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  • Wednesday, April 12, 2006

     

    Part 5: OUSD's FOCUS ON CONSULTANTS

    OUSD Administrator email reveals:
    Use of Federal Teacher Training Funds for Consultant Program
    Shortchanges OUSD Student Centered Programs



    A Principal working for a firm she recommends that then gets multiple year contracts; pirated works used in meetings copied without the owners’ permission; a top administrator comparing the program to “marriage encounter training”; 40% of the consultant contracts cut back with no reciprocal program cuts: Welcome to the Focus on Results program in the Orange Unified School District. The Focus on Results educational consultant program in OUSD has cost taxpayers over two million dollars in educational tax funds over the last four years that include years with budget cuts of popular programs. Orange Net News is producing this yearlong exclusive news analysis series that examines the OUSD program; the financial implications; and the worth of the program to the taxpayers that paid for the controversial consultant program.

    The impact on Orange Unified School District student centered programs from the OUSD Trustees voting to approve the use of $206,700 in federal Title II funds designated for “teacher training” on the Focus on Results consultant program became clear from an email sent by an OUSD administrator to an OUSD teacher regarding the shortage of funding in Special Education due to using those program funds for supplies and for teacher trainings. The California State Fiscal Crisis of 2005 caused a number of cut-backs in the OUSD budget including the music program and class size reduction programs. Part of the proposed OUSD administrative cuts was the multi-million dollar OUSD Focus on Results consultant program. That cut proved short lived however. A few months later at the June 23rd 2005 Orange Unified School Board meeting, the OUSD Trustees approved OUSD Assistant Superintendent Cohen's request to bring back OUSD’s Focus on Results consulting program using OUSD Title II Part A federal funds specifically designated for teacher training. The Title II federal grant (part of the No Child Left Behind Act) is known as the “Improving Teacher Quality State Grant Program” and the monies must be spent directly on teacher training. The OUSD Trustees approved using $206,700 of the grant to go toward Focus on Results as “teacher training”. The page 55 agenda item stated:

    “Because Focus on Results provides Orange Unified with a structure/scaffold of research based effective systemic practices upon which District and site strategies can be organized, it will be funded through the Title II grant.”

    Only OUSD Trustees Rick Ledesma and John Ortega raised concerns about the multi-million dollar OUSD consultant program, but ended joining the other OUSD Trustees in approving the controversial request. None of the OUSD Trustees questioned OUSD administrators on other possible uses for the $206,700 in federal funding.


    Five months later at the November 17th Board Meeting, Cohen would be reporting to the Trustees on OUSD’s Focus on Results (see a complete review of that report in the Part 3 link below). At that meeting, with no hard evidence or reserach to support the program, Cohen would compare the program to “marriage encounter training”. Cohen would also reveal that she had her own consultant from the program and for the first time reported that the program would spend 40% less on consultants (without decreasing her funding requests by a like amount).

    Four months later in February 2006, when an OUSD Special Education teacher of handicapped students made a request to OUSD administrative officials to help fund a field trip for her students, the impact on student programs of the $206,700 designated “teacher training” money spent on the Focus on Results consultant program became clear. The Special Education teacher had requested funding for school buses for field trips to continue having her students out in the community as part of their multi-modality and social interaction requirements, she was informed by two top OUSD administrators there was no more money in the special education budget for those services. She was informed the money (which could be used to fund a variety of budget items) was spent primarily on supplies and teacher training.

    OUSD Administrative Director of Pupil Services Dr. William Gee wrote in a 2/24/06 email to the teacher:
    “We are trying to stretch our dollars as far as they will go but our budget is exceptionally tight. We give our coordinators a basic amount of money for their programs. The money is spent on supplies and training, primary, and rarely used for field trips. As you know, field trips are surprisingly expensive”.

    In that email Gee does offer a suggestion, he advised the teacher to find out the cost of the transportation and have the parents pay (in essence having parents subsidize the money spent on supplies and teacher training they have already paid in local and federal taxes). Gee also offers the suggestion the teacher conduct a fund raiser. Gee further explained that “The cuts, unfortunately, are simply due to financial issues. These past two years, our costs for training, aides, legal defense, DIS and support increase in total dollars and as a percentage of our OUSD overall budget”.

    Some of the costs outlined in the Gee email (i.e. legal) are program specific. However for the teacher training costs, that is another matter. If the teacher training costs for the special education department had been paid for by the Title II federal money designated only for use on "teacher training", then funding in the Special Education budget would have been freed for use directly on student centered programs. Gee describes his budget as “rarely used to pay for field trips” because of the current budget shortage. In an emailed reply the teacher reminded the administrator that her school was a federally designated Title 1 School (Title I a 1965 federal education law: Improving the Academic Achievement of the Disadvantaged) and that special education classes at her school had up to 90% low income families. Gee answers that he would be willing to school her in the special education budget “over the summer because I believe we will need to have a significant amount of time for you to appreciate the complexity of the budget process. It is exceptionally complex and I continue to grow in my understanding each year”.

