VOL. 16 ISSUE NO. 31   | AUGUST 4 – 10, 2010


Burdick awarded three-year contract despite dismal performance

Three schools loose ‘Excelling’ label, while one in three sixth graders are unable to pass math portion of AIM

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debbi burdickCCUSD – Just before convening an executive session to conduct Superintendent Debbi Burdick’s evaluation on July 13, Board Member Susan Clancy suggested, since Board Member Janet Busby couldn’t be there (she was appearing telephonically), that the board table the item until everyone could attend in person.

While state statute requires the superintendent’s contract to be signed in May, Clancy stated, since it was July, it really didn’t make any difference if they waited until one more meeting.

However, the majority of the board expressed a desire to proceed with Burdick’s review.
When the board reconvened in public, Clancy recommended Burdick’s contract only be renewed for one year based on Burdick’s failure to meet goals.

The goals set by the district for all grades consisted of improving achievement in math by 1 percent, reading by 1.5 percent and writing by 1 percent.

Nonetheless, the board voted to renew Burdick’s contract for three years, the maximum allowed by statute.

The very next day, AIMS and Stanford 10 scores, which were released to Burdick in June, were released to the public by the Arizona Department of Education.

Of all the grade levels tested, none met the benchmark for math, four out of seven met the benchmark for reading, and only one out of four met the benchmark for writing.

While all grade levels regressed in math, sixth grade students went from 85 percent passing AIMS in 2009 to only 65 percent passing in 2010.

On June 21, Burdick also received the preliminary Average Yearly Progress (AYP) evaluations for each of its schools along with the preliminary AZ LEARNS Achievement Profiles, which gives schools their “Excelling,” “Highly Performing,” “Performing Plus,” “Performing” and “Underperforming” labels.

Final AYP results were released to schools on July 21, with the embargoed release of final AZ LEARNS to schools on July 22, embargoed release of AZ LEARNS/AYP to the press on July 26, and release to the public on July 28.

While Burdick knew back in June about the district’s dismal AIMS results and that three schools lost their status as Excelling schools, Clancy stated the board was not provided that information prior to conducting Burdick’s evaluation and voting to renew her contract for three years.

However, Burdick told Sonoran News, “The board was fully aware of the AIMS results when they did my evaluation and extended my contract. One of my goals was directly related to AIMS results so we delayed the evaluation from May to July until we had the results and they could be shared. However, the AYP and AZ LEARNS profiles were still embargoed by the Arizona Department of Education when my evaluation was done.”

Clancy said she only learned about the AIMS results when they were released to the public on July 14, which was the day after the board renewed Burdick’s contract.

Under Burdick’s watch, Black Mountain Elementary and Desert Arroyo Middle School, which the district voted to close despite overwhelming public opposition, both lost their Excelling labels and became Highly Performing, while Sonoran Trails Middle School, now the district’s only middle school, dropped two notches to become a Performing Plus school.

Student achievement can be attributed at least in part to curriculum. And, Burdick was the associate superintendent of teaching and learning, in charge of curriculum, for several years prior to replacing Tacy Ashby as district superintendent two years ago.

Perhaps the reason to go ahead with Burdick’s evaluation at the July 13 meeting had to do with House Bill 2521, which went into effect July 29.

HB 2521 adds a section to “[e]nsure that the contract for the superintendent is structured in a manner where at least 20 percent of the total compensation and benefits included for the superintendent in the contract is classified as performance pay.”

And, unless the governing board votes during a public meeting to implement an alternative procedure, the statue outlines how the performance pay portion of the superintendent’s total annual compensation must be determined.

It requires 25 percent of the performance pay to be based on student academic gain, as determined by the department of education by comparing district students to the academic gain achieved by the highest ranking of the 50 largest school districts in the state.

Another 25 percent must be determined by the percentage of parents who assign a letter grade of ‘A’ to the school in a survey of parental satisfaction with the school district.

The law requires the satisfaction survey be administered by an independent entity (selected by the governing board) with sufficient expertise and experience.

Another quarter of the superintendent’s performance pay must be determined by the percentage of teachers who assign a letter grade of ‘A’ to the school in a teacher satisfaction survey, which, like the parent satisfaction survey, must be conducted by an independent entity.

The final 25 percent of the performance pay is to be determined by other criteria selected by the governing board.

Following the public release of AIMS, CCUSDWatch.blogspot.com, which serves as a watchdog blog for the district, had several posts on the issue.

One person posted, “This is a shame. The board has let our district run itself into the ground ... Class size and funding is not the problem and I would agree … that teacher quality … is an issue, but teacher quality flows from the principals and the superintendent. They are the ones in charge of hiring, firing and managing those teachers.

“And, wasn’t Burdick in charge of curriculum under Ashby? That would give her five years or so of being in charge of the learning and achievement of our kids.

“Any parent with half a brain will flee CCUSD as fast as they can. Those left behind will literally be left behind, but at least they may be able to speak Mandarin.”

Another blogger wrote, “CCUSD needs radical change … The liberals who run the district suddenly become ‘conservative’ when their own fiefdoms are threatened … we need to force an end to CCUSD administration by taking our kids OUT of CCUSD schools. The state has lots of online schools now that are free and of excellent quality. There are free charter schools. Private schools give scholarships.

“No parent should think that they can’t afford to take their kids out of public school.”

In light of the district’s dismal AIMS results revealed one day after the board voted to renew Burdick’s contract for three years, Clancy said she has requested a vote to reconsider Burdick’s contract be placed on the agenda.

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