Insights & Analysis

News

Munetrix introduces new Student Learning Objectives (SLO) version of its Educator Evaluator tool for seamless compliance with Michigan Public Act 173

Auburn Hills, Mich. – September 17, 2018 – Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has released its new Munetrix Student Learning Objectives (SLO) version of the Educator Evaluator tool to simplify customer compliance with Michigan Public Act 173, which governs educator evaluations for teachers and administrators in the State of Michigan. 

Signed into law in 2015, PA 173 requires that educator evaluations be conducted annually, and that they incorporate student growth data as a significant component, beginning with 25% of the evaluation in the 2015-2016 school year and growing to 40% in 2018-2019*. Teachers and administrators with three consecutive years of highly effective ratings may receive biennial reviews in place of annual reviews, making the 2018-2019 results particularly critical. 

The SLO tool is an addition to the Munetrix SGP Educator Evaluator, which is used for national and state normalized assessments like NWEA and M-STEP and was introduced in April 2018. The SLO tool incorporates the six methods of determining student success as identified by the Michigan Department of Education:

  • Meeting Average Change of Previous Years by Quintile
  • Exceeding Average Change of Previous Years by a Percent
  • Simple Average Growth 
  • Meeting a Proficiency Score • Group Effect Size Score
  • Tiered Growth Projections 

Both Munetrix Educator Evaluator tools put school roster data in a usable format for these state- required evaluations, according to Munetrix Vice President and Co-Founder Buzz Brown.

“The Munetrix SLO & SGP Educator Evaluator tools simplify the onerous task of manipulating data from multiple sources while performing teacher evaluations in the 2018-2019 school year,” Brown said. “School roster data was designed to link a student, teacher and classroom for every hour of every day during the school year; the rosters were not intended to calculate teacher evaluation scores to reveal three-year trends and cannot be used in their current format for calculating educator scores. That’s where the benefits of the Munetrix Educator Evaluator tools and data science come into play.” 

The Munetrix Educator Evaluator tools are foundationally based on the Michigan Department of Education’s model and integrated into the Munetrix platform using the company’s data science expertise, allowing school administrators in most cases to load their own data and obtain results. 

“Without these tools, teachers will have to spend hours performing data cleansing and manipulation, which takes time away from the classroom,” Brown said. “Michigan school districts simply cannot afford to have their educators spend time manually inputting data for this purpose.” 

The Munetrix SLO Educator Evaluator can be used for any assessment data that provides preand post-test scores, making it easy for users to calculate teacher evaluations. This is especially useful in certain grade levels and in subject areas where national and state normalized assessments are not available, such as art and band, and with special education. 

Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to build its reputation among government and school district leaders. Munetrix is one of only two approved vendors prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities and is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure. In 2016, the company received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition for the second consecutive year from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration. Munetrix has also been named a GovTech100 company for three consecutive years, an annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country serving government in unique, innovative and effective ways. 

*Pending legislation, Michigan HB5707, is seeking a one-year reprieve on the 40% student growth data for the 2018-2019 school year, asking instead that the percentage be kept at 25% through this school year. 

News

Munetrix adds new Vice President of Technology to its executive team

Auburn Hills, Mich. – August 28, 2018 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, is pleased to announce that Mathew Varghese has joined the company as Vice President of Technology. The announcement was made by Munetrix President, Bob Kittle. 

In this new role, Varghese will be a member of the Munetrix executive team, directing and managing the entire database, product development roadmap, hosting, data governance and other high level technical management activities. Varghese worked with Munetrix as an external consultant for nearly five years and recently returned to the United States following a two-year stay in India with his family. 

“Mathew Varghese brings an advanced skillset to Munetrix,” Kittle said. “Plus, because he is already attuned to both the Munetrix platform and our corporate culture of service and innovation, he can make an immediate impact on our strategy, which has always been focused on delighting customers and solving problems for them using data science and technology.” 

