Tuesday, March 18, 2008

What's up with CPPS?

I couldn't help noticing that there is very little activity on the CPPS Yahoo! Group other than a weekly update from a national source which may be automated. Likewise, the CPPS website doesn't have any upcoming events - and hasn't for some time - doesn't have any "In the News" items since October 24, and hasn't had a blog entry since announcing the blog in October or November.

What's going on with Community & Parents for Public Schools of Seattle? Is it continuing to be active? Is it fading away?

CPPS was, to a significant extent, a product of the Closures and Consolidations process, but those hazards have passed. I think they were participating sponsors of some of the School Board candidate events, but what are they doing now? Where were they on Denny-Sealth? What are they doing around the Strategic Plan? What are they doing in support of accountability? What are they doing about the Southeast Initiative? the end of 10th grade AP European History at Roosevelt? the new Student Assignment Plan?

34 comments:

Anonymous said...

They, like me, are probably so overwhelmed by all current SPS issues that they don't even know where to begin, what to say....

Personally, I am simply exhausted at the moment. Maybe they are too.

Anonymous said...

The time is ripe for a renewed vigor by those interested in helpfully assisting SPS in finding its way through various initiatives. I wonder if someone could assist in organizing an "umbrella" group of interested parents, guardians, and other stakeholders to meet, say, bi-weekly and facilitate study, action, etc. It is my experience that when there appears to be too many things for a person to deal with, organizing and then delegating is helpful. That way, one person, or a couple, can work on one thing, whilst knowing that others are involved with, and will report on, other things.
I believe the District could use this adjunct umbrella group to help guide it through some of the things it's going through, such as study of AP and ALOs, to determine best practive, such as Policy updates, etc...
Gordon

Anonymous said...

Gordon-- great idea!! Time for all of us to come out of blog-o-sphere and get to work w/ some true elbow grease. Can someone get this rolling? I'll come but it ain't going to be me who starts it as I am snowed at work.

Anonymous said...

Gordon-- great idea!! Time for all of us to come out of blog-o-sphere and get to work w/ some true elbow grease. Can someone get this rolling? I'll come but it ain't going to be me who starts it as I am snowed at work.

Beth Bakeman said...

I've recently joined CPPS as a Board member so I can answer this question a little, and have encouraged other Board members to do the same.

CPPS has been active this year with the "Go Public" campaign, working to encourage Seattle parents to choose (and stay in) Seattle public schools, and some middle school discussion groups. [I'll let the people who have done the work on these projects say more about that if they wish.]

What I am most excited about with CPPS right now is the ability of the organization to get access to Seattle Public Schools decision-makers and information. CPPS can help parents get their voices heard and make sure parents have the information they need about what is going on.

So, for example, with the Weighted Staffing Formula issue recently, CPPS volunteers have been reaching out to parents to find out what is going on at various schools, and to simultaneously raise concerns with district staff.

Charlie raises good questions about what the CPPS role will be on hot topics like Denny/Sealth, the Strategic plan and the Southeast Initiative. I don't have a detailed answer, but I think CPPS will be successful only to the extent that parents city-wide join and become active.

So if you haven't joined CPPS, consider doing so. (See link at the right on this blog.) And definitely sign up for the monthly newsletter. It has great information on what is going on.

Due to feedback I got from many people, I will begin highlighting CPPS activity on this blog rather than shutting down the blog and moving to the CPPS blog.

Anonymous said...

Beth,
CPPS has its own funding and own philosophy. Please allow your CPPS framework to live and thrive on the yahoo site. They/we need to know what the organization is doing, thinking, sharing. To some of us, it is very exclusive and not a very open-minded crowd. The notion that one cannot criticize SPS is what I hear about most when people critique CPPS.

