Dancing with the Oldies

By Carol A.O. Wolf

In response to recent inquiries from this blog and other media concerning possible violations of the Virginia Public Procurement Act (VPPA) surrounding the hiring of S. Dallas Dance to a $12,500 a month consulting gig, acting Richmond Public Schools interim Superintendent Thomas (Tommy) Kranz said on Thursday that he and Dance mutually agreed to part ways.

Kranz said Dance was paid roughly $25,000 for two months of part-time work.  When asked what Dance did to earn this money, Kranz said he was key to helping the district get the new school year off to a solid start and that Dance's duties are enumerated in the agreement.  Concerns about possible violations of the VPPA factored into the decision as well and the district's needs changed, according to Kranz. "We just didn't need him to continue in that capacity. I wish him all the best."

Thus far, only one School Board member, Liz Doerr from the 1st-District, has called for policies that will emphasize greater transparency in the hiring of consultants and the rehiring of retirees.  "Dallas Dance was hired as a consultant without my knowledge -- If I did know about it I would have strongly advised against it."

Doerr said she plans to "introduce legislation at the next School Board meeting to increase the level of transparency in our consulting contracts."  She also vowed to examine the use of RPS retirees being rehired by the system.

Kranz and the School Board have also come under fire for the recent hiring of several retired RPS administrators to serve as interim administrators.  CLICK HERE to view the employment agreements and compensation of each.

Victoria Oakley:    $142,576.38 (PART-TIME) 
Mieko Timmons:   $85,708.62 Senior Advisor
Cozette McIntyre:   NO SALARY LISTED
Valarie Dupree:      $72,862 duties not listed
Nelson Colbert:     $24,064 duties not listed 
Bernette Johnson:  $50 PER HOUR Temporary Talent Coordinator
Mark Pasier:          $140,014 Interim Human resources director
Thomas Kranz:      $166,903.80 (FULL-TIME Interim Superintendent) 

Check back for updates.
Despite repeated attempts to reach Dance, he has not yet responded.

Factoids, Anyone? Still Crazy After All these Years

RPS Legal Habit Cost $1,000 PER DAY

Editor's Note: This article is from 2011.  I am reposting it here to suggest RPS School Board rein in the runaway legal costs and drive the money saved into our classrooms.  ~ Carol A.O. Wolf
If only the Richmond Public School Board (RPS) and RPS Superintendent Yvonne Brandon, were capable of honesty and possessed of enough maturity to admit to making mistakes -- instead of relentlessly making-up excuses and blaming others for their failures -- Richmond citizens just might stand half-a-chance at having a public school system that can achieve some substantive and sustained academic and financial improvements.

However, remarks made by RPS School Board chair Kim Bridges and vice-chair Dawn Page in a recent Richmond Times-Dispatch story about the exorbitant legal fees RPS pays to a private law firm, the likelihood that the Board and/or Brandon will ever find the IQ, EQ or political will to do that, is roughly akin to the odds that Santa and all his reindeer will slide down my chimney on Christmas Eve.

Bridges, given to flinging true (but irrelevant) factoids when pressed by reporters or irate citizens, stunningly outdoes herself in the RT-D story by reporter Zachary Reid. Rather than admit any error or lapse of judgment on her part, the board's or the administration's, Bridges manages to twist the truth and blame the families who had to sue the School Board for handicapped accessible schools.  More than 20 years after the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) was signed into law by former President George H.W. Bush, RPS proceeds at a snail's pace implementing the terms of a Settlement Agreement the board unanimously approved in 2007.

The cost of defending this lawsuit has been covered by the School Board's insurance policy with AIG.  Hired by AIG, lawyers William Bayliss and Edward Dillon from the firm of Williams and Mullen have been the legal team on the frontline.  Since this cost is covered by the AIG policy, there is no rational basis for Bridges or Page to claim that the ADA was a factor in the board's decision to pay the Harrell and Chambliss law firm a base retainer of $32,500 per month -- a whopping 269 percent raise -- that works out to more than $1,000 per day, or $390,000 per year.

