Deep Dive: Why is the GCISD Board no longer taking a strong stance to protect public schools? 

Breaking News: Tuesday, March 29th

Bill that would give parents state funds to pay for private schools moves to the full Senate for a vote

AUSTIN, Texas — (The Texas Tribune) A sweeping public education bill that would allow families to use taxpayer money to send their children to private schools and restrict classroom lessons on sexual orientation received initial approval Tuesday and will now go before the Senate for a full vote. … The bill would give parents who opt out of the public school system access to a savings account with up to $8,000 in taxpayer money, per student, which could be used to pay for a child’s private schooling and other educational expenses, such as textbooks or tutoring.” Source WFAA-TV


Deep Dive Summary:

  • Are vouchers for private schools a better alternative to “government schools” aka public schools? The answer is no.
  • Some in our community are friendly to vouchers or charter schools, including a former mayor now-school board candidate.
  • Breaking with PTA for the first time in history, the GCISD New School Board Majority removed the annual “no vouchers, no charter schools” statement from its legislative priorities this year.

What is the thread connecting the former Mayor of Colleyville with the GCISD school board decision to break from a long-standing PTA supported initiative with the Texas legislature‘s move to provide $8K for private schools?

The answer: School Vouchers to fund private charter schools. 

And why should GCISD citizens care about these connections?

Families who value their public school education and the community at large should question why a charter school supporter like Newton is now running to be a trustee of a public school. 

Part I. As mayor, Richard Newton endorsed a charter school company called ResponsiveEd “that would like to get a school started in Colleyville.”

The scene is Spring 2021 at a Colleyville City Council Meeting. Mayor Richard Newton, who is a current candidate for GCISD School Board, spoke from the dais about his meeting with ResponsiveEd, a company that runs charter schools in Texas in collaboration with Hillsdale College. Newton says he is a “strong supporter” of Hillsdale College, especially its curriculum of Christian education and the Constitution.

In the video, Newton says the company’s representative has talked to a few pastors in town because the company would like to get a school started in Colleyville.

Watch the video and read the email between Newton and the rep, Kalese Whitehurst:

What is Classical Education? Do you notice that the document titled ResponsiveEd (above), there is no mention of “Christian education,” which is what then-Mayor Richard Newton stated that he liked about Hillsdale/ResponsiveEd bringing to Colleyville. Why does the document not state that a ResponsiveEd school is Christian — is this what “Classical education” means? Yes, according to a cover story by Christianity Today that provides insight into Classical Education and states “evangelicals are becoming the new champions of the pagan classics.” Read more documentation about the Classical education movement on Wikipedia.
Several community speakers at the GCISD Board of Trustees’ open forum have begun promoting a return to Classical education. Why?


Part II. Texas Monthly exposes ResponsiveEd for voucher scheme that would divert public school funds to private companies

Source: Inside the Secret Plan to Bring Private School Vouchers to Texas, from Texas Monthly, by Forrest Wilder, October 18, 2022

“Political operatives descended on the Hill Country town of Wimberley with a scheme to send taxpayer dollars to private schools. Now they’re shopping the same blueprint elsewhere. …”

“One of the authors of the plan was Aaron Harris, a Fort Worth–based GOP consultant … along with Monty Bennett, a wealthy Dallas hotelier who dabbles in what he regards as education reform. …”

“The other author was Kalese Whitehurst, an executive with the charter school chain Responsive Education Solutions, based in Lewisville, a half hour north of Dallas. …”

“The scheme was complex but it pursued a simple goal: turning taxpayer dollars intended for public education into funds for private schools. The kids would be counted as Wimberley ISD students enrolled at the Achievement Campus, thus drawing significant money to the district. (In Texas, public schools receive funding based in large part on how many students attend school each day.) But the tax dollars their “attendance” brought to the district would be redirected to private institutions across the state. …”

“The most transformative of a set of policies often described by proponents as “school choice,” vouchers allow students to attend private schools using taxpayer dollars. For more than sixty years, school-choice enthusiasts have tried, and failed, to create a voucher program in Texas. Texas’s first dalliance with vouchers came in the wake of the 1954 Brown v. Board of Education case, in which the U.S. Supreme Court ordered desegregation of public schools.

