Monday, November 17, 2014

Observing Parkway School Board

School Board Report
Name of School District: Parkway School District
Date of Meeting Attended: Wednesday August 27, 2014 7:00 – 9:00 p.m.

Brief Description of What was Discussed: Regular meetings of the board of education are held monthly at Parkway Central Middle School as designated in the board meeting calendar, They and are open to the public.  In addition, all meetings are streamed live on Parkway's website. (I was able to get a preview of a typical meeting but technology prevented me from sitting through more than the opening remarks of an archived video of the June meeting.) Meetings begin at 7:00 p.m. unless otherwise specified.

Public comments are welcome at each regular board meeting during the period designated for citizen statements.  To address the board, a sign-up sheet is provided between 6:30 p.m. and 7:00 p.m. at the entry table.  Citizens will be called to the podium by the board president to make their statement.  Those who address the board are also asked to provide a written statement.  Those who do not wish to address the board may fill out the comment sheet located at the sign-in table.

The board consists of the following seven people: Beth Feldman, President (Term Expires 2015, appointed 2008, elected 2009); Chris Jacob, VP (Term Expires 2017, elected 2008); Kim Applebaum, Director (Term expires 2016, elected 2010); Tom Applebaum, Director (Term expires 2016, elected 2010); Dee Mogerman, Director (Term expires 2017, appointed 2004, elected 2005); Deborah Hopper, Director (Term expires 2017, elected 2014); and Sam Sciortino, Ph.D., Director (Term Expires 2016, elected 2010). Also present was Superintendent Keith Marty.

This meeting I noted was, somewhat predictably, efficient. This is clearly not the forum for debate as much as a public demonstration of the civilized and orderly bureaucracy of managing a district that includes 5 high schools and somewhere in the neighborhood of 17,000 students.

The agenda, neatly printed on two sides of a single sheet of paper included housekeeping items like call to order, roll call, pledge of allegiance; special recognitions for a group of boy scouts in attendance and efforts on behalf of the American Heart Association. A long list of action items were quickly voted on, such as board approval of minutes of past meeting, unanimous votes in favor of purchases of supplies, transportation and a variety of other items that seemed essential to the ongoing business of running the various schools.

The biggest items for the evening came later in the meeting: Approval of Comprehensive Assessment Plan; A preliminary discussion of Math Program Evaluation and an SSD Public Review Committee Report. Surely these topics represent highly charged issues for which there are widely divergent views.           

Perhaps the most impressive thing about this group, it seems, is a cohesive agreement to stay on a course forged by the creation of a comprehensive strategic plan. In addition to the plan itself, Parkway appears to have done a pretty good job of elevating their brand by communicating with stakeholders in clear, concise terms. As it happens, I am familiar with the firm UPbrand that proudly assisted in helping the Parkway School District. They described the assignment as follows on their website:
Parkway School District has long been viewed as one of the top public districts in the country. As part of their on-going evolution, they embarked on an ambitious strategic planning process that led to the re-conception of the core elements and process of delivering a top-notch public education.
Having codified their new direction, it was time to generate excitement about the new approach among the community and their key constituents.

Personal Reflection on the role of the School Board:

Before attending the meeting, I was sure that I would feel like an outsider sitting in on a board meeting of the Parkway School District. Both of my children are graduate products of Parkway West High School (Classes of 2000 and 2004).

Parkway School District was my second choice for this assignment. I had hoped to attend a Special School District board meeting until I learned those meetings are scheduled on Tuesday nights in direct conflict with EDU 211 Foundation of Education with David L. Shields, Ph.D. Fortunately, the special  report on the partnership between Parkway and SSD was on the agenda that evening.
When we relocated to St. Louis at the end 1996 we, like so many others who move, were heavily influenced by the perceived quality and reputation of the public school where our kids would attend high school. It never occurred to me to get more involved than a typical parent attending periodic open houses, teacher conferences and athletic events. With this experience I am struck by the tremendous responsibility these seven school board leaders have in delivering on the Mission Statement spelled out in the well designed and crafted Strategic Plan brochure online:

TO ENSURE ALL STUDENTS ARE CAPABLE, CURIOUS AND CONFIDENT LEARNERS WHO UNDERSTAND AND RESPOND TO THE CHALLENGES OF AN EVER-CHANGING WORLD.

More than 400 Project Parkway volunteers helped develop Parkway's mission, vision and strategic plan, which will guide our work through 2016. We have also revitalized Parkway’s brand with a new logo and tagline to better reflect our mission and vision for students.(1)

(1) Parkway Schools. Higher Expectations. Brighter Futures. A printed copy of this brochure was available at the meeting and is offered as an exhibit.
(2)  The agenda for 8/27/2014 board meeting is also provided.  


This report was prepared by Wesley A. Morgan in accordance with assignment as described in the Syllabus provided by the professor on the first night of class August 18, 2014

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Parker, Michael, and Daniel

Parker, with a rasp of red dirt, sings
The trio together in a psalm of a song
Michael the archangel strums base strings
Daniel in a den fiddles but remains strong
Audiences move about inexplicably
Pentacostal tongues - commotion in the aisles   
Pondering everlasting life and the trinity
Life on the road – another hundred miles 



Saturday, November 8, 2014

Immersion. Investment. Inclusion.



Cultural Diversity 101

Community Relations and Program Development Supervisor Kelly Moore greeted our group in the lobby of the International Institute. She opens with a question, “Who is brave enough to tell the group the difference between an immigrant and a refugee?” There are, of course, important distinctions as the key difference is that a refugee is forced into circumstances as an immigrant is not. She offers an overview that begins with visual aids – a global map; a chart listing countries of which the Institute has seen and helped people; and lists of services. She encourages us to visit the website; look for information about the Festival of Nations and consider the website as a resource for learning about unique culturally diverse events.

Kelly’s tour showed us areas where classroom language instruction takes place. She showed us an area that focuses on employment. She even noted the Institutes work with small business loans/assistance for “New Americans.” The overview/tour she assured us would be more fully explained on the website but she reinforced the message about the The Institute’s highly-acclaimed programs are arranged in THREE SERVICE PILLARS: Immersion, Investment and Inclusion. The website offers the following information about the organization:

The International Institute, established in 1919, is a pioneer in the field of diversity. In all our comprehensive array of adjustment services reaches more than 7,500 immigrants and refugees from 75 countries, approximately 8% of the St. Louis City and County 2010 foreign-born population.
As a result, the Institute has important multigenerational ties to local immigrant communities. Our programs and services are locally and nationally-acclaimed. We also have deep knowledge of the state of the immigrant communities and population trends. We serve as key consultants on a broad range of issues affecting the social, cultural and economic health of our region. Our mission is to help immigrants and their families become productive Americans and champion ethnic diversity as a cultural and economic strength.

The Institute will be celebrating 95 years of service in resettlement and integration to nearly every immigrant population (Immersion). It offers a variety of business counseling and advice and facilitates business loans (Investment). It orchestrates an annual event, The Festival of Nations and promotes understanding of different cultures in a variety of other ways.(Inclusion).
Kelly Moore could not contain her enthusiasm for all the good work the International Institute does and assured us that she could talk about it for days. She made this statement, conveniently enough, in front of a bulletin board that outlined again for us the THREE SERVICE PILLARS…Immersion, Investment, Inclusion.

For more information visit www.iistl.org