Candland Makes 8 Recommendations to Prince William School Board

| May 28, 2018 | 0 Comments | Education

Supervisor Pete Candland at a Board of County Supervisors Meeting.

Following his May 14 Education Town Hall, Gainesville Supervisor Peter Candland has prepared a document entitled “Recommendations to the Prince William County School Board Regarding Critical Reforms,” to present to the school board and school division staff.

In it, he describes the current state of affairs at Prince William County Schools as a “crisis of trust.”

The document is a compilations of recommendations offered by teachers, staff, parents and citizens via personal conversations, the town hall, emails, texts, phone calls or social media.

Candland’s town hall followed a very public controversy over personnel matters at Ronald Reagan Middle School in the Gainesville Magisterial District, including allegations of a toxic work place environment and harassment of staff members by the former principal.

As allegations of harassment were made public, previous employees came forward to allege the same administrator, Alfie Turner, bullied them when she was principal of Potomac Middle School and Coles Elementary School, also within Prince William County.

Community members told Candland it was not handled in a satisfactory way as the principal was moved to the Human Resources Department, and many said a letter the school division sent out to community members placed the blame on teachers and parents, not administrators.

Candland invited Dr. Steven Walts, division superintendent, to attend his town hall, but he declined. While division counsel recommended the superintendent not take part in the discussion to protect confidential employment matters. Nonetheless, Candland said if it were up to him Walts would be looking for a new job.

The following are Candland’s Recommendations:

  1. Independent Ombudsman Office, the purpose of which will be “to investigate complaints to ensure that proper procedures are being followed and all parties are being fairly represented and respected.”

Originally proposed by school board member Gil Trenum, and approved within the FY19 budget, Candland wants to make sure the ombudsman will not report to division leadership.

“This office MUST report directly to the elected officials on the School Board, not the School Superintendent.”

  1. Annual Performance Audit of Ombudsman Office:

That they be conducted by an outside firm and made available to the public for review.

  1. Independent Surveys:

Employee surveys must be conducted in such a way that the participant cannot be identified so everyone can feel free to answer honestly without fear of retaliation. They cannot be linked back to email addresses.

  1. Surveys Must Lead to Positive Results:

“If a school shows a pattern of decline in satisfaction, the School Board must be notified, and a representative from the Ombudsman Office is sent to the school to discuss concerns with the teachers and staff.”

Candland includes a table that shows that over a three-year period RRMS saw a 35% decline in “Caring Environment, 35% decline in “Effective Communication,” 49% decline in “Collaboration and Team Work,” 45% decline in “Continuous Improvement,” and a 27% decline in “Overall Job Satisfaction.”

“These measurements would raise flags in any organization and clearly show there were issues that needed to be addressed at this school,” Candland wrote.

  1. Reform the Performance Improvement Plan (PIP):

Candland notes may employees believe the plan is often used as a “weapon” “to control and punish teachers.”

Once on a PIP, teachers cannot change school nor consult with leadership “outside the on-site administrators”

Further, teachers believe they administrator sometimes use the PIP improperly. “There were several testimonies I received of teachers who openly criticized their principal or the principal’s policies, were put on a PIP immediately.”

  1. Conduct Listening Sessions with Teachers, Staff and Parents.

“Superintendent Walts must engage with the community on these concerns expressed herein… There is no personnel matter that will prohibit anyone from the School Board or Administration from listening to the concerns of teachers and parents.”

  1. Anonymity Must Be Maintained in Personnel Complaints:

“At no time during the process, should the administrator at the school be aware of the person(s) submitting the complaint.

  1. Superintendent Walts Must Be Held Accountable:

“The overwhelming feedback over the last few months is that Walts has created a culture within the school system that suppresses dissent, enables “bad actors” to use the processes to retaliate against teachers and staff, and shifts the blame of issues arising in individual schools to the parents and teachers.”

“While the vast majority of people who reached out to me expressed their desire for the Superintendent to be replaces, ultimately, this is a decision made by the majority of the School Board. My hope is that the School Board will look at this situation seriously and without partisan prejudices and make a decision based on what’s in the best interest for the future of our school system.”

In closing, he offered:

“While I understand that the ultimate decision on whether or not to adopt these recommendations rests in the hands of the school board, it is my hope that we can work together to improve our school system and develop a culture where our teachers, staff members, parents, and students are respected and protected….It is my hope that these reforms will be adopted before the start of the upcoming school year.”

Read the Document: School Board Recommendations

Prince William County School Board took steps on their May 16 meeting to require division leadership review some of its personnel procedures and policies regarding complaint procedures and division surveys. During that same meeting, the majority of the board voted not to send Superintendent Walts on a listening tour across the county. Division counsel recommended against it. Some said Walts is not shelted from the concerns of citizens as he listens to Citizens Time at every school board meeting.

The school board did not vote on Walt’s contract on May 23 as scheduled. However, it will need to be completed before July 1, 2018. His current contract extends until 2021. He could receive a raise and an extended contract.

Supervisors cannot control school board decision except in nine spending categories. Prince William Board of County Supervisors allots money to the school division via a Revenue Sharing Agreement. Candland said he would like to change that and provide supervisors with more oversight of the school board.

© 2018, Bristow Beat. All rights reserved.

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