All the Board members were in attendance as was Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson.
The biggest news is that COO Don Kennedy, after an overview of the computer systems in use and their challenges, recommended waiting a year for any assignment plan changes even if only for high school. He did not say stop planning but to not go forward with implementation as previously scheduled.
He was blunt and clear about what could happen if they do not get the software technology updated; the entire system could fail and it would be a disaster. By entire system, I mean the hardware/software they use for the enrollment process; it is beyond antiquated. (It's called a VAX system and there's one on display at the Computer Science and Engineering building at UW... as an artifact.) As you can imagine, postponing the assignment plan wasn't really well received. More on that later.
I'll give you the highlights first and then an overview (for those who don't need more than the highlights). The full report should be appearing at some point on the website but I'll caution you that some charts are confusing both in how the data is presented (its form) and what the charts say. Some Board members expressed skepticism on the data presented.
- In Seattle, the average family size increased from 1990-2000 but is projected to decrease and flatten out by 2012 especially at the 5-9 year old age group. Caveat: This is the city overall but it could vary from neighborhood to neighborhood.
- Housing data told them that family sizes are projected to get smaller and the numbers of families with no children are growing. New housing activity doesn't necessarily mean new students. (There was some discussion on this and the explanation is that many people, after they have kids, move to get a bigger house.)
- DeJong estimates that 18.6% of school-aged children attend private schools in Seattle (the national average is about 10-11%). This sparked a lot of discussion because, as Michael de Bell said, we know that many more kids are not in SPS than 18.6%. There was a tepid explanation that some of those kids attend a different district or their parents move to the suburbs for a bigger house; that didn't seem to satisfy some Board members. This was one particularly confusing chart.
- From 1998-99 to now, there has been a decline of 2,280 students or 4.79%.
- In ten years, they project that SPS enrollment will drop by about 800 students. They project a high of 47,152 and a low of 43,486 with a "most likely" number of 44,527.
- Interestingly, at the same time but not consulting with each other, deJong and the district's demographer, Rachel Cassidy, came up with their own best numbers. DeJong's were more conservative with DeJong projecting lower kindergarten numbers and higher 12th grade numbers.
- They predict that the Central district which has declined by975 students since 1999, will decline another 371 students by 2017.
- The North region has increased by 322 students and they predict an increase of 139.
- The NE has increased by 435 students and they predict an increase of 551.
- In the NW, the student population has declined by 23 students but should increase by 175.
- QA/Magnolia saw an increase of 459 students and a projected increase of 360.
- In the South the area has declined by 1,244 students and will continue to with a projection of 773 students.
- Southeast, increased by 111 and a projected 2017 increase of 252
- In the West Seattle North, there was a decline of 810 students and it will continue to decline by 458 students.
- In West Seattle South, there was a decline of 378 students and will continue declining by 218 students.
There was some confusion over why DeJong included 19 year olds in the data and again, not a real clear explanation of why.
Sadly DeJong did NOT number their slides so I have to give you a title of a chart rather than directing you to a page. The chart was labeled "SPS Grade Progression Rations" and it shows the change in enrollment as cohorts move through the system. It shows a very large proportion of seniors moving through despite the stats that we know about drop-outs. Steve Sundquist questioned this and Rachel Cassidy said the drop-outs were not included. Harium Martin-Morris said "it doesn't jive with what we know".
Michael de Bell asked for a school by school breakout of the long-range versus the short-range projections because of the differences by neighborhood and by region.
Steve Sundquist got a big laugh when Carolyn showed a slide about outside influences (inflation, acts of Nature, etc.) that can influence enrollment. Steve said that if the Viaduct goes away it would be as bad as an act of Nature for the people of West Seattle.
Rachel pointed out that the district now owns this model created by DeJong and can use it for future projections.
(Mary Bass wisely pointed out that the district needs to see what the disclaimer sheet from DeJong would say about its projections.)
Michael de Bell said that if we lose enrollment because we lack capacity then the district has failed.
Carolyn said that urban districts across the country are steadily losing enrollment and Seattle is actually on the low end.
Sherry Carr asked about getting the private school enrollments and Carolyn said there was only one state in the US that required that information to be given to school districts (Tennessee) and that it is usually provided in such a unwieldy form that it is difficult to use.
So there was then a break and Mr. Kennedy and Tracy Libros, head of Enrollment, weighed in.
Ms. Libros told the Board that they just lost the head of Technology, Marjorie Mills, who "has 80% of the institutional memory walking out the door with her". She also said they have major difficulties retaining staff in the Technology department.
Mr. Kennedy, as I mentioned, laid out how tinkering with the VAX system is very risky and that the district needs to "focus resources to complete VAX migration projects".
Ms. Libros laid out some ideas to spur some change in the assignment plan without the software system changes. She said the enrollment procedure guide had some outmoded policies/rules that could be changed. As an example she said a SPS student going for a foreign exchange for a semester could retain his/her seat but a family with an SPS student who goes on sabbatical could not. She also mentioned being able to do manual one-for-one swaps (for example, if a 9th grader at Roosevelt wanted to go to Garfield and there was a 9th grader at Garfield who wanted to go to Roosevelt, that swap would be possible on a one-to-one completely similar - general ed to general ed, for example - basis). She stressed this was strictly at the idea stage.
I give Mr. Kennedy a lot of credit for being blunt and to the point in his assessment. Michael de Bell said that he had many frustrated people in his region (QA/Magnolia particularly) and they couldn't wait another year. Discussion followed with the understanding that the planning could procedure but maybe not the implementation.
I left at this point so I missed the last hour. I'm hoping to hear from others who attended and can fill in that piece of time.
One irony; the Facilities staff wants to take $3.5M out of the BEX III Technology fund as part of the $10M for Sealth. I wrote to Mr. Kennedy and urged him to use that money for the updating of the VAX system to use for the assignment plan as the Sealth project was NOT an emergency and the assignment plan, when it changes, has got to have the best possible foot forward to give the best outcomes to as many families as possible.