The Texas Monthly article concludes: “When I spoke to [Joe Basel, the self-styled “systemic disruption” consultant], he conceded that his reputation didn’t help his cause. But he hasn’t given up on passing the voucher program. “It’s still my goal,” he told me. “Other districts are considering it.” He declined to name which ones.”


Part III. Breaking with PTA for the first time in history, the GCISD New School Board Majority voted 4-3 to remove the annual “no vouchers, no charter schools” statement from its 2023 legislative priorities — signaling support for the state to take even more funding away from GCISD and abandoning their oath to GCISD families.

A voucher system gives money to private and religious schools without requiring them to follow the same accountability standards and open admission policy as public schools.

Two Years Ago
February 2021

In 2021, the GCISD Board of Trustees opposed vouchers and charter school expansion in their legislative priorities.

Get the PDF from 2021

Similarly, the GCISD Council of PTAs’ #1 priority was keeping public dollars in public education

PTAs from every school in GCISD have membership in the Council.
Enlarge Image from 2021

Then … the New School Board Majority took over GCISD in 2022.

The pro-public education verbiage from 2021 is missing in the Board’s Legislative Priorities for 2023.

Still, the PTA remains strongly pro-public education.

An opposition to vouchers is the top PTA Legislative Priority for 2023.

Feb. 27, 2023 – The board reviewed a request from the PTA to support PTA’s legislative priorities.

The New School Board Majority — Casey Ford, Tammy Nakamura, Kathy Florence-Spradley, and Shannon Braun — voted to table the PTA’s request to support them. 

Board President Ford said, “It’s still unclear who has been behind the scenes working on this request.”

GCISD Trustee Becky St. John in her dissenting vote reminded the board that knowingly allowing the state to take away funds from our district in this way violates their code of ethics to work against GCISD and supports diverting public funds.

Watch the video

Allowing no discussion, the GCISD Board of Trustees refuses to endorse the PTAs’ legislative priorities.

Watch the video

Sometimes, seeing events on a timeline helps us understand the bigger picture. What do you see? What questions do you have so far?

  • Why are the extremists pretending they don’t know our Council of PTAs?
  • Why is our Public School Board of Trustees refusing to collaborate with PTA on a pro-public school stance?
  • Historically, only communities with low-performing public schools get charter school approval. Is this why they are cutting funding and creating chaos?
  • Would someone trying to bring a charter school to Colleyville be someone we should elect to serve on our public school board of trustees?
  • Who is eyeing our community for voucher/charter schools — and whose pockets will benefit from the payout potential?

Part IV. GCISD citizens should ask, as communities all over the country are asking: Can a private school serve students better than a publicly funded school?

We need to be aware that the same organization and people who wanted to take over Wimberly ISD “would like to get a school started in Colleyville,” said then-Mayor Richard Newton.

Will private schools be accountable to taxpayers? Currently the State does not require private/charters to administer the STAAR student performance test, to provide financial reporting or accountability, or to comply with Special Education rules.

Private schools may exclude students because of a diagnosis that the private school is not equipped to serve, such as dyslexia or diabetes.

Did you know: The Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) is a federal law that protects individuals with disabilities from discrimination. However, the ADA contains an exemption for religious institutions, including religious schools. Therefore, the ADA does not apply to religious schools or offer students attending these schools protection from discrimination.” Source: American Diabetes Association

What if a family is suddenly unable to afford tuition, if a parent dies or loses a lucrative job? How soon would the student need to transfer to the free, under-funded public school? Private schools also rely heavily on private donations from families instead of fully rolling the cost of service into tuition, likely eliminating families who can only afford to attend due to the government subsidized education voucher.

Private schools may reject students who do not adhere to the religious code of the school. It’s already happened in a Colleyville private school. In 2020, a longtime student was expelled from the private religious school after coming out as gay.

In summary

A takeover of our public school system by private schools will create an underclass of under-educated people in a single generation.

Vouchers don’t add up for Texas children. It is a sneaky move to privatize education, will immediately harm our local schools, and in the end, dismantle the right to a public education in America.

Don’t give up on public schools. Everyone belongs in a public school. We are GCISD!

Links for more

School choice bill tries to sway: Will focus on parental rights, increased funding help GOP pass tuition savings accounts?

