Saturday, March 02, 2013

A Model for Eastern

The library at Model Lab School, on the campus of Eastern Kentucky University, was teeming with activity Thursday afternoon. About one hundred teachers, parents, student teachers, and EKU Teacher Education Program candidates (several from my class) heard a team from AdvancEd present an exit report following their accreditation visit to the school this week.

The outside examiners told the group some things I suspect they already knew, commending the school for,
·         High Expectations for students
·         Exemplary student achievement results
·         High Performance Standards
·         Creative/Innovative Instruction
·         A strong sense of community
·         Strong personal relationships among the parents and faculty
·         School Pride and observable passion about the school
·         Engaging Classrooms
·         Positive and Respectful Interactions with students

Under normal conditions, such a report would be cause for great celebration. But that was simply not the mood in the room. Instead, there was a palpable air of concern. 

Following the meeting, about half of the teachers left, and as many more parents, including several prominent EKU faculty members came in, and a second meeting of 100+ began; a meeting of the school’s SBDM Council. 

The topic for the day was the fate of Model Lab School.

The Model Laboratory School was established more than a century ago to educate P-12 students while providing clinical field experiences for preservice teachers at EKU. Its existence contributed significantly to the success of the EKU Teacher Education Program over the years. Today, as the only laboratory school remaining in the state of Kentucky, Model Lab must appear to the uninformed as an anachronistic vestige; a holdover from a bygone age. But those familiar with the new 21st century standards for high-quality teacher preparation programs understand that Model’s existence, and excellence, has given EKU a distinct advantage over other Kentucky colleges struggling to implement the new requirement for candidates to complete 200 field hours (before student teaching) and to provide master teachers for student teaching.

It turns out good ol’ Model Lab School is ahead of its time. Indeed, Western Kentucky University recently opened the Gatton Academy, and the University of Kentucky is planning to open a high school academy for 600 students. P-20 collaboration is quickly becoming a mutually beneficial necessity under the mandates of Senate Bill 1 and 21st century teacher accreditation standards.

The parents’ concern on Thursday sprung from a series of events which has left almost everyone on campus uncertain about the future of EKU programs, and many people’s jobs. The concern began in mid February when new Board of Regents Chair Craig Turner directed campus leaders to find $23 million in the budget to "set aside" so that the new president would have some resources to implement a (as yet undetermined ) set of changes to the university's business plan - our own little sequester. To make recommendations, President Whitlock formed the Strategic Budget Reallocation Task Force. Membership on the Task Force includes a cross-section of Deans and Vice Presidential types under the notion that these are the people who can best see the campus as a whole and who best understand the budget. 

That may be true, but faculty members (who are represented by one individual) have expressed serious concerns that the group is not able to see the whole campus, because they will not be able to see the bloated administration that supports their own departments. Dr Whitlock has acknowledged before the Faculty Senate that the last decade has seen a marked increase in administrative hiring. It is a national trend.

Across campus, departments and colleges are debating the relative merits of…pretty much everything…and there is a certain amount of finger-pointing (mostly at other people’s programs) as possible places where reductions might occur are discussed.

In reaction to that spirit, a KSN&C reader reported this week that parents were talking about holding a Rally to Save Model Lab School. The rally idea was prompted by an email sent throughout the College of Education by the Dean, which contained a laundry list of possible cuts to be discussed by the faculty on Monday, March 4th. On the list, was the idea of doubling of Model’s tuition. Parents also heard that a couple of Deans (not from Education) had suggested closure. One Model parent, speaking anonymously, confirmed that some parents had contacted the Richmond Register with their concerns, and that a rally was being discussed. She also said that an unnamed Madison County Schools official had threatened to refuse EKU Teacher Education candidates if EKU closed Model and overcrowded the local schools.

Model Lab School Principal James Dantic opened the meeting with data and a disclaimer. The disclaimer was that he didn’t really have any information to share about the fate of Model. In fact, in the room at the time was a Dean who serves on the Task Force determining the reductions, and who doubtlessly knew more about the issues than anyone present. She could offer no more than her intent to defend the school during Task Force discussions. 

