The Midlothian ISD board of trustees met in a virtual special session last Wednesday to hash out board governance priorities and key “performance indicator” measures for Superintendent Lane Ledbetter, Ph.D.
Toward the end, the meeting devolved into an argument between Ledbetter and a board member over social and emotional learning, one of the measures in the performance indicator. But at the end of the night, both measures were approved.
On safety and social-emotional learning, district communications director Karen Fitzgerald addressed the digital side of citizenship and literacy, mentioned contacts with parents, and identified multiple stakeholders: students, parents, teachers and the community. Measures include increases in community partnerships and student achievement in several areas.
Trustee Andrea Walton questioned Ledbetter on the impact of middle school social and emotional learning when the students reach high school, while Walton said she was told to create metrics for digital literacy.
“The unthinkable happened on our watch,” Walton said, apparently referencing a student incident last November at Frank Seale Middle School. “How do you explain that to parents?”
Ledbetter answered that safety and security are the district’s top priorities and that systems are in place to ensure the social and emotional learning of the district’s students.
Walton persevered, saying what the board decided on regarding social and emotional learning was “good, but I want to be excellent … Everything here is good, but I want better than good.”
“I feel confident we knew where we were going, so I take offense to that, I want to be honest with you,” Ledbetter said. “The time that (administrators) put in preparing for that and for (March 3) and for today and all the work that’s been done behind the scenes was all to get the board to a point that you all have been talking about for several months, and to get a new evaluation in place because you weren’t happy with that evaluation so there are key performance indicators.
“We went into (Feb. 14) with the intent of developing more goals and defining the performance indicators for the superintendent. So I do take a little bit of offense when you say you don’t know what the goal for the day was and you don’t know what the direction was.
“The goal for today is the measures. I presented the performance indicators to the board … and the board approved it 7-0. I don’t want you to approve it for the sake of approving it. I want you to feel good about it. If you all want us to go back and start over and come back and develop new board goals and new superintendent performance indicators, let’s do that.”
Walton interjected that she was willing to vote in favor of what was on the table.
“I’m not angry about it but I’m passionate about it, and that’s why I shared it with you on the 14th and I’ve shared it with you in other places … and yet I still can’t tell a single parent what we’re doing for social and emotional learning that’s different,” Walton said.
The vote on the key performance indicators was 6-1, with Walton voting in favor and trustee Tami Tobey voting against.
“I love the passion, I love the conversation, (and) I also love the work that the 10 of us did on (Feb.) 14,” board president Matt Sanders said. “I also love the work that (chief administrative officer) Dr. (Courtney) Carpenter and Ms. Fitzgerald did, so thank you for that.
“We can dig out any metric … that we want to out of thousands and thousands. Though we’ve come up with some, that doesn’t mean those are the only ones that we’re going to focus on. So just keep that in mind.”
Sanders said the board worked on developing its priority lists during workshops on both Feb. 14 and March 3. The draft was presented to the board at its April 20 meeting.
On the superintendent’s key performance indicator measures, the three original main categories presented by Carpenter as agreed to were academics; staffing and training; and safety and social emotional learning. Carpenter said student performance was added on request after the other three metrics were agreed to.
Because of the suspension of STAAR testing for this school year, Carpenter said other measurables were selected for the academics category.
Assistant superintendent KayLynn Day told trustees the district this year paid teachers at 96% of the state average, although the board’s agreed-to goal is 90%. Day quickly added that this past school year was outside the norm for the district.
Carpenter added that the district’s teacher turnover rate was 13.6%, well below the state average of 16.5%. Carpenter noted that a teacher promotion to another position in the district was considered by the state to be a turnover, even though the teacher never left.
On mentoring of new teachers, Carpenter said the program extends to a second year for those newcomers, and also has a component for teachers with three or more years of experience who are new to MISD.
Finally, Carpenter said campus leadership metrics include constant teacher coaching and survey data.
Carpenter and Fitzgerald presented a review of the process to the board. The two went over a list of benchmarks and standards that the board had agreed to, including actions on responsible school governance; accountability and transparency; effective teamwork; committing to student achievement improvement at all levels; measuring academic progress and needs based on valid and reliable assessments; and ultimately, holding the school district accountable for meeting student learning expectations.
Trustee Tobey noted that several of the mentioned goals have already been accomplished. Carpenter replied that the district begins with the improvement process based on previous data, and already is proceeding from that point. Deputy Superintendent Judy Walling added that student testing informs, but doesn’t drive, the district’s instruction.
MISD Director of Elementary Learning Becki Krsnak went over the four types of assessments that the district uses: screening, diagnostics, progress monitoring and outcome measures. Krsnak said the process typically changes only on an individual student basis.
“We very seldom change what our pacing calendars are,” Krsnak said. “There may be times where a particular classroom needs to go an additional day or two over what is on the district’s pacing calendars, which are on our district website. But other than that, the majority of the changes that are needed are based on individual student needs.”
Trustee Walton, though, pushed for more measurements than what MISD had agreed upon, calling upon Carpenter, Krsnak and other administrators to provide input. Walton suggested that measures such as STAAR standards, AP and dual credit are not the complete measure of a student, and inquired toward other measures of success.
“You guys know what the indicators are better than we do of what is a successful program,” Walton said. “Our business is the most precious product, which is students, and I don’t think you can have too many measures.”
Ledbetter told Walton the board had already placed a number of metrics that Walton had requested on the district’s dashboard, and that was part of the district’s “performance tracker,” a list of measurements requested by the board previously based on community input.
Ledbetter said the board needed to come to a consensus in order to come to an agreement so the administration can provide trustees with accurate data points.
The board governance motion passed 6-0, with trustee Gary Vineyard absent from the early part of the virtual meeting.
• Ledbetter said graduation for both high schools is still on hold, pending direction from Ellis County, local health officials, and the Texas Education Agency commissioner on what the district can and cannot do. Ledbetter said the district has several plans, including moving it to the end of June. “We want to make sure we’re making the best decision for our parents and our students,” Ledbetter said. “So we are waiting on that.”
• Following a 30-minute executive session, no action was taken.