Monday, March 24, 2008

Board Meeting of March 26, 2008

There are some items on the agenda for the Board meeting of March 26 that strike my curiosity.

1. Action Item #1, The Facilities Master Plan is already obsolete to the extent that it includes out-of-date information about the Southeast Initiative. As we all know, the accountability elements of that effort were not executed as described in the Board-adopted framework. It is negligent at best and disingenuous at worst to knowingly include obsolete information in a newly adopted document.

2. Action Item #1, The Facilities Master Plan does not include among the Challenges Ahead, beginning on page 86, the challenge of conducting adequate community engagement. Nowhere in the document is there any reference to community engagement whatsoever. Is that intentional and meaningful? Hasn't the Board and the staff learned about the downside of inadequate community engagement from the Denny-Sealth project?

3. Action Items #5, #6, #9, #10, and #11. The District needs to seriously consider whether it will prove cost effective to make small renovations in light of the possibility/probability of major renovations to these same buildings within the next few years. We all remember the recently completed work done at Sealth, paid for by BTA II, that will be destroyed in the recently approved BEX III projects there. Let's be fiscally responsible and not repeat that mistake.

4. Action Items #5, #6, #7, #8, #9, #10, and #11 are for Introduction and action simultaneously. Why can't these action items wait a couple weeks between introduction and action? What is the all-consuming urgency? What precious opportunity will be missed if we wait? If the opportunity was so precious, why couldn't the staff get these items on the agenda at the last meeting? Why is it so critically important that the Board and the staff need to short circuit the only opportunity the community has to comment on these projects? Does any of the community engagement described on the various Board Action Reports actually represent any authentic community engagement? Why can't the Facilities department conduct community engagement? Why do they shift that task to the Board? Why, when schedules get tight, the first and only corner they cut is community engagement?

4. Action Items #7 and #8, athletic fields for Ballard High School and Eckstein Middle School. $2.5 million of BTA II money is going to these athletic facilities while water and air quality BTA II projects at Salmon Bay and Summit are deferred to provide $2.5 million additional funding for the Chief Sealth project. If the water and air quality projects are so urgent that they belong on BTA II, then how can the Board and the staff defer them in favor of athletic field projects?

5. Introduction Item #1, Full Service Community Schools Grant. It cannot have escaped anyone's notice that there is no community engagement in the community engagement portion of this Board Action Report. While this is usually the case, it is particularly disconcerting when applying for a grant to support family involvement projects. The grant request will require information about the needs of students, families, and community residents. How will that be possible when no community engagement has been conducted and none is planned?

16 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Hey Charlie,

Speaking of short circuits ---
The Board's work session on the high school math adoption scheduled for 2 weeks ago and rescheduled for Mar 26th is now scheduled for April 9th.

I would love to believe that Ms Wise and Ms Santrono are carefully investigating how far off course their math direction is from the recently released National Math Panel Report. I find it more likely that the one month delay is to shorten the time so they can more easily perform another Slam Dunk over rational thought.

The board still needs to consider the impact of a likely victory in the "NEWS" lawsuit and the huge positive impact that will have on school funding before selling off even more school assets.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think athletic fields at Ballard and Eckstein are coming before air/water quality at Salmon Bay and Summit?

Athletic fields are immensely important to families/students. Many families pick a school because of their sports program and sports facilities. Sports build a social community too! Their may also be a lot of pressure from the greater community who use these fields for their practices and games.

Instead of nitpicking about which project goes first or last or which school is first or last, let's be thankful that work is getting done, and progress is getting made, in spite of Melissa's anti-BEX campaign. If she was successful in voting down the bond, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Anonymous said...

Why do you think athletic fields at Ballard and Eckstein are not as important as air/water quality at Salmon Bay and Summit?

Isn't the child obesity and diabetes epidemic important too?

Not to mention that athletic fields are immensely important to many families and students. Many families pick a school because of their sports program and sports facilities, and, sports help schools build a social community too! And let's not forget that these fields are not just used by students, they are used for sports practices and games by the greater community as well (could the city chip in some $$$ ??).

Instead of nitpicking about which project goes first or last or which school is first or last, let's be thankful that work is getting done, and progress is being made, in spite of Melissa's anti-BEX campaign. If she was successful in voting down the bond, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

dan dempsey said...

Anon said...

If she was successful in voting down the bond, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

Or perhaps they would have needed to resubmit BEX III and we would not be watching the $130 million Denny/Sealth fiasco for which a functional successful example has yet to be provided by the decision makers.

The improvements you are so fond of could still have existed in a resubmission of a BEX III after appropriate corrections were made.

Charlie Mas said...

Why do you think athletic fields at Ballard and Eckstein are not as important as air/water quality at Salmon Bay and Summit?

They both relate to children's health. One, the athletic field work, represents an opportunity to improve something that works fairly well now. The other, the water and air quality remediation work, represents ending an immediate danger.

What some might regard as "Nitpicking" about which projects come first, others regard as necessary prioritization to make the best and highest use of our limited resources.

If she was successful in voting down the bond, we wouldn't even be having this discussion.

That's not accurate. These are BTA II projects, so they would be getting done even if BEX III were rejected by voters.

Anonymous said...

The schools are using bottled water and filters, so there is no immediate danger there either, just room for improvement like the athletic fields.

I have not heard of any air quality issues at either school and my child was a student at Salmon Bay up until last year. If they have air quality issues they are not very public, and were never discussed at our site council meetings (not to say they don't exist, just saying it was nothing that the community of principal every spoke of). I never saw or heard of mold there, and being an old historic building they have large beautiful windows that they open often for fresh air.

