Wednesday, August 30, 2006

BEX III Levy

Today, from 5 pm to 7 pm is a Board Work Session on the BEX III Levy. I'm teaching a class at Seattle U at the same time, so can't attend. If anyone else does, please post comments here about what you learn.

From information on the SPS website, I found the following details.

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Proposed projects for the Phase III program include:
• New construction or historic renovation at up to two secondary schools and/or three elementary schools;
• Additions of up to six classrooms and seismic modifications at up to two high schools;
• Academic upgrades at three high schools may be done in conjunction with the additions.

Academic upgrades include:
o Science room upgrades such as new lab tables, demonstration areas and fume hoods;
o Career and Technology spaces such as automotive shop modernizations or new commercial kitchens;
o Visual and Performing Arts spaces such as new auditorium seating, improved acoustics in choral / band / little theater, video production and radio station modernizations.

• Large systematic deferred maintenance backlog items that were identified in the January 2006 Building Condition Survey throughout the District. Some planned examples are:
o Water systems upgrades;
o Modernization to child care facilities to meet current licensing standards;
o Indoor Air quality abatement which may require ceiling tile, carpet or roof replacement;
o Seismic mitigation at schools that have been identified as seismically deficient.

• Installation of synthetic sports turf at up to four sites:
o Up to two sites would be replacement of existing deteriorated synthetic turf with new turf;
o Up to two sites are proposed to convert from native soil / natural turf to a synthetic turf system.

• Technology upgrades throughout the District including hardware replacement, legacy systems and staff training.

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Check out the following resources to learn more:

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/SEPA_Addendum.pdf (district document)

Seattle Post-Intelligencer: Sound Off (a post by a frequent commenter on this blog)

South Seattle Alternative Middle School (plan to make Orca a K-8)

School proposal would erase deficit (relevant mention is of postponing work on Hamilton to BEX III)

A NEW HOME FOR THE NEW SCHOOL AT SOUTH SHORE (page 2 in newsletter)

Monday, August 28, 2006

Lawsuit Documents

Thanks to Charlie Mas, anyone who wants to can read the court filings from SOCKED in their lawsuit against the district. Go to the CPPS Yahoo group Files area.

You may need to join the CPPS Yahoo group to view the files. Click Join CPPS Yahoo group.

Charlie and I have shared our opinions on this lawsuit. What do other people think?

Wednesday, August 23, 2006

Raj's Body Language

From the Seattle Times today, an analysis by a body language expert of Raj Manhas.

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Mixed messages

Trust me, but: The hands and face of Seattle School Superintendent Raj Manhas are sending contradictory signals, says Pease, examining this photo of Manhas with a parent who successfully opposed the closure of an elementary school.

Open-handed. "Holding the palms out is a very old gesture also used by monkeys and chimpanzees. It shows they've got nothing in their hands or concealed under their arms. If you talk with an audience with your palms in an upward position, they not only remember up to 40 percent more of what you've said, but they like you."

Planning an attack? But the superintendent's smile, with no lower teeth visible, looks strained, and his eyes appear narrowed. "Large mammals narrow their eyes before they attack."

The net effect: "While both of these people appear to be friendly, he's forcing the fact that he's really a good guy: 'You can trust me. I'm your friend.' But his face is saying, 'I wish I was elsewhere, lady.' "

Tuesday, August 22, 2006

Soriano and Bass support lawsuit

Along with the Seattle Medium article Charlie reported on in his comment on yesterday's post, the Seattle PI today has details on the lawsuit I heard about yesterday on NPR:

School closures based on color, suit alleges

This lawsuit is disappointing to me, because I cannot imagine it resulting in any positive outcomes. If the lawsuit wins (which strikes me as highly unlikely), several small struggling schools stay open without necessary support to change, grow or thrive. If the lawsuit loses, all that has been accomplished is to fan the current obvious divide along racial and economic lines in Seattle schools.

I would counsel the Community Coalition to Save Our Children to put their resources into demanding the necessary support and resources for the schools that remain open --- top quality principals assigned to struggling schools, extra resources for individual tutoring, first priority for new programs that are viewed as desirable by families, teacher bonuses for moving to underperforming schools, first priority for business partnerships that bring in additional funds. The list could go on and on.

Parents and community members need to demand more from the district. But the demands should always make children and their learning the goal and the focus of any efforts for change. This lawsuit might make a political statement, but it won't improve the learning outcomes or environment for children in the Central District or elsewhere in Seattle.

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As an aside, I'd like to be at the all-day Board development retreat tomorrow to see how the trainer/facilitator can work to develop working relationships and trust among a group who attacked each other in very personal ways, including making broad statements based on race, during the final Board Meeting on school closures. And now, the two Board members on the losing side of the votes in that meeting join in public support of this lawsuit. Can't imagine that day-long event will be much fun!

