Sunday, November 30, 2008

Don't Let This Get Lost in the Closure Clutter

Monday, December 1, there will be a discussion of state funding for public schools at district headquarters at 7 p.m. From the Seattle Council PTSA flyer:

Learn more about basic education, find ways for your voice to be heard and help ensure Olympia is listening to the needs of public schools in this state.

Representative Ross Hunter will review the progress of the Basic Education Finance Task Force, scheduled to release their recommendations in Dec. 2008.

WHY: Our Education finance system has not been overhauled in over thirty years!
Budgets and curriculum that were established in the 1970’s do not work in
today’s global economy and technological world. It is time for change.
The result of this task force’s efforts and the outcomes of this upcoming
Legislative session will determine whether public schools are on the right track to make changes to ensure that our kids graduate ready for university, college and work.

Questions, or to reserve child care, please contact: Heidi.Bennett@seatttlecouncilptsa.org,
Melinda Mann at melbmann@comcast.net, Kerry Cooley‐Stroum at kcs@seanet.com

Friday, November 28, 2008

Timeline & Process for Making Your Voice Heard

UPDATED UPDATE (Monday morning): The Seattle School District e-mail server is working again.

And if you use the phone, call (206) 252-0042 for sign-up to testify at the various public hearings listed below.

But call a different number, (206) 252-0040 for sign-up to testify at the School Board Meetings.

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In addition to posting on this and other blogs, make sure to make your voice heard where it really counts, with School Board members and district staff.

You can comment on the recommendations and the process in person, by e-mail, and by snail-mail. According to the district, "All recommendations must include how they support the Guidelines for Building Closure." So make sure to review the guidelines document to help you frame your response.

In Person

Sign-ups for public testimony at the public hearings will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker, and should focus on the school building about which the hearing is being held. To sign up to give testimony, please call (206) 252-0042 or e-mail hearing@seattleschools.org. It looks like you can begin signing up to testify at public hearings now.

Sign-ups for public testimony for regular School Board meetings are accepted beginning at 8 a.m. on the Monday before each meeting. (December 3, 17, January 7 and 21). Call (206) 252-0040 or e-mail boardagenda@seattleschools.org and provide your name, telephone number, e-mail address, and the topic you would like to address.

Information about how to sign-up for the special board meeting on January 29 will be announced later.

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Now, e-mail or call the District to sign up to testify at a public hearing.

Monday, December 1, 8:00 am, e-mail or call the District to sign up to testify at the Board meeting

Wednesday, December 3, 6:00 p.m, discussion of Preliminary Recommendations, School Board meeting, Stanford Center

Thursday, December 4, 6:30-8:30 p.m. Community workshop Stanford Center

Saturday, December 6, 9:30-11:30 a.m. Community workshop Filipino Community Center, 5740 MLK Jr Way

Monday, December 15, 8:00 am, e-mail or call to sign up to testify at the Board meeting

Monday, December 15, 6:30-8:30 pm, Public hearings

  • T.T. Minor - 1700 E. Union St.
  • Pinehurst – 11530 12th Ave. N.E.
  • Van Asselt - 7201 Beacon Ave. S.

Tuesday, December 16, 6:30-8:30 pm, Public hearings

  • Genesee Hill - 5012 S.W. Genesee St.
  • Mann – 2410 E. Cherry St.
  • Old Hay - 411 Boston St.

Wednesday, December 17, 6:00 p.m, School Board meeting, Stanford Center

Thursday, December 18, 6:30 pm to 8:30 pm, Public hearings

  • Lowell – 1058 E. Mercer St.

Monday, January 5, 8:00 am, e-mail or call to sign up to testify at the Board meeting

Tuesday, January 6, Superintendent releases Final Recommendations

Wednesday, January 7, 6:00 p.m, Final Recommendations introduced at School Board meeting, Stanford Center

Monday, January 19, 8:00 am, e-mail or call to sign up to testify at the Board meeting

Wednesday, January 21, 6:00 p.m, School Board meeting Stanford Center

Thursday, January 22, 6:00 p.m, Final public hearing, Stanford Center

Thursday, January 29, 6:00 p.m, School Board vote on Final Recommendations, Stanford Center

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By E-Mail

Comments can be e-mailed to capacity@seattleschools.org.

