Under the state take over of the Montgomery County school system, the state has installed someone called “Chief Administrative Officer” to run the show.  Seems to me his title should really be CZAR.

Which is why I read “The Montgomery Public School intervention plan” of March 1, 2018  with the CAO’s name on it with great interest.  I thought I had come across the Mother Lode.  A document that would detail how we were going to be led from the wilderness.

Was I surprised?

In the first paragraph we are told, “To enhance the teaching and learning processes, especially in the academically lowest performing schools, intervention efforts will focus on five essential elements: 1) School leadership, 2) Teachers effectiveness, 3) Parental and community engagement, 4) School climates, and 5) Resources and supports.”

But as you read the following two+ pages, you recall the TV commercial from years ago when the little lady asked, Where’s the beef?”

Instead of substance, you find such admonitions as: Recruit, hire, and retain the most qualified applicants (so some systems try to hire the least qualified people?) Write and submit competitive grants annually (MPS is not writing grants now? Stay abreast of research on best practices to increase student achievement and Provide a viable counseling program.

As I campaign for the MPS board, the issue I hear about most often is discipline.  However, this is a glaring omission in the intervention plan.  And you have to ask if this plan was really done specifically for Montgomery or just cranked out of another computer and the cover changed?

Of course, I am not an educator.  But I know lots of people who are.  So as I often do, I sent the plan to them and asked for thoughts and comments.  As expected, they did not hold back any punches.

A superintendent:

“In my opinion, this well-intentioned document will have little to no effect on the overall success of MPS.  Seems to focus entirely on the bureaucracy, which is probably the problem to begin with.  Frankly, it sounds like a State Department plan written by someone who is years removed from working in a school.

If you want to turn a school around, what is required is enthusiasm, passion, and a whole lot of elbow grease.  Turn-arounds are culture and climate issues, not program issues.  Hard work and persistence is the only way to gets results, and that has to be inspired through passionate leadership and positive energy.  Success is driven by emotion, not by programs or operating systems.

I also believe that district wide turn-around initiatives may sound good, but true success will only happen one school at a time.  Magic occurs in individual classrooms, not in district offices.  You have to focus the turn-around efforts at the point where the rubber meets the road.

Turning around MPS is going to be a challenge.  It will be slow.  It will require many small victories.  But most importantly, it has to start with a belief that it can be done.  Go find the right person with the right vision and a passion for success.  That person will infect others with hope, and that hope will become an epidemic that results in success.

Or you can go with option 2 – pin all your hopes on a plan written by someone at the state department and implemented by those who created the situation in the first place.  Surely that is not where MPS is placing all their bets.”

Superintendent

“This is a lot of lingo but nothing solid and specific about how to do all of this. These strategies sound great, but there are no action steps to say how this will be done, no monitoring efforts outlined to say if it will work or not, and sounds almost like a strategic plan instead of a nuts and bolts plan to make changes.” .

Principal

​”Really!  This is an intervention plan?”​

Principal

“This not a workable plan – there are no measurable goals or objectives.”

When the state intervened in Montgomery, the MPS board agreed to what they were going to do.  But as the above clearly shows, the state has failed, and continues to fail, to keep its end of the bargain.