His colleagues on the board disagree, saying an audit would be repetitive and that they would be paying for a service the superintendent is supposed to be doing.
“I don’t know what I am buying yet, I need more specifics,” said Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn.
At Morgan’s request, Superintendent Michael Hinojosa and his staff brought to Wednesday’s work session a list of around six companies that would be able to academically audit the district.
Amy Krause, the chief academic officer for the district, said the company they found, Evergreen Solutions LLC, of Tallahassee, Fla., would likely cost the district between $109,000 to $770,000 for an audit, which Morgan has requested to be done every three years.
However, Morgan’s fellow board members were not eager to pay for an outside source to point out what they already knew was going on in schools, they said.
System already in place
“I think it’s costly and a little redundant,” said board member Tim Stultz, “I think we already know what our weak spots are.”
Stultz suspected the district would already be aware of any issues an audit would reveal. These are issues, he said, the district is paying the superintendent to find and fix.
“The superintendent is hired by the board to address any problems that are brought forward, and if board members do not agree that it is being accomplished, then the superintendent is held responsible for that,” said Stultz.
Hinojosa said he had been in school districts in Texas, including Dallas and Austin, that had benefited from academic audits.
Although they were expensive, Hinojosa said the audits did reveal some areas for improvement for the school districts, although the changes then took “time to implement.”
Those improvements might not be worth the extra price, Stultz said.
Since Hinojosa has been in office, Stultz has seen some positive change in the test scores at schools within his district, and didn’t necessarily think Hinojosa wasn’t aware of or not working to fix the district’s problems.
“I’m not against new ideas, but I don’t know what I am buying” and at what cost, said Scamihorn.
He and fellow board member Kathleen Angelucci argued they wanted to be “wise” with the public’s money, only spending it on services that were worth their value.
“We have a central staff that is analyzing our data,” and determining where the district needs improvements, and implementing necessary changes, Scamihorn said.
If a board member was upset with the progress being made, they should hold the superintendent responsible, board members said.
Morgan argued that not pursuing an audit would keep the district at the status-quo, unable to change any of its detrimental policies and procedures, he said.
“Somebody else gotta help us, y’all,” Morgan said.
Morgan asked his fellow board members, “Why do we continue with certain procedures?” such as forced teacher placements.
When a school drops in enrollment, Morgan said, teachers are usually taken from their schools and placed in other schools that need teachers, even if the principals at the new schools don’t think the new teachers will “be a good fit.”
Morgan would like to see this practice eliminated, as he said he believes it could reduce teacher turnover rates in school, and boost test scores.
“The school board is tasked with bringing the sense of urgency to change the district,” and its policies, Morgan said.
Instead of shuffling teachers around, Morgan said, the district should just let teachers re-apply for new jobs within the county, and leave the hiring decisions up to the principals.
Stultz agreed with Morgan, but didn’t believe that paying for an outside audit was the only way to change the current policy.
The board asked Hinojosa to present them with more specifics, including costs and benefits.
He is expected to present the information at the board’s Jan. 15 meeting, Scamihorn said.