By Snail-Mail

Comments can be mailed to: School Board, PO Box 34165, MS 11-010, Seattle, WA, 98124-1165.

Capacity Management Proposal Response

Capacity Management questions, comments and concerns

I believe this list summarizes the current status of my thinking. I would not complain about a decision if I couldn't offer a better one.

1. While the proposal shows evidence of capacity reduction, there is little evidence of capacity management – which would include expanding capacity where needed. Elementary capacity in the northeast is improved and elementary capacity in Queen Anne/Magnolia might be. The proposal does nothing to improve middle school capacity in the northeast or high school capacity for Magnolia, Queen Anne and the Montlake Cut.

2. This process has revealed the dishonest and unfair way that building renovations have been prioritized in the past. It’s obvious that the buildings in the worst condition were passed over for renovation in favor of other buildings in less need. District needs to acknowledge and apologize for that. The District also needs to resolve to follow a fairer process in future.

3. Although building conditions in the 50’s justify closing schools, two schools (NOVA and S.B.O.C.) are getting moved into a building with a condition rating in the 40’s (Meany). Does this move presume that the building will be renovated in the immediate near-term future? If so, then shouldn’t that be explicitly stated? Where will these schools be housed while Meany is being renovated? How about putting NOVA at Horace Mann as an interim site?

4. The plan to close Meany Middle School does not make sufficient allocation for Central Region students now enrolled there. There is no room for them at Washington, so they will have to be bussed out of the Region. How is this acceptable for 200 students at Meany but not acceptable for 55 students at Cooper? The District needs to make room for Central Region middle school students at the only other middle school in their reference area: Washington.

5. To make room at Washington for all of the neighborhood students, the District should move middle school APP – intact – to Hamilton. That would leave plenty of room for all Central Region students at Washington. There will be plenty of room at Hamilton for all of middle school APP when the school moves into their new building. It may require about half of the students from the Southeast region to return to their reference area schools. The presence of APP at Hamilton would the school more attractive to northeast region families and could relieve some of the overcrowding at Eckstein.

A variation on this idea would be to put middle school APP in a new middle school in an 800-student middle school at John Marshall. This would more directly address the need for additional capacity in the Northeast, but all of the empty seats at Hamilton make it a second choice.

In either case, the District should discontinue providing transportation on demand to Hamilton and McClure for Southeast Region students.

6. There is no legitimate reason for closing Lowell. The stated reason – to improve access to elementary APP – isn’t credible. Although the travel times for families in the South and Southeast will be marginally improved, the travel time for families in the North, Northeast, Northwest, Queen Anne/Magnolia, West Seattle-North and West-Seattle South will be increased by at least an offsetting amount.

7. Elementary APP is getting moved from Lowell in part to save two buildings in the Central and South clusters from closure. It is a false rescue. Very few families in the neighborhoods around those buildings will be able to enroll their children in those schools after the APP students and their siblings take up 80% of the available seats.

8. If the District wants to create an A.L.O. at Hawthorne, then they should. There is already one at Thurgood Marshall. These schools don't need APP students in the building for them to form an A.L.O. It's insulting – and vaguely racist – for the District to suggest that they do.

9. The contention that there is no building in the north-end for the north half of elementary APP is false. Space is available at Decatur, Jane Addams, John Marshall, Lincoln, Wilson-Pacific, Sand Point and McDonald. The space is there; the District is choosing not to use it for elementary APP.

10. It would be far better to leave the north-end half of elementary APP at Lowell along with the Special Education programs there, and add a general education program. This might allow the District to close either Leschi or Thurgood Marshall - depending on how many out-of-cluster students enrolled in the general education program. That would create elementary general education capacity in the north end of the cluster where it is needed and eliminate it from the south end of the cluster where it is in excess.

11. The contention that there is no building other than Rainier Beach for Summit is false. Space is available at John Marshall, Lincoln, Wilson-Pacific and – if elementary APP is moved out - Lowell. The space is there; the District is choosing not to use it for Summit.

12. Although the district claims that there is no space right-sized for Summit other than the empty seats at Rainier Beach High School, Lowell is about the right size and in a much better location. It may require some renovation, but it is due for it. The building condition at Lowell should not be an impediment; Lowell has a higher building condition rating than Meany, and the District is moving two schools into Meany. Moving Summit to Lowell would allow the closure of Rainier Beach High School. Surely we would save more money by closing Rainier Beach than we would save from closing Lowell.

