about the school culture. Ms. Foisy said that teachers and administrators in those schools completed surveys, which were a source of evidence and generated a lot of discussion. Ms. Foisy added that where appropriate, students and parents would also be surveyed.
Board member Tom Fortmann asked about the district leadership report for Lowell, which Ms. Foisy said was embedded in the school reports. Dr. Fortmann said that much of the Board’s authority relates to schools rather than to districts until they become chronically underperforming. He said the 10 conditions provide a lever, but based on the nine district reports, the impression is one of business as usual. He said the plans generally did not reflect the kinds of changes identified in the Turnaround Challenge Report or in the book, It’s Being Done.
Dr. Fortmann said the process seems adequate but he would have liked to see more evidence of what is being done in those districts. One example would be evidence of curriculum alignment to the state frameworks. He also said principals have only limited authority when it comes to staffing and financial resources. Dr. Fortmann said he is concerned that the conditions in the regulations are not being met, and he would like to see if any changes to contracts have been made to meet the conditions. Dr. Fortmann noted that the Department recruited principals in two of three chronically underperforming schools, and suggested a careful review of principal leadership as well as the other factors identified in the 10 conditions.
Dr. Fortmann said he would like the Commissioner to convene a focus group of principals, especially those with experience in successful turnarounds.
Board member Kaplan said that only New Bedford had a school committee member on the panel. Ms. Dow said the inclusion of school committee members was encouraged but not required. Ms. Kaplan asked about getting feedback from superintendents. Ms. Foisy said feedback would come from panelists, moderators, and superintendents and other district representatives.
Ms. Kaplan said that sometimes there is a disconnect between the paper report and what is observed in person. Ms. Kaplan mentioned her conversation with the principal of the Hurley School in Boston about the need for a good after-school program, in which the principal reported that her biggest challenge was transportation for the after-school program.
Chairman Reville said this is development work, noting that no one in the country has figured this out yet. We have had some limited success, but there is limited capacity at the Department. The chairman asked Board members if they had questions about individual district plans.
Board member Chernow said there didn’t seem to be a connection between the challenge and the action steps in the Boston plan. Ms. Dow said the districts were limited by the abbreviated form that the Department asked them to follow.