A task force set up to make recommendations for the future of the unaccredited Normandy School District says a new structure with a new name, within the current boundaries of the district, should be set up. It would report directly to the state board of education.
The Normandy School District was classified as unaccredited as of Jan. 1, 2013.
The panel, authorized earlier this year by the state board and named by Commissioner Chris Nicastro, said the new entity should be governed by an appointed board of between five and seven members. If it is five members, it should include at least one member of the current elected board; if seven members, it should have at least two members of the current elected board.
The panel’s 17-page report was delivered to Nicastro earlier this week. She will use it to put together recommendations from the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education and will present them to the state board of education at a meeting Tuesday in Columbia.
The task force report said:
“These recommendations come with the understanding that high-performing school districts are relentless about high expectations for all students, have bold strategies for strengthening human capital, have a laser focus on data collection and analysis for informing decision-making, are highly participatory but very strategic decision-makers, and engage strong leaders who can tightly manage for specific outcomes.
“In the Normandy footprint, we also understand that attention to issues such as poverty; transiency; and the lack of socio-emotional supports are critical to the success of the school district.”
In urging a new name, the panel’s report said:
“Consideration should be given to renaming the school district to exemplify a new beginning, although ‘Normandy’ should prominently remain in the title to demonstrate continued cohesiveness in and for the community and the alumni body.”
Its recommendations says that the new district's board should be led by a chief executive chairman who would advise the superintendent on major operational issues.
The report also said the task force itself should remain in place through June 30, 2015, to monitor and consult with the new board, the superintendent and key leaders “to ensure that the processes and procedures are working well and strategic MSIP goals and benchmarks are being met.”
In addition, the panel recommended:
- Establish an “innovation community” to connect the district to innovation and new ideas, helping to monitor progress every eight weeks.
- Retain a central office, led by the superintendent, with a staff that has “the ‘will and skill’ to lead Normandy forward in the new environment, and sized to be commensurate with the financial capability of the school district.”
- Examine options for school choice. Those options, the panel said, could include charters, year-round school, and model classrooms in collaboration with university teacher education.
- Develop transitional classrooms to help deal with a highly transient student population.
- Ensure that every school has at least one liaison between with the community so that students have so-called wrap-around services, from health care to nutrition to housing.
- Monitor operations to make sure they are effective and efficient.
- Expand, enhance and create strategic and essential community partnerships.
- Identify, retain and hire high-quality teaching talent.
- Establish a clear evaluation system for all district and building administrators.
The panel, which met eight times, drew up its plan before lawmakers passed their student transfer bill on Thursday. Some of its recommendations echo what is in the bill, but at least one provision of the bill could clash with its recommendations. That part of the bill would bar the state board from lapsing any district organization because its budget had been drained by payments it had to make for tuition and transportation of transfer students.
That is the situation Normandy found itself in, forcing an emergency appropriation from the state to help the district make it to the end of the school year and prompting the state board to put the district’s finances in the hands of the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education.
In the long term, the task force said, the new Normandy district should stress four goals:
- Early childhood education
- Extended learning opportunities, including programs before and after school and in the summer
- Wrap-around services.
- Technology infrastructure and professional development
“A Normandy School District renewal built upon the framework of the five cross-community pillars of (1) A Culture of Caring and Respect (2) Teaching for understanding and learning (3) Socio-emotional and physical wellness (4) College and career workforce readiness: and (5) Operational alignment, communication and transparency can support and sustain a community-based and supported drive for accreditation.”