit of evidence that students perform better over the long haul when they have more time at the elementary level. I can cite study after study, if anyone doubts it. Nobody else has two two-year schools between elementary and secondary; we did it for political reasons, not because it was educationally beneficial to our children.

  • When I went to school, elementary was 1 – 7 and high was 8 – 12. Then, CCS was acknowledged to one of the best school systems in the State. In each situation a student could go all day without interacting with students two years younger.

  • We’ve come a long way, baby.

  • From a purely numerical point of view, closing Walker and moving the sixth grade to Buford doesn’t make sense. The enrollment at Walker (according to the efficiency study) is 519 students, which puts the sixth grade at approximately 260 students. Again, according to the study, Buford is “underenrolled” by 160 students. After adding the existing sixth grade, Buford would go from being under capacity to bursting at the seams by 100 or so students.

    Bursting at the seams is never really the way you want to go at any age. I think that goes doubly true for students of middle school age, where hormones are raging and their brains haven’t quite figured out what to do with said hormones yet.

    Efficiency study or not, I think that anyone with a modicum of sense can see that cuts are coming. In the current economic climate it will be impossible (and irresponsible) to continue staffing the schools at their current level – I don’t think you’ll find anyone who would argue differently. Everyone is going to have to take a deep breath, roll up their sleeves and figure out how to do this with as little impact to the students as possible. It is times like these that force us to have the hard conversations – what do we value in our schools, how much do we value it, and what value do we get from it?

    As someone has already pointed out, many of the recommendations made in the study are revenue neutral. It is likely we could easily implement 50% or more of the recommendations without cutting a single position. Unfortunately, that will not solve what will likely be a fairly large budget shortfall.

  • I’m not sure how the consultants computed the enrollment capacity at Walker or Buford, but when Walker and Burford were both 7,8 and 9, there were over 800 students in each of the schools. With the walls back up and the additional classroom space off from the cafeterias near the offices, I’m sure either school can house over 800 again.
    “It is times like these that force us to have the hard conversations – what do we value in our schools, how much do we value it, and what value do we get from it?” I think that is done every ten or twelve years and that’s why we have the student-teacher ratios that we have today. Now, the community has to answer “What is most important, keeping the student-teacher ratios the same or continue with coordination.”

  • “Only in Charlottesville is there a prep school for junior high school.” Not my line, alas, but a bright Walker student at graduation a few years ago.

    I fault the MGT study for not putting Walker into the mix when they talked about closing a school. We have such an odd grouping of students in our schools. That should have been a red flag in any discussion about closing a school.

    A thought came up during a discussion last night at a CHS PTO meeting about the current budget and the MGT study: have any of the 33 (I believe that’s the number we heard) efficiency studies managed by the VDOE resulted in suggestions of cut positions to Central Office? I wonder. It would make good sense for a consultant to leave that chapter out of a report like this–those are the folks who hire firms like MGT, after all. (As we did a few years ago to help us write our strategic plan.)

  • Isn’t Walker in the mix as an elementary school? Sure it’s an “upper” elementary….but it’s still an elementary. Doesn’t it get us to the same place?

  • Link to the completed School Division Reviews:

    Apparently the first Reviews (starting in 2004)were prepared by VDOE with later Reviews prepared by hired consultants.

  • Interesting piece in C’Ville Weekly–
    –on consolidating the city and county schools. Bravo to School Board members Brian Wheeler (ACPS) and Kathy Galvin (CCS) for being open to the conversation. Until we have it, we won’t know if this idea is a good one or a bad one–or maybe we decide to partially consolidate. One obvious benefit: a much-reduced cost of administration. (Note to Llezelle Dugger, CCS Board member: 16,000 student school district–4 high schools–isn’t immense at all. To borrow a line from our new president: it’s not about big schools or little schools, just schools that work.

  • Can anyone name a big school district that does work? I don’t want to get into a definition of “work” at this time, just stick with the vagueness.