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

We (CPPS) have been up to a lot. We have a passionate group of folks who have been meeting regularly and volunteering hours on various initiatives. Our newsletter reaches hundreds -- go here to subscribe. We've had community meetings & volunteer study groups on the SE initiative & middle schools (publicized via our newsletter -- and this blog), we hosted a school board candidates forum back in October, and just this week & last we've been researching the impact on the new weighted staffing standards on schools (as posted by Beth on this blog Sunday). The email that goes to the yahoo group is not automated -- it's a service from our national organization that we participate in. The yahoo group is not a big part of our focus right now since it is hard to keep a constructive on-line discussion going (as readers of this blog know), but we will revisit that, time permitting. We have a web development company redesigning our web site (pro-bono) so we hope to have a more workable, easier-to-update web site any day now. And look for an announcement soon about our next evening meeting, which will also be the "annual meeting" where we elect new cpps board members, but will also have a program portion (tba). (Anybody interested in joining our board, please send me email andrewk@cppsofseattle.org.)

Of course, we'd like to do more. Our biggest success (that launched our organization in the first place) was bringing the cross-district parent voice to the closure process. We demonstrated the power of unified parents... at least the start of it. We still have a way to go. But, in the absence of a huge issue like closure that rallies everyone, it's been harder to organize. Keeping up can be exhausting at times (as mentioned by others). We've been discussing the best role for cpps moving forward. Because of our cross-district participation (and always looking for more), the many contacts we've made in the district, and the support from our national organization, we believe we are the closest thing to that "umbrella organization" suggested by Gordon. Want to participate? Let us know what cross-district issue you'd like to work on. We'll help you get in touch with existing groups we know of, or if necessary, build a new group with other parents from around the city with different perspectives. And we can use our contacts and tools (e.g. newsletter) to help you succeed. Other suggestions? Happy to hear those also. Whether through CPPS or some other umbrella, parents working together are much more likely to succeed than all of us working on our own or even just through our individual schools or communities.

Thanks,
Andrew

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

In response to 1:21pm anonymous' comment: "The notion that one cannot criticize SPS is what I hear about most when people critique CPPS."

If we didn't think the district needed improvement, then we wouldn't exist. Of course, we're critical.

But, I guess we do differ from many in that we aim to be *constructive* at all times with our criticism, and a "critical friend" wherever possible. You don't have to look much further than this Blog to see that not everyone agrees with that approach.

So, if that's the philosophy difference... I'd agree. Personally, I prefer to take the approach that most of the folks working at and with Seattle Public Schools really want what's best for kids, and when they do things we think are wrong (more often than we'd like), it's because the job is hard, everyone is stretched thin, and they need help seeing the better way (or demonstrating it to us).

Ultimately I think CPPS and the critics of CPPS both believe that stronger involvement from parents is a key ingredient for any successful strategic plan. In that sense, I hope to see opportunities to work together even if not everyone joins a single group. The more parents involved, the stronger our collective voice.

Thanks,
Andrew

Anonymous said...

Thank you Andrew for the posts! I also strongly agree with the delineated concept of constructive criticism. There is quite a bit of venting/whining/assigning poor motives on this blog, and I'd like to see more people put their energy into actually solving problems. For all you readers, ask yourselves: what do you do for your school community? How active are you in PTA or another education/child-oriented organization? Does most of your "education energy" go into 1) your own kid and 2) this blog? If so, I'd challenge you to do more-- constructively.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I guess this blog just got schooled. I'm glad there is room for all voices, if not in CPPS, then here.

I would disagree that CPPS had any significant effect on school closures; I wasn't aware of them during the process.

It is not pleasant here sometimes. Those of us who blog certainly bear the brunt of people who disagree but there is validity in all posts simply because they are the voices of people looking to be heard and their thoughts are now out there. It makes it a lot easier to try to figure out why people act as they do or don't participate more.

I hear the voice of idealism in CPPS and I hope, sincerely, they get some traction and their work has positive outcomes. However,why we would need a different parent group than one most of us belong to, PTA, or how we have time for both are questions I have pondered.

"Personally, I prefer to take the approach that most of the folks working at and with Seattle Public Schools really want what's best for kids, and when they do things we think are wrong (more often than we'd like), it's because the job is hard, everyone is stretched thin, and they need help seeing the better way (or demonstrating it to us)."