Dantic’s data was eye-opening. In an average month Model hosts EKU teacher education candidates to the tune of 1,827 hours. That’s an average of 457 hours per week from 843 unique visitors. I thought we had a lot of visitors when I was Principal of Cassidy School in Lexington, but that was nothing compared to Model. Thirty-five EKU classes use Model for their Applied Learning Experiences (field work) and that doesn’t count the EKU Co-op students, America Reads and work/study students. Fifteen members of the Model faculty teach EKU courses while they collaborate with 16 different departments in teaching, service and scholarship.

Beyond that, many Model students attend EKU right now, and more will attend EKU after graduation. Over the past 5 years Model students have taken 340 courses at EKU. 

Of Model’s $5.2 million budget, more than $3.5 million (44%) is supported by state (SEEK) and federal (IDEA) funds. Tuition from Model parents adds $1.8 million (34%).  EKU provides 22.1% of Model’s budget or $1,168,197 – which apparently, some on campus believe is the amount that Model is over budget. It is not. It is exactly the budget Model is given to operate on, and like all departments, it’s down in recent years. Not so long ago, Model’s operational budget (what we call M&O) was $400,000. That is down to $178,804.

Dantic argued that compared to other university departments, Model is a bargain at $1.1 million, with $4.1 million of its budget (over 75%) coming from external sources. He expressed the concern that with Dr. Whitlock stepping down and the upcoming change in the EKU Presidency, that there may be “a void in terms of who’s standing up for us…Changes are occurring quickly and parents might be interested in communicating their concerns to the Task Force,” Dantic said.

The School Council reviewed the data and discussed the situation, ultimately deciding to send to Provost Janna Vice a letter outlining their concerns. (Once drafted, the letter will be posted to the school’s website.)

After the meeting, clusters of parents hung around to discuss what else might be done, while Dantic fielded individual questions from parents, and EKU teacher education candidates asked me about their futures in the program if Model were to close.

This Fact Sheet is from Model:

Model Lab School and EKU                          Update 2/28/2013

2012-2013 Model Budget Overview
Budgeted Expenditures                                                                                Model Income
Personnel:          $ 4,874,240          (92.4%)         State SEEK/federal IDEA:          $ 2,309,150  (43.8%)
M & O:  $ 178,804             (3.5%)                       Parent Tuition:                            $ 1,574,697  (29.9%)
Technology:       $ 139,100             (2.6%)          Parent Fees:                                   $ 220,275     (4.2%)
Textbook:           $ 80,175                (1.5%)                   TOTAL:                                  $ 4,104,122  (77.9%)

TOTAL:  $ 5,272,319
                                                Difference / EKU’s Portion:         $ 1,168,197 (22.1%)

Model Support of EKU students*
Number of EKU student hours facilitated for four-week time period:  2,228
Average hours per week:  557

Number of distinct EKU student “check-ins” for four-week time period:  1,244
Average check-ins per week:  311

*Data from January and February, 2013.

Students from the following classes currently use Model for Field Experiences:
CDF 741, CDS 541, EDF 103, EDF 203, EDF 349, EDF 349R, EDF 349Q, EDF 446,
EDF 490, ELE 322, ELE 362, ELE 445, ELE 446, ELE 496, EME 465, EME 490, EMG 349, EMG 430, EMG 445, EMS 349, EMS 349R, ESC 490, ESE 490, ETL 800, ETL 803, OTS 421, SED 104, SED 325, SED 349, SED 375, SED 401, SED 518, SPA 321, SWK 131, SWK 210

Additionally, Model places students for the following experiences:

Collaborating Departments in Teaching, Service, and/or Scholarship
Biological Services, Exercise and Sport Science, Special Education, Family and Consumer Sciences, Foreign Language and Humanities, Curriculum and Instruction, Communication,
Nursing, Recreation and Park Administration, Psychology, Occupational Therapy, Music,
Justice and Safety, Anthropology, Sociology and Social Work