  • Fairfax?…I guess you’re looking for big CITY school district. Hard to find one. But there are some mighty impressive schools that are educating low income kids who don’t usually succeed in school and go on to college. Take a look at the KIPP schools:

  • Off the top of my head:…

    Virginia: Fairfax County Schools, Arlington County Schools Maryland: Montgomery County Schools

    The September/October 2000 issue of Offspring Magazine listed the Ohio County Schools and Monongalia County Schools (both W. Virginia) as being among America’s best 100 school districts. The website I found said this:

    “In comparing school districts across the country, Offspring magazine enlisted the services of a national educational research firm, SchoolMatch, to examine a variety of factors, including cost of living (mean property values and mean property costs) academic performance and expenditures per student, to select systems that spend their dollars wisely, while producing exemplary academic results.”

    Does anyone have access to this issue of Offspring Magazine, or anything more recent?

    We really should figure out which systems are effective and then try to emulate them.

  • @Karl Ackerman “There are currently 66 KIPP public schools in 19 states and the District of Columbia enrolling more than 16,000 students. Across the KIPP network, 65 of the existing 66 schools are charter schools. The majority of KIPP schools (more than 85 percent) are middle schools designed to serve fifth through eighth grade students. The remaining schools include seven high schools, six pre-kindergarten/elementary schools, and one pre-kindergarten through eighth grade school.

    Over 90 percent of KIPP students are African American or Hispanic/Latino, and more than 80 percent of KIPP students are eligible for the federal free and reduced-price meals program. Students are accepted regardless of prior academic record, conduct, or socioeconomic background.”
    This seems to be a chain of charter schools in mainly large population centers. Apparently the kids elect to go there. Obviously, there is little substanial evaluative data generated in its 10 – 12 year history to tell just how many finish college. I believe if someone tried to set up a school for primarily black students many would wonder if this is a thinly disguised attempt at segregation.
    @Voice of Doom: “We really should figure out which systems are effective and then try to emulate them” Charlottesville does not employ “best practices” for the most part, although it will purchase a curriculum “sytem” for instruction, then not train all of the teachers to use the system. It sees itself as pacemakers, not folowers. Delusions of grandeur. As for those other counties you’ve named, within their districts they have some neighborhood schools with great median scores; however, that doesn’t say they educate those stuents who fit the demographics of Charlottesville very well. The truth of the matter is, most localities did not evaluate their success in providing “appropriate” education for their students until No Child Left Behind, and they are still learning how. Fortunately, VA started competency testing in the seventies and, later, the SOL testing that showed that it wasn’t doing as good a job of teaching all but the college prep students.
    The primary reason I feel Charlottesville and Albemarle districts have not combined is that the county parents are not interested in their children going to school with the city kids (that’s why they live in the county) and each locality has subtle differences in the philosophy of social programs that they would never agree as to what services the schools should provide for the children and their parents.

  • I’m not convinced that parents have moved to the county so their kids don’t have to mingle with city kids. There are lots of county parents who pay good money so their kids can go to the city schools. There are also lots of city parents who put their kids in private schools (generally beginning with Walker and Buford). While I would love to see the city schools absorbed by the county, I’m not sure what’s in it for the county. Can anyone help me understand how the county will benefit from such an arrangement?

    I agree with Karl in that I think we’re better off looking at schools that work, not systems that work. Let’s find schools that are like our system (since we’re small) and replicate what they do.

  • I agree to look at schools that work, but not those that can hand pick their students. The number of county students in city schools that PAY has declined drastically in the past ten years as the county increased its academic offerings and the number of Advanced Placement classes. Voice of Doom, look at the real estate ads and you will notice that almost none, if any, uses the phrase “good schools” when describing a home for sale in the city. It’s a very subtle message. Anecdotally, real estate agents have told me that I can sell my home to younger couples at the price I want, IF they do not have children. Even the city’s comprehensive Plan has stated that the city should market itself to empty nesters, retirees looking for a condo, and young singles. Of course, not all parents refuse to allow their children to associate with any and all city children, but they’re very selective, and more often than not, the sleep overs are in the county.
    I don’t thank the county is particularly interested in merging its system with the city but it may wish to buy a school in the city rather than transport some of its elementary students through the city when it has to redistrict. It’s should be cheaper to buy an existing school than to build a new one according to today’s VA Standards of Quality dealing with acreage among other things.

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