I did take that approach, for years, but it didn't work and it didn't work because the mindset of the bureaucracy at the headquarters never changes. (And the Moss-Adams report said it as well.) Want what is best for kids? Whose best? Yours, Andrew? Mine? Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's? Do we leave all to the "experts" and hope they know best?

An earlier post mentioned having an adjunct umbrella group to help guide the District. That's a nice thought but it is not ever going to happen. They don't want outside help unless they select it. There are so many parents/groups who I know, for a fact, have offered skills in marketing, the arts, and other areas and yet they get ignored or patted on the head and ignored.

"Ultimately I think CPPS and the critics of CPPS both believe that stronger involvement from parents is a key ingredient for any successful strategic plan. In that sense, I hope to see opportunities to work together even if not everyone joins a single group. The more parents involved, the stronger our collective voice."

I disagree with the first sentence simply because parental input/community engagement is a joke in this district. Almost every single one of us has encountered a "facilitated conversation" and came away believing we wasted our evening.

I agree with Andrew's last sentence. Parents, in HUGE numbers, can indeed affect change. The problem is that if it doesn't affect them directly, at their child's school, people tend to turn away (even as I continually tell people that everything has a ripple effect in this district so no one should feel immune from change). If we want to be a powerful group, there has to be powerful numbers and a powerful voice. It simply isn't there either from the Seattle Council PTSA or CPPS.

Anonymous said...

This is Stephanie Jones. As a "worker bee" within the CPPS organization (and former board member), I want to respond to both Gordon's call for "elbow grease" and Anonymous at 1:21 who perceived exclusivity in the CPPS community.

Since November, CPPS has been building a study group to review middle school issues, and parent/community desires and concerns -- people from across the city have participated in small group conversations, and we're currently planning follow-up events to engage more people on the topic. CPPS has also helped parent leaders in the Central Cluster come together and organize regular conversations about community collaboration and outreach, and we are reaching out to additional clusters and regions of the city to replicate this model in advance of assignment plan changes that will impact these local communities. As well, CPPS has organized an Ambassador Program to help make parent-to-parent connections around the enrollment process, school choice, and community involvement, with parents from about 20 schools currently participating.

All of this activity has been conducted in concert with our mission to reach out widely and non-exclusively to parents and community members, provide them with information, forums for action and a voice (both critical and supportive) with the district. This has been important outreach, facilitating, as Gordon suggested, "study, action, etc." That said, this small-scale "rolling up our sleeves" requires a lot of day to day organizational work, and doesn't capture the attention of larger forums or communication in the blogosphere. One of CPPS' challenges is clearly to spread the word beyond our newsletter to keep folks up to date on these kinds of activities, as well as to provide forums for the hot topics Charlie raises.

I urge anyone interested in study or action regarding SPS initiatives or issues to contact me at stephaniej@cppsofseattle.org CPPS is eager to put together working groups, and I would love to start the ball rolling.

Anonymous said...

Thank you for the CPPS folks for commenting. I'm an idealist, and actually believe(d) that it was possible to bring a large group of people together to help AND pressure SPS.
Yes, organization can be helpful. Yes, study and action can be helpful. BUT: I agree with those who have posted who see a District that is deaf to the input of outsiders (but not to the output of insiders? hmmm!)
It's my belief that an organization can have the ear of SPS yet still be co-opted, still be, in effect, meaningless (or out in outright collusion.) Sure, this is cynical, but power corrupts, and absolute power corrupts absolutely.
"The best interests of the children" sounds great until you have a mortgage, until your salary has allowed you to proceed up the pay scale, until your job description and performance sets you up for further ladder-climbing elsewhere...
Heck, I'm a teacher, with a "good" salary...The children are very, very high on the list of the things I think about everyday. But so is upcoming dental care, my car payments, my...So I am, sometimes, silent when I should be speaking, and loudly, for the children.
What I propose is what we Tennesseans would call "bird-dogging," standing close and pointing at the operations of powerful entities such as SPS. If it is left to the entity itself, instutional inertia, individual aspirations, "go alongh to get along" becomes pervasive. Now that we have these hugely transformative times upon us, in regards to public education, the changes are enromous and who is telling us we need the changes? Is it best practice or is it political? Is it designed to educate children or to show some business group, some federal overseer, that we're "all that"?
THIS is why we need a bird-dog. Yes, study and action, but not always "helpfully lending a hand"; sometimes the hand must be held up, "stop!" or used to hold back runaway plans made on the fly.
SOMEONE has to hold the reins of this public institution. The Board? The public? Microsoft? Who?

