Tuesday, November 25, 2014

Seattle Schools Accidental Release of Student Data Update

The PI had an in-depth story today on the accidental disclosure of 7500+ student files to a guardian seeking to protect his sister's Sped rights. 

In the story, it was stated that the district had filed to go to court and force the guardian to destroy the files.  This was puzzling to me as at least one reader said it HAD been done last week.  There is an update today from the district saying this (partial):

We received confirmation yesterday that the individual provided the court with certification that the documents have been deleted and the individual possesses no copies, electronic or otherwise. The court certification confirmed the documents were not distributed, electronically or as hard copy, to any other individual or party except for a KING 5 News reporter who was permitted to view the files on the individual’s computer. KING 5 has confirmed they did not keep copies of the data.
But the questions continue.

Dr. Nyland Issues a Heartfelt "Whoops" over Gates Preschool Grant

Despite Cashel Toner's "this is how it's done," actually NO, this is not how grant agreements over $250K are done in SPS.  Why anyone on the Board took her word for it is beyond me.

From the Superintendent's Friday Memo:

At the board meeting on Wednesday you approved the $750,000 Gates grant for a Gatzert pre-school. Thank you, that will allow us to move forward on providing much needed and appreciated services for high need students at Gatzert. 
Following the board meeting, you noted that the support materials for that agenda item included a copy of the contract between the Gates Foundation and the District. It was noted that I, as superintendent, had signed the grant in September which is much earlier than approved by the board. 
In following up, I have confirmed that we did in fact receive the money from the Gates Foundation in October however, those funds were held and would not have been spent until Board approval was obtained. 
My early signature was obviously not appropriate policy or practice. I apologize. What I know now, but did not know then, is that we have a routing form for all contracts which require multiple signatures by different departments – ending with the superintendent. That did not occur in this case. We also have a protocol for recognizing and correcting errors such as these. General Counsel for the District will make you aware of those steps. I certainly do acknowledge this mistake and now know the proper steps for approving contracts. 
- Larry
Dr. Larry Nyland, Superintendent

Executive Committee Meeting of the Whole

An update if you were thinking of going to the COW meeting this afternoon which says it will be about the search firm for the selection of our next superintendent.

There had been a notation on the agenda that it might not happen so I checked in with the ever-sunny Theresa Hale at the Board office.

It seems that the Executive Session last night ran over three hours and, they didn't get finished.  (You may recall this was about a review of Superintendent Nyland which seems kind of soon given he just got here six months ago.)

So the COW meeting won't happen until that Executive Session is finished.  

Meaning, you could go down there, wait until the Executive Session is finished and hope that they then commence the COW meeting. 

Or, you could go down and be disappointed if the Board takes longer, is exhausted and then postpones the COW meeting.

I get all this except for one thing. 

As it turns out, I am getting some very pronounced vibes - both from sources and my own instinct after years of district watching - that there is a move afoot to radically change our district.

Tuesday Open Thread

 Update: I witnessed about 200 Roosevelt students marching and chanting over the Ferguson decision as they made their way back to campus around noon today.  They got corralled in the cafeteria where staff was trying to get them to go back to class.  Rowdy but peaceful.

I heard from the West Seattle Blog that West Seattle High students as well as Garfield student also marched today.

end of update

Richard Lodish collects public education memorabilia.  It's a fascinating story from Education Week:

His resume tracks his path from young teacher in inner-city Cleveland, to doctoral student at Harvard University’s Graduate School of Education, to associate headmaster and principal at the prestigious Sidwell Friends School in Washington. Brief stops were made along the way as a charter school founder in Oakland, Calif., an education advisor to local, state, national, and foreign government agencies, as well as published author in so many periodicals and books that he has lost count.

Over the past 40 years, Lodish has amassed a collection of school artifacts and memorabilia that date from the 18th to early-20th centuries, and now jam his home in the Washington suburbs. With pieces acquired from flea markets, live and virtual auctions, private sales, and through word-of-mouth, the collection is so historically significant and complete that curators from the Smithsonian Institution’s National Museum of American History now make twice-weekly visits to his home to catalogue and transport items for display in several of the museum’s divisions. 

Did I mention I went to the City's community meeting about their preschool program on Saturday about "family engagement?"  (There was another one in the afternoon about dual language programs.)  There will be others next week so let me give you some feedback.

Upside: nice people to greet you and free food.

Downside: incredibly long (and seriously ridiculous) introductions. The City is paying(!) someone to do this elaborate game of dividing the room into people who tweet, text, read magazines and use voice mail.  Then, in your group, you decide what your "message" is about yourself and THEN you go around the entire room and every single person introduces thenselves and gives their blurb.

That's 35 minutes of my life I'll never get back (and this in a less-than-2+ hour meeting).   It was sort of a rah-rah session, "we all love preschool."  What was telling is one of women from the group of immigrant women there (with an interpreter) said that not everyone uses Twitter or texting.  No kidding.

I stayed for one presentation which truly seemed for caregivers/teachers and not parents.  I found it all confusing.

So, if you do go to one of these, I'd come late.  