Varghese previously owned Michigan-based iTekk, LLC, a technology consulting firm. He also worked as a business analyst at IBM in Southfield, Michigan for more than eight years. Varghese holds a Bachelor of Science degree in Engineering from TKM College of Engineering, India. He is a resident of Troy, Michigan

Education, K-12, News

Cities & Schools Reach Crisis Point Due to States’ Low Economic Reserves

A recent article in the Wall Street Journal (Many States Are Unprepared for Next Economic Downturn) caught my attention because it highlighted a key factor adding to the fiscal stress of municipalities and schools.  The article suggested that most states are unprepared for an inevitable economic downturn as they lack the necessary fiscal reserves or rainy-day funds to cushion the next financial blow, and, it’s already having a negative trickle-down effect.

Forced to do more with less since the last recession, cities and schools are continually struggling with reduced revenue sharing from their states while scrambling to meet the demands of unfunded mandates, retiree obligations, an aging infrastructure and even increased student testing. Add this to the anticipated silver tsunami caused by public sector retirements in the next decade, we see a myriad of local governments that are already stretched too thin and have reached a crisis point.

One of the most alarming things noted in the WSJ article was that some states appear to have little sense of urgency and limited tools to address these budgetary shortfalls. Forget crisis point—this dilemma will have far-reaching and long-term consequences for the populations served by those who gloss over the unavoidable hard truth and do nothing about it now.

Fiscal Health, Municipal, News, Opinion

At least for now, Michigan closes the chapter on Emergency Financial Managers

By: Bob Kittle and Katrina Powell

The State of Michigan Department of the Treasury sent out a press release on June 27, 2018 announcing that for the first time in 18 years, neither a school district or municipality in Michigan has an emergency manager. You can read the press release in its entirety here, but following is an excerpt.

“LANSING, Mich. – State Treasurer Nick Khouri today announced that no Michigan municipality or school district is under state financial oversight through an emergency manager for the first time in nearly 18 years. The…announcement comes after releasing Highland Park School District from receivership under the Local Financial Stability and Choice Act. Since 2000, there has been an emergency manager providing financial oversight somewhere in Michigan.”

For many years the Emergency Financial Manager (later changed to Emergency Manager or EM) concept was regularly maligned by some constituents, citing it as an overreach of state government at the loss of local control and racially motivated. The term carpetbagger was bandied about as well. One respected national government trade publication headlined a 2012 article, Emergency Financial Managers: Michigan’s Unwelcome Savior. As local government financial advisors ourselves, (Katrina was the State-appointed City Manager for Hamtramck from 2014 to 2017) we, but especially Katrina, have been on the receiving end of some hurtful and untrue verbal attacks about roles and motives.

News

Munetrix donates $1,000 to Baldwin Center in support of STEM education

Auburn Hills, Mich. – July 10, 2018 –Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, was pleased to support the efforts of the Pontiac-based Baldwin Center with a donation of $1,000 on July 9. 

The donation is intended for use with the Baldwin Center’s STEM program, which provides engineering related after-school education for children from Pontiac in grades 1-8. The program was brought to the attention of Munetrix co-founder Buzz Brown, who is active at Bloomfield Hills-based Kirk in the Hills church, through fellow church member Alan Miller. Miller is an engineer at GM who leads the volunteer student engineering program at the Baldwin Center. 

Pictured in the photo: Elizabeth Longley (Baldwin Center Executive Director), Buzz Brown (Munetrix), Alan Miller (General Motors), Bob Kittle (Munetrix President) and Asalyn Coachman (Baldwin Center Board Chair). Photo credit: Christine Crabill.

About the Baldwin Center 

The Baldwin Center’s mission is to feed, clothe, educate and empower the men, women and children of the Pontiac community. A nonprofit 501(c)3 organization, the Center has been serving its neighbors since 1981 and currently offers more than 25 support programs that meet basic needs, offer assistance in a crisis, provide education and enrichment opportunities for adults and children, and serve as a safety net. Learn more here

Education, Fiscal Health, Municipal, Opinion

FY 2025 forecast could spell disaster for many communities

From this point forward, saving every minute and dollar possible in anticipation for what lies ahead will be crucial to survival in the public sector.

Maybe you’ve heard us talk about the silver tsunami, or perhaps you’ve read other articles on it, but the reality is while we all can clearly see what’s coming for us, few of us are doing anything to prepare for it.

Let’s be clear about what awaits us: in less than 10 years’ time almost half of the public sector workforce will retire.