Andrew Kwatinetz said...

In response to Melissa's comments, I just want to clarify a few things...

First of all, almost all of us involved with CPPS are very active within our school's PTA -- often officers. Our work is intended to complement PTA work -- not compete with it. But, the fact is: PTA's are not in every school, the PTA does not speak for parents who don't have kids in schools yet (e.g. concerned about kindergarten), and PTAs don't speak to parents who've left the system. They could do all of that (and do sometimes), but most of our PTA experience is focused in our individual schools (and doing amazing work there). And, as much as I love teachers, there are sometimes conflicts of interest between parents and the teachers union, and the "Parents TEACHER Association" has shown a hesitance to take those on -- e.g. the PTA supported the initial closure plan because they viewed it as protecting teacher jobs despite the clear resistance from parents. (In the end, both Superintendent Manhas and the School Board agreed the plan was seriously flawed and simply blamed each other for the problems.)

Speaking of the closure plan, Melissa's comment that CPPS had no effect is wrong. We were very instrumental (e.g. see the Seattle Weekly and the Seattle P-I). I was even appointed to the Superintendent's Committee (CACIEE) as a result. I can only assume you are talking about the Closure process part 2, which we never supported in the first place. We (CPPS and the Superintendent's Committee, as well) were clearly on record as being against the Board's push for "closure for the sake of closure" without any larger strategic plan. That is why, despite the truly best intentions and hard work of Melissa's citizen closure committee, the second phase of closure ultimately fell short of its goals and years later its success is still debatable.

And finally, speaking of "room for all voices", it is interesting how Melissa interpreted my comment about the negative tone in Blogs as: "It is not pleasant here sometimes. Those of us who blog certainly bear the brunt of people who disagree..." Sorry, Melissa, but what I hear from folks is that you and Charlie are part of that problem too. While you say the CPPS approach is "idealistic", it is clear that your approach is pessimistic and negative. (Which isn't to say I don't appreciate all of the great information you & Charlie bring to the table -- I do.) For instance, I didn't say the district staff KNOWS what's best for our kids -- just that they WANT what's best. And I totally agree that getting meaningful parent engagement will not be easy. But here is the challenge we are faced with: Have we given up? Do we declare war against the district (tactics like campaigning against the levy/bond to shock & awe them)? Or do we try to build a better (constructively critical) relationship with them? I know we can succeed at the former, but I doubt it will yield the best results over the long term -- it just tires everyone out, and quite frankly, that is not the lesson I want to teach my children. I don't know if we can succeed at the latter. Naive? Maybe. But at the very least, we need another option for those of us to choose who don't want to go the CEASE route...

Thanks,
Andrew

Charlie Mas said...

Two quick corrections, Andrew.

First, you unjustly smeared the previous Board by attributing the second phase of closures to them. The second phase of closures was done entirely by Mr. Manhas and the district staff without the Board, without the Board's Advisory Committee, and without any public input. Not only was the Board not responsible for that disaster, we have the Board to thank for ending it with a strong 5-2 majoirty vote. Only Directors DeBell and Chow voted in support of that trainwreck.

Second, I am no pessimist and I resent your effort to label me as such. Both optimism and pessimism are delusions. If a realist must have expectations, they are based on logic, facts, and data.

Here's a couple bits of history for you:

The community's most effective path to influencing district decisions has come when they can find a policy which grants authority to the Board, then communicate with Board Directors, and provide them with enough reason, facts, data, and popular support to grow vertebrae and oppose the district staff. Each time a Board director sucessfully exercises autonomy and authority, it is easier for them to do so again in the future.

This is how to influence the Board. I have only ever seen two things influence district staff: bad press and the threat of litigation. Nothing else seems to work on them.