Model Faculty who teach at EKU
Lisa Corn – ELE 519/719                                                                  Sheila Lippman – ELE 362
Karen Baum - ELE 365, EME 586/786                                         Charlene Park – ESE 573               
Jennifer Green – EME 442, SPA 101, SPA 102                       Denise Discepoli – ELE 361
Lindsey Heath – MAT 202, MAT 303                                         Marla Muncy – ELE 519/719
Stacy Wilson – AST 135, SED 504/704                                       Sarah Shaffer – ELE 490, EMS 855
Ellen Rini – EDF 319, COU 826, COU 827, COU 856
James Dantic – HIS 202, EMS 830, EMS 842, EMG 810
Cheryl Wright – SED 504/704, SED 104, SED 375, SED 577/777
Cindy Reeves – CDS 273, CDS 541/741, CDS 373, CDS 374, CDS 474


Anonymous said...

President John Oswald closed UK's training school, took away the deanship of the College of Education from Lyman Ginger, and put the College of Education on the defensive.

Sounds like we know what will happen to Model Lab.

Anonymous said...

Funny think about UK, now they are creating a high school academy in collaboration with FCPS which is suppose to house about 600 students on campus once it reaches capacity. Not sure I would use it as a my guidepost.

Dr. Sharon Titus Averwater said...

This is a sad time for Model Laboratory School and the educational faculty and students of Eastern Kentucky University. I graduated from EKU in education and Model was an incredible influence in my professional life. I taught in the public schools of Kentucky and currently am an Assistant Superintendent in Ohio but my most rewarding experience as an educator was teaching in the Middle School of Model Lab School. The opportunity to work with college students and middle school students at the same time was a perfect balance of practice and theory. I hope the university understands what a gem they have in Model Laboratory School.

Anonymous said...

I started going to Model in first grade and graduated in 1997. I feel very blessed that I had the opportunity to experience Model as a student. It would be very emotional for me if Model were to close. The school means so much to so many!!
(And, Dr. Titus, I was in your Algebra 1 class during my time as a middle schooler. I also worked "Model's Market".)

Anonymous said...

I attended Model from nursery through high school. Got my undergrad and graduate degrees from EKU. Basically I attended all my schooling at EKU. I am a loyal alum. No more donations if they close this fine institution.

Anonymous said...

If they cut Model's budget, then give your donations to the school.

Anonymous said...

Wonder how our Commish would weigh in on this compared to Jefferson County? EKU considering closing Model which is funded by SEEK - if you calculated the elementary, middle and high school KPREP scores this year the same as a stand alone district, it would be the 4th highest performing district in the state. That is what I call strategic

Always a lot of strategic talk about the school being the "crown jewel" and pride in having the state's only lab school when the big wigs are in folks are in town, accreditation reports are due or when you need a newstory about high scores or pictures with some cute kids. I guess footing one quarter of its bill is strategically a fiscal burden.

Seems like some of the current leaders are either new on the scene, niaeve or have strategic amnesia as EKU has been paying for the school since the university's inception as have parents been paying to support the school also. Portraying it as over budget because EKU has to contribute to its existance is like going into your favorite restraunt of 30 years and suddenly acting supprised because they hand you a bill after your meal.

Not sure how one can jive saying you don't want to pay for it and instead have parents pick up the university's tab but expect the school to support thousands of hours of EKU undergraduates as well as fulfill all the other stuff associated with department reporting and faculty contributions? I am pretty sure that SEEK/IDEA funds and parent tuition is strategically intended for K-12 education, not paying for a university's undergraduate field experiences.

There are those who entertain making comparisons with private schools and the higher tuition paid by those parents versus Model parents as a justification for significant increases in Model tuition. I am not sure how plausable or marketable that comparison is as those private schools are strategically set up solely to serve the parents and students who pay to attend. (Perhaps EKU should see what sort of response to hundreds of monthly field placements they get from these private schools that are being used for comparision.)

Why would Model parents be expected to suffer the bureacracy and non-aligned values/practices of the university when it does not effectively and efficiently serve their children's interests which they would be exclusively funding and the university has divested itself? If Model parents are going to foot over 50% of the budget and EKU is going to push away from the fiscal table, then why would they be expected to follow HR, purchasing, facilities policies of the university, especially after those departments are gutted by the proposed personnel reductions? That wouldn't be strategically sound.