 Click here to read the contract that shows Harrell and Chambliss lawyers are paid $32,500 per month, that's $390,000 per year or, for a 365.25 day year, $1,067.76 per day(!) or $1,494.87 per work day... (with a hat-tip and a high five to John R. Butcher for his chart and excellent assistance on this)! According to Bridges:
"We're the only ones in the region navigating a systemwide (handicap-accessibility) settlement with hundreds of projects, overseeing a charter school and implementing best authorizing practices, proposing improvements to the state charter law, examining the use of historic tax credits for school renovations, or determining the use of per-pupil funds for the charter's construction loans, just to name a few examples," she said. "These are not issues facing Henrico, Hanover or Chesterfield, so I wouldn't expect them to spend time or money figuring them out."
Whether one characterizes her comments by the more genteel nomenclature such as "spin," "nuance," or "plain ignorance," it is clear that Bridges (and her handlers at RPS) hope that some mumbo-jumbo finger-pointing at the ADA, the Patrick Henry Charter School and Paul Goldman's praiseworthy work on changing historic tax credit law to benefit school districts in Virginia and across the nation will somehow absolve them of the responsibility for wasting so much money on legal fees.

Bridges is so desperate to deflect criticism that she willingly tosses aside any hope of regional cooperation when she takes this swipe at our neighboring public school systems:  "These are not issues facing Henrico, Hanover and Chesterfield, so I wouldn't expect them to spend time or money figuring them out."  Ouch. 

But, given the tough economic times we are all in and the significant fact that our neighbors have found ways to reduce the amount of money they spend on legal bills, it behooves the Richmond School Board to at least give some lip-service to the possibility that they care how much money they throw out the windows of the 17th-floor of Richmond City Hall. 

Rather than perform any cost analysis or critical assessment of the legal services provided by Harrell and Chambliss, Bridges and Page are convinced that the firm deserves to be paid more than $1,000 a day, every day, including weekends, national holidays, school vacations and teacher planning days. 

Were the board ever to undertake a serious and detailed analysis of the legal services provided in order to make a data-driven decision, they might ask why it is with two lawyers paid by AIG and one on staff, what part of $1,000 per day does RPS need to spend to "navigate" its long-delayed compliance with the ADA?  Were the board ever to undertake a serious and detailed analysis of the legal services provided in order to make a data-driven decision, they might ask why it is that:

(1.) "We're the only ones in the region navigating a systemwide (handicap-accessibility) settlement with hundreds of projects ... (a.) Had the Harrell and Chambliss lawyers been doing their jobs properly, they would have informed the School Board back in 1990 (when Congress first passed the law) and in 1992 (when the law came into effect) that the school system's buildings needed to be brought into compliance with the Virginia Disabilities Act (VDA) and the American Disabilities Act (ADA).  Such proactive legal advice would have thus eliminated the need for a group of RPS parents and children to file a lawsuit in U.S. District Court in 2006 on behalf of family members and children with disabilities; 

(b.) as noted, when that lawsuit was filed, the School Board's insurance policy with AIG kicked in and William Bayliss and Ed Dillon with Williams Mullen law firm were assigned by the insurance company to handle the legal defense once the School Board paid a $25,000 deductible to AIG; (c) the School Board also currently pays a lawyer -- Valarie Abbott-Jones -- to serve as the ADA coordinator.  Abbott-Jones is tasked to work directly with the plaintiffs and the board to ensure that the terms of the Settlement Agreement are met; 

(2.)  "....overseeing a charter school and implementing best authorizing practices, proposing improvements to the state charter law..."   What part of $1,000 per day do they need to spend on trying to kill off Patrick Henry School for Science and Arts charter school, the first elementary charter school in Virginia that is doing a terrific job and whose only fault is that it is embarrassing RPS;

(3.) " ... examining the use of historic tax credits for school renovations ..."  Oh, my ... even stupider than paying Harrell Chambliss more than $390,000 a year, basically to answer the phone and attend two board meetings per month, is the decision to pay them to research the  use of historic tax credits for school renovations.  Given the number of lawyers in this town who are experts on historic tax credits and who would have gladly provided the research pro bono simply for the chance of getting any legal work that might come as a result, the Board and administration wasted not only money, but valuable time on this.  

