An educator explains: Why I turned down invitation from President Obama. I have a classroom to visit.

Monica Henson is superintendent  of Provost Academy Georgia, a Georgia virtual public high school serving grades 9-12. She began her career as an English teacher in the Gwinnett and went on to work as a teacher and administrator in North Carolina, Florida, Massachusetts, Connecticut, and California, holding a series of progressively responsible positions, including department chair, dean of curriculum and instruction, principal, and regional director.

By Monica Henson

Saturday mornings are my time to surf the Internet and catch up on my online reading and guilty pleasures. To mitigate the “guilty” part, I make a point of checking my work email, too. Imagine my surprise and delight when I opened my Outlook email to find an invitation from a government staffer in Washington, D.C., stating “On behalf of the White House, it is my

pleasure to extend an invitation to the President’s remarks at the Georgia Institute of Technology this coming Tuesday.”

I am a committed Democrat (although I don’t vote straight tickets) that voted for President Obama twice and support him loyally. (Full disclosure: I also support Georgia’s Republican governor and lieutenant governor.)

I am equally supportive of his Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan. Receiving this invitation is literally a dream come true for me. However, I respectfully declined and am sending one of my Executive Cabinet officers as my designee instead.

President Obama, shown here in a 2013 visit to Atlanta, returns Tuesday when he will speak at Georgia Tech.  (AJC/Hyosub Shin)

President Obama, shown here in a 2013 visit to Atlanta, returns Tuesday when he will speak at Georgia Tech. (AJC/Hyosub Shin)

My friends that are fellow political junkies are no doubt scratching their heads reading this and saying “Wait…what?” There is only thing, other than a family emergency, that could prevent me from accepting this invitation and showing up Tuesday morning at McCamish Pavilion with bells and blue ribbons on. It’s the single most important responsibility, after ensuring the safety of students and staff, of any school superintendent.

I made a commitment to visit our campus in Savannah next week and observe our Program Coordinator, who is also our math teacher in that center, using the Teacher Keys Effectiveness System observation tool. I will also be visiting our paraprofessional staff and the literacy teacher. The responsibility to supervise and evaluate instructional staff thoughtfully and effectively is the most important of any burden borne by any instructional administrator. In districts where student performance improves and teacher satisfaction and retention are the highest, the superintendent of schools takes personal responsibility for monitoring the quality, timeliness, and effectiveness of teacher supervision and evaluation.

In many districts, instructional supervision is delegated to the human resources department. That is not the case in Provost Academy Georgia, which is a single-school statewide district authorized by the State Charter Schools Commission. Instructional supervision and evaluation is carried out by all administrators who oversee any part of our instructional program—and that includes me, first and foremost. I evaluate my instructional administrators on their carrying out of TKES and LKES in the manner in which the state has directed us to do. I learned the importance of this concept (executing the teacher evaluation instrument to the letter) while writing my dissertation and studying how administrators implement teacher evaluation.

For that reason, I make it a practice, and I have done so since 2002, when I first became a public school administrator, never to schedule over an instructional observation in a classroom. I am attending the Legal Issues Conference being presented by the Georgia Association of Educational Leaders while I am in Savannah (because I try to get maximum bang for our school’s travel buck). I’d have gladly ditched the conference, valuable as it is, and sent a representative to it in my stead so I could be at Georgia Tech to hear the President speak.

I never, however, ditch a classroom observation.

I designated one of my direct reports to attend the President’s event in my place, and I sent polite regrets and a brief explanation: “Thank you for the kind invitation. I have scheduled instructional observations at our school site in Savannah. One of my hard and fast rules since I became a school administrator is that I do not schedule over teacher observations for any reason, unless the building is on fire or school is snowed out. Teaching is simply too important for anything else to edge it from my schedule. I hope that the President understands my priority, and that he continues to have my steadfast support as a loyal Democrat who has cast my vote for him twice.”

 

 

Reader Comments 0

101 comments
BCW1
BCW1

I would decline Obama as well but for different reasons. He has nothing to say that I want to hear.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Hey Bernie. 5 days later and still no answer. What up with that? Still in traffic?

Bernie31
Bernie31

A nudder 48 hours and there is nothing but Silence from the Good Doctor. I think this one does not care what any of you think. She ain't telling yer NUTHIN bout the Taxpayer funds, she is financing herself greatly with. it seems she is LOUDLY saying to all of YOU...GO POUND SAND!


as I expected.


You will know them by their overly gracious and Beautiful Rose Flower like language of Nothing. But yer can count on their paws, are DEEP in yer Pockets. when asked what they are doing? SILENCE!