What's on your mind?

Monday, November 24, 2014

Gates Grant for Preschool at Bailey-Gatzert; One Mighty Big Hole in the Agreement

Finally sat down to listen to the Gates Foundation preschool grant discussion from last Wednesday Board meeting.  Many adjectives come to mind; disingenuous (Cashel Toner), tardy for the party (Director McLaren), integrity (Director Patu), rationality (Director Peters) and dumbfounded (for Directors Carr and Peaslee).

Folks, our Board not only okayed a grant that had been signed off months before by the Superintendent (and more on that in a moment) but most agreed it lacked clarity in one key issue.  Astonishing.

It seems that staff was able, somehow, to negate to the Board that going into Years 2 and 3 of this grant, it is completely unclear what will happen.  Both Sue Peters and Betty Patu asked, over and over, and yet no real answer.

Here's the crux of the problem as both Patu and Peters pointed out.

The district is doing this backwards.  The MOU with the City should come FIRST and then any agreements.  Because what IF an MOU with the City is not reached by the end of year one? (Which would be January 2016 as the preschool is to open in January.)

 Is the Gates Foundation going to continue the funding?  NO one knows but them.  What a great way to sign-off on an agreement.

There are a LOT of other Universities than University of Virginia

Want to know my number one piece of advice for young women going off to college?  Not "study hard" or "be open to meeting new people" - it's this:

Do NOT attend any frat party

If you do, don't go alone and don't separate from your friend.  

Do not EVER accept a drink you did not open and pour yourself.  

I think this Rolling Stone article explains very well why I have this policy.

I wrote a letter to President Sullivan at the University of Virginia (she doesn't have an e-mail but I sent it to her aide):

Dear Nancy,
I note that the president does not have an e-mail so would you be good enough to pass this along (if you have the courage of your convictions).
President Sullivan,
Your "response" to the allegation in the Rolling Stone magazine are tepid at best.  Why aren't the frats shut down for the ENTIRE school year?  Want to send a message?  That's how it's done.
I have ALWAYS told girls going off to college; never go to a frat party, if you must, go with a friend and don't separate and most of all, never drink a beverage you didn't pour. 
I write a public education blog in Seattle and you better believe, I will tell my readers, do NOT send your daughter to UVA.
Madeleine Albright said, "There's a special place in hell for women who don't help other women."
You are right at the front of that line.
Melissa Westbrook
Seattle Schools Community Forum blog

This needs to stop.

Seattle Schools Advisory to Principals on Ferguson Outcome

From SPS Communications:

This message was sent to all principals in the district, to aid them in preparing for and advising their students regarding the Ferguson Grand Jury Verdict.

Sunday, November 23, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week and Good News

Good News
3-D Lego making at Cleveland High's STEM program.

Chief Sealth wins gold in the Youth Division for their video, Riffing on a Dream at the Social Justice Film Festival.

In the film, inspired by a project called Question Bridge, 13 students sat down in front of a camera and gave their unscripted answers to questions from classmates to prompt racial dialogue within their school.

The SPS story does not name the young filmmakers but you know their names, please let me know. 

Monday, Nov. 24th
No school for elementary and K-8 for parent/teacher conferences.

Work Session two-parter from 4:30pm-8:30 pm
Part One - Evaluation of the Superintendent (open session) - 1 hour
Part Two - Evaluation of a public employee (closed session) - 3 hours 

I would urge you to write to the the Board at schoolboard@seattleschools.org with the subject line "Superintendent review" and let the Board know what you think.  I think Nyland is an experienced administrator but it would appear, is being directed by others. His signature on the Gates grant for the preschool at Bailey Gatzert two months before it came before the Board shows that. It also shows that he apparently does not know Board policy or does not plan to respect it.  (Of course, why should he? Senior staff in general don't.)

Tuesday, Nov. 26th
No school for elementary and K-8 for parent/teacher conferences.

Executive Committee meeting of the Whole (COW) from 4:30-7:00 pm, no agenda yet available.  

No Director community meetings this Saturday.

Friday, November 21, 2014

Seattle Schools Data Breach: All the Latest

I have a huge amount of news that all came nearly at the same time. 

I am still gathering information about how you can directly complain to various agencies including OSPI, DOE and the Washington Bar Association.  I hope to get that thread info by Monday.

First, the district has created a webpage on the issue, Student Information Protection.

It has the Superintendent's latest letter to the entire SPS community which includes this:

More Than a Score: Review of a New Book by SPS Teacher

Garfield teacher (and activist) Jesse Hagopian has edited a new book on student testing called More Than a Score: the New Uprising Against High-Stakes Testing (with a foreword by Diane Ravitch). 

The book is a call to action but more than that, a good book for those who want to action but wonder if they can really make a difference.  The answer is, you can.  Hagopian calls those willing to stand up for opting out, testdefyers. 

More Than a Score brings together stories of the fight, poems and interviews with leaders about what testing does to students and how to fight for the right assessments and testing. What I really liked were the voices of students because like most of us when we are young, we don't know enough to be scared.