Friday, August 22, 2014

Critical Incident Response Plan

I'm sorry to report that the Critical Incident Response Plan referenced in Dr. Nyland's letter to the community is total bunk. It is, at best, a PR plan. It is designed to respond to potential sources of bad press.

It basically calls for district officials to gather information, comply with policies, procedures, regulations and laws, and to inform stakeholders. I can't believe that executives at that level of responsibility have to be specifically directed to do these things.

Worse, I have no confidence that these written directions to do these things will result in the actual fulfillment of these duties.

The only thing that the superintendent needs to do is require compliance with procedure, policy, regulation and law, and to hold staff accountable with meaningful consequences if they violate the rules. That would fix the problem.

Friday Open Thread

Feel like your child does not return your phone calls/texts in a timely manner?  One mom was frustrated with the low/no response of her own children and created, Ignore No More.  If your child doesn't answer, you have a code so that you can block incoming calls/texts and disable gaming on their cell phone.  That'll get their attention.

Did you get a phone call from School Messenger with a message from Superintendent Nyland? I was hearing that this was going to happen but didn't know the content of the message (which I believe may be about NCLB.)

What's on your mind?

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Duncan Offers Olive Branch (to teachers), and Carrot (to states)

Secretary Arne Duncan issued a statement today as schools start up around the country. 

Rather than saying how poorly our schools are doing, Duncan said this:

First, the thanks. America’s students have posted some unprecedented achievements in the last year – the highest high school graduation rate in the nation’s history, and sharp cuts in dropout rates and increases in college enrollment, especially for groups that in the past have lagged significantly. For these achievements, we should celebrate America’s teachers, principals, and students and their families. These achievements are also indications of deeper, more successful relationships with our students. All of us who’ve worked with young people know how much they yearn for adults to care about them and know them as individuals.

He even thanks teachers:

I have heard from many teachers that they have not received all the support they’d want during this transition. Yet America’s teachers are making this change work – and I want to recognize and thank them for that and encourage their leadership in this time of change.

He then talks about teachers' concerns:

Increasingly, in those conversations, I hear concerns about standardized testing.

Assessment of student progress has a fundamental place in teaching and learning – few question that teachers, schools and parents need to know what progress students are making. And few question the particular importance of knowing how our most vulnerable students are progressing. Indeed, there’s wide recognition that annual assessments – those required by federal law – have done much to shine a light on the places and groups of students most in need of help. Yet in too many places, it’s clear that the yardstick has become the focus.

There are three main issues I’ve heard about repeatedly from educators:
  1. It doesn’t make sense to hold them accountable during this transition year for results on the new assessments – a test many of them have not seen before – and as many are coming up to speed with new standards.
  2. The standardized tests they have today focus too much on basic skills, not enough on critical thinking and deeper learning.
  3. Testing – and test preparation – takes up too much time.
I share these concerns. And I want our department to be part of the solution.

To those who are reading the last sentence with surprise, let me be clear: assessment is a vital part of teaching and learning, but it should be one part (and only one part) of how adults hold themselves responsible for students’ progress.

Bottom line:

My Plea to Superintendent Nyland

I spoke at last night's Board meeting.  My remarks were about the MOU with the Alliance for Education (more on that in another thread as the Board discussion with Charles Wright was telling) and to welcome Superintendent Nyland and ask for his help.

My remarks to the Superintendent:

I want to say welcome to Superintendent Nyland.  Please understand, you may truly be the guy in the white hat who just rode into our district.

You can be a figurehead, a follower or the change agent that our district needs so badly.

The change? Creating a headquarters that is well-run and, in turn, a district that is well-run.  Our district is not well-run.

We need a central headquarters staff that follows policies and procedures and that any deviation from that will be handled appropriately.  That attitude needs to funnel down to the last staff member in every single school.

Because the Title IX issues - and the case they stem from - are appalling.  Everyone wants to be one of the three monkeys - see no evil, hear no evil, speak no evil.  Oh, and "it's not my fault."

When policies are not followed, you get bad outcomes, big and small.  This case is one of the most tragic and yet not a single person has taken even the slightest responsibility.  The creation of a Crisis Response Team does not even come close to what needs to be done.  