13. An even better solution for Summit would be to move it to Lincoln and co-locate a 1,000-seat comprehensive high school at Lincoln. Then move high school APP to Lincoln and close Rainier Beach. This would eliminate high school capacity in the south-end where there is a surplus and add to the high school capacity where it is needed. Although the capacity in the south-end would be reduced, by moving high school APP north, 400 students would be removed from the area high schools as the 400 students from Rainier Beach are added to them. As a result, there would be no overcrowding or loss of flexibility.

14. All city draw programs such as Summit and APP should be placed centrally, but the District is emptying out their central locations. Lincoln, John Marshall, McDonald, T T Minor, Horace Mann, and Lowell – all central locations – will all be vacant while the District claims that they don't have central locations available.

15. Move Pathfinder to Cooper. Keep Arbor Heights open. Add Spectrum to Arbor Heights to take up some of the excess capacity and to improve geographic equity and access – there is no Spectrum in the West Seattle-South cluster. Make Gatewood a dual cluster school to make additional seats available for West Seattle-North students.

Inviting Temporary Blog Contributors

As I posted earlier this month, I'd like to extend an invitation to parents/staff/community members from any of the schools impacted by the Closure and Consolidation recommendations to become temporary blog contributors, giving you the ability to post your thoughts and start discussion threads.

So far, we have two Summit K-12 parents and one AS#1 parent who have joined us for this purpose.

Any parents/staff/community members from other schools want to become contributors? This blog currently has over 700 hits a day, including district staff and Board members. Just e-mail me if you are interested.

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Rushing to make a decision may cause more problems than it solves

There are other options and it is the board's job to direct the district's staff to look at them honestly even if this means changing the timeline. If they don't take the time to understand all the repercussions of their decisions they may find themselves in even more financial trouble then they are in now. Many of the families effected by the last round of closures chose to leave Seattle Public Schools rather than abide by the new assignment they were given.

I believe the superintendent and her staff have a hidden agenda and are not presenting the information objectively. They are using this budget crisis as an excuse to make major changes without giving the board enough time to look at the issues responsibly.

I accept that the district must act quickly to cover the budget gap. I accept that buildings need to be closed as a part of the solution. I can even accept that the building where my children go to school (Pinehurst) should be considered because of its size and condition. I don't accept that the current proposals are the best way to save money. Goodloe-Johnson even said they haven't looked at the financial implications of the proposal yet. Which begs the question, what were they really trying to accomplish?

The cost savings from closing one of the undersubscribed HS would eliminate the need to displace so many central cluster students and is the most cost effective choice for the short term. It will disrupt the least amount of students while directly affecting the disparity between oversubscribed and undersubscribed schools. Long-term work could be done to bring that HS back online when the population increases and the district has put together a desirable program that will entice parents to choose it.

The district needs to take enough TIME to assess the best way to deal with the capacity and program issues such as SBOC, APP, and Alternatives. These are complex programs with very specific needs. The current proposal does not add seats to the North End. In fact, it eliminates 270 seats by closing the Pinehurst building. It does not proportionally reduce the amount of excess capacity in the South East and West Seattle clusters.

The board needs to take enough TIME for the communities effected to be engaged in the process. The current timeline is a joke. The communitee meetings for the buildings being closed have multiple schools scheduled on the same day. This guarantees that not all the board members will be able to hear from all of the programs that will be impacted. As a further insult, only the schools whose buildings are being closed get a meeting. Programs that are discontinued (Meany and Arbor Heights) don't get a meeting.

The district needs to take enough TIME to do an Alternative Schools audit and look at the best way to provide access to Alternative programs throughout the district based on best practices determined by the audit. Goodloe-Johnson clearly doesn't understand Alternative schools and needs to learn how to evaluate them before making decissions about how to move around Alt students.

Wednesday, November 26, 2008

Public Hearings Announced

Here is the schedule for the public hearings. Unfortunately, only those schools whose buildings are closed get them (meaning, Arbor Heights, for example, won't get one as their building is remaining open but their program may close).

PUBLIC HEARINGS ON BUILDING CLOSURE
Public hearings will be held at buildings proposed for closure from 6:30-8:30 p.m. on the days and locations below.