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Monday, August 21, 2006

Lawsuit against Seattle School District

I heard a short piece on NPR tonight about a lawsuit filed against the Seattle School District around the school closure process and decisions. I can't find details anywhere on the web (or on the district web site, of course). Anyone else hear this news? or know where we can find out more?

Friday, August 18, 2006

Entering the Twilight Zone at Seattle Public Schools

I was looking for the list of schools being considered for closure in Phase II on the district website, and didn't see it. So I sent an e-mail message to the address listed in the latest news bulletin.

Below is the response I got back. It's like entering a time warp or the Twilight Zone!

Thank you for writing to the Seattle Public Schools Consolidation and Closure Process email box. Your message will be shared with Superintendent Raj Manhas. You may also check our website for detailed information, including frequently asked questions, at www.seattleschools.org.

On May 30, the CAC presented its final recommendation on school consolidation and closure to Superintendent Manhas. The report on that recommendation, and extensive information about the consolidation and closure process is posted at www.seattleschools.org. After considering this report, Superintendent Manhas will present his preliminary recommendation to the School Board on Friday, June 2. An additional period of public review and comment will follow, culminating in a School Board vote scheduled for July 26. A detailed timeline is posted at www.seattleschools.org/area/main/Public_Affairs/timelinemay30update.pdf.

You are encouraged to continue to voice your opinion as the process evolves. Opportunities will include a series of site-specific public hearings scheduled for June 26-28 (times and locations to be announced soon); public testimony at School Board meetings; a final public hearing scheduled for July 19; and written and email comment.

Thursday, August 17, 2006

Phase II Community Meetings Canceled

Notice that Raj's preliminary recommendation on September 18 now comes before any chance for input from the general public.

Can they make it any clearer that they don't really want community input?

After the SPS announcement, read an excerpt from a comment Charlie Mas posted today elsewhere on this blog.

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News item on SPS website

August Meetings on Consolidation and Closure Cancelled

Three community meetings related to Phase II of school consolidations and closures, scheduled for August 22, 23 and 24, have been cancelled to allow more time to develop options and alternatives about which to have meaningful public discussion. However, there will still be multiple opportunities for public input to Phase II of the consolidation and closure process.

The Seattle School Board announced Phase II of Consolidation and Closure on July 26, asking the Superintendent to recommend at least one additional school for closure in three geographic areas - North (Northwest, North and Northeast clusters); Central; and Southwest. The Board also asked that the Superintendent evaluate the feasibility of closing the Wilson Pacific Building, and identify a more appropriate site for the Pathfinder K-8 program.

An ambitious timeline was adopted, with a preliminary recommendation due from Superintendent Raj Manhas on September 18 and a board vote scheduled for November 1. This aggressive timeline has not changed.

The first step in the Phase II process brought together a group of principals, Seattle Education Association representatives, and parent leaders from schools in each of the geographic target areas - North, Central and West Seattle. Those initial meetings took place on August 14-16. Participants reviewed data, discussed options, and advised on next steps.

In addition to public hearings that will be scheduled for October, community members are encouraged to comment about consolidation and closure in any number of ways: email to feedback@seattleschools.org; send your comments to Mail Stop 11-010, PO Box 34165, Seattle, WA 98124-1165, or provide testimony at School Board Meetings.

Recorded information is available on the district's consolidation and closure information line at 206-252-0600.

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Comment by Charlie Mas:

"The decision to cancel the community meetings regarding Phase II of the closures and consolidations was a bad decision and representative of a dysfunctional culture at Seattle Public Schools.While it is possible that other community meetings may be scheduled for October, as the web site indicates, those will not be the same sort of meetings. The meetings next week would have come BEFORE the Superintendent's preliminary recommendations on September 18. The community meetings in October - if they are not also canceled - will come AFTER the Superintendent's recommendations are issued. There is a huge fundamental difference.

Meetings in advance of the recommendations would have allowed the community to be proactive and would have invited ideas and shown an interest in a collaborative, cooperative process. Meetings in the wake of the recommendations puts the community in a strictly reactive role, invites criticism and complaints, and shows how the District remains tied to a top-down decision making process and opposed to true community engagement.

Why couldn't the District have the meetings? What were they lacking? They didn't need to bring anything but the data that they already have and their ears. The meetings were supposed to be an opportunity for the District to LISTEN. In order for community engagement to be authentic it has to come early in the decision making process. Cancelling these meetings demonstrates how the District has failed to reform its culture, has failed to take to heart the advice of the CACIEE, and continues to be structurally and culturally incapable of responding to the needs of the community it purportedly serves."

Customer Service?

On July 9th, I wrote the following message to Jane Westergaard-Nimocks and Lynelle Ross, the Director of Human Resources and the Asst. to the Director of Human Resources at Seattle Public Schools, The HR Director is identified in the District's 5-Year Plan as being responsible for the implementation of many changes in the principal selection process.