Anonymous said...

It's really just a matter of opinion, not right or wrong.

Melissa Westbrook said...

The new FMP has numbers for planning capacity and area residents in case you are looking for those at any time. These are in actual writing but I still wouldn't hold the district to these numbers but they might be useful in upcoming discussions on the assignment plan.

Interestingly, there is also a chart in the FMP that outlines the degree of problems at a school that is used to assess where it fits on a BTA or BEX. BEX is like Emergency Condition 1 or 2 so if a building appears on a BEX for say, air or water quality, it is pretty severe. Or so they say.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't know the truth about building conditions, I only know what the District tells me.

Anonymous said...

It's interesting that SPS (from the map on page 42) confuses Brighton and Graham Hill on their map. At least it got the north-end schools identified correctly. ;)

Anonymous said...

Here's nitpicking for you:

Using STATIONARY instead of STATIONERY when referring to the paper products re: Hamilton and Beacon Hill name change.

It's a very small thing, I know, but when you're in the education business ......

Charlie Mas said...

Let's remember that these are, for the most part, questions. They may well have legitimate answers. It may well be that the athletic field projects should come before the water and air quality projects. There may be an excellent reason why these proposals need to be expedited. Just the same, the questions should be asked and the answers given in public to bring transparency to the process.

When people complain about lack of transparency, this is the sort of thing they are talking about.

Asking these sort of questions is the Board's job. If the Board doesn't ask them, then they aren't doing their job.

Charlie Mas said...

Director Sundquist ROCKS!!

When all of the introduction/action items were read out and seconded, he stopped and asked why they all had to be introduced and acted on at the same meeting. It turns out there is a perfectly good reason.

With the rapid inflation in construction materials, contractor bids (and the pricing) are only good for 30 days. It is a recent innovation in construction and it requires the District to accept the bids before the Board can meet twice about them.

It is significant to note that all of the bids were within the specs for the jobs and within the budget allotted. They are not controversial projects, although it really shouldn't be up to the Board to determine what is controversial and what isn't.

Then, when the Ballard athletic field motion came forward, Director Sundquist came through again. He asked why these athletic field jobs were getting done while water and air quality projects were deferred to add money to the Chief Sealth project. He was told, by Facilities, that the air and water quality projects will NOT be deferred, but that they were going to be done also.

I don't really get that, but hey, whattayagonnado?

The important thing here is that a Board member actually got something explained. We got a little transparency. It was freakin' glorious.

I had been wathcing on TV, but when I saw this, I got into my car and drove down there to thank him. I live about three minutes away from the District headquarters. I arrived after the meeting was adjourned, but before everyone had left. He seemed equal parts touched by the genuine gratitude and weirded out by my driving down there to do it.

I would also like to point out that Director Chow started this portion of the meeting by saying that the action items had all been introduced at the previous meeting and that people had all kinds of opportunity during the ensuing two weeks to make comment on them. A statement that was categorically NOT TRUE. It's embarassing to have the President of the Board make such a blatantly incorrect statement. Just how clueless is she?

Charlie Mas said...

When the motion for the Department of Education grant came up for introduction, Lin Carlson spoke on it.

First, he said that he was from the department of equity, race, and learning services - or something like that. So rather than equity and race relations going away, as someone mentioned this week, it looks like it has instead grown to swallow up school services.

Second, he spoke so opaquely about the grant that no one would have any idea of what it was about. In short, it looks like the grant is designed to pay for exactly the sort of work that the District is doing with the Southeast Initiative. Consequently, it looks like the District will just do what they were planning to do anyway, but now the federal government might help pay for it. Honestly, the man was totally unclear. He talked and talked, but he didn't say anything.

Third, when Director Carr specifically asked him if it included any accountability measures he failed to answer the question. She had to ask it again. He then told her that accountability measures were a big part of the grant and that the district would determine the self-evaluation and benchmarks in the coming week.

So the District staff can determine the evaluation criteria, metrics, and benchmarks for the grant in a single week, but they can't do the same for the Southeast Initiative in nine months? And the work is the same work? How does that work?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Waiting until the next BTA to do air and water quality issues ISN'T deferring them? Hmmm, well, maybe there is so other pot of money that Facilities has hidden away. Otherwise, it is a deferment.

I didn't see much of the Board meeting but I did get to see the principal in Director Chow. There was some guy who questioned if the speaker's wait list had moved and she firmly told him to be quiet and sit down. (She was going to address the issue but she wanted him to stop talking.) Boy, was she firm and assertive.

dan dempsey said...

Hey Melissa,

That some guy was me.

Here is the full story. I was the last speaker #20 on the list but one speaker had not testified. So the first person on the wait list gets to speak.

At the conclusion of my testimony I left the podium. Then Cheryl Chow said that that concluded testimony so I went up to the speaker's podium and told her that Rick Burke had not testified and so there needed to be additional testimony. I left the podium. Next thing I knew Director Chow was not allowing additional testimony. Her rational was that she had allowed 5 people to speak in a three person spot. I then went up and told her that it was not her prerogative to determine whether the first person on the wait list gets to speak when a speaker does not fill their slot.

This was when she went into her snappy imitation of an authoritarian dictator. Told me to sit down and be quite and finally announced that the first person on the wait list would be allowed to speak.

In answer to Charlie's question:
It's embarassing to have the President of the Board make such a blatantly incorrect statement. Just how clueless is she?

She about as clueless as she is mean and rude.