Monday, Dec. 15, 2008
T.T. Minor - 1700 E. Union St.
Pinehurst - 11530 12th Ave. N.E.
Van Asselt - 7201 Beacon Ave. S.

Tuesday, Dec. 16, 2008
Genesee Hill - 5012 S.W. Genesee St.
Mann - 2410 E. Cherry St.
Old Hay - 411 Boston St.

Thursday, Dec. 18, 2008
Lowell - 1058 E. Mercer St.

Public testimony will be limited to 3 minutes per speaker, and should focus on the school building about which the hearing is being held. To sign up to give testimony, please call (206) 252-0042 or e-mail hearing@seattleschools.org

Former Board Member Weighs In

Former Board member, Dick Lily, who writes for Seattle Crosscuts, weighs in on the closures. (I saw him there last night and he did stick it out the whole time.)

In his article he suggests that the Board should wait until the following items are done/considered before closing any schools;
  • assignment plan
  • busing
  • bilingual ed
  • stop confounding operating and capital budgets.
He also says they didn't create enough K-8s and that this plan signals the slow end for alternative ed.

From his article:

"The Goodloe-Johnson plan kills outright AS #1, and the African American Academy, mostly for poor academic achievement, and moves Summit from the far north to the far south — a thinly disguised poison pill."

Working Together Across Schools: Lessons Learned

This blog was created over two years ago during the school closure and consolidation process. My main goal in creating it was to create a place for parents across schools to discuss news, share information, learn from each other, and work to improve schools for all children.

Now is a perfect time to refocus on this effort. Parents in many schools, buildings, and programs are confused and upset and trying to figure out how to effectively advocate for their children and their beliefs. And many other parents, including those on this blog, have been through this closure and consolidation process before and have lessons learned they can share.

Unfortunately, my children's schools have been involved in every phase of the closure and consolidation process so I have some experiences I can share. Here are some quick thoughts:
  • Organize your school's parents quickly, using blogs, wiki, e-mail lists, "kid mail" or whatever works for your community.
  • Collect data and talking points quickly, focusing on facts that can be verified rather than emotional appeals.
  • Get the "sign up" dates for the next series of Board meetings and hearings on your calendar now. Last time, the sign-up would fill quickly (within the first hour or so) for all available spots.
  • Strategically chose the people to speak for your school. The message should be consistent and coordinated. More people is not necessarily better. Choose the best speakers.
  • Be clear about what you are advocating for, not just what you are arguing against. Provide the Board with a concrete alternative to the proposal you are opposing.

And finally:

  • Don't throw another school or program or population "under the bus" as part of your solution. It doesn't look good to Board members or other community members, and it's not likely to work.
  • Do find other schools that you can talk with/work with to collaboratively develop creative possiblities/solutions.

What tips/tricks/strategies/suggestions can others share?

Open Thread for Thornton Creek at Jane Addams

Open Thread for Hawthorne/Thurgood Marshall/TT Minor/Leschi

Open Thread for Meany/Nova/Secondary Bilingual Orientation Center

Open Thread for Summit/RBHS

Open Thread for Arbor Heights/Pathfinder

Open Thread for Lowell/APP

Open Thread for AS#1

My Reactions to Closures

I sat through this 4+ meeting. I also served, during the last round of closures, on the Closure and Consolidation Committee. And, I get that we have too many buildings for too few students. But there is a lot to disagree with on this list and once again, staff, not the Board, is making the calls. To their credit, the Board is asking hard questions but the staff is manipulating data to get what they want. The Board should not fall for it nor stand for it.

What's good:
-Thornton Creek would make a fine K-8 so that move isn't bad. However, they were promised if they moved they wouldn't displace another alternative program which they are (Summit). Creating a new and exciting elementary at Thornton Creek's old site will likely help with capacity issues in the NE.
-a building needed to be closed in the Central area and TT Minor is a building that is not in good shape.
-there will be more room at Salmon Bay K-8 because Thornton Creek students would not get preference there anymore because TC would become a K-8. A win-win situation for this one.
-Leaving APP students at Washington Middle School and Garfield High School. Only problem, it is not likely that Washington can continue to fit all these students.

What's bad:
-requiring people to have to call to sign in to speak at the upcoming public hearings for each school that is closing. A simple pre-sign in before the meeting should be enough.