Oh! And we all want good relationships with the staff and we all see ourselves as constructive critics. There is no unclaimed moral high ground. You'll have to share it with everyone else.

Anonymous said...

See, now Andrew that "CEASE route" comment was just plain divisive. Some, like me, might ask what's wrong with people, a group, whatever looking at district actions and pointing out where they're not appropriate. What part, exactly, of the "CEASE route" do you find distasteful?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I, too, sometimes struggle with the yin and yang of being the Parent/Teacher association. But the joy of it in high school are the wonderful student leaders who come to our meetings and tell us what is going on with the student body. It's a worthwhile trade-off.

Andrew, I didn't say CPPS had no effect (go back and read what I wrote); I said it didn't have any significant effect that I (personally) was aware of. Others might have; CPPS was never discussed during our closure and consolidation discussions.

It was not "my" citizens committee; it was a Board-appointed group of citizens (just as CACIEE was the Superintendent's).

Charlie is right. Phase 2 was Superintendent generated and staff enacted and look at how that turned out. Yes, they certainly did want what was best for the kids and that effort showed it. By the way,they did not use the same data or process the committee used nor did they consult with any C&C member.

My efforts to educate people about BEX III? You equate that with "shock and awe"? First, I had no campaign. Reporters asked me how come I wasn't busy setting up a committee and getting donations, blah, blah. That's wasn't the point. The point was to educate people. Every statement I made in my report that wasn't opinion was fact that I can back up with district data and documents.

Second, much of what is unfolding is what I warned about. The $20M program reserve for emergencies for BEX III? Nearly drained; it's down to $3m and they haven't built a thing. All the 12-15% contingency fees for each project? Now in one master pot that BEX staff can draw off of easily so woe be it to any project that brings up the rear. I guarantee that this BEX will run over budget. There is already missing money from BEX II that isn't accounted for.

Andrew, you underestimate me. If I had wanted to do a shock and awe campaign, you would have known it. There is something coming down the pike that likely will shock a lot of people and it has nothing to do with me.

Charlie and I spent time at a couple of meetings at CEASE (with Brita and Sally as well). It's almost ironic; we had all joined together- people from different areas of the city with different but overlapping education interests to try to share information and work for change in the district - to be a coalition of groups. Does that sound familiar to this discussion? But CEASE had it own way of doing things and speaking of things and it wasn't me. So I left. They are an incredibly small group of people who work hard for their issues and yet so many people here have to take time to malign them over and over. Ignoring people you strongly disagree with is likely the better route unless you just like to keep twisting that particular knife.

And a shout out to my meeting-attending, Board-speaking, data and research driven pal, Charlie. It's just incredible that we can move through the world, have jobs, friends, children and gasp! even spouses. We are so negative and pessimistic. (Or maybe that's just about this school district, who knows?) People seem to enjoy - anonymously or otherwise - saying unkind things to say about us. But then, in the same breath, they thank us for all our hours of research, sitting through meetings to report on them, etc. It's a bit of a back-handed compliment but then, I think that's the point.

But coming back 'round to Charlie's central point, it is interesting that you hardly ever hear anyone, staff or Board, mention CPPS. I have never had one Board member, ever, mention their group. And, if they have so much going on, why is it hardly ever blogged about here? They were even supposed to create their own CPPS blog because they are so relevant to this district. And yet...?

Charlie asked a valid question.

Anonymous said...

Melissa and Charlie, I thank you for the work you've done investigating many things, and I thank you and Beth and other contributors for this blog-- but I truly feel grateful to Andrew and CPPS for attempting positive action.

I keep hearing on this blog how people don't find that communication w/ district works well-- yet, in our own elem. school, I feel the opposite. Staff/parent communication on the whole is good (and when it's not, it seems due to parent gaffes, IMHO). In our building the teachers are there at all hours, and there is a generally positive, responsive feeling. There are people who complain, but I've found that they are the types who complain about everything. Teachers/staff want the best for the kids. Extrapolating up across the District, I see the Madrona principal working her fingers to the bone, many other buildings with great programs, committed staff, etc. Yes, downtown can be hard to work with-- but I agree with ANdrew that carrot is better than stick. Let's harness this blog energy to get behind CPPS and DO something rather than always picking everything apart.