You do not need to know...but you must Pay!

Bernie31
Bernie31

(72) Seventy-Two Hours Later and still Nothing from the Good Doctor. Maybe she fergot her Garmen and got lost. Maybe she is still doing her teacher evaluation of her ON_LINETEACHERS!


If they are on-line, why is she having to drive to Savannah? why can't she just git online and evaluate everyine in the entire school. I wonder if they are using CUPS and Strings?


There is no telling what is going on here....no cannot find anything about what they are doing.


Maybe Maureen knows? So far she has been Quiet as a Church Mouse too!  Hmmmmm!

KKA
KKA

After reading that she voted for Obama twice, I did not bother to read the rest

Anyone stupid enough to vote for Obama and assist the demise of our country is not worth my time to even acknowledge.

What a stupid jerk!!!

Bernie31
Bernie31

@KKA - well you voted fro a DRUNK Twice and he allowed 3,000 of yer fellow countymen to git Killed on American SOIL.  How many Americans have perished in a single day under this President by (19) Thugs. No where near 3,000... Uh..huh.

Bernie31
Bernie31

This one will Never come clean to put her very sad commentary to the Test of Truth of what and how her organization is utilizing State Funding of Public Dollars.....She will forever swing under a cloud of unresolved questions without proof of anything she has provided here. We are expected to Accept and Trust what is be told here without any supported documentation, validation or verification of HER OPINION! uh..huh.

Monica, there is an old southern saying...."If you throw a Rock into a Group of Pigs...The one you Hit, is the One that HOLLARS!"

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

Dr. Henson,


Can you please provide links to;


1. Annual progress on charter goals for Provost Academy


2. Provost Academy financial reporting


3. Salary information of the sort that is provided by traditional public schools.


4. Vendor payment report of the sort provided by traditional public schools.


These are all simple requests that are readily available (except charter goal progress) for traditional public schools.


Charter school performance cannot be compared to traditional public schools without the same information.



Bernie31
Bernie31

@AvgGeorgian  -Maybe she on one of her long drives again...or watching the Cartoon Network reruns!  Too Busy to answer our questions fer sure.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@Bernie31 @AvgGeorgian Bernie31, you are a mean-spirited person who apparently does not work a full-time job other than writing hateful screeds to/about those who do the hard work you are unwilling to do yourself. I challenge you to post under your given full name and expose yourself to the same scrutiny that I am willing to do. 

Bernie31
Bernie31

@DrMonicaHenson @Bernie31 @AvgGeorgian  - Ouch!  Monica, I pity You and the arrogance of your self righteousness as well as your Racist and Bigoted  assumptions are not True or even close. But I understand you...You are the snake oil sales person many of this Nation have seen many times before. You would rather blame and find fault with ME, for the of exposing the Fraud of the many Lies, You brought forward into the Light, of your own volition out of PRIDE. Self righteous Pride always cuts both ways 


All see you have time to spew your dissatisfaction with ME. but not enough time to provide and share the necessary information respectfully requested of you multiple times.  uh..huh

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

Wow. For those who have been demanding information, I haven’t responded until tonight because I’ve been driving from my home in Jasper to Savannah. There was heavy traffic south of Atlanta then one-lane heavy traffic between Dublin and Pooler. I took a couple of hours after checking into my hotel to eat supper and watch The Walking Dead and The Talking Dead. Sorry to disappoint those assuming that I have been hiding behind a cloak of secrecy or avoiding questions—just slogging through garden-variety traffic jams and indulging a teevee addiction. 

As Maureen pointed out, the purpose of my essay was to emphasize the great importance of teacher evaluation, and where it should fall on the priority list of any administrator, but especially a superintendent of schools’. It is, sadly, no surprise that the swarm of anonymous catcallers immediately swooped in, like gnats around a bowl of honey, to send the conversation right over the cliff of conspiracy theory, race-baiting, and hatefulness.

To respond to the legitimate questions raised, in the order in which I see them appearing in the blog comments (the intelligent readers among you, forgive me for ignoring stupid comments/personal attacks), here you go. I had to break this up into multiple posts to fit the length requirements.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

·       Provost Academy Georgia (PAGA) had a CCRPI score last year of 37, and 33 this year, which would be considered a failing school if matched against the average district public high school. We serve a highly mobile, predominantly low-income (more than 70% FRL-eligible), majority-minority (60%) population that includes a substantial number of overaged, undercredited students, many of whom have previously dropped out of high school at least once. We also accept long-term suspended, expelled, and previously incarcerated students, which no other district in the state does, that I am aware of. In other words, an alternative school population. When you match us against metro Atlanta alternative high schools, we are actually among the top-performing institutions.