-NO handouts for the public trying to follow the thread of discussions at this meeting. ALL this information should be on the district website pronto. UPDATE: here's link - all documents are under November 25th meeting

- Dr. Goodloe-Johnson seemed to draw a line in the sand with saving Summit. She said, repeatedly, that staff's choice was to close it but they did co-house it with Rainier Beach High School. They did that not to save Summit but to save RBHS which would have stuck out like a sore thumb with its underenrolled building. Director DeBell honed in on this issue of not closing a high school which would save a lot more money than an elementary or middle school. He was not satisfied with the explanation nor was Director Carr. There are other places to put Summit (John Marshall and Lincoln come to mind). As well, staff, when asked about other locations such as these for Summit, ALWAYS says, those locations don't have a playground. Well, neither does RBHS. Additionally, that move of Summit to RBHS would mean 2 high schools, 3 elementaries, 2 middle schools all in just over a 1 mile area (Summit K-12, RBHS, Van Asselt, New School K-8 and Dunlap elementary). Too much competition in one small area.

-There is capital money attached to the Secondary Bilingual program. That better go into making Meany a good building for Nova and SBOC. Directors also made this point.

-Staff cherrypicked data for their own ends. Director DeBell, once again, honed in on this. For example, apparently only AS#1's number of first choices was listed and no other school's. Why was this Director DeBell wondered? Oh, just an "interesting" fact was the reply. They also cherrypicked NCLB status. There are two Level 5 schools in Seattle (this is the most serious stage of No Children Left Behind) but only African-American Academy is being closed and not Aki Kurose. They again used AS#1's Level 4 status to close them. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson alluded that Aki was at Level 5 but said "more work had to be done". If it's a bad enough reason to close two schools, then it's enough for Aki to close as well.

-The district has had the APP program co-housed at Lowell with a Special Ed program for YEARS. Now, suddenly,those kids HAVE to be part of a general ed population. They did try this experiment, many years ago when Madrona was a K-5 and guess what? It didn't work. If they need to split Lowell, there should be half in the north end and half in the south end. And what do not one but two schools think about co-housing with another program? Are there going to be two principals at each school? Who knows?

-Dr. Goodloe-Johnson seemed to try to blame "choice" for our situation. That may be part of it but the real problem lies, based on their own criteria, on lack of basic maintenance. Plain and simple, and noted in the State Auditor's recent report, this district has NOT kept up on basic maintenance. We are drowning in backlogged maintenance and the district simply has to close buildings to get them out of the way (and likely sell some of them).

-Moving Pathfinder to Arbor Heights is dumb. First, again, staff said over and over last night what each building's condition score was and 80 was their cut-off for a "good" building. Arbor Heights is at 70 so yes, it's better than the Genesee Hill building that Pathfinder is currently in but not good enough by their own numbers. Arbor Heights has had repeated mold problems. It would need work to make it work for a middle school population. And most of all, Arbor Heights is a neighborhood school.

-staff showed numbers for cost savings for elementary, middle and high school but neglected to tell the Board how much savings has been realized since the last closures (but no one asked). It's an easy question to answer.

-Director DeBell again asked the hard questions. Did they do a walk-thru of all the high schools to determine capacity? No, was the answer from Dr. G-J.

-interesting that the staff used the Meng Analysis for building conditions for this process but insist on doing a new one for the upcoming BTA levy in Feb. 2010. We are paying for a new analysis at a fairly high cost even though their 2006 report is being used here.

-there were repeated comments by staff that displaced students could be assigned to certain schools and then the named schools were alternatives. There are no mandatory assignments to alternative schools so that statement is puzzling.

-A LOT of movement of Special Ed which is especially hard on this group of students.

-The question was asked why not move Center School to co-house with RBHS? We are paying around $100,000 a year to lease it at Seattle Center (about $80,000 to lease plus utilities/cleaning). Dr. G-J said we probably couldn't break our lease but I doubt the City would hold us to it. That is a better pairing than with Summit and would allow growth for both programs. Why, if we are in such financial straits, are we paying to lease space?

-Staff named the "worst" buildings in the district but guess what? When the BEX capital building list came out a couple of years back, none of them were on that list. Why? Because staff wants to do what they want to do and they knew that the Horace Mann building AND the Genesee buildings were the worst in the district but they didn't want to rebuild them. Again, cherry-picking the data for their own purposes and not for the good of the people in those buildings.

