Why this Supt. of Schools should NOT get a term defined contract!

“I’m not an easy person to work with — if you look into my background I don’t allow School Committees to interfere with my work,” he said. “The beauty of me in all of this is you can go ahead and fire me any time you want. I’m ready to retire, so I don’t really care about any of the politics.”

Lowell schools chief is close on contract was the headline of a recent Sun story.

I’ve listed multiple concerns I’ve had with the fiscal reporting and fiscal transactions by this administration including over a MILLION DOLLARS in transfers that resulted in a negative Audit finding.

The MA Dept. of Elementary and Secondary Education has this on their website- [Bold Mine]

State law:The school committee establishes educational goals and policies for the schools in the district, consistent with the requirements of law and the statewide goals and standards established by the Board of Education. (G.L. c. 71,[[section]] 37) The school committee’s status as the “employer” for collective bargaining purposes remains unaltered by Education Reform. (G.L. c. 150E, [[section]] 1)

The superintendent employed by the school committee shall manage the system in a fashion consistent with state law and the policy determinations of the school committee. (G.L. c. 71, [[section]] 52)

In an enterprise as complex as a school district, the line between policy and administration is rarely clear-cut. Nonetheless, harmonious and productive relationships can flourish if two-way communication is established and maintained.

I’ve outlined the lack of responsiveness to motions from certain members by this Supt. and how he seems to disdain school committees and how treats some members with more respect than others. I’ve posted about his NOT informing the Committee about the LSAA Unions unhappiness about the garage move that resulted in an unfair labor practise being filed. These do not follow DESE guidelines on communication or standard practices or the above policy of the Lowell School Committee which is found in their policy manual.

Here are other reasons I don’t think there is a need to provide this Supt. a term defined contract.

The Supt’s laid back approach with the High School Issue. By MSBA rules the Supt. is supposed to be a member of the School Building Committee. If you look at the posted meeting minutes, they have held 11 meetings and he has attended 3 (He may have shown up late after the attendance roll call as he did for the March meeting which I included him has attending because I was present when he showed up late) either way not attending or constantly attending late is a very poor record and in my view he has demonstrated very little leadership on the project as a whole!

The Superintendent of Schools should not hand pick one of the 6 School Committee members to serve on the screening committee to hire a Principal (in this instance the new LHS Headmaster). If he wanted to have a School Committee member on that panel he should request the Mayor poll the Committee to see who would want to serve then the Mayor who assigns committee members to sub-committees and boards be the appointing authority NOT the Superintendent of Schools. How is he not playing favorites or giving preferential treatment to one member by selecting him to serve over other members? To add to the irony of selecting a School Committee member to serve on the search committee he is quoted in today’s Column talking about the hiring saying”There will be Zero influence from the School Committee ”
With his hand picked School Committee member on the selection panel how is that possible?

By his own admission he has a contract.He even stated so on WCAP with Ted Panos on Dec 28th. Listen for yourself at the 34:10 minute mark of the interview when the conversation about his contract starts

He admits that his current MOU is in fact what he calls a simplified contract.

Here is a copy of his contract Posted on the Lowell School Dept. Website Under Contracts:
mou_-_salah_khelfaoui

It is the same basic contract given the City Manager and Auditor.

The recent Sun story suggested that part of the reason for the contract was Lowell has seen improvements in standardized test scores, chronic absenteeism, and dropout rates during Khelfaoui’s tenure. That “tenure” has been 1 full school year.

1) Standardized test scores – In fact the standardize test scores for this year under this Supt. DON’T COUNT ! The Superintendent who was in favor of the switch from MCAS to PARCC stated

”Essentially what (the commissioner of education ) is telling us is we’re going to give you a year and a half or better to get your act together in helping these schools,” Khelfaoui said. “I need that time. We need that time. Our teachers and leaders need that time.

If you review the information on the DECE website for test scores you see this note:

NOTE: Spring 2016 state-level achievement and growth results in grades 3-8 ELA and Mathematics are not reported because most students in Massachusetts participated in the PARCC test. 3 Spring 2016 results in grades 3-8 ELA and Mathematics are not reported because all students in this organization participated in the PARCC test.

So even though 3 schools rose slightly under PARCC the Supt. admits they don’t count so how can he be given credit?

2) Improvements in chronic absenteeism,
In 2014/2015 the attendance rate was 94.1 under this Supt. in 2015/2016 it “improved” to 94.3
Average Number of Days absent went from 9.9 to 9.5 not a large drop

3) If You look at Drop Out Rates the % doesn’t reflect a very large improvement

Certainly these results do not show enough of an improvement in my mind to warrant a guaranteed annual 2.5 percent pay raises in years two and three of the proposed contract.

This Supt. is already guaranteed to be here for the 2017/2018 School year and this present committee will also decide whether he will be here for the 2018/2019 school year no matter who gets elected in November. Under the current MOU he has to be notified by Dec 1st if he will be back or not and this current committee will be the ones making that decision.

They can give him a 2.5% Pay increase anytime they want without using a contract has a cover or shield. By writing the contract with the guaranteed increase they don’t have to vote in a public meeting on a pay raise. Instead they vote on a contract agreed to in private and then voted on in a public meeting usually without the specific wording or exact language being revealed to the public until after the vote is taken.

My biggest concern regarding a contract is the language that maybe included. The Contract put forth by the Mayor/Supt. in January had language that in my view weakened the rights and responsibilities of the School Committee, that language included the following:

D. Criticisms, complaints, and suggestions called to the attention of the Committee or individual committee members by any source shall be promptly referred to the Superintendent in writing for study, disposition, or recommendation as appropriate to facilitate the orderly administration of the District,ensure responsiveness to the public and fairness to the Superintendent. The Superintendent shall advise the Committee of the disposition of such matters

F. The Superintendent is assured that Committee rules, regulations, or policies, are not in conflict with this Agreement and State Law. Where such conflict exists, this Agreement or State Law shall supersede such policy.

G. The Committee shall not, without the Superintendent’s written consent, adopt any policy, by-law or regulation which impairs or reduces the duties and authority specified above; and provided, further, that all additional duties and responsibilities prescribed by the Committee are consistent with those normally associated with the position of Superintendents of School in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. The committee agrees that all members shall be trained in roles and responsibilities as required by M GL,c.71, sec_ This provision shall continue in full force and effect during any period of employment.

School Committee members should be able to add or subtract responsibilities and duties. They should NOT EVER have to write to him when they hear criticism and report who is saying it. Salary increases should be merit based, after goals are set and evaluations completed by the School Committee elected to serve at that time. Not based on the Mayor’s need for political revenge or the wishes of a few members during an election year to protect their leader.

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