Panels review schools advice

Groups are studying ideas developed in evaluation of district

`Huge undertaking'

February 22, 2002|By Tanika White | Tanika White,SUN STAFF

Howard County Schools Superintendent John R. O'Rourke showed the Board of Education last night that he does not intend to let the $250,000 review of the school district's performance go to waste.

In a thick preliminary report of charts and explanations, O'Rourke walked the board through the 123 recommendations made by a team of independent consultants in October - and showed members how committees are evaluating the feasibility and worthiness of each one.

The panels will finish their reports next month. O'Rourke will compile their results, review their opinions and submit a final report to the school board May 9.

"Our intent is to turn all of this into goals, objectives and activities," O'Rourke said.

Many of the recommendations, being carefully reviewed by five groups, are still under consideration. But some have been suggested for preliminary approval or veto.

For example, consultants recommended that district administrators conduct follow-up studies with students one and five years after graduation to evaluate how well the system is educating and preparing them. Committee members said doing so would not be worth the money, would produce unreliable data and would have a poor response rate.

Another suggestion, though, drew praise from a different panel. It agreed that the system should use an automated teacher application and employee file to reduce duplication of efforts and shorten the time it takes to process forms and files.

The current paper-laden system is "cumbersome" and "slower than necessary," O'Rourke said, and should be done away with despite the estimated cost of $85,000.

"That's not part of the recommended budget for next year because of all the other needs," O'Rourke said. "But you can bet it's something we're going to be very serious about finding a way to implement very soon."

Many recommendations are expensive, said Sydney L. Cousin, the system's chief operating officer. Others, though, would save money.

Board member James P. O'Donnell called the review of the audit a "huge undertaking."

O'Rourke agreed that his office had not worked on a report this "major" or on one being completed in "such an inclusive sort of way."

The five system- and community-based committees reviewing the suggestions are student performance, leadership, human resource management, financial stability, and community support.

The Management and Performance Review of Howard's schools - completed by a team of independent consultants over 10 months - made suggestions for such areas as technology, school management, school board and superintendent relations, and student performance.

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