Governor Abbott tours private Christian schools (Exclusively) to make the case for vouchers

Carthage ISD superintendent says vouchers would be detrimental to public schools: “There is nothing conservative about taking public dollars and then providing them to people with no accountability for how those dollars are spent or the outcomes associated with those dollars”

Billionaires and their investors are impacting education policies in Colorado and especially in Denver Public Schools (DPS)

Deep in the Pockets of Texas: A CNN Documentary about the big, big money aimed at destroying public schools.

Jesus Said to Expel the Gay Kid

High School Senior Kicked Out of Private Colleyville School for Being Gay

Pastors for Texas Children — Anti-Voucher Talking Points

March 30 update: What to watch for: The current bill states that current private school students are not eligible, so what is the harm? As in many policy roll-outs, a bill is reduced to what is most likely to be accepted and seems innocuous, but then once the ball gets rolling, it is more easily updated in future sessions. And before you know it, voila, a completely privatized system of education, no longer public schools for public good.

Click on our Home Page to review all of our Deep Dives and recent updates.

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Deep Dive: Transparency and Truth in GCISD, 8 Truths

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We’re sorry in advance for how long this is, but here are eight new points to consider. 

It’s time for the board majority to be transparent about their goals. 

  • If they believe the public wants to rewind to the 80s and 90s and get a basic education just so they can limit costs, they should say that. 
  • If they think parents should be responsible for paying for extracurriculars and not taxpayers, they should say that. 
  • If they want to support privatization through vouchers and charter schools, they should say that. 
  • If they want to run students away from GCISD so they can consolidate campuses to give a property tax cut to people who already got what they needed out of GCISD, they should say that. 

Why are they not saying that? Because our community supports GCISD and we know how important it is to our cities and property values to restore the reputation of GCISD and voters would never knowingly elect trustees who admitted to these truths.

8 truths about GCISD you need to know before you vote May 6

1. Academic Decline: The decline in GCISD’s recent student STAAR scores is largely due to the changing nature of education throughout the world during an unprecedented pandemic and was not an exclusively GCISD issue. The State did not give school districts autonomy in managing their own districts and disallowed any extension of online or hybrid learning. We know from colleges that hybrid in-person/remote learning would have allowed students in quarantine to keep up from home and still be counted present. GCISD had the technology available for interested students, but instead, those students had to miss weeks of instruction.

In addition, demographic information from TEA shows huge shifts in GCISD’s enrolled students in dyslexia, special education, gifted & talented over the past 10 years. Our Title I enrollment decreased, while our Economically Disadvantaged students remained about the same percentage. GCISD now receives less federal money to serve our students with some of the greatest needs. The added pressures of the pandemic only compounded that impact.

>> Curious about the related STAAR scores for our district and the misleading assessment that 1/3 of our students are failing the STAAR? >>

Read The Truth About GCISD Students’ Performance on STAAR Test

2. Programs: It’s false of our New School Board Majority to say “it doesn’t cost more to challenge our students”. Differentiated learning does require specialized and tiered rigor (on-level, advanced, accelerated, STEM, ASPIRE), which in turn require more class sections and likely more teachers. GCISD’s ability to meet all levels of learners combined with our variety of interest areas is attractive to home buyers, because parents know students are most challenged when they are in an environment for which they are uniquely suited. But the New School Board Majority is now standardizing GCISD’s education offerings and focusing just on core content and test scores.

Follow up question: 

  • Is the NSBM planning to max out class size? That leads to reducing and constraining flexibility in the schedule, which leads to less specialized programs, less variables to support and ultimately less opportunities for students to excel in their differentiated strengths.

An example of this reduced flexibility by our New School Board Majority: Despite claims that nothing is at risk of being cut, this week the high school principals announced that they were eliminating Block Scheduling, which gives kids an academic advantage in college admissions. Parents got an email without the Board of Trustees offering discussion or explanation. What will be cut next? ASPIRE? STEM at Colleyville Heritage? Will CHHS get back GT sections of AP classes? Answer: We don’t know what’s next on the chopping block — but we do know it’s not acceptable to assume all kids in the same grade can learn on the same level in all subjects.  We should not expect our teachers to appropriately challenge a packed room of students on varying levels, just so the New School Board Majority can report they are streamlining costs. Our New School Board Majority gloats that they’re getting back to basics, and that it’s just common budgeting sense to have all kids on the same instructional level and learn at the same pace. Except we all know kids aren’t cookie cutter, and GCISD knows it, too! Or has, in the past.