Had the board and administration bothered to listen to Paul Goldman when he first appeared before a committee discussing this idea back in 2007, their support could have helped him push the idea further along.  As it stands today, Goldman deserves high praise for persisting in this effort, despite a lack of interest from RPS or the City of Richmond.  In a November 22 e-mail, Goldman noted;

The RTD story yesterday revealed, for the first time, that the Richmond School Board apparently paid money - I am not sure how much - to analyze an idea that is now part of the Warner/Webb/Cantor school bill before Congress, backed by Governor McDonnell, Tim Kaine and George Allen.  I speak of the Historic School Tax Credit bill to fix a glitch in the IRS code, SB 1685, introduced in October.  Yet to my knowledge, the School Board hasn't publicly done anything to help enact something that could save Richmond $several hundreds of millions of dollars, all money then available to for other pressing education needs.  Since they defended their excessive use of outside lawyers as being necessary, here is a case in point that  can be exhibit # 1. Or have they communicated to Richmond Congressman Bobby Scott and the state's two Senators privately? They need to come forward and explain what they paid, what they got, and what they did with the analysis afterward.
In this regard, Goldman is absolutely correct.  What did they pay, what did they get and what did they do with the analysis afterward?

And, lastly, Bridges her colleagues and Brandon apparently need a remedial history lesson on what happened following former Mayor L. Douglas Wilder's failed and flawed attempt to evict the School Board out of City Hall.  Early on in the ADA matter,Wilder demanded that since Harrell & Chambliss  represented both the City of Richmond (in certain matters) and the School Board,  the firm could not represent both the city and the School Board.  The partners at Harrell & Chambliss obviously did the math and determined it was more to their advantage to represent the City than it was to represent the School Board.  Consequently, on the night of the Grand Eviction, the School Board was represented by State Sen. Henry Marsh [D-Richmond].

Thus, in the spirit of true cooperation, the Richmond City Council offered to have Brian Buniva, the private attorney they retained, represent the School Board at no charge to the School Board in the legal matters that resulted from the eviction.  This was an offer that the School Board couldn't refuse and it should serve as proof that the Richmond City Council and School Board can find ways to work together to consolidate resources that will drive more precious tax dollars into the classroom instead of into the bank accounts of lawyers. 
Text Mon, 21 Nov 2011
The Richmond school system spends significantly more per student on legal fees than the other three large school districts in central Virginia.
Text Mon, 21 Nov 2011
Richmond legal fees