I have heard some float the argument that EKU supplies the building, utilities and custodial staff. Anyone who has looked at the deterioating state of the building or sat in one of the rooms with its 50+ year old HVAC/plumbing realizes the strategic absurdity of this position in relationship to value and EKU's responsibility to the lab school's mission, much less upkeep.

Bottom line is if the university wants a lab school, they should take some fiscal responsibility for the department based on operational, professional and ethical principles (though I sense that the only principle in play with the task force is financial in nature). Simply jacking up tuition because they think they can squeeze more money out of parents as a source of revenue is nothing short of strategic extorsion - "pay our portion of the bill or we are going to close your kid's school."

If the later is the path, the College of Education is going to have to invest significant strategic effort and resources (financial and personnel) in cultivating stronger relationships with Madison County and other service region districts in sustaining the increased hours and school integration tasks associated with new EPSB and national field service expectations.

Anonymous said...

The school has been treated like a step child by the university for years - one needs only to look at the exterior of the building to see where it rates in terms of campus priorities. (Didn't Dr. Whitlock proclaim that a new Model was going to be constructed during his first presidential convocation speech to the campus? Since then we have seen construction of a college of business building, at least one satelite campus building, life science building, arts center, justice and safety extention, student rec center, intramural fields, a new dorm and a mansion across the street bought. I think that indicates where Model is on the priority list - one notch ahead of where Arlington use to sit {Funny how once EKU divested itself of Arlington and let outsider run it - that it started making money again}).

Similarly, the school has historically hired only seasoned teachers with a minimum of a Master degree. Under current college and university leadership, the professional bar was lowered all the way to KTIP level hires with the sole purpose of saving money, not what's best for serving children or demonstrating best practice. No priority placed on getting the best teachers, just the ones which would fit the shrinking budgets presented to the school. Folks, the school has been painted into a financial corner for many years now, this isn't something new going on - just more of the same squeezing the school financially, operationally and professionally to the point it wont' be able to perform the mission assigned to it by the university.

Ironically, nobody wants to do much to recongize or support Model until a new faculty member or community big shot is being recruited. THen all the sudden folks are knocking on the door trying to get some sort of special consideration for their chidlren's adminssion to a school which is presented as being superior to the recruitee.

Close Model down and College of Ed is going to have to quickly consider where to send all those undergrads, not to mention the ones who are at the end of the program and faltering so badly at other schools that they get the boot and need some last minute placement at the only place willing to accept them.

Don't want to sound like a jerk but COE faculty are going to wish they had utilized the school a lot more when all they had to do was make a call, send an email or walk across the street instead of dealing with distant school staffs that are only focused on their own school's K-12 kids (not educating pre-service teachers) who are located more than an hour's drive away. (Of course that sort of environment is more "authentic" so both COE facutly and their students will get the pleasure of an authentic response to their post secondary educational needs.).

It is obvious by my post that I am a Model person and I have a bias in my perception, but what bothers me the most about this is having not just parents and teachers concerned about what is to come of the school but seeing the concern and anxiety in our children about their school's fate. I don't think the task force genuinely understands the impact they are making on hundreds of local children's lives as they muddle through this "strategic allocation".

IN the end, if you look at how the university treats the school, its staff, community members and their children - well, they don't have any business pretending to oversee the school, they don't deserve what the school brings to the table and I am sure they wont' be getting any support from any of the hundreds of folks who have attended or sent their kids to the school. We have done everything that has been asked of us under the conditions which were dictated by EKU/KDE/parents and we have done so with excellent results on all counts - no appololgies or regrets to those who don't even know or recognize what we have done.

Anonymous said...

I would encourage the task force to take a look at our parent commonwealth of Virginia. Their legislators and govenor passed legislation (and funding!) a couple of years ago to create laboratory schools in their state. At the same time, EKU has done such a poor job of supporting and touting its lab school beyond its own county border, that most of the staff at our own Department of Education (populated primarily by former KY county school educators) continue not to know what Model is or what it does.