2021-22 Staff Information (TAPR) GRAPEVINE-COLLEYVILLE ISD (220906) – TARRANT COUNTY

Source: TEA School Performance Reports

For reference, this chart from TEA shows how our district supports several programs, meeting the needs of all different kinds of learners.

3. Block Schedule: A “Straight Eight” school day of eight 45-minute periods that meet daily offers the same number of instructional minutes as a Block Schedule of 90-minute periods that meet every other day. GCISD has tried Straight Eight before and switched back to Block Schedule within two years. The drawbacks to the Straight Eight schedule are many. 

  • First, teachers’ daily planning periods will not perfectly align with other teachers in their academic subject or department. It’s possible two Algebra teachers in the same building won’t ever meet unless it’s during their personal time. 
  • Second, the only way to “offer more” through a Straight Eight schedule is to extend the double-blocked courses (Athletics, Fine Arts or Career & Technical Education) into before or after school time. Would GCISD compensate teachers for that time that is usually built into the school day? 
  • Third, changing to Straight Eight requires a review of all students who have extended time on assignments or tests with 504 plans or IEPs (8% of district or 1,152 students). How do they fit in their extracurriculars and their class work, and have the right support (including paraprofessionals) to be successful? There simply will not be enough classroom time to allow those students to finish, which will cause more before and after school time for those students, as well. Typically, those students have been supported by paraprofessionals, a staffing category GCISD underpays and is at most risk for remaining unfilled. If a student whose IEP allows them extra time, will they have enough time before and after school to finish work in multiple classes each day? We are concerned the Straight Eight plan could keep our students with 504 plans out of extracurriculars entirely.

4. Curriculum: We’ll say it slowly: GCISD. Has. Always. Had. A. Curriculum. The district has maintained a written curriculum for its core content areas for a long time. It’s false to mix up “curriculum,” “lesson plans,” and “teaching resources.” GCISD has always had a curriculum. It was just different for different student programs and levels. 

The district has adopted comprehensive instructional materials for every content area on the schedule set forth by the state. Our old curriculum from 10 years ago used a print textbook and followed it in order, regardless of how well it addressed the standards or demonstrated a logical progression of learning. For about 2 years, GCISD has used the TEKS Resource System from the State of Texas, which weaves the state’s teaching guide into GCISD’s curriculum documents. GCISD has renewed its contract for the TEKS instructional materials in math, science, social studies, and English. The “new reading curriculum” that the New School Board Majority recently purchased is not curriculum; it is materials (books) used by some populations of students. 

5. Finances: Let’s start with the New School Board Majority’s decision –“26 high school teachers that leave will not be replaced.” What if those teachers have a special skill set? Will we force a teacher without appropriate background to teach that class?

If you have attended past school board meetings you have witnessed Human Resources reports where staffing studies are discussed. So, the fact is this was NOT the first study. The facts we should be hearing about are if the latest audit took into account the unique nature of GCISD and our special programs. There is no evidence to support this.

Follow up questions:

  • Did it account for the highly skilled staff that support these programs? It’s unclear if the audit results were even helpful. To “absorb” 26 teaching positions and say elsewhere that class sizes will be lowered without losing academic offerings is insulting, and definitely not factual. 
  • How many teachers can we find to teach Multivariable Calculus to high schoolers? (Currently, zero; those students are teaching themselves.) What about AP Research and AP Seminar?
  • How many teachers are licensed to work with our special needs students?

Before the attack on public schools brought on by partisan politics during the pandemic, our teacher retention rate was exceptional, and every opening attracted tons of applicants. What we are experiencing now is not normal. In a quest to appease their anti-public school supporters, the New School Board Majority announced a (fake) balanced budget, implemented a tax cut, continued to tie the hands of teachers, administration, and support staff and make their lives more difficult when they could have been focusing purely on learning gaps.  

The nature of public school finances and budgeting doesn’t support a “fluid” budget. When you have set costs, you can’t pretend like they don’t exist and then modify them monthly.

If you know Gas costs $400 a month for your family, you can’t budget $50 and call it balanced when you know you have to add to it every month! Why do you think our longtime Chief Financial Officer left? Did she know the task being asked of her was impossible? Was she being asked to present a budget that violated her duty to the district?

