Saturday, February 16, 2008

Priorities, Priorities

The West Seattle Herald had a good story about the community meeting about Denny/Sealth sponsored by the Westwood Neighborhood Council this past Tuesday. They had put together a panel of speakers to address this project.

I had known where staff thought the extra $10M for Sealth under Option 2 would come from and I have explained it on this blog elsewhere. What the reporter, Rebekah Schilperoort, learned was jaw-dropping to me (especially because of the hammering I took over my BEX III stand). The largest part - $5M - would come from the BEX III Infrastructure fund which is for air and water quality fixes and resurfacing playfields. Now, in my remarks to the Board on Wednesday, I told them that I knew, of course, they would fix the water and air and that it looked like that left the playfields not getting done (and one of them was Denny/Sealth).

But no, folks, Salmon Bay and Summit K-12 will NOT get their air/water quality issues addressed.

"These projects would likely be restored in the next capital improvement bond, said Don Gilmore, project manager for the Building Excellence III program."

Why thank you, Mr. Gilmore.

So playfields being resurfaced trumps air and water quality. So many people slammed me over my BEX III stands and one thing I heard, over and over, was

"The bond measure has air and water quality parts. We HAVE to do those and you should feel terrible for coming out against this measure and denying those schools their fixes."

So tell me, is everyone going to rise up now and defend Salmon Bay and Summit? Are you going to call your Board member and tell them this is outrageous? Or is it just that some air/water quality issues are more equal than others? If it was such a big deal that they asked for the money for those fixes a year ago, then it's likely to still be an issue.

Unless, of course, that was just for effect to pass the bond measure. But the district wouldn't do something sneaky like that, would they?

15 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Melissa,
I believe a motion should be enacted to allow you 6 minutes per school board meeting for testimony.

You have no chance of covering all the mistakes these folks make in only 3 minutes twice a month.

Cheers,

Dan

Anonymous said...

Hey Dan, just three minutes? I agree, six minutes would be better. You might still count your blessings in Seattle, because in Charleston they grant only two minutes with no repeat comments covering the same subject allowed for the next six months. Of course, there is usually never a reply or follow up from the administration or county board leadership since, by their own rules, they don't have to listen to the same concerns from the same sources for at least another 180 days.

dan dempsey said...

About those visits to other schools in regard to the co-location...

I just listen to Mr. Munoz and Ms. Santorno in the small video clip at the West Seattle Herald website.

Once again Ms. Santorno fishes for any data she may be able to find after the fact rather than letting the data drive the decision.

She is full of philosophy rather than data. Show me the great situation created when you put 1500 to 2000 sixth thru 12th graders on the same campus.

Why did the SPS team not visit Bellflower Middle/High School in Bellflower CA to see thousands of 7th thru 12th graders sharing the same campus. There are very few schools like this on the West Coast and one visit will explain why. It is beyond my comprehension that someone wants to purposely create such a situation in Seattle.

It is surely not for academic reasons that this proposal has gone this far.

"The evil that men do lives after them the good is oft interred with their bones." Get ready for the next 50 years of the Denny/Sealth fiasco.

This administration seems to specialize in making everyone's job as hard as possible that goes for Parents, Children, Teachers, Principals, school staff, well maybe not for Central Office administration - but I think their employment situation will become increasingly more difficult if these types of boondoggle keep making it this far.

The public appears to be becoming more oppositional to continued malfeasance.

Charlie Mas said...

When people raised the spectre of safety issues arising from the merger of Denny and Sealth, the District staff swore up and down that student safety is always their top priority. They specifically say so in the answer to Blue Room question #23, Pink Room question #2, #27 and #29, After question #17. It was so strongly stressed that I was begining to wonder where academics came on the priority hit parade. Now we see that student safety isn't all that critical after all if the safety risk is tainted air or water. In that case, student safety comes after athletic fields.

Hmmm.

From the answers to the questions on February 4th:

Blue Room question #9:
"10 Million - Where is it coming from? Gift from Board?

