SPARTA, NJ – Sparta school district did not get any Quality Single Accountability Continuum or QSAC points restored after the appeal meeting held two weeks ago according to the letter read by Superintendent Michael Rossi at the special board of education meeting on Monday. Rossi, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum Patrick McQueeney and board president Kelly McEvoy attended the meeting to try to overturn Sparta’s failing placement on QSAC. Sparta scored only 59 points out of 100 in the area of Instruction and Program. A score of 80 is required to pass.
“Based on the documentation presented at the onsite review and no further evidence presented as part of the request for reconsideration nor during the on-site reconsideration review, points for Instruction and Program indicators 9-15 will not be restored,” the letter signed by Paula Bloom, Acting Director, Field Services Coordination Unit said.
Resident Jennifer Hamilton said, “I’m assuming you did not have any new documents to share.” Contrary to what Bloom’s letter said, Rossi said they “absolutely did” have additional documents and that McQueeney spent time going through the documents but they “didn’t have all seven curricula complete.”
Rossi said McQueeney is “methodically and steadily working with staff and teachers to have the paperwork done this fall.”
Characterizing the appeal meeting as “replicating what we did in the spring” Rossi said they asked the Education Specialists from Passaic and Sussex County what they would consider.
The denial of his appeal has not stopped Rossi from continuing protest the QSAC placement. He has vowed to continue to fight New Jersey Department of Education. Rossi said he will meet with people Trenton including Commissioner Lamont Repollet to discuss “the faulty appeal process.” Rossi complained one of the problems is that “while an appeal hasn’t been announced yet, you are forced to announce your [QSAC placement] results.”
Rossi said he plans to “work with Dr. Feinsod to have a dialogue with Rich Bozza and Repollet about this.” Rossi protested the process of “asking a district like Sparta with 507 courses of study” to update curriculum to the new standards in the required timeframe. It was not reasonable he said. Rossi said districts in the “CAR Pilot were given a different process and a different type of review” for going through the full QSAC review process, even getting up to three extra years before they had to be evaluated.
Feinsod is the Executive Director of the New Jersey School Boards Association. He previously served as superintendent in Madison, Rossi’s job prior to coming to Sparta. Bozza is the Executive Director of New Jersey Association of School Administrators, Rossi’s union. Lamont Repollet is the commissioner of the New Jersey Department of Education.
According to New Jersey Principals and Supervisors Association, CAR or Connected Action Roadmap is a school improvement program being piloted in 34 individual schools to "ensure the conversations Professional Learning Communities have with members of their teams will be meaningful and purposeful."
Each year more than 200 districts in New Jersey undergo a full QSAC review. In Sparta's cohort of 212 districts 75.2% of districts passed according to Michael Yaple, spokesperson for the NJ DOE. The district that score less than 80 points in any of the five area Instruction and Program, Fiscal Management, Personnel, Governance, Operations are considered to have failed and must undergo a District Improvement Plan with six month reviews to check on the district’s progress.
With about three and a half hours to spare, the Sparta Board of Education approved the Quality Single Assurance Continuum District Improvement Plan or QSAC DIP with a unanimous vote. The NJ DOE QSAC placement letter dated June 27, announcing Sparta had failed, required a DIP to be submitted by August 12, 2019.
After reading the appeal letter, as required, Rossi went through some of the processes leading up to the special meeting to adopt the DIP. After the appeal meeting, “they suggested [Sparta] should go back into Cohort I.” Rossi said it was his understanding that moving cohorts would have the district repeat the QSAC review in a year and eliminate the DIP, “so I accepted.” Rossi said Executive County Superintendent Rosalie Lamonte also had the understanding that moving to Cohort I would eliminate the need for a DIP.
Carla Spates the NJ DOE QSAC Coordinator said that was not the case. Sparta would still need to go through the DIP process.
After all of the discussion about the DIP and moving cohorts, board member Kate Matteson asked to clarify whether or not the district was changing cohorts. McQueeney said the district was not switching cohorts.
Board member Kim Bragg asked to clarify the DIP requirements; were they only for the curriculum indicators that Sparta received zero points or did it have to include the first eight indicators for student achievement and growth for which Sparta received partial points. McQueeney said Lamonte told him it was only for the curriculum indicators where Sparta got zero points.
Hamilton asked when the DIP and all of the other QSAC documents would be posted on the district website. McEvoy said there was no time frame but it would be as soon as they could.
Resident Tina Rowan asked who would be on the QSAC committee. Board president Kelly McEvoy said it would be Kim Bragg, Jen Grana, Sue Sawey, McQueeney, Rossi. Bragg said she was not on the committee. “But you were asked,” McEvoy said. Bragg said she declined because she was out of town and was not at the meeting.
“Is this something we are going to keep working on to make sure we don’t have to do this again,” Rowan said.
“Sure,” Rossi said.
The regular August board of education meeting is scheduled for Monday, August 26, beginning at 7:30 in the media center at Sparta High School.