Richmond schools spend most in region on legal costs 

  •  The Richmond school system spends significantly more per student on legal fees than the other three large school districts in central Virginia, and the cost is rising again this year, according to a Richmond Times-Dispatch analysis.
The city spent $15.24 per student in the year that ended June 30, and the cost is increasing to at least $16.63 this year, based on a contract the system has with the law firm that provides the bulk of the system's legal work. And the total is likely to rise based on office expenses and filing fees.
Henrico County spent $4.27 for the last fiscal year and Chesterfield County $4.83. In Hanover County, the cost was $11.41 per student.
The city School Board, unlike its suburban peers, is alone in using retainer-based counsel for all its legal work. The Chesterfield school system has a staff lawyer, while the systems in Hanover and Henrico rely mostly on lawyers employed by their county attorney offices - an option school leaders say is not feasible in a city where educators aren't always in step with City Hall.
The other three districts also use fee-based outside counsel, but not for routine services. Typically, the outside lawyers handle special-education issues that require specific expertise.
"I think we've explored every possible way to do this," said School Board Chairwoman Kim Bridges. "(The cost) is always one of the questions that comes up at budget time."
In an interview in the School Board offices and again in a follow-up email, Bridges said it wasn't fair to compare Richmond with other localities.
"Our friends in the counties have a lot on their plates, too, but our board utilizes a lot of work that goes beyond what's done by other school board attorneys," Bridges said in an email she sent two days after the in-person interview. "From our legal services, we ask for training, policy analysis and consideration of a wide breadth of topics that other school systems haven't had to consider.
"We're the only ones in the region navigating a systemwide (handicap-accessibility) settlement with hundreds of projects, overseeing a charter school and implementing best authorizing practices, proposing improvements to the state charter law, examining the use of historic tax credits for school renovations, or determining the use of per-pupil funds for the charter's construction loans, just to name a few examples," she said. "These are not issues facing Henrico, Hanover or Chesterfield, so I wouldn't expect them to spend time or money figuring them out."
Bridges said the school system called on its lawyers for about 266 hours of service a month in the past year. The work has ranged from the routine to the highly specialized, from reviewing contracts to trying to make sure school leaders stay in compliance with federal regulations.
In the past three years, much of that work has been in revamping the board's policy manual.
"That was one of the priorities of the board," Bridges said of the group that was elected three years ago. The old manual, she said, had sections dating back more than three decades. She said that since the lawyers ultimately would have to review the manual to make sure it complied with state code, it was a natural to let them write it.
While the idea of rewriting the policy manual came up in better economic times, Bridges and Dawn Page, the vice chairwoman of the board, said they weren't aware of any talk about shelving the priority.
"I don't think there's been any board discussion on that," Bridges said.
The idea of paying nearly $400,000 a year - the city is contractually obligated to spend a minimum of $32,500 a month this year - in retainers doesn't sit well with everyone.
"With all of the difficult decisions we've had to make in the last three years, that reflects really poorly on our judgment," said Kim Gray, who won a seat on the board about three months after the current legal services contract was signed in 2008. "Our teachers, our staff, they haven't had a raise, and that makes this impossible to justify."
Under the latest incarnation of a contract originally signed in 1990 with the Wilder Gregory law firm - partners L. Douglas Wilder, a former governor and Richmond mayor, and Roger Gregory, now a federal judge, later sold the firm - the Richmond School Board has been paying the firm, now known as Harrell & Chambliss, a monthly fee of $32,500. That comes to $390,000 a year.
That rate is nearly triple the $12,100 monthly fee as of Aug. 30, 2008.
Under an Aug. 13, 2008, contract addendum, the fee jumped to $20,000 that September and has increased each July 1 since. The contract runs through June 30, though it can be terminated by either party at any time with 30 days' notice.
Talk of raising the rate began six months earlier in a meeting of the School Board's since-disbanded Finance, Budget and Audit Committee. Then-interim finance chief Jim Damm presented the board with an overview of how surrounding jurisdictions handled legal services.
The contract covers 13 specific services. It excludes other potentially costly services such as litigation - in fiscal 2009 alone, the city spent $131,953.93 on legal work over faulty roofs - and help with federal programs, and no additional work has been added to the deal since it was written more than 20 years ago. But, Bridges said, the contract is open-ended and does not cap the number of hours the school system can require from the lawyers.
Carol A.O. Wolf, who was on the board and, like Bridges, was one of three members of the finance committee when the contract was signed, said there wasn't a pressing need at the time to amend the contract and that she didn't remember any discussion of fees.
"Now that's something I would certainly remember," Wolf said. "Even at $12,100, that was a lot of money. The current fee is unbelievable."
In addition to payments to Harrell & Chambliss, the city school system since July 1, 2008, has paid an additional $221,802.81 to 10 other lawyers or law firms, mostly for work related to faulty roofs at several schools the city built in the late 1990s and for special-education issues.
For the fiscal year that ended June 30, Richmond Public Schools spent $357,344.24 in legal fees, according to documents the school system provided under a Freedom of Information Act request. Of that, $347,608.88 went to Harrell & Chambliss. The Hirschler Fleischer law firm was paid $4,361.98 for work on the roof litigation. Four other lawyers earned a combined $5,373.38 for work on special-education cases.
During the same period, Chesterfield County Public Schools, which has more than twice as many students as Richmond, spent $287,746.45. Chesterfield spent $107,621.83 on its staff lawyer and $180,124.62 for outside counsel for some services, particularly in regard to special education.
In Henrico, a member of the county attorney's staff is assigned to school issues. She earns $79,008.82 per year. The school system also spent $132,157.63 on outside legal services, mostly on special-education issues.
Like Henrico, Hanover also uses a county lawyer for school system issues and estimated the value of that work at about $168,000 for the fiscal year that ended June 30. Hanover also farms some school system legal work to outside counsel, for which it paid an additional $39,587.50 in legal fees and $5,044.95 in costs in the 2011 fiscal year.
Bridges said that using a city attorney, particularly without direct cost to the school system, was not realistic.
"You have to remember, at that time, there wasn't great cooperation," she said, noting that a year before the current contract was signed, then-Mayor Wilder attempted to kick the school system out of City Hall. "We would have had to have hired outside lawyers anyway."
Chesterfield switched from outside counsel to having an in-house lawyer five years ago. School Board member Marshall W. Trammell Jr. said it happened for two reasons: access to the lawyer and money.
"It got to the point, especially with personnel cases, that it just seemed it would be a whole lot easier if we had someone here," he said.
zreid@timesdispatch.com (804) 775-8179

Johnny no puede leer Pero Greene está acreditado todos modos ...