-70% of Summit's population is from the north end and they move them to the far south end and then say, "Oh, the population changes every year." Not that much, it doesn't. This move of Summit to RBHS is flawed and will not help either program live on. Plus the transportation costs of busing all those north end students who supposedly will follow to RBHS will be HUGE. I thought we were trying to save money here.

-Question: Was AS#1 helped by an education director when it was apparent that it was not succeeding academically? Answer: Carla Santorno, Chief Academic Officer, no, we could have given it more support to do better.

-Dr. G-J seemed to imply that RBHS and Cleveland couldn't be co-house because of the gang issue (even though that would make sense to close the excess high school capacity).

-Cooper would be a better choice for Pathfinder as its population is decreasing (and I wonder why staff didn't put its first choice number down). Last time around at closures, staff recommended putting Pathfinder at Cooper but somehow now, that doesn't work.


The Board needs to continue to ask hard questions and not go along to get along. They need to not accept staff numbers on face value. They need to protect populations. We have other buildings to move some of these populations into and staff's picks can't be the end of the discussion.

Tuesday, November 25, 2008

Discussing the Recommendations

I've moved the recommendations out from my earlier live blogging effort to keep this post shorter and easier to get to the comments section.

Also, the earlier district FAQ doc isn't working on their website at the link below right now, so I've uploaded it to my Google site here so you can view it, save it and send it to others.
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8:00 pm

Recommendations are now on district website at: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/capacity/faq.pdf.

Also check out the Capacity page for more information over the coming weeks as the district posts it.

Summary below:

BUILDING CLOSURES
Genesee Hill
Lowell
Mann
TT Minor
Pinehurst
Van Asselt
Old Hay (may be temporary depending upon enrollment)

RELOCATED PROGRAMS
Lowell APP to Hawthorne and Thurgood Marshall
NOVA to Meany
Pathfinder K-8 to Arbor Heights
SBOC to Meany
Summit K-12 to Rainier Beach
Thornton Creek (AE#2 to Jane Addams building and becomes a K-8)
TT Minor K-3 Montessori to Leschi
Thurgood Marshall EBOC to Bailey Gatzert
Van Asselt to AAA


NEW PROGRAMS
New K-5 at Decatur
Thornton Creek (AE#2) K-5 expands to K-8

DISCONTINUED PROGRAMS
African-American Academy
AS#1
Arbor Heights
Meany
TT Minor


*****

I'd recommend watching the West Seattle Blog for live blogging updates.

Closures & Consolidations - LIVE from the Stanford Center

7:40 pm

3 tired children, a very hot room, and a very slow-paced meeting led to my decision to leave and go home.

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7:05 pm --- the recommendations....finally but Board members asking questions after each section so this could drag on for a while

- Six buildings permanent closure
- One building temporary closure
- Nine programs recommended for relocation
- Two new programs
- Five programs discontinued

Queen Anne/Magnolia
- Relocate SBOC from Old Hay to Meany and co-locate with Nova High School
- Meany Middle school students assigned elsewhere
- Involves change in SBOC model, students allowed to stay in school longer
- Carr asking question about whether or not honoring earlier promises to SBOC community
- Martin-Morris asking how Meany students will be re-assigned; Tracy says it's complicated and provides different scenarios based on where the student currently lives; described some of the transportation implications as well. Looked at reassignments where children would be able to access school buses.
- Bass concerned about what happens to Meany students as well. Concern about "cohesion" and "displacement" of students.


*********

7:03 pm

Closure guidelines

1) Do programs need to move to other areas of the district to improve equity/access? Or be added? How will closures affect student learning and district financial health?

2) Evaluating buildings based on 5 guidelines: a) balancing capacity across district; b) building condition based on Meng study (buildings with condition below 79 were candidates for closure; above 79 candidates for re-purposing); c) cost per pupil; d) other schools close-by serving same grade levels; e) academic performance

*****

7:01 pm

Closure timeline presented (nothing new here). Make sure to check the website for all details and look at when you need to call/e-mail to sign up to speak at the Board meetings and site hearings at schools scheduled for closure.

******

6:58 pm

Demographics presentation by Tracy Libros. This year had an increase in enrollment, driven entirely by elementary enrollment. Total enrollment had been dropping for a decade. Had the largest Kindergarten class this year in a decade.