·        Living-in-outdated-ed is correct that I am a card-carrying Democrat for Education Reform, and proud of it. Sorry, Vindicator, but I am not an “elitist educator of the left.” I’m a Blue Dog through and through. I don’t know any leftists that would have cast a ballot for Governor Deal.

·        The accountability comes annually, and if we do not meet SCSC expectations by fall of School Year 2017-2018, they will rightfully close our doors. I am confident that we will not only meet them, but exceed them. Our 9th Grade Literature and American Literature scores, as well as Georgia High School Writing Test scores, are competitive with the state average and have been since our first year, despite the fact that none of our students who took the GHSWT with us this fall has been enrolled with us since the ninth grade—hence the potential fluctuation of scores from year to year. We score substantially lower than the state average in other subjects, especially math. The State Charter Schools Commission does not use the absolute bar of the state average to determine renewal of a school, but uses a value-added formula developed at Georgia State University to determine whether a school is meeting SCSC expectations given its population served. PAGA needs to bring up academic performance in two additional subjects before our renewal terms ends in 2018 to be considered “meeting expectations” of the authorizer.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

·       PAGA does not “make profits” for anyone financially. It is NOT “run by a for-profit management company,” despite OriginalProf’s insistence every time I comment on this blog. PAGA is a statewide single-school district, run by myself and my team of Georgia-certified administrators, who all have had many years’ district, charter, and independent school district experience prior to opening this school. We employ more than 80 staff in Georgia, including GA Professional Standards Commission-certified educators: special educators, Title I teachers, literacy teachers, math teachers, guidance counselors, and administrators. We are all employees of the Board of Directors and members of Teachers Retirement System of Georgia. The Board has a contract with EdisonLearning, a for-profit education service provider, to buy online courses, and for EdisonLearning to provide a Service Desk for staff and students who need technology support. MANY local school districts in Georgia buy online courses from several different for-profit providers, such as Apex Learning and E2020. The Board also buys online courses from the Georgia Virtual School.

·        All students take online courses that are purchased by PAGA from EL, with Advanced Placement courses purchased by PAGA from GAVS. If EdisonLearning makes a profit from what we buy from them, you’ll have to ask EL what that amounts to. GAVS operates on a break-even basis. We have eleven campuses across the state (the Graduation Achievement Centers of Georgia), and students at high risk of failure who live close enough to attend a center can participate in hybrid learning opportunities in those facilities. We offer the Achieve3000 reading program, math tutoring, in-person special education, and other support activities in the centers. We have commissioned a research firm to review the outcomes of the students in the blended learning centers against those who are online-only. We believe that at-risk students do better with support in person, and we have two and a half years’ worth of data we can analyze to see if the numbers bear that out. Those are the venues where we observe instruction in person. We also observe our teachers’ instruction in the online environment.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

·       I observe teachers teaching in the centers. I use the TKES instrument to record my observations. I am not the primary evaluator of any of the teachers, but I contribute to their online platform with formative feedback. I don’t watch evaluators doing observations—but I do review the feedback they put into the online platform for their evaluees, track whether they are doing observations and conferences on schedule, and provide guidance to the administrators on what they can do to support and help teachers improve their craft, especially inexperienced teachers. I use the LKES instrument to record my evaluations of the administrators who report to me.

·        HallcoTeacher, I am not going to “observe an observation” in Savannah. I am going to observe a math teacher, and afterward, I will ask her about how instruction in general is going in her center, and what I can do to support the process. She is a member of our Data Team, and she is implementing some important math instructional initiatives. I’d like to hear from her on how those math initiatives are going in the Savannah center, where we serve about 150 students, many of whom have been previously in the Department of Juvenile Justice. I did not state in my essay that I voted for Mr. Wood, by the way. I do like what I am seeing so far from the State Superintendent’s office.

·         AvgGeorgian, it is incorrect that there is “no clear way to track financial use of taxpayers dollars as well as lower outsourced teacher salaries and profits to Edison learning.” PAGA is audited annually, like every other public school district, and our audit and monthly financial statements are public documents. Every single dollar that comes in is accounted for, audited, and reported publicly—just like your local school district’s are. We do not “outsource teacher salaries,” neither are we responsible for “profits to Edison learning [sic].” We buy online courses from EL, and we purchase technology support from them. As I have stated previously, many district public schools buy online courses from for-profit companies, some from state agencies—GAVS has sold 11,000 course enrollments just this school year. By the way, EdisonLearning is headquartered in Jersey City, NJ, not in Knoxville, TN. The Service Desk that we use is located in Knoxville.