I say, in all sincerity, please Superintendent Nyland, please help our district.

Downtown School for Seattle Schools - Some New Twists

(This is going to be an excerpt from the Audit&Finance Committee meeting held on Tuesday.  I note that this information is likely to be again discussed at today's Operations Committee meeting from 4:30-6:30 pm.  Also at the Operations Ctm meeting, there will be a bell times analysis update, a
Facilities Condition Assessment and Study and Survey by the group, MENG, 2015-2016 proposed growth boundaries adjustments and Title IX update.

I also know that many of you are waiting for updates on MAP and other testing and I promise to get that up in the next day or so. It's been a very busy week to cover.)

There were two rather extraordinary presentations (and a couple of just plain "huh" ones that I will also get to later) at the Audit&Finance committee meeting on Tuesday.  One was about Title IX and sexual harassment which I just covered in the Garfield field trip rape update thread posted today.

The other was the discussion lead by Flip Herndon, the head of Facilities, about the downtown school idea for the old Federal Reserve building.

Gaps in the Garfield Case

This is a lengthy post and has new information so I urge you to read to the end.

Gaps abound in the Garfield case.  You can see this just from the Times' story this morning on last night's School Board election.  (And welcome Times to this story - very late to it, no?)

Some have suggested that the Times article is slanted?  I would say it is underwritten and has several parts wrong.  I can say that just from a cursory reading of it.  (The Times is not allowing comments but I think that is their policy on rape cases as the comments can get very unpleasant.)

Update 1: the girl did not go back to Garfield as a student.  From an e-mail from her parents:

One point, she never returned to GHS. the chat you likely read referred to going to GHS after school to see friends. She then had a huge melt down concerning the retaliation.

 The District granted her a school transfer with rape as the basis (we have that document), so they know she was raped.  The 504 coordinator, Rusimovic, ceased communicating so we never were told the accommodations she could have for PTSD.  This is detailed in the staff complaint posted on leaks.  Also the OCR complaint posted on July 16 on our FB page. Rusimovic's refusal to explain accommodations earned her a part in the federal investigation which is investigating the "alleged failure to provide your daughter with a Section 504 plan."

end of update 1.
Another issue - I am trying to get a response from the family on the issue of why they did not give the district copies of the Parks Service investigation and FBI investigation. 
The district continues to use that against the family, saying it made their investigation incomplete. 

Update 2:
The District was denied access to the records and we were initially concerned about the legality of providing materials they couldn't obtain.

The medical records were rolled into the report.  Owing to the victim's age, the law states she must give permission to hand them over.  She was in another state, deep into therapy, discussing this was contraindicated, and the whole prospect of others knowing about her body  ("private parts") was overwhelming, as we wrote the District numerous times.

In its typical disregard for the law, the District continued demanding these reports, thereby requiring us to break the law.

end of update 2.

That is only partially true because the district was NOT doing a criminal investigation - they were trying to figure out what happened - I believe - primarily to find out why district policies either failed or were not followed.  The district has no authority to do a criminal investigation and while it might have been helpful to cross-reference what staff told Parks and the FBI (and then what staff told the district's investigator), it wasn't altogether needed.

As well, last night at least two Directors cryptically said there was more to the case than the public knows and implied that they knew other information.

I find that troubling because if they didn't see the FBI/Parks Service reports AND had only read the district's investigation, then does that mean the district's investigation was not publicly fully released?   Or were they given other information not in the investigation? 

Either way, I'm not sure how they can keep that info from the public unless it is covered under FERPA or HIPAA.  There's no on-going criminal investigation. 

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Seattle Schools' Letter to Community on Garfield Rape

Update: in the Board Comments, each Board member addressed this issue (in his/her own way).  There was a range of verbiage used.  I was surprised at how they spoke out now, given their silence the entire summer (except for President Peaslee's letter months ago.)

Director McLaren is the only Board member to say anything nearing this:

"I regret whatever lapses occurred on part of district, both in communication and systemic organizational responsibility."

She is also the ONLY person, to the best of my knowledge, who has acknowledged that mistakes were made and that she is sorry it happened.

