A number of districts in Mississippi have been through and are currently going through monitoring on the implementation of federal grants for school year 2019-2020. These monitoring visits are currently being held as virtual monitoring visits with districts having to upload required evidence. As I reflect on the monitoring instrument and the required evidence and on my past experiences, I am reminded that districts who are not on the current year monitoring list often forget to use the monitoring instrument as a tool for preparation for upcoming monitoring visits. Subsequently, many districts use the monitoring instrument after-the-fact, which results in districts looking for evidence of grant implementation a year after it has taken place. This can often cause stress, frustration, and findings for the school district.
Rather than a backward approach to monitoring, why don’t we take a forward approach? As we are planning for the upcoming year, let us put training for the monitoring instrument on the calendar for the summer or the beginning of the year. This will be especially helpful for new federal program directors and school principals who have not yet encountered a federal program monitoring visit. One of the first things the monitoring instrument does is that it identifies the policies and procedures the district must have. The instrument also identifies the forms of evidence to be collected. The monitoring instrument continues to provide necessary information on the district and school meetings that need to be held, the type of parent meetings that need to be conducted, the requirements for the review and revision of the plans, and so much more. If these requirements are known in advance, evidence can be collected as the year goes by. As a result, if your district is chosen for monitoring in the next school year, you will be ready.
The monitoring visit is a good training exercise in itself. If you are being monitored this year, use this as an opportunity to grow and learn more about what is needed to make the implementation of federal programs a success. If you aren’t being monitored this year, trust me, your time will come soon. Plan ahead and be prepared.