    Community leaders point out it doesn’t take a one-on-one summer school course with an OUSD administrator to see that using $206,700 in federal monies allocated for “teacher training” by the OUSD Focus on Results program has impacted OUSD student centered programs. The $206,700 the Trustees approved from Title II grant monies for OUSD Focus on Results “teacher training” could have gone directly to other programs with teacher training needs that use funds for both teacher training and classroom needs (such as this specific case in special education). Allocating teacher training funding to those types of programs would free up funds for student centered programs that are now being used for “teacher training”. Instead, the $206,700 in “teacher training” fees has gone to a program OUSD Assistant Superintendent Cohen reported to the OUSD Trustees was akin to “marriage counseling”.

    Who gets the benefit of the OUSD Focus on Results marriage counseling-like-training-program? Each OUSD school sends just six people to the Focus on Results meetings. The six people include two administrators and four teachers. Many teachers who have participated for an entire year in the program have reported that they still have no idea what the program is about. Also, many schools have played musical chairs with participants and have only one or two people who have been to all the meetings. Using the Cohen “marriage counseling” analogy, it is as if you had a different spouse in counseling every month. The newest spouse of course has no idea what went on in the previous “marriage counseling” session before.

    In the beginning before the media reports on the program, the OUSD Focus on Results program rarely started on time and the meeting leaders allowed extended lunches and often finished early. Today meetings still often finished early with no further “planned” activities. Initially the district meetings for the program would consist of the meeting leaders handing out photocopied handouts of articles from educational magazines that were read and discussed. The illegal copyright infringement appears to have stopped after Orange Net News contacted many of the authors of the works used in those meetings and reported that none of the authors contacted had given permission for their works to be used or photocopied onto paper with the Focus on Results logo.

    Since then, the OUSD’s Focus on Results has been devoted to the “instructional walk-through” (also know as “instructional walks”; “learning walks”; or “data-in-a day”).The instructional walkthrough has been around in education for about five years and is currently the rage with edu-crats into fad-education. Based on a business model called "Management by Wandering Around", that was originally developed by executives at Hewlett-Packard in the 1970’s, the model became highly popularized in a book in the early 1980’s called In Search of Excellence written by Tom Peters and Robert Waterman. The team wrote that the managers of the most successful companies in the United States stayed out of their offices to be close to the business workings and customers, and the daily routines of the business. Yet after over forty years as a business model and five years as an education model, the business model and the current instructional walk-through fad has no research supporting its effectiveness.

    The original theory behind the purpose of the educational walk-through was for a district representative and a school leader to participate to improve the learning of the school leader to facilitate the learning of their staff. Educational critics of the practice in its current form contend that ill-informed district administrators adopted the structures without understanding the original purpose resulting in the program becoming something it was never intended to be. As an example, the instructional walk-through model in OUSD has highly paid district office personnel (often without a direct connection to classroom education) and “trained” teachers visiting every classroom in a designated school for 5 minutes. In essence the visitors do “bulletin board” checks as they look for “evidence” of student learning around the classroom. Later they meet with the school’s program designated Instructional Leadership Team to announce that yes indeed the visitors have seen evidence of learning in every classroom. Of course with only five minutes in each classroom (out of a six hour day) they are bound to miss something, so they produce an “I wonder list..?”. To see what one day’s work from OUSD Focus on Results six-figure bureaucrats looks like and what a multi-million dollars in local and federal educational taxes for teacher training has taught OUSD educators to do CLICK ON: http://greaterorange.blogspot.com/2005/11/one-days-work-yorba-middle-school.html

    Community leaders point out that when most of the current OUSD Trustees were elected in the Orange Unified Recall as the Citizen’s Board, they prided themselves with “out of the box” leadership solutions to a multitude of problems facing the local educational community. The expectation of those newly elected Trustees from the OUSD Administration was for solution rigor as they pushed the OUSD Administration to search beyond the easy common business as usual solutions to more innovated unique student and community centered solutions as they united a community coalition that readily wanted the promise of the Orange Renaissance to come true. Those same early community supporters now feel that promise was squandered as those same Trustees became dependent on administrators and became followers rather than leaders, became complacent in accepting easy outs from district administrators, instead of questioning and pushing for the same educational excellence in administration that is expected from school staff and students in the classroom. Long time OUSD Board watchers point out that the Trustees allowed the OUSD Administration’s creation of an OUSD Consultant Culture that the Trustees accepted, approved, acquiesced to and paid for by the new educational business doctrine that the Board’s first administrator-elected-trustee Wes Poutsma verbalized in 2005 at the September 22nd Board Meeting when he stated: “We’re a $220 million dollar business; we’re going to spend the money somewhere.”
    End of Part V
    Watch for PART 6

    To receive a copy of the email refered to in the report, email your FAX Number or address to OrangeNetNews@verizon.net.

    The first four parts of FOCUS ON CONSULTANTS follow below. OR
    To view Part 1, 2, 3 and 4 of this exclusive Orange Net News report

    CLICK below
    PART 1 CLICK ON: http://greaterorange.blogspot.com/2005/11/orange-unifieds-focus-on-consultants_24.html

    PART 2 CLICK ON: http://greaterorange.blogspot.com/2005/11/orange-unifieds-focus-on-consultants.html

    PART 3 CLICK ON: http://greaterorange.blogspot.com/2005/11/ousds-focus-on-consultants-part-3.html

    PART 4 CLICK ON: http://greaterorange.blogspot.com/2006/01/orange-unifieds-focus-on-c_113644306670367773.html

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