Por John R. Butcher

Para los fines del presente análisis, los 2013-14 números son tan atroz bajo que esas diferencias son al caso.  Aquí, entonces, son los índices de aprobación de inglés y los valores “ajustados”.
La línea naranja es la acreditación del 75%  de referencia .
Durante los últimos cinco años, los “ajustes” han impulsado verde en la acreditación. Este año, el aumento fue de treinta (!) Puntos.
La situación de matemáticas es un poco menos atroz: el impulso de este año fue de sólo veintiséis puntos.
Cortesía de esta falsificación por nuestro establecimiento “educación”, Greene ha quedado plenamente acreditado hasta la actualidad.
Este mendacidad oficial da derecho a presumir Greene al tiempo que no enseñar a casi la mitad de sus estudiantes a leer o calculo. Por desgracia, eso es sólo el problema de la superficie.
Más fundamentalmente: Acreditación - o falta de ella - no tiene sentido.
Teóricamente, una escuela que pierde la acreditación es violación de las  normas de calidad  y de la  Junta de “Educación ” tiene la  autoridad para obligar a  la junta escolar local para llevar esa escuela en el cumplimiento. En la práctica, la Junta  no sabe cómo  ( 21 de de septiembre, comenzando el año 2016 a las 1:48 de vídeo ) para hacer eso.
El niño del cartel en este sentido es  Petersburgo , que ha estado operando bajo  memorandos de acuerdo  con la Junta desde abril de 2004 y todavía no puede enseñar a un 40% de sus alumnos a leer.
A la luz de 
  • los números de acreditación ficticios,
  • ineficaces “ayuda” de la Junta 
  • fracaso total de la Junta para ejercer su autoridad, y
  • La admisión de la Junta que no sabe cómo arreglar las escuelas rotas
el proceso de acreditación es una farsa vergonzosa.
El dinero de sus impuestos en el “trabajo”.
Se agregó una nota:
El “ajuste” aquí parece estar con la población o “Aprendices del Inglés” “Limitado del Inglés”. (El sitio web VDOE parece utilizar los términos indistintamente). 
Para empezar, la escuela local  puede decidir  qué estudiantes LEP (o EL). Por las razones que veremos a continuación, te apuesto un lápiz # 2 que todos los estudiantes - a excepción de los brillantes - que sabe cómo se pronuncia “señor ”se clasifica como LEP.
La población LEP afecta a la puntuación de dos maneras.
En primer lugar , “estudiantes LEP que han asistido a la escuela en los Estados Unidos por menos de 12 meses pueden recibir un uno - excepción temporal para el examen SOL de lectura en los grados 3 a 8.”
Así se obtiene una sola vez impulso SOL puntuación de cualquier nuevo estudiante LEP.
Entonces , hasta el punto aquí, “Las puntuaciones de los estudiantes LEP inscritos en las escuelas públicas de Virginia menos de 11 semestres pueden ser excluidos de los cálculos de calificación de acreditación.”
Así, los estudiantes LEP que comienzan aquí en el jardín de infantes no cuentan en contra de acreditación hasta que han tenido seis años para aprender nuestra lengua materna. Y los que empiezan en el primer grado o superior no tiene por qué ser enseñado Inglés; que no pueden herir la calificación de la acreditación.  
No se puede escuchar el mantra: “Enseñar a los brillantes; Olvida el resto."
Greene tiene una gran población de estudiantes “el”. La caída, 2017  informe  muestra:
Por supuesto, los datos Greene nos dicen que muchos de esos niños están  no  se enseñan Inglés.  O matemáticas, que debe ser el mismo en español como en Inglés.
Por lo que el sistema de acreditación logra tres cosas a Greene:
  • Produce números de acreditación que no están relacionados con cómo la escuela se está enseñando, 
  • Cuenta la escuela para clasificar todos, pero los más brillantes estudiantes inmigrantes como LEP, si esos niños son fluidos en Inglés o no, y
  • Se anima a la escuela a olvidarse de los niños LEP; no pueden afectar a la acreditación, incluso si ellos no aprenden nada.
El dinero de sus impuestos en el “trabajo”.