The 10 Million must be authorized by the Board. The staff has currently developed options that will generate funds from areas not related to school construction projects.
"

I guess the air and water quality work isn't related to school construction.

dan dempsey said...

Charlie,

Once again you make fabulous points.

The biggest point is that this is rarely if ever about coherent efficient rational logical decision making. It is almost always about underlying and unannounced political concerns, which generally harm the best interests of the community.

After the live public testimony concluded on 2-13-08, it seemed that someone from administration should have said:
"Yup you guys are right. This concern for public input and the welfare of the public is all a sham, it is not what we are about."

me on 28th ave sw said...

Why is the district making such a HUGE deal over the boiler and seismic retrofit? Madison Middle School (which was really in scary shape, 3 stories tall, and filled with students) got through the Nisqually earthquake. So did lots and lots of “old code” buildings without a problem. We live in earthquake country but how many of us have seismic upgrades on our homes?? I am not pretending that a big earthquake wouldn’t be a problem, but does that risk constitute the phrase “risking the lives of kids”? At the meeting 2/4 the theme of the night from the district was “academic benefits”. A week later at the WNC meeting 2/12 it seemed to shift to “potential academic benefits” and how “dangerous” Sealth is without seismic upgrades and “the boiler that seemingly is going to die any minute”. The district doesn’t seem so concerned about the LEAD in the water pipes in the grade schools that are the same age as Sealth. Isn’t the district scared for all the little children in the grade schools all over the city that haven’t had seismic upgrades yet? What about the water/air quality issues that were going to be fixed at Summit and Salmon Bay (but now won’t). Weren’t they important? Weren’t the boilers in the other remodeled schools (Ballard, West Seattle, Garfield….) even older when they were replaced?

Melissa Westbrook said...

28th Street, you make some valid points. But here's what I know, either from research or from the district:

-city codes (I went down and checked at City Hall) say that if you do a certain kind of repair (boiler) that entails a lot of ripping out of walls, you have to do other stuff (in this case seismic and fire).
-now to the issue of how bad off this boiler is - I would pay - myself - to have someone come in and look at that boiler (but, of course, the district wouldn't allow it). I have doubts because (1)for example, the boiler at NOVA is over 100 years old(!) and still works although Meng (who reviewed our buildings) said the district might want to think about replacing at some point and (2)if the boiler issue at Sealth wasn't on the checklist to do, this whole issue of co-joined buildings might be moot. I think what happened is that Facilities knew to suggest that they rebuild Denny right next to Sealth without anything happening for Sealth (because frankly they have another 20+ years use out of that building), it wouldn't fly. So suddenly this boiler is an issue. It could be true but it might be false because Facilities has now created for themselves - and the district - a credibility problem.

(Indeed, many read "renovation" of Sealth on the voter's guide to mean the same kind of renovation that West Seattle got. I did tell Facilities when I participated on the Facilities Master Plan review that they should have a glossary for these terms "renovate", "rebuilt", "remodel" and what a major versus a minor is in these cases.)

I have read all three huge volumes about seismic problems at our schools. It would curl your toes. Lots of schools have problems. But all of life is risk assessment so is it more important to have good air and water quality than fix the seismic? Yes. But,keep in mind; we haven't had a really big quake. When (not if) that day comes, we might face some really big tragic results and the district might be able to say, "well, we couldn't fix every building - it wasn't humanly possible." and they'd be right. But it would beg the question of did they direct capital/maintenance money they did have in the right projects?

Charlie Mas said...

These four new Board members can pretty much doom their chances of re-election right here in the first year.

They have already bobbled the Southeast Initiative. Now it looks like they are going to fumble Denny-Sealth. They are set up to lose on the Student Assignment Plan because that won't gain acceptance without a lot more authentic community engagement - something they don't seem to understand.

If they screw that up as badly as they are about to mess up Denny-Sealth, they have no hope of re-election.

By June, they may already be lame ducks with three and a half years left to serve.

dan dempsey said...

Melissa wait just a minute on this one:
....So suddenly this boiler is an issue. It could be true but it might be false because Facilities has now created for themselves - and the district - a credibility problem.