Charlie Mas said...

I totally believe anonymous at 2:52. There are a number of schools and teachers who communicate well with the students' families and are responsive to their needs. That's wonderful.

Of course, even at a school where the teachers and the staff are generally good that way, there can be a teacher or staff member who isn't.

Likewise, there are schools where the communication and responsiveness - in general - isn't as good, although there can be teachers and staff members there who are.

The central office is more like the latter. There are some very open, honest, transparent, engaged, and responsive people working in the central office. They are in a desperate minority.

I haven't seen any evidence that indicates there is anything we can do to change a person so they seek and value community engagement. I haven't seen any evidence that their managers can effect that change either. But I'm more than willing to try stuff. I'm working it every way I can think of.

And it's not for my kids. My kids will be fine. It's not even just for the kids like my kids. It's for all of the kids. And it is for all of the families and all of the taxpayers.

We deserve a government that works for us. We deserve a school district - from the Board and the superintendent, to the central staff, to the principals, to the teachers, to every person who draws a district paycheck - that is open, honest, transparent, engaged, accountable and responsive.

I don't think it is an unreasonable expectation.

Denise said...

Just to play devil's advocate...

Perhaps if many of this blog's readers (why are you here again?) believe that Melissa, Beth and Charlie are doing more harm than good with their close analysis of district data, their tough questions about district decision, their repeated calls for accountability, perhaps then the best thing would be for them to take a two week vacation from this blog. Close it down, or at least close the comments and not put up any new posts.

After all, I can tell you firsthand that blogging is hard, often thankless work. It takes hours of research to put together a comprehensive analysis, such as then ones that Melissa posts on Facilities issues, or that Charlie has done on the Superintendent's entry plan.

Heck, I often don't even have time to do all that on my blog, and will come over here to get information, because Melissa, Charlie and Beth are also very credible.

One place I don't bother going is CPPS's page on Yahoo Groups. I joined the Yahoo group after reading about it here on this blog. After visiting the page multiple times and finding no substantive content, and getting the weekly emails that didn't say much of anything, I quit paying attention. Also, during the 1.5 years I served on our school's site council (the equivalent of PTA), I never heard a mention of CPPS.

I did, however, see their booth at this past January's Kindergarten and Middle School fair, and thought to myself, "huh--that group is still around?"

But back to my original suggestion--what would you do without this blog? Do you really believe that parents, and the district itself, would be better off sitting in the dark?

I don't.

wendy said...

Melissa & Charlie,

I don't always agree with you. Often I do.

Mostly I want to thank you for blogging here. It is important to me to keep up with actions in the district. It is also important to me to have a view into different communities & school cultures in the district. I don't know how else to do that.

MGR said...

Are any of you aware of the work of Campana Quetzal?

Beth Bakeman said...

Yes. There was a comment by Maria with an e-mail from one of Campana Quetzal's community organizer's last fall.

Superintendent's Entry Plan

Charlie Mas said...

Speaking of CEASE...

Since I left CEASE I haven't heard that much from them either.

Checking the public testimony list for the past few months, I haven't often seen the familiar CEASE names.

December 19 - None
January 9 - Don Alexander
January 23 - Maggie Metcalfe
February 13 - none
February 27 - Don Alexander
March 12 - none

I didn't count appearances by Von Paul Patu, although perhaps I should have.

It may be that CEASE folks are actually pretty okay with what has been going on. They might be good with the Southeast Initiative and not too concerned about the lack of accountability there. There hasn't been any movement on the new assignment plan, so nothing to talk about there. Likewise, there hasn't been any real movement on the developing Strategic Plan, so little to talk about. They may not have found anything too offensive in the updated Facilities Master Plan.

I'm sure we'll hear from them if the accountability for the Southeast Intitiative goes hard or if the new assignment plan puts severe restrictions on access to alternative schools. They may also have something to say about the intitiatives that come out of the Strategic Plan if any ever actually do.