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Concerning principal assignment, the Detailed Action Plans for the district's 5 Year Plan says the following things would happen:

  • Meet with Superintendent, CAO, Education Directors and HR to debrief the 2003-04 Principal Selection Process and Timelines. (HR Director)
  • Meet with the PASS Resolution Team (5 PASS and 5 District team members) to review 2003-04 Principal Selection Process and Timeline, review recommendations from Superintendent committee, determine what worked and what needs to be changed, and develop recommendations. (Labor Relations Director)
  • Take PASS Resolution Team recommendations to PAL Committee for review, discussion and possible development of a public review process. (HR Director)
  • Implement 2004-05 Principal Selection Process and Timeline. (Human Resources)

Did these things happen? And if so, what were the results? What is the official assignment policy currently?

I think reconsidering the principal assignment and selection process (at least as I have observed it being implemented -- I couldn't find an official policy) should be a high priority for the district.

I look forward to hearing from you about the details.

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In addition to two "Out of Office" auto-replies, since both people were on vacation on July 9th, here is the only other response I've received, which came on July 12th:

Dear Ms. Bakeman,

Jane Westergaard-Nimocks is out of the country and is due back the week of July 24. I'll bring your inquiry to her attention when she returns.

Thank you.

Lynelle Ross
Asst. to the Jane Westergaard-Nimocks, Director of Human Resources
Seattle Public Schools

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Many business and government offices I know of have policies requiring response in a certain amount of time (24 hours of 3 business days, etc.). What is the Seattle School District policy? Why is it not a priority to respond to community inquiries?

Ms. Westergaard-Nimocks has been back in the country for almost 4 weeks. I expect better customer service than that from our school district. Communication and responsiveness to community members has to improve.

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

Phase III of Closure & Consolidation Process?

Charlie Mas posted this info on the Spectrum Yahoo group:

In a document provided to the Board Executive Committee on 7/8/06, Holly Ferguson laid out the process and timeline for the Phase II of closures. In that document, she writes:"There will be a Phase III of this process that will work in conjunction with the levy, and at that point we will need to have a discussion of the capacity needs of the North Capital Hill/East Roanoke areas."

I looked online and didn't find this document. Can anyone point me to it?

But, more importantly, this is yet another example of lack of communication around the big picture, goals and vision. Apparently, a Phase III is being discussed and planned for, yet no word has been shared publicly on this topic as far as I can tell. And we have no image/picture/vision of how all these different efforts fit together, and why we should care about it other than saving money.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Open Letter to the District

I signed on to the open letter to the district complaining about lack of follow-up on the CACIEE report last year. It was published in the PI while I was on vacation. See the following articles for more details:

High-powered group issues budget rebuke to Seattle Public Schools

Letter rips lack of progress on school budget shortfalls

30 sign critical schools letter; Manhas cites district progress

And the full text of the letter is at: An Open Letter to the Superintendent and School Board

Monday, August 14, 2006

Community Meetings for Phase II of School Closure

From Seattle Public School notice:

On July 26 the Seattle School Board voted to consolidate and close a group of schools. At the same time, the Board directed Superintendent Manhas to develop an additional set of school closure recommendations. During "Phase II," the Superintendent is asked to identify one additional school for closure in each of three areas of the city: North (North/Northwest/Northeast clusters), Central, and West Seattle; evaluate the feasibility of closing Wilson Pacific; and to work closely with the communities in West Seattle to identify a more appropriate location for Pathfinder K-8. A preliminary recommendation is due on September 18, with the School Board scheduled to vote on November 1.

(Note: A list of potential schools in North, Central and West Seattle to be included in the community discussion will be posted at www.seattleschools.org by Friday, August 18.)

A series of meetings are scheduled to discuss the process for Phase II and to gather input from the community. Interested community members are encouraged to attend, and to be a part of making Seattle Public Schools the strongest district it can be.Meetings, all planned for 6:00 - 8:00 p.m., are scheduled as follows:

West Seattle - Tuesday August 22
Denny Middle School Cafeteria
8402 30th Ave SW

Central Area - Wednesday August 23
Washington Middle School Cafeteria
2101 S. Jackson

North Seattle - Thursday August 24
Eckstein Middle School Auditorium
3003 NE 75th

For additional information call the hotline at (206) 252-0600. Those who cannot attend the community meetings but would like to provide input, please email feedback@seattleschools.org or write to Mail Stop 11-010, P.O. Box 34165, Seattle, WA, 98124-1165.

Returned from Vacation

I've been out of state and without a computer for almost 2 weeks, so I'm completely out of touch with what's been happening.

Feel free to post comments to update me or send items you would like to see posted to bbakeman@comcast.net.