Conservative estimates put the looming exodus at 40 percent. Depending on the make-up of your workforce this mass departure could happen at a more subtle pace throughout the next decade or it could happen almost over night, in a single fiscal year or season. Regardless of the makeup of your workforce, the coming silver tsunami will leave destruction in its wake.

News

New Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool simplifies compliance with Michigan Public Act 173 through seamless data integration and calculations of NWEA, M-STEP and STAR data

Auburn Hills, Mich. – April 17, 2018 – Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has released its new Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool to simplify customer compliance with Michigan Public Act 173, which governs educator evaluations for teachers and administrators in the State of Michigan. The announcement was made by Munetrix President Bob Kittle. 

Signed into law in 2015, PA 173 requires that educator evaluations be conducted annually, and that they incorporate student growth data as a significant component, beginning with 25% of the evaluation in the 2015-2016 school year and growing to 40% in 2018-2019. Teachers and administrators with three consecutive years of highly effective ratings may receive biennial reviews in place of annual reviews, making the 2018-2019 results particularly critical. 

The Munetrix Educator Evaluator tool was introduced to simplify the onerous task of manipulating data from multiple sources while performing teacher evaluations in the 2018-2019 school year. The Munetrix Educator Evaluator is foundationally based on the Michigan Department of Education’s model. Integrated into the Munetrix platform using the company’s data science expertise, the tool also allows school administrators to load their own data and immediately obtain results. 

Without the tool, teachers will have to spend hours performing yet another reporting requirement that takes time away from the classroom. Based on recent reports on student growth declines in Michigan, school districts cannot afford to spend time doing this manually. 

The Munetrix Educator Evaluator can be used for any assessment data that provides Student Growth Percentiles (SGP), making it easy for users to calculate teacher evaluations with data from NWEA, STAR and M-STEP. Fiscal year 2018-1019 will mark the first time that M-STEP data can be evaluated for the required three consecutive years, so the release of the tool is timely. 

“Our customers trust the integrity of the Munetrix web-based platform to help them meet important state compliance requirements, in addition to serving as a fiscal wellness indicator and strategic planning and data analytics tool,” Kittle said. “The Munetrix Educator Evaluator is another example of Munetrix bringing additional value to school districts in anticipation of future needs. Munetrix allows districts to meet data driven state mandates in a comprehensive, timely and cost-effective manner.” 

Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to build its reputation among government and school district leaders. Munetrix is one of only two approved vendors prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities and is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure. In 2016, the company received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition for the second consecutive year from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration. Munetrix has also been named a GovTech100 company for three consecutive years, an annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country serving government in unique, innovative and effective ways. 

Education, Municipal, Opinion

Start Your Second Quarter Plans With These 3 Considerations

Bob KittleWith the first quarter behind us, the following three topics are high-value items to consider in Q2 for planning purposes:

Infrastructure Planning

The problems associated with aging infrastructure can cripple municipal budgets, but with proper planning, communities can strategically use their revenue when and where it counts most. The most effective way to plan for infrastructure improvements is to create an inventory of assets, public lands and utilities, noting: the present condition; when repairs were last made and how long they are expected to last; the cost and time associated with needed repairs; and average usage. Many states statutorily require this to be performed.

Once you have a complete inventory, use common sense and data science to plan projects. Avoid redundancy and lower costs by planning street projects with local utilities. Address potholes and surface damage by assessing the extent of the damage, the risk to safety and average traffic flow. Align infrastructure planning across all departments. Maintaining centralized oversight of large infrastructure projects and ensuring all staff members adhere to an internal communications plan, decreases risks of redundancy and improves timeline efficiency.

News

Munetrix cites 14 Michigan public school districts as “most improved” in fiscal wellness

Auburn Hills, Mich. – March 14, 2018 – Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for states, local governments and public school districts, has designated 14 Michigan public school districts as “most improved” based on their Munetrix Score, a fiscal wellness indicator that acts as a financial barometer for schools and municipalities, much like a FICO score does for individuals. 