Their most recent high profile issue was John Marshall. That matter was resolved in mid-January. Think of this: of the 262 students attending classes at the Marshall building this year, only about 35 will be re-located to Wilson-Pacific. The largest contingent, the 198 students in the Evening School, are going to Franklin.

On the whole, however, CEASE has been just about as quiet as CPPS over the past four months or so.

Maybe they are all waiting for the other shoe to drop - on the Strategic Plan, on the Assignment Plan, and on the Weighted Staffing Standards. Maybe they just have a lot of other stuff to do. Maybe they're just tired.

Of course, it may also be that they are doing a lot of work, but, like the work that CPPS is doing, I'm just not seeing it.

Charlie Mas said...

Let me just add this one other point.

I'm glad, and I hope that the CPPS leadership is glad, that I posted this question about their activity.

It gave them an opportunity and space to talk about what they have been doing and who they are. I'm sure they got some new subscribers and members as a result.

I asked what's up with CPPS out of genuine interest in their activity. I hadn't heard much from them and honestly wondered what work was engaging them. I wondered if they had taken any positions on some of the recent issues before the District.

I am delighted to learn that CPPS remains active and engaged - if not necessarily in the public eye.

Beth Bakeman said...

Hopefully, I'll get the link right this time:

Superintendent's Entry Plan

Are you involved with Campana Quetzal, MGR? And if so, can you tell us more about their work?

Anonymous said...

I hate to see community groups pitted against each other. Each has an agenda, and each is doing what they see best for the children. They may not agree on how to proceed, what to advocate for or against, some may be more active than others, some may be more public than others.... But, the bottom line is that we/they are all working toward a common goal. CEASE has their way of making themselves heard, CPPS has their way, this blog, Melissa and Charlie have their way. I applaud EVERYBODY who rolls up their sleeves and gets in the game. I don't always agree with the opinion or action, but I always acknowledge that they are doing something that they think will make this district a better place for our children. In addition I totally appreciate the enormous amount of information that one can learn from both reading this blog and getting the CPPS newsletter. It's great to have a way to connect! Thank you CEASE, CPPS, Charlie, Melissa, and all of the many many anonymous people that contribute!!!!

Charlie Mas said...

Funny how these things happen - it might be the unconsious net of coincidence or just luck, but in the very next thread I get an idea for how CPPS - or any similar community group - could be tremendously valuable and effective in promoting community engagement.

The idea came from Stephanie Jones of CPPS and, like a lot of powerful ideas, it is simple.

Instead of waiting for the District to invite the public to the sort of open discussion and interactive conversation we would like to have, let's create the space for that conversation and invite them to it.

CPPS - or any other community group - selects the topic, reserves the space, promotes the event, and invites the parties.

So imagine, if you will, an alternative to the "facilitated forum" we saw on Denny-Sealth that precluded any interaction and suppressed input. Imagine if a brief (10 minute) presentation from Don Kennedy was followed by a presentation by Delfino Munoz. these presentations might be followed by a panel discussion of twenty minutes or so in which recognized voices with a variety of perspectives on the issue would answer questions from the host. Then the floor would be opened to questions from the community. The host would enforce some rules to keep everyone on topic, on time, and on their best behavior. The host could also exercise some critical reasoning skills and assure answers instead of evasions. The host could ask follow up questions or, better still, allow the community members to ask them.

This is just my first run at a more effective format. I'm sure there are folks who could suggest improvements on it.

While such an event would present perils to an unprepared representative from the District, it would also present well-prepared staff members with a real opportunity to make their case. The District usually has a good story to tell, if they could just tell it right.

Much less formal formats would be possible for smaller groups. It could be as simple as a bunch of people sitting around a table talking things through.

I just thought of this: the presentation materials and transcripts should be made available online afterwards.

Could CPPS host these sorts of conversations? Could CPPS expeditiously bring together the people, the space, and the promotion? I think they could. CPPS could get an appropriate space, invite the speakers, and promote the event well enough to make it accessible? The space and the people are the easy part. The promotion is the tough part.