6. Teacher Attrition & Teacher Pay: Since our school district was taken over by the New School Board Majority in May 2022, we have seen a dramatic increase in turnover. So much so that it is now being considered “normal!” The turnover in positions in ‘20-’21 and ‘21-’22 is not the same as we saw pre-takeover. WFAA reported that resignations/retirements were 40% higher this year. It is indicative of a shift in culture in GCISD. 

Regarding pay, past School Boards ALSO voted to approve multiple teacher pay raises and attempted to close gaps in pay relative to other districts.

More follow-up questions:

  • Is the New School Board Majority committed to adding $5 million to the budget annually? Or are they calling for a balanced budget that requires cutting teaching positions in addition to the administrative positions and support personnel that have already been cut?
  • Have we asked our teachers if a 4% raise is worth the toxic environment that the new board majority has created? Is it worth losing block scheduling? Losing Programs of Choice? Losing our bench of administrative staff and paraprofessionals? Being forced to teach multiple students on varying levels in the same class? Being forced to accept teaching classes outside of their expertise or resign? 

7. Strategic Plan: Of course GCISD has a strategic plan. A plan that developed award-winning programs, and created an award-winning work environment. A plan that prioritizes public education for all learners. 

LEAD 2021 and LEAD 2.0 involved dozens of community volunteers, parents, teachers and students and led to Dr. Ryan getting 2018 Superintendent of the Year, our Board getting Board of the Year,  the development of STEM, AVID, ASPIRE, iUniversity Prep, Collegiate Academy, TECC Center, tuition based pre-K programs, and 1:1 device rollout. Those programs improved standings in Advanced Placement, Dual Credit, and Lone Star Cup, increased identification of students with dyslexia, etc. and allowed students to excel in areas that are most important to them. That was not by accident!  

The “Top 100 Places to Work in DFW” award was a very important indicator of how happy employees were in GCISD and is now being falsely called a “fake award that the district paid for!” The only thing the Dallas Morning News charges for is a detailed copy of the survey results, upon request, after the winners were announced. Read the details from the Dallas Morning News. GCISD used the free survey but did not pay to see the survey results. It is completely misleading for a GCISD Trustee to say in a public meeting that it was an award we paid for, when in fact, GCISD is no longer a recipient of the award due to tanked ratings submitted by the 1800 employees who took the workplace culture survey.

Speaking of strategy, it doesn’t seem strategic of the State of Texas or of the GCISD New School Board Majority to underfund our schools and court private schools to take over. State-level decisions contribute to local funding. We need pro-public education trustees to influence our State Legislators. It doesn’t seem innovative for the New School Board Majority to spend a year writing and implementing a new Board policy requiring Board approval (really) to reorder a lost library book. It doesn’t seem strategic or thoughtful that the New School Board Majority didn’t mention it was cutting Programs of Choice and eliminating block scheduling at their board meeting less than 48 hours prior.

8. Innovation: It is not innovative for a trustee to further divide the community by referring to “my side” and make the speaker rounds bragging about the destruction of GCISD and how the board majority has purposely not advocated for the entire GCISD population as a whole. It is not innovative to give everyone the same standard education by eliminating programs students find meaningful. That is the factory school model we fought to replace over a decade ago when faced with declining enrollment. Our Special Programs saved us from having to close campuses. Our Special Programs brought new families into GCISD. If we allow trustees to get elected who are pushing us backwards, our students will never be prepared for the jobs of tomorrow. It is not innovative to force our students into daily “speed dating” running through eight 45-minute classes a day.

Follow up questions:

  • If it’s true that bussing will still be offered, how will those kids get to one campus and back without missing half of class? Interestingly, it might have been more innovative to actually consider a 4-day a week schedule, or a hybrid schedule like colleges offer. Seeking input from stakeholders on the dozens of options in between block scheduling and 8-period days would have at least demonstrated innovation through community involvement. 

It’s also not innovative to falsely claim not to cut important Special Programs but then make changes that so severely harm them they eventually lose support.

