Charlottesville School Board Accountability sign now

A Public Petition by a Group of Concerned Charlottesville Citizens May 6, 2005

Dear CCS Board:

It has been a traumatic ten months for the CCS community. You, the CCS Board, have succeeded in closing a terrible period in our local history and for that, many of us are grateful. However, as we view the critical decisions ahead, many of us feel a certain degree of trepidation. None of us, regardless of how we come down on the issue of the former superintendent, wants to repeat our communitys most recent experience.

The community sees you, the CCS Board, as the primary caretaker of our schools, and as such the community must be able to rely upon you to educate its children. You are also by law, the public body that bears the heaviest burden of responsibility with regard to our schools and to our citizens. Tragically, at this moment there is a widespread and drastic lack of trust in this School Board. This distrust goes far beyond the voices youve heard at school board meetings. Teachers, assistants, librarians, parents, neighbors are all in conversationand their discussions clearly indicate that this community has suffered serious and deep damage this past year. At the end of the day, the many unanswered questions all add up to a grave mistrust in this Boards ability to manage our schools.

We all want to look ahead to a new and better future. But to proceed as if business can be carried out without first reckoning with the damage done by past mistakes presumes a trust that simply is not there in the broader school community.

Every decision made by this current School Board will be met with incredible suspicionnot just scrutinyuntil trust has been restored. If the closed culture of the present Board remains the same, many of us in this community are fearful that the group dynamic will remain the same, the decision making processes will remain the same, and the outcomes will be the same. We cannot afford to repeat the mistakes of our most recent past.

The first step in reestablishing trust is to have an open discussion about what transpired these past ten months. Establishing trust requires that the Board truthfully answer the publics questions about what went wrong. Even while recognizing legal constraints, much information can and should be shared with the public. We cant move forward as a community until there is a clear willingness on the part of the Board to be open and to conduct its business in public. To talk about moving ahead is meaningless without first establishing trusttrust that is predicated on accountability. Until then, every utterance from the current School Board chair will be perceived as taking us further away from the goal. We implore the School Board to work with this community to create a culture of openness, engagement, and ultimately, trust.

The following questions were distilled from a list of over a hundred, compiled during the past week. They reflect the voices and perspectives of many different people throughout the community of Charlottesville. We offer them to you out of an urgent need to establish a new culture of transparency and accountability. Speak the truth about whats gone on in the past so we as a community can move forward into the future. Communication and collaboration will be the new realities if you work now to reestablish the trust that has been lost between yourselves and this community. Thank you.

1. Superintendent Search: How will you avoid past mistakes?
a. Were all board members privy to all of the reports (positive and negative) submitted by Ray and Associates? Were the companys recommendations verified by the board? If not, why not?
b. Will Ray and Associates be retained to conduct the next search? Why?
c. How will genuine public involvement be ensured during the next search?
d. The results of the 360 Review should be public information. Why havent these results been made public and when will the board do so?
To move forward we must establish trust. What will you do to build this foundation?

2. Protocols: When did you make the business of the public schools, private?
a. Has the Board conducted at least 15 undisclosed, improperly recorded or secret meetings in violation of the Virginia Open Meetings Law?
b. Did the Board repeatedly discuss important public policy matters during these secret meetings such as: Flanagan testing, the PDK Curriculum Audit, the budget, division goals and objectives, and the hiring of additional Central Office personnel?
c. Have the tape recordings of all School Board meetings from July to November 2004 been destroyed? (Missing tapes include those for retreats in Richmond, July 18-19, 13 hours, and Williamsburg on November 18, 4+ hours. Both have been requested under Virginia's Freedom of Information Act.)
To move forward we must establish trust. What will you do to build this foundation?

3. Fiduciary Duties: Did the Board violate procurement policies & laws?
a. Has the Board determined whether it violated CCS policies and the Virginia Procurement Act with the purchases of the Flanagan testing systems and the PDK Audit?
b. Under what authority did the School Board transfer money, estimated in excess of $1 million, from approved classroom and instructional budgets to non-instructional uses?
c. What was the ultimate monetary cost of buying out the superintendent and where did this money come from? Has a spending freeze on all instructional materials been imposed and if so, is this action related to the buy-out of the superintendent?
To move forward we must establish trust. What will you do to build this foundation?

4. Personnel: Have personnel decisions been ethical and in accord with policy?
a. Did the Board undertake or approve hiring practices that were either in violation of existing CCS personnel policies or unethical (e.g. creating two new superintendent level positions without public discussion and allowing the former superintendent to hire the former School Board chair who hired her?)
b. Why did the board fail to investigate allegations of a developing hostile work environment created by the former superintendent after receiving warnings from numerous sources as early as August, 2004?
To move forward we must establish trust. What will you do to build this foundation?


We, the undersigned, respectfully ask the Charlottesville City School Board to answer all the questions posed in this Public Petition by a Group of Concerned Charlottesville Citizens

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Helga BryanBy:
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