I think CPPS has been doing things like this. For example, they have had community meetings on the Southeast Initiative. But it's clear that they need to do a better job of getting the word out to the community.

Who can offer ideas or advice on how to promote these sorts of meetings? Should the District help promote them? How could the newspapers, the radio, or the TV help? How could the PTA help? How could the Alliance help? How could the District help?

This could be a really powerful and effective service that CPPS - or some other community group, or a coalition of community groups - could perform.

deidre said...

The self initiated community engagement is a great idea, and it is not a new one. It has been going on as long as I have been involved with the district, just on a smaller scale . Our school initiated several meeting on water quality, in which we invited district officials, and experts, who were receptive to attending, and a captive audience! Our school also initiated conversations about the assignment preference between AEII and Salmon Bay, and met with all of the board members and several staff members, who I must say were receptive, and willing to hear us and (most) were willing work with us. Another example was when one of our site council members decided to reinstate the alternative schools coalition, they blocked space at the JSCS (which the district waived fees for), invited all of the alternative school principals, staff, board members, and key district staff. They met monthly and their voices were heard!!

That is just our small school's experience, I'm sure this is going on all across the district!

It would be nice to do it on a larger scale, say for the new assignment plan???

My experience has been that when you initiate and respectfully invite the district, staff, board directors to the table, they do respond.

Anonymous said...

From Melissa:


There is something coming down the pike that likely will shock a lot of people and it has nothing to do with me.

Huh??????? Whatsup? Pls. elaborate.

Thank you all for all the terrific work you do.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I can't really say what will or will not come because it depends on that actions of people up the food chain. The interesting thing is many people believe that the School Board is the top of the education food chain and that's not exactly so. I'll leave it at that for now (not trying to be mysterious)except to say that the Board and Superintendent have been warned, repeatedly, that if they don't take action on certain things, other officials can. It is better for them to be out in front of problems than behind the eight-ball but they're the ones elected to make the choices.

Deidre, I honestly think it's great that you were able to work with the district in having meetings about Salmon Bay's water quality issues. I'm sure some of it even got taken care of but I will point out that Salmon Bay is one of the schools taken off the BEX III list for air/water quality issues fixes. Salmon Bay's money, along with Summit, is now going to the Denny/Sealth project. The claim is that whatever issues your school has at this point can be remedied later on (which kind of begs the point of why they would be on the BEX III list to begin with).

deidre said...

Melissa, I was referring to water quality issues at AEII. In addition to water quality at AEII we worked with the district to help preserve the assignment preference between AEII and Salmon Bay. I never worked on water quality issues for Salmon Bay and don't know how that school chose to handle their communications with the district?? I do know that the district responded to us (AEII). They sent representatives and water quality experts to our meetings (we also brought our own experts). I must say that they did listen to what we had to say. That is not to say that we were satisfied with the outcome of their action (bottled water and filters instead of fixing the lead filled pipes), but the point is that they were responsive and worked with us for a short term fix, until they could fix our pipes. In addition to district officials, certain board directors really advocated for us too... Brita Butler-Wall was especially helpful as was Sally Soriano.

Beth Bakeman said...

Charlie,

I think you and Stephanie are right about the role CPPS could play (and to some extent already are playing) in facilitating discussions.

I'll forward this thread to the rest of the Board and volunteers and see what comes of it.

Want to help with the effort?

Anonymous said...

Charlie-- great idea!! Post when you need warm bodies to help out and I know many of us will.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, sign me up. Gordon (mrmac@teacher.com)

Riffing off Melissa's shadowed mystery of an enigma...See Chicago. See New York. This is one reason why I, for one, stopped pecking at the District and tried to think of ways to proactively assist them. It's all well and good to point out the shortcomings, but the shortcomings are there for all to see, and there are other, uh, agencies that are watching, too.
Charlie's suggestion, from Stepahnie Jones, is a good one because it not only allows the public to have some power (at least in formatting and running the meeting) but also shows outside agencies that we are united in maintaining and protecting our public school system.
Sign me up.
Gordon