A couple of Directors support several speakers' call for a taskforce of BOTH community/experts and district staff.  I could support this taskforce only IF it was run by an outside entity.

Director Martin-Morris acknowledged the issue but went on to say that Seattle could be a leader in this kind of advocacy of providing information to students on sexual harassment/assault.  That's great but let's first get the actual protection procedures clear to ALL staff .  Safety first.

Carr talked about improvements being "impactful" and Patu pleaded that the district "isn't perfect" but trying to get it right and make changes.

(Have we heard this tune before on any number of issues?  We have.)

Director Peters had the good grace to point out that Board duties "include policy, law,ethics and, if we followed policies and laws" that our district would find themselves in fewer of these circumstances.

But oddly, a couple of Directors felt it necessary to say that the public doesn't know the whole story.   So the district's investigation is not comprehensive?  Why not?  Because we all know the students had a sexual encounter so since that is already on the table, what has been left out?  It seemed like a whiff of blame to the girl.

But it was left to President Peaslee (who always goes last in the comments and seems to always want to get a last and final word in) to push this issue of what happened.

She asked the audience and the public to consider that no one was charged with a crime and that there were two criminal investigations and no charges. She said not to create a new victim out of this incident.  (Clearly she meant the male student.)  She said not to use "retaliation" to correct a situation.     She said to respect all the Garfield students.

I'd like to believe she was just awkward in her statements but she also said that the public didn't know   all the facts.  I can only say in that moment it sounded like she thought there was some blame to the victim and that, by the male student not being charged, there was no crime (so don't make him a criminal).

I can only say that many, many jaws dropped in the room as she made these statements.  I appreciate and understand her statement that there were no charges made.  BUT that does NOT mean there was no crime committed.  She seemed to be trying to say that.

It is also troubling that she spoke of retaliation when the girl's family says that the girl was not notified by the school that her attacker was returning to the school and that his friends harassed her, both at school and in social media.

I thought maybe it was just me but in discussions after Board comments, it was clear that I was not alone.

end of update.

There is much that can be said about this letter.  It is rather vague, in my opinion.  The Board and the Superintendent is being urged to create a taskforce with both district staff and outside experts/community members.

The district cannot pat parents on the head and say, "Don't worry."  It's just not enough.

The letter to the community on the Garfield field trip rape:

Live Blogging From the Seattle School Board Meeting

I'm going to try some live blogging tonight as it is Superintendent Nyland's first meeting AND I believe that the district - via legal counsel - will have something to say about the Garfield field trip rape and Title IX issues.

I attended the Audit & Finance Committee meeting yesterday and boy, what a meeting.  But that's another thread.

I will note, however, that lead counsel, Ron English, gave out a "Legal Action Log on Title IX Issues."  It is lengthy and troubling.  The district is to create a "Crisis Response Team" for such incidents.

Superintendent Nyland gave his first superintendent remarks.  He talked about the Garfield fieldtrip rape issue and read a letter from the district.  The letter will be available on the district website soon.

 It was fairly vague and nothing new that we haven't heard after OTHER incidents.  There was a gap between the beginning of the meeting and Public Comment.  I asked if I could speak with the Superintendent but was told the letter was the statement and he wouldn't be taking any questions.  Not a good start.

On a different note, Director Carr said that there will be a Work Session, on September 10th, for the Board as a whole to discuss preschool issues.  She said that there would be some people from the City but did not name anyone.  The meeting will be from 4:30-6:00 pm followed by an Executive Committee meeting of the Whole.

 That should be an important discussion as the City continues to call the district a partner in this preschool effort but, if you read their documentation, the City will be the one making the majority of decisions around this program and its funding.  By my read, the district is just there to provide space and some curriculum alignment.

Common Core; Slip Slidin' Away

ednext_XV_1_poll_fig01-smallPoll results on public education including Common Core from two sources.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Power Was Out at District Headquarters

Just went to the SPS website and saw a notice "Power has been restored at the JSCEE.  Thank you for your patience."

I don't know how long it was out but if you were trying to access the building and couldn't, that's the reason why.