If you haven't read it, there is a solid point is made on CrankysBlog that the MOU is not a statute and is unenforceable. However, I believe we have to be cautious of writing off the power of the RPS MOU. Richmond Public Schools is not the first school district to have a Memorandum of Understanding with VBOE so there are other examples for us to look at how this was implemented. One such example is just south of us in Petersburg City Public Schools. Going through the documents side by side, the tone of the Petersburg MOU is much more collaborative than the regulatory tone of the RPS MOU.
Looking at some of the differences, I can't help but ask... why is our MOU more restrictive? Please remember this review was requested and welcomed by our (now former) Superintendent and school board. Shouldn't VBOE show the same or more willingness to work with a school district who wants to work with them? While some may argue the Petersburg City MOU has not been effective because it is unenforceable, there must be a middle ground that can be negotiated.
The language in the RPS MOU regarding the search for a superintendent is more restrictive than the Petersburg MOU. The Petersburg MOU has the same language regarding providing advance notice of the candidates and specifics around the candidate's qualifications; however, Petersburg's MOU includes additional language about the collaboration between the state and local entities during the search. In addition, there is additional language identifying the responsibilities of VBOE during a search which frames the role of VBOE as that of an adviser and resource during the process.
The Petersburg MOU has language providing for other members of the State and Local School Boards may be invited to the bi-annual meetings or additional meetings. The RPS MOU only provides for additional members to be invited to additional meetings.
The RPS document provides that VBOE staff will review and provide feedback on the use of local funds. It also states they will review and approve expenditures of state and federal funds and approval is required before the purchase orders or contracts can be executed. The Petersburg MOU lumps local, state, and federal funds together and leaves VBOE staff oversight at reviewing and providing feedback.
Instructional programs and professional development
The RPS MOU provides OSI staff with review authority of modifications to instructional programs and/or professional development as well as approval authority over related expenditures. The Petersburg MOU does not include approval authority nor does it address professional development.
In the RPS MOU, the VBOE can modify the MOU. There is no requirement for input from the local school board. This language does not exist in the Petersburg MOU.
In the Petersburg MOU, there is a clause about Incentive Funds that can be withheld for non-compliance. There are almost five pages defining what must be upheld to maintain the incentive funds. None of this appears in the RPS MOU.
The five pages is a bit long to screen shot and paste here, so enjoy this lovely PDF for your pursuing pleasure. The majority of the five pages is affirming the responsibilities of the Local School Board and Division Superintendent. While this is a standard to be upheld, in my opinion it serves a dual purpose of defining the powers of the local authorities.
The Petersburg MOU includes a paragraph under the school board's duties that clearly affirms the power of the local School Board. This does not exist in the RPS MOU.
What can be done?
This document is not final. Our local school board should pursue asking the VBOE for the opportunity to make edits and suggestions. It is in the VBOE's best interest to have a positive partnership on their first MOU stemming from a school district initiating the review if they want to have other struggling districts to do the same. Some of our local school board is of the opinion they can't make changes to this document; however, I strongly believe they should at least ask. The way this document is currently worded, it takes a lot of power out of the hands of the people and they should fight to protect their constituent's voice. Even in a republic where representatives are elected to make governing decisions, the power they have is granted by the people. Our voice must be protected and the loss of that voice should not be viewed as something we should just deal with.