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Early read on scores: no schools accredited

SoVaNow.com / June 18, 2014
Mecklenburg County assistant superintendent of Schools Melody Hackney released preliminary scores for the most recent round of SOL tests during the Monday night school board meeting.

She said that while she would not normally choose to report preliminary scores, a recent comment made by Supervisor David Brankley during the June meeting of the Board of Supervisors warranted a response. Brankley had said he’d heard that SOL test scores were “the lowest they’d been in years.”

Hackney stressed that the numbers she was reporting were “unofficial and hand calculated.” Though she was fairly confident that her results were accurate, she added, “in my experience, the official scores are always higher.”

The targets – the passing percentage each school is expected to achieve according under Virginia Standards is 75 percent in English, 70 percent in Math, History and Science. The federal No Child Left Behind Act targets are 69 percent in English and 66 percent in Math. The school district failed to meet the state and federal benchmarks for both English and Math, but met the state benchmarks for History and Science. There is not state or federal standard for writing. Still Hackney said she was “extremely pleased” with the results and that they were proof that “we are on the right track.”

The unofficial average combined score for all schools in the county for 2013-2014 were:

English 68 percent

Math 60 percent

History 76 percent

Science 70 percent

Writing 65 percent

With these scores, Mecklenburg School Superintendent James Thornton predicted that no school in Mecklenburg County will be fully accredited at the start of the next school year. This year, Park View High School and Chase City Elementary School are the only fully accredited schools in Mecklenburg County.

On a positive note, Hackney said that the school district’s English passing percentage rose by four percentage points over the 2012-13 school year and the Math passing percentage rose by eight percentage points over the prior school year. The passing percentage for both history and science were unchanged from last year, and the writing passing percentage declined by two percentage points.

Sandra Tanner, after hearing the results, said that Mecklenburg County schools in suffered from low-test scores in 1998 when the SOLs were first introduced and, over time, scores substantially improved. She, trustee Dale Sturdifen, and Joan Wagstaff expressed confidence that Mecklenburg County schools would once again achieve high SOL test scores.

Thornton added that he was pleased to see the improving scores and that the state has made an effort to ensure that the schools are testing more than rote memorization, but really working to teach students to think.

An $8K Williamsburg Retreat, HVAC units, and auditing firms

In other business, school board members approved the expenditure of $8,000 for a retreat for school administrators to Great Wolfe Lodge near Williamsburg. Karla Gravitt, who arranged the retreat, said the price includes lodging, meals, and video conferencing equipment. She also added that it was the lowest price of any of the three sites she checked, and at $83 per person per day, the cost was below the state’s allowable per diem for the Williamsburg area.

They also approved a sole source contract with Honeywell systems to audit the existing HVAC controls in each of the schools as a first step to recommissioning the existing automated building environmental control systems. Heather Tuck who oversees facility maintenance issues told the trustees, “We need to be able to keep up with energy use, and make sure that our teachers and students are comfortable.”

A preliminary review by Honeywell uncovered several problems with the system, including the lack of a master control board, and broken or disconnected sensors and thermostats.

On a 4-to-3 vote, with Sturdifen, Dora Garner, and Glenn Edwards opposing, trustees agreed to hire the Charlottesville accounting firm of Robinson, Farmer and Cox to conduct the upcoming audit of the schools’ activity funds. School finance director Donna Garner said that school board legal counsel recommended the firm. When asked why the schools were no longer using Creedle Jones & Alga, Garner said, “I did not receive a letter of engagement from them.”

She also acknowledged that she did not investigate whether any local accounting firms were willing to audit the accounts before recommending the Robinson Farmer and Cox firm. Thornton pointed out that professional service contracts “do not require an RFP or that you go through a selection process.”

Finally, during the public comment session, Ann Miller said that during the last meeting of the NAACP, the organization discussed the need for Mecklenburg County Public Schools to hire one teacher of color per grade per school. “Children of color need to see professionals of color,” Miller said.

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Comments

I think the systems needs to stop making excuses for the low test scores. Hire and/or retain the teachers who are actually teaching and get rid of the teachers who are not doing their job. A lot of the younger teachers are too busy trying to be "buddies" with students instead of teaching. And most aren't qualified to teach, they are hired because of their parents or because they are friends of the superintendent. As far as the retreat, it sounds to me as a free vacation for administrators and their families. This $8k could be used to replace the air conditioning in the middle school gyms.

Comments

Hey you can't blame it all on the teachers, modeling and teaching could improve at home too. A lot of good teachers have left so that they could teach in other counties, where they don't have to jump through hoops. I wouldn't be surprised if MCPS hasn't lost up to 40% of their employees since the Thorntonian era. He has done wonders for the Mecklenburg county. He closed a school and spent 6 mil to add on to existing over crowded ones, not to mention taking all accredited schools to none. Boy, we sure have come a long way with this school board and Supe. Who knows where we will be when his contract runs up. Great Job Jim!

Comments

When is this county going to wake up? A 8000 retreat? Seriously??? AS bad as this county is with pathetic facilities, especially the middle schools?? What planet is Hackney from? She is pleased with the scores? This county needs to be wiped clean, starting with Thornton, Hackney, and all their henchmen such as Tanner and the rest of the board members who are wearing blinders. He is ruining this county yet providing perks for his central office favorites and at the same time throwing teachers under the bus. This is NOT OK!

Comments

Don't be fooled at the excuses you will hear/have heard about teachers leaving this county. A mass exodus from this county to say the least, which has only increased since Thornton took over.


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