No the district has huge credibility problems that are entirely unrelated to facilities.

Something about an infinite amount cannot be increased or it is impossible to kill a dead man by stabbing him again.

Strange how decision making based on public deception lowers credibility. SPS better hire another consultant to explain what should be done.

Hey there are less than two weeks left in February --- I can hardly wait for the Phi Delta Kappa report.

Perhaps it can explain this lack of public credibility and we won't need to hire another consultant to explain possible answers to this mystery.

Are you serious?? said...

I for one am glad the board testimony limits people to 3 minutes. Can you imagine listening to 2 hours of testimony at the start of every meeting? There's already so much grandstanding that it's obvious the testimony section is more about the speakers getting on TV than it is about really being heard. If that were their goal, there are far more productive ways to be heard than lecturing, shouting or making a spectacle every time. (And sorry Dan, but I'm including you in this. I know you're still upset about the math adoption, but your testimony lately comes across as sour grapes that the board didn't listen to you last year.)

Anonymous said...

I also think that lengthening board testimony would be unproductive. I don't think testimony is a meaningful form of engagement, at all. You can't ask the board members andy questions. The board can not respond to you. There is no interaction. So, it leaves you no option but to talk at them, state your piece, and/or rant. Unproductive, and definately not satisfying. I wish there were a more meaningful form of engagement. Perhaps a set aside meeting in an open forum style. Where community members could have 5 minutes each, to talk WITH the board, in an interactive way?? At our elementary school, Bryant, we have "lattes with Linda". Linda is our principal, and she sets aside a couple of hours a month to sit down and talk with Bryant families in an informal setting (over coffee). Anyone iterested is invited, and you can address anything that you are interested in talking about. It is inviting, and welcoming, and makes the community feel engaged, and heard. It is meaningful engagement!!

Anonymous said...

I also think that lengthening board testimony would be unproductive. I don't think testimony is a meaningful form of engagement, at all. You can't ask the board members andy questions. The board can not respond to you. There is no interaction. So, it leaves you no option but to talk at them, state your piece, and/or rant. Unproductive, and definately not satisfying. I wish there were a more meaningful form of engagement. Perhaps a set aside meeting in an open forum style. Where community members could have 5 minutes each, to talk WITH the board, in an interactive way?? At our elementary school, Bryant, we have "lattes with Linda". Linda is our principal, and she sets aside a couple of hours a month to sit down and talk with Bryant families in an informal setting (over coffee). Anyone iterested is invited, and you can address anything that you are interested in talking about. It is inviting, and welcoming, and makes the community feel engaged, and heard. It is meaningful engagement!!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, first of all, Dan was kidding about the extra time.

As someone who speaks (depending on the season and the reason) on a semi-regular basis, I would agree with a lot of points made here. It can be unsatisfying, it is bothersome that questions made don't get answered and that many people like to rant. But that is democracy and that is their right especially in a system with little or no feedback.

I take time to make sure my remarks fit into 3 minutes and that they are relatively coherent. Some people sign up with no idea of what they will say and no organized way to say it. It doesn't help their cause but it may make them feel better. The School Board meetings can be a great place to find out issues you may never have heard of or get an early warning on an issue.

I speak sometimes, not because I want to tell the Board and Superintendent something, but because I want to say something publicly and to a greater audience. If the Board happens to actually listen and get something from it, great. If that is grandstanding, well, so be it. Many people can't make a Board meeting and watching on tv may be their only way to get this information. I blog but of course not everyone reads this blog.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of coffee hours (at Bryant Elementary), I noticed that Harium from the school board is having them - see below
Coffee Hours
I plan to have monthly hours in the neighborhood. Come meet with me and your neighbors to talk about our schools

February 24 9:00 AAM to 10:30 AM
March 22 9:00 AAM to 10:30 AM
April 19 9:00 AAM to 10:30 AM
May 17 9:00 AAM to 10:30 AM
June 14 9:00 AAM to 10:30 AM

DIVA Espresso
8014 Lake City Way NE (corner of 80th)

dan dempsey said...