Follow up questions:

  • When students decide they can’t realistically change campus under the 45-minute class schedule, will they then eliminate bussing for lack of interest?
  • When kids have to pick between extracurriculars and extra electives, will they start removing classes with low participation? And add another fact, currently, our district is maxed out in our ability to seat kids in CTE classes.
  • When the board majority claims they are looking to “benefit everyone” does that include people that learn, look, or think differently from them? Their track record to date proves that isn’t the case. 

Elect candidates who put excellence over extremism

If you’ve read this far, you are probably tired. We are so, so, so tired of spending our time rebutting the stretttttchhhhhedddd facts shared by the New School Board Majority and those that have run for previous elections backed by the same extremists. But we are doing this to get out the truth. We can take back GCISD in the May 6th school board election if we help our neighbors see the truth and choose candidates who will stand up against the extremist New School Board Majority. We must band together and elect candidates who are committed to Excellence, Independence, and Respect in GCISD.

>> Want to know who is running for GCISD School Board in 2023? >> Click here!

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Preparing your School Board vote: Focus on the Facts

The GCISD School Board election seasons officially begins on the candidate filing deadline of February 17, view details here. But we can assure you plenty of planning and communications are already taking place.

Here’s a few options for citizens of Grapevine and Colleyville to get plugged into the conversations and to hear how the candidates will be addressing key concerns from our community.

Upcoming events: Continue to get the facts so your vote helps take back GCISD

We also wanted to outline a few priority areas to be looking for when you talk with your friends, or if you get a chance to directly speak with a candidate.

Three things to consider when preparing a vote for School Board positions:

We need TRANSPARENCY in how the school board runs GCISD

  • Will we be able to follow Trustee actions and contribute to decision making through an open, transparent process?
    • Many concerned citizens of Grapevine and Colleyville question the legitimacy of the “balanced” budget. The New School Board Majority knowing not all expenses were reflected, has repeatedly claimed the budget was balanced, even though it is now being adjusted monthly. 
    • Watch the January School Board meeting (starting at 2 hrs 21 minutes) to hear the Interim CFO, describe the challenges and changes needed to manage the current GCISD budget.

We need to KEEP OUR TEACHERS because they are the key to an excellent education

  • Will leadership make choices and support programs to keep our teachers, so we maintain our track record of excellence in education?
    • Keeping teachers through appropriate raises, professional development supports and a healthy work environment is an option, to avoid the costs of hiring and recruiting and training a new generation of teachers.
    • Since the New Board Majority assumed control, we have lost 175 EDUCATORS AND COUNTING. These spots have been replaced with 140 new hires on one-year probationary contracts.

      View the tracker and see the truth for yourself.

We need public education to be first priority, including giving students choice within programs

  • What can we do to maintain the differentiated learning programs that bring value for being known as a Destination District?
    • Hasty actions will negatively impact the specialized learning options students and their families current have.
    • Ensure we continue to uphold LEAD 2.0 plans, originally called LEAD 2021. And make sure School Board Trustees keep student success as a primary goal. You can find the full plan here.
      • Students are prepared and informed to participate in programs and activities that align to their interests. Students are supported in growing their potential and making choices about their future. Students feel confident in selecting from our variety of programs and activities.

Call to Action: Speak at Keller ISD Monday, Nov. 14, against a proposal to arm teachers and ban books

Keller ISD: The extremist agenda is continuing in Keller with two dangerous policies being considered by the KISD board.

Visit Keller ISD Families Supporting Public Education on Facebook for more information.

Here is an excerpt from their post from November 12, 2022:

Keller ISD Community, we come to you as a group of parents and educators in the community deeply concerned about items on the upcoming school board meeting agenda. The meeting is this Monday, November 14th.

We need the community to show up to the meeting on Monday evening. The meeting starts at 6 pm in the Administration Building (Rock Building). If you’d like to speak, you need to show up no later than 5:45. We expect there to be a very large turnout.

Dallas Morning News cuts GCISD from Top 100 places to work; GCISD was 1 of only 2 schools listed every year since 2018

After earning a spot for four years in a row, GCISD did NOT get awarded a place in the Dallas Morning News Top 100 Places to Work this year. The award is based entirely on feedback from employees, which makes the loss even more devastating. The divisive climate, attacks on teachers and librarians, disregard of student, parent, and teacher voice, and consolidation of jobs following elimination of key positions is taking its toll. And now the metrics are beginning to follow.