- The Washington Times - Friday, August 24, 2001

The District's school board does not have a focused agenda and has not been able to concentrate on key fiscal and policy-making roles, according to a study commissioned by the board and obtained by The Washington Times.
The study, titled "Increasing Board Efficiency and Effectiveness," was conducted by McKinsey and Co., a consulting firm. Board President Peggy Cooper Cafritz commissioned the study as a "no-holds barred assessment" to explore ways to make the board better organized and more efficient.
"I believe the board, like the school system, can never stand still and must always seek to improve and grow — even if it means taking a brutal and lucid look at ourselves," Miss Cafritz said.
The study identifies barriers in achieving goals and proposes, among other things, structural changes in board staff to increase efficiency and reduce spending. The changes would reduce overall board staff and return $130,000 to the school system, the study says.
In a presentation to the board on July 16, McKinsey and Co. quoted a board member as saying charter schools demanded a disproportionate amount of time. The study suggests that the board hand over additional responsibility to the charter school administrative staff.
The study also recommends new positions, including an ombudsman, to reduce members' workload.
The study is based on extensive interviews with board members and board staff in the District and the boards of Fairfax, Prince George's and Montgomery counties. The study found that the District's school board costs more as a percentage of overall school budget than boards of the three counties.
During interviews with McKinsey and Co., board members expressed dissatisfaction with communication among themselves and with the manner in which board meetings were managed. "We address issues eventually, but not efficiently," one member said.
Members also said they were not clear about procedures and how items were placed on the board's agenda. They cited significant gaps in promoting schools to residents and in resolving parent complaints.
Members agreed that they needed to work to attract the best teachers and principals to the District.
Miss Cafritz said the board voted unanimously to accept the report with a minor modification.
The board, she said, is now "ready and energetically prepared to begin a productive school year."


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