PLAINFIELD, NJ - On Tuesday, the Board of Education, along with the public, heard a presentation from Leverett Education Consulting, or LEC, led by former Plainfield Superintendent Dr. Larry Leverett, who retired from the Panasonic Foundation earlier this year, and his colleague, Dr. Kaili Baucum Sanderson, entitled "Building School Board Effectiveness and Efficiency."

Dr. Leverett said there were five areas that were identified in his initial conversations with Board President Emily Morgan, where Plainfield's Board would match up with LEC's skill set: 

  1. Support development of School Board governance policies and practices.
  2. Work on processes on how the School Board does its work, develop agreements on operating norms, and Board operational responsibilities, define what roles people play.
  3. Work with the Board in establishing norms that would lead to rules of engagement. 
  4. Support the Board and its efforts to define strategic direction.  If there is no strategic plan, LEC would help to develop one; Leverett said LEC doesn't have a playbook, but can provide examples of best practices.
  5. Help and support the Board's effort to learn.  As leaders in an organization on learning, School Boards need to carve out time for learning, i.e. attending retreats and workshops.

Dr. Baucum Sanderson described the values by which LEC operates:

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  • To share values and beliefs about what is possible for all students, and know that all students have the ability to learn at high levels. 
  • To show accountability, meaning that effective school boards should maintain systems of accountability that monitor system performance so that processes in place ensure all students are achieving and getting what they need.
  • To demonstrate Board stewardship, that School Boards should demonstrate leadership to support and maintain a culture of collaboration.

The timeline that was outlined for the scope of work indicated:

  • In September/October:  Board interviews would be conducted 
  • In October/November:  Customized board self-assessment; convene retreat planning committee of 2-3 members
  • Quarterly Board retreats would potentially take place in November 2017, and in 2018, in February, April and June

The pitch projected on the screen contained many words, but no hard numbers on LEC's success rates at the schools where they have consulted, and no price points.  Those in attendance did learn that examples of LEC's current work with School Boards include:

  • Collaborative problem-solving with 14 member elected/appointed board and CEO/superintendent, County Council and County Executive
  • Design and support process to develop board work plan and calendar, as well as provide technical assistance to streamline superintendent evaluation process
  • Support the seven member elected board in developing processes to select a superintendent search committee, including engagement of stakeholders, consensus on search firm selection criteria
  • Facilitate process to develop board work plan and calendar, ensure alignment of governance/policy and strategic plan, and strategic teambuilding for siloed school board 

There were questions from School Board members, as well as the public.  Here are just a few:

Q:  How would you work to have Board members achieve consensus?

A:  Investment in team building, and agenda setting processes.  The Board then has a huge responsibility to do self-policing.

Q:  Do you assist in the search for a Superintendent?

A.  No, but we have designed processes, and helped with job descriptions, and can do so here as well.

Q.  So far I haven't heard at all what your results and accomplishments are.

A.  We don't have student achievement data we can share.  We do have references.  We can tell you the stories and changes we have seen, but we have also not been successful everywhere.

Sanderson's response, when asked to describe a timeline for turnaround in one of the "most abysmal situations" in which they worked:



In other news:

One of the questions Aisha Eustache, who will be on the ballot in November in her run for a School Board position, asked pertained to LinkIt, wondering who will analyze the data, and how the data will be disseminated.

The resolution in the agenda states that the Office of Planning Research and Evaluation / Testing recognizes LinkIt as an expert in the area of analytics, learning management and assessment software.  The cost is $64,383.  You can hear Dr. Cooper's response here:

William Nesbitt wanted to know how many teachers were let go, and in what departments, vs. how many administrators. 

Eric Jones, President of the Plainfield Education Association, or PEA, commented that the LEC presentation provided no metric nor price.  He also expressed concern that teachers may not know who the Superintendent is on the first day of school, and that the Woodland teachers have no Principal to whom they can turn.  He said there will be further staff lost at West 8th Street, and he asked for further clarification on what is happening at Barack Obama Academy.

Sam Cooper requested notifications of absent students to be sent earlier than 10:30 am for the safety of the children.  She also commented on the LEC presentation; earlier in the evening, when she asked the consultants how the community can be involved, Leverett had said "our client is the School Board, our direction comes from the School Board."  But Cooper, in her comments to the Board, said, "without us, there is no you."

Two other topics that were mentioned multiple times included:

  • Clocks that are rarely in sync, even clocks in the same room. 
  • More importantly, the need to address outreach to the Hispanic population, the necessity of providing translators and agendas in Spanish, and the hiring of bilingual staff.

Here is the agenda from the Aug. 22nd meeting, in case you missed it.  08-22-17 Agendapdf

A Board of Education meeting will take place on Monday, Aug. 28th at 8:00 pm.  It will take place at Washington Community School, located at 427 Darrow Avenue.