The Munetrix Score range is zero to 10, with zero being a perfect score. It provides school leaders a robust fiscal early warning tool and allows them the ability to model financial plans into the future to see what their “fiscal wellness” will look like two to three years down the road. In looking for school district financial trends for this report, Munetrix’s algorithms mash 12 critical data points over a five year period, while looking for chronic or high magnitude problems such as a tenuous fund balance or large enrollment swings. The Munetrix Score for most improved districts are for the 2016-2017, 2015-2016, 2014-2015, 2013-2014, 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 school years and are based on the latest available audited school district data provided by the Michigan Department of Education

The 14 Michigan school districts to receive a “Most Improved” Munetrix Score based on financial performance from 2012 to 2017 are: 

“The challenges to Michigan’s public school finances are broad and far-reaching, yet these districts, even tiny Bellaire with only 395 students and North Dickinson with 279, are managing to work their way back to fiscal wellness – and are to be commended for their fiscal stewardship,” Munetrix President Bob Kittle said. “As Michigan’s overall student population continues to decline, with no signs of a significant trend reversal, districts are showing resiliency and commitment to their primary educational mission, while aiming to stay financially solvent.” 

Three Districts make both Munetrix “Most Improved” and “Perfect Score” lists 

Kittle noted that three districts on the list, Montrose Community Schools, Oak Park School District and Reed City Area Public Schools also appeared on the perfect Munetrix Score list released by the company in February 2018. 

“These schools deserve special commendation because they improved eight points over a threeyear period and sustained a perfect Munetrix Score of zero for two additional years,” Kittle said. “Each of these districts serves different geographic and demographic student populations, yet they have achieved an equivalent level of success in fiscal wellness. The challenge for these schools, and all the other districts on the most improved and perfect Munetrix Score lists, is to keep the positive trends going.” 

Since its founding in 2010, Munetrix has continued to build its reputation among government and school district leaders. Munetrix is one of only two approved vendors prequalified by the Michigan Department of Technology, Management and Budget to provide data analytics tools for reimbursement to both Michigan public school districts and cities, and is the only resource provider that generates a fiscal wellness measure. In December 2016, the company received “Readers’ Choice Top Products” recognition for the second consecutive year from K-12 leaders’ education trade publication, District Administration. Munetrix has also been named a GovTech100 company for three consecutive years, an annual index by Government Technology magazine that highlights the top 100 companies in the country serving government in unique, innovative and effective ways. 

News

Munetrix adds Detroit-area municipal leader Katrina Powell as Vice President of Municipal Services in newly created leadership position

Auburn Hills, Mich. – February 13, 2018 – Munetrix, a public sector solutions provider offering data management, analytics and reporting tools for state and local governments and public school districts, today announced the hiring of Katrina Powell as Vice President of Municipal Services to head up the company’s growing public sector practice. 

Prior to joining Munetrix, Powell served the City of Hamtramck as a state appointed City Manager from 2014 to 2017, overseeing 10 departments, a $17 million general fund budget and 125 full-time employees. Powell worked closely with the Hamtramck mayor and a 6-person city council, and was a key part in the turn-around effort in this thriving community. Bob Kittle, president of Munetrix, announced Powell’s appointment. 

“Katrina is a strongly motivated, no-nonsense leader who makes things happen,” Kittle said. “Her extensive financial and operational knowledge of state and local governments will help Munetrix solidify our current relationships and build new opportunities to support our reputation as the leading data company for government transparency and financial planning.” 

Prior to the City of Hamtramck, Powell was the President and CEO of Municipal Fleet Services in Longwood, Florida, where she managed a government fleet of 500 vehicles and achieved business growth within a start-up environment from 2011 to 2014. Powell also served as the City Administrator/Interim Finance Director of the City of Longwood, Florida, from 2009-2011; City Manager of Fort Meade, Florida from 2005 to 2007; and Assistant to the City Manager for the City of Deltona, Florida from 2001 to 2005. In between municipal leadership roles, she worked as a real estate sales associate in Lakeland, Florida, closing deals on executive homes, mixed-use developments, planned unit developments, and commercial real estate in the central Florida region. 

Powell served in the United States Army for 20 years (Active/Reserves) from 1988 to 2008 and received an honorable discharge. She holds Bachelor of Science degree in business and management from the University of Maryland, University College, in Heidelberg, Germany. 

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