Dear are you serious?.

Well I am sort of serious - certainly not about extending the time.

But dead serious on improved decision making.

Insistent, consistent, persistent, and with the truth. They could make any decision they wanted on May 30th 2007, and surely did so. That does not make it the correct decision for our children.

Remember the monorail remember the decision, remember the property purchases? Good.

Now remember the selling of the property and there is no monorail.
Really bad decisions can be reversed.

On May 8th 2007 Ms Santorno said she found a lot of the public testimony difficult. She should have - this adoption was a fraudulent political slam dunk. The board allowed this adoption without any credible material presented that it would be best for kids. Ten years of pathetic math direction and still going.

Look for effective new leadership this spring or don't.

Who has the board paid any attention to in the last two years?

Parents who fist fight at board meetings over school closures and YAWR who disrupt board meetings. Yup those folks got results.
The fact the board chooses to make irrational decisions can hardly be blamed on my testimony.

If you would care to look at my testimony over the last 13 months it contains new relevant material every time. This is easy to research because the SPS made such a poor decision. I do however spend significant time researching and crafting each speech.

You would hear a lot more teachers speaking if they were not working in an environment famous for vindictive reprisals. Even consultants point this out. There are laws that protect the speech of public school teachers but with the SEA union so collegial and cooperative with administration don't expect much protection from them. Look at the great input the Union failed to provide on this pathetic Everyday math adoption.

The admin promised a 25% Singapore supplement - see the board let them skate by on that. We've had 0% thus far.

Sour grapes .... well I guess every one hears what they wish to hear.
I've been on and off this teaching math since 1968. Here is what I do know. We do know how to teach mathematics to children .. there is plenty of research that shows what works but in Washington state what works is politically and philosophically objectionable to those in charge of decision making ... so a full one third of our students enter high school totally clueless about math.
.. this is still totally unacceptable to me.

We are followers of the NSF gravy train that feeds bogus grants to the UW and the byproduct is we adopt math detritus for learning materials and pay exorbitant prices for such refuse.

HERE is more of that story.

A couple of months ago I was contacted by a student in my very first (1968-69)seventh grade class. I had not seen or heard from him in over 30 years.

Almost every student in that class was significantly lower in math achievement than in other subject many two years behind(test results from spring 1967). I taught those kids all day every day for 180 days and the next year I got to teach the same kids math. This was a tiny town in rural Idaho. So what happens to kids from a tiny town in rural Idaho who leave school two years behind in math. Well I don't know because my kids did not leave grade 8 that way.
I can tell you that Joe said I was one of the two most important teachers in his life, he has his own Architectural firm based out of Seattle and designs homes all over the world. I know another former student from that class of 21 - Don is an Electrical Engineer in Spokane. While Margie got a degree in math.

None of the above could have happened with Everyday Math followed by Connected Math.

In 1968 you could teach in Idaho without a degree and without student teaching. I had neither but what I did have was a love for kids and knowledge of mathematics. I also had enough sense to realize I had some really hard working bright kids so after 6 weeks I got some copies of HART Algebra I copyright 1946. Thank God I had no coach or professional development person to tell me you can't do the impossible.

I can tell you what is impossible and that is to provide today's kids with the same opportunity I provided Joe, Don, Margie, Dick, Mariel, Steve, Sarah, Mary Kaye, Holly, Henry, Michelle, Gary, and the others. Given the conditions created in this state in mathematics by Dr Bergeson and in Seattle by Ms Santorno and Ms Wise this would not be possible. You see this was just a regular classroom of regular kids in rural Idaho we had no honors no AP no APP no Spectrum we just had school.

So I am really sorry that you believe I testify because of sour grapes. I testify because incredibly bad decisions are continually made that effect the lives of kids in major ways. Decisions made by people that know very little math and even less about how to teach it.

I will stand up for my kids and the justice they deserve -- forever.
The good new is I will not continue to testify for more than another 18 months maximum. {I plan ahead}

Cheers,

Dan