·        iwanttoreadthenews, I do both scheduled and unannounced observations, like any other administrator.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@DrMonicaHenson  _ I suppose That is a "NO" about YOU or anybody of your Organization to be more transparent of the raw DATA of student outcome performances, salaries of staff members and how State funds are being spent by your organization?

We hear ya MONICA! Loud & Clear!


Love the complicated Abbreviated terminology use to deflect and confuse the reader about what is really going on. You really are a SMOOTH Operator! after reading your response several times...I Now think of You, more as a SNAKE OIL SALES Person, trying to wiggle out of a serious inquiry about your operation.


In your response, there is NOTHING UNDERSTANABLE! Nothing at ALL!  What You have shared with the many readers here, is A LOT of Nothing. by way of reading and in comprehension. One friend has already called your response a Bunch of educated Double speak, that means Nothing to the average blog reader, Parent, Teacher or Student or State Politician.


If any one here, or even you MAUREEN, can help decipher what the Good Doctor has purposely, not explained thoroughly. Please share your Wisdom.  Unfortunately for US, We are ALL Idiots. if we do not know what she is referring to in their use and meaning.


If All what you say is true, MONICA. You should Not have a Problem at "ALL" in sharing with the many  readers where  "ALL" of this important financial information and Data can be found and obtained. Other than YOUR COMPUTER and EdisonLearning  headquartered in Jersey City, NJ and Your service Desk in Knoxville.


Also if it is not too much to ask of you,  please provide a contact person and telephone number and or e-mail to obtain this all important information.


Is there any place in The State of Georgia where this information can be obtained or via a WEB SITE for easy viewing of the Information, just explained by you?


For some reason MONICA, it appears you are being intentionally evasive and dismissive on that very important and pertinent Fact!


As the Radio Host Joe Madison would say to you...you need to Put your information "where the Goats, can eat it" meaning make it understandable in One read. Put it in LAYMAN'S Terms!  I realize you are a VERY IMPOTENT and BUSY EDUCATION EXECUTIVE with not much free time. but would it be to difficult of a request to make of you?


Also, You seem a bit miffed by the many inquires. However, it is YOU who came forth and presented who your are, your credentials and what you are supposedly doing with Taxpayer disbursed funds in this Voluntary Blog piece. I find that Behavior ODD and quite strange, honestly.


To put this observation of your response in layman's terms. it seems to me you are like a Rabbit caught in a Trap!  A Trap of your own making and is clearly seen by many of the readers. They too, I am sure would tend to agree.  uh..huh.

Wascatlady
Wascatlady

@DrMonicaHenson Yes, but being rigid is also bad.  Leadership sometimes means making choices as to what would be the best for the greater good.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@popcornular @DrMonicaHenson  - yes you CLAN!  The phrase of "You Go Girl" is So Old it is Not even Used anymore....OLD THINKER!  uh..huh.


You are even Old in your use of Slang.....Try "RIGHT ON!{ LOL!, rofl!  )))

Yeah that's it!  uh..huh


You de one....

Astropig
Astropig

@DrMonicaHenson


I find it quizzical that the very same posters that want you to account for every paper clip turn a blind eye to zip code schools that use money like it grows on trees. 


Anyway, thank you for having the courage to jump into the lions den and defend your work and your school's program. Thank you for your hard work and good luck in getting the program to a level that will allow you to claim success. 

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@DrMonicaHenson 

Yes, I have been regularly posting that Provost is "run by a for-profit management company," because that is what I found on Wkipedia a year ago.  This company was the Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Center; and from what I could find earlier, it was a private business operation with many franchises nationwide. However I just checked again and the Georgia Policy Foundation reports for Provost Academy that, as of May 30, 2014, "The Magic Johnson Bridgescape Learning Centers name will disappear in favor of new branding. Provost will fully manage its entire financial model and back office infrastructure. Edison will continue as a curriculum vendor." 

So I was wrong to post that at the present time, and I apologize. Charters run by for-profit  management companies do set off alarm bells....Very glad you've moved on past that.