Johnny Can’t Read But Greene Is Accredited Anyhow

By John R. Butcher

This year, VDOE “adjusted” the ESH Greene Elementary reading SOL from 51 to 81, the math from 58 to 84, and pronounced that school “Fully Accredited.”  Indeed, Greene has been fully accredited for at least the past eight years.
Let’s take a look back and see if these helpful pass rate “adjustments” have a history.
For a start, English.
NOTE: In the period of the data here, they administered a fifth grade writing test from 2011 to 2013.  The “English” SOL is some kind of average of that with the Grade 3-5 reading scores.  The numbers below are the average of the grade 3-5 reading and grade 5 writing for the 2011-13 period.  Given that the writing score covers only one grade, the actual averages probably are closer to the reading numbers.
For the purposes of the present analysis, the 2013-14 numbers are so appalling low that those differences are beside the point.
Here, then, are the English pass rates and the “adjusted” values.
The orange line is the 75% accreditation benchmark.
For the past five years, the “adjustments” have boosted Green into accreditation.  This year the boost was thirty(!) points.
The math situation is slightly less egregious: The boost this year was only twenty-six points.
Courtesy of this falsification by our “education” establishment, Greene has remained fully accredited to the present.
This official mendacity gives Greene bragging rights while failing to teach nearly half its students to read or reckon.  Unfortunately, that’s only the surface problem.
More fundamentally:  Accreditation — or lack of it — is meaningless.
In theory, a school that loses accreditation is in violation of the Standards of Quality and the Board of “Education” has the authority to compel the local school board to bring that school into compliance.  In practice, the Board does not know how (Sept. 21, 2016 video starting at 1:48) to do that.
The poster child in this respect is Petersburg, which has been operating under Memoranda of Understanding with the Board since April 2004 and still can’t teach 40% of its schoolchildren how to read.
In light of 
  • the fictitious accreditation numbers,
  • the Board’s ineffective “help,” 
  • the Board’s total failure to exercise its authority, and
  • the Board’s admission that it does not know how to fix broken schools
the accreditation process is a shameful sham.
Your tax dollars at “work.”
Added Note:
The “adjustment” here appears to lie with the “English Learner” or “Limited English Proficiency” population.  (The VDOE Web site seems to use those terms interchangeably.) 
To start out, the local school gets to decide which students are LEP (or EL).  For the reasons you’ll see below, I’ll bet you a #2 lead pencil that every student – except for the bright ones – who knows how to pronounce “señor” gets classified as LEP.
The LEP population affects the scoring in two ways.
First, “LEP students who have attended school in the United States for less than 12 months may receive a one – time exemption for the SOL Reading test in grades 3 through 8.”
So we get a one-time SOL score boost for any new, LEP student.
Then, to the point here, “The scores of LEP students enrolled in Virginia public schools fewer than 11 semesters may be excluded from the accreditation rating calculations.”
So LEP students who start here in kindergarten don’t count against accreditation until they’ve had six years to learn our Mother Tongue.  And those who start in the first grade or later need not be taught English; they can’t hurt the accreditation rating.  
Can’t you hear the mantra: “Teach the bright ones; forget the rest.”
Greene has a large population of “EL” students.  The Fall, 2017 report shows:
For sure, the Greene data tell us many of those kids are not being taught English.  Or math, which ought to be the same in Spanish as in English.
So the accreditation system accomplishes three things at Greene:
  • It produces accreditation numbers that are unrelated to how well the school is teaching, 
  • It tells the school to classify all but the brightest immigrant students as LEP, whether those kids are fluent in English or not, and
  • It encourages the school to forget about the LEP kids; they can’t affect the accreditation even if they don’t learn a thing.
Your tax dollars at “work.”