DrMonicaHenson
DrMonicaHenson

@OriginalProf @DrMonicaHenson OriginalProf, thank you for acknowledging the structure of our school. I sincerely appreciate your clarity, as there are thousands of readers who view this blog. We began operations with a contract agreement with EdisonLearning that they would provide back office support, assistance with reporting (NOT managing) finances, and curriculum and technology services---they have always been a service provider, never a management company, in our contractual arrangement. My board opened the school with the full intention of migrating away to full independence in all back office operations, which we have done on schedule. That's the way it is supposed to be done, but not every charter school board is as astute as mine. It's tough to open a brand-new school with zero business infrastructure, and properly managed by the board of directors, a service provider can enable startup to occur much more efficiently than a "mom and pop" type of arrangement does. It is important to understand one key distinction between our school and many/most others that have agreements with charter management companies: my board has never permitted EdisonLearning any administrative authority, employment authority, or other means of controlling the operations of the school. The reason we decided to end the licensing of the Magic Johnson Bridgescape name for the centers we operated was because of our need to provide a model that addresses the needs of our Georgia students, many of whom live in rural areas. The Magic Johnson Bridgescape franchise is designed for a purely urban population, which does not meet the needs of all of our students. The Graduation Achievement Centers of Georgia model, which we just trademarked this year, is much more flexible and permits us to provide the kind of services that our students need, regardless of where a center may be located.

ColonelJack
ColonelJack

@OriginalProf @DrMonicaHenson I have a standing rule in my classroom:  If you want to be the object of derision for at least the next five minutes, use Wikipedia as a source.  OriginalProf ... I expect better from someone of your stature!

EdJohnson
EdJohnson

@AvgGeorgian,

Sorry, but Deal says a “failing” school is one that has had a CCRPI score below 60 for three consecutive years.  For Provost Academy, that would be 33.2 for 2014, 37.0 for 2013, and no score for 2012.  Therefore Provost Academy cannot possibly be a “failing” school, right?

Bernie31
Bernie31

@EdJohnson  - according to the Math of Nathan Deal.....Go figure!  uh..huh.

Lee_CPA2
Lee_CPA2

Oh goody, looks like I'll have a "telecommute day" next week.  Last time one of the teleprompter readers was in town, they shut down the interstates at 4pm with their rolling blockades.  F**cked traffic up for hours.

Bernie31
Bernie31

@Lee_CPA2  - Here is a Violin jest fer yew. Anyway you are just about out of Depends. Now you will have time to go Buy some for you and the Mrs. And you will have extra time to review your Wills too! That is a good thing when you really think about it. uh..huh.

Astropig
Astropig

Silly "controversy" among readers. Let's be honest here: Unless Dr. Henson is delivering a (high) six figure check to Obama,her "meeting" would be a handshake in a rope line. I don't blame her at all for turning down the chance to be a prop at a photo-op.



living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

Terrific post. I know that Monica Henson is an unwavering DFER who cares deeply about Georgia's children.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

@living-in-outdated-ed DFER principle "We support policies that allow school principals and their school communities to select their teams of educators, holding them accountable for student performance but allowing them flexibility to exercise sound, professional judgment." - See more at: http://www.dfer.org/about/standfor/#sthash.MUjEroLD.dpuf


Dr. Henson is the superintendent of a seemingly failing school. Where is the accountability?

living-in-outdated-ed
living-in-outdated-ed

@AvgGeorgian @living-in-outdated-ed If it's failing, then there will be consequences like any other failing school.  I have not researched this so I can't say whether you're misrepresenting the facts or not. If Dr. Henson wants to respond to your attack, then she can address this situation herself, not heresy from me or speculation from you or any other reader.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

I notice Gaines Elementary in Athens is on the possible state takeover list with a CCRPI score of 55.6. Gaines is a traditional public school paid for with taxpayer dollars. It is staffed by local residents whose salaries are spent in the local community. It is accountable to taxpayers by transparent online information.


Provost is not on the takeover list with a CCRPI of 33.2. It seems to makes profits for out of state employees and Edison Learning in Knoxville but is not on the list of failing schools nor does it provide accountability to taxpayers in the same way Gaines does. Do legislators have access to good information that will allow them to make good decisions on upcoming votes about education?

read this
read this

canbee............You said it all...kudos to you. 

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

sorry.... what is a Provost classroom?

OriginalProf
OriginalProf

@AvgGeorgian 

As the headnote here tells us, Monica Henson is Superintendent of an online school called Provost Academy Georgia. What the headnote doesn't mention is that Provost Academy is a public online charter school, run by a for-profit management company...as several bloggers here have noted.

AvgGeorgian
AvgGeorgian

A couple more questions. Dr. Henson states "I have a classroom to visit" and " I will be visiting our campus in savannah". My understanding is that Provost is an online school that students access from home. What is the Savannah campus and  

Bernie31
Bernie31

@AvgGeorgian  - Too bad many of our questions will go unanswered and without a response. This is the Down side I have always noticed of such publications. There is no open dialogue with the Writer of such pieces.

One that would benefit the writer as well as the many readers in a mutual understanding.