Grades 6-8 have been dropping as smaller cohorts move through. But we expect to see that climb back up again as larger enrollment numbers in elementary move up.

High school is the area with the largest drop in enrollment numbers. Expect that continue until to 2012.

By area of the city, expecting increases in elementary enrollment in every cluster except Southeast and Central.

*****

6:55 pm





I get the feeling that the Board has been told to ask questions to drag this section out until 7 pm. This feels endless.


*****

6:40 pm

Holly talking about "definitions."

Planning capacity: teaching stations X average class size; 25% set aside

Average class size used: 23-K to 3; 25-4 to 5; 30-9 to 12

Results in macro-level average capacities across the system

Functional capacity

- Planning capacity compared against the actual use of the building

- Results in building-specific capacity numbers


Bell has concerns with some of this....too subjective. "After reading the analysis, a number of our schools are under planning capacity, but 30% are actually over...." due to efficient use of buildings and high demand. "Almost any school will fill space available."

Holly talking about how it involves "walking the building, looking at what's there...also looking at what could be there."

Goodloe-Johnson said changed policy this year. Principals no longer allowed to set their own lower desired capacity. Final decision about capacity now rests with district.

*****

6:35 pm

Don Kennedy showing "savings" for closing buildings, different for elementary school, K-8, middle school and high school.

Martin-Morris asking question about potential costs for closing school buildings, wanting clarification about which budget year those costs would be applied to.

Bell asking for analysis of capital costs that can be avoided through closure and consolidation process. Also wants to make sure one-time costs of closures do not impact this year's operating budget. Kennedy says costs will be covered by using budget reserve. Will present details to Board at December 17th meeting.


*****

6:30 pm

Don Kennedy talking about fiscal challenges and potential solutions.

Expected expenditures increased, created $24 million shortfall for FY2010.

Review of Weighted Staffing Standards model "Cost savings through identifying and prioritizing the most critical services for student achievement."

Potential elimination of I-728 funds from state. Final state budget revealed end of December.

****

At 7 pm the district will post the proposal on the web site and send out an e-mail to media.

This is the page to watch: https://www.seattleschools.org/area/capacity/index.dxml

I wonder if they are going drag this out and not make the announcement until then...

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6:20 pm

Just saw another blog author --- Johnny Calcagno.

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Southeast Education Progress Report - Aki, Kurose, Rainier Beach and Cleveland principals presenting

Cleveland principal makes interesting reference to doing the things that "90/90/90" schools do. Will do research and post more about that later. Basically, these are schools with mostly low-income and children of color achieving beyond expectations. Discussing staff development and other efforts as well.

Talking about increase in number of honors and AP classes being offered. Daily "learning walks," changing in culture/climate, home visits, back-to-school nights, and much more.

****

6:05 pm

Turned over meeting to Dr. Goodloe-Johnson.

"Preliminary recommendations...come directly out of our vision...and work for Excellence for All...$24 million known budget shortfall for next year, and that number may grow...We can expect a 7% additional cut from the state...an additional $21 million...Sister districts losing money this fiscal year...important for framing the acceleration and why we are making the decisions that we do to reduce the overcapacity that we have."

"If we don't make these decisions...the flip side would be very deep cuts to programs...building closure is only one of many strategies...Looking at making central office cuts...reviewing weighted staffing standards...efficiency audit...balancing budget and creating a stronger district for our families." "The team considered various options for every single school...kept returning to "How does this recommendation strengthen schools for every single family..."

Emphasizing vision

Actions to reach vision
- Math and Science
- Assessments
- Data systems
- Hiring process (timely, efficient and attracts highest caliber talent) and
- Managing capacity and student assignment system (tonight's focus)

Outlining the "problem" (restating issues that have already been presented in the past)

****

6:02 pm

The meeting room at the Stanford Center is now full and overflowing. Cheryl Chow has just opened the meeting. Calling it a School Board "work session." Dialogue between Directors and Staff. (understood: not audience)

*****
5:45 pm

The room is still quite empty within only 15 minutes to go before the "workshop" starts. There are almost as many media folk as parents.

Mel, Charlie, Chris Jackins, Denise Gonzalez-Walker, and other long-term parent education advocates are here.

****

School Closure/Consolidations Rumors & News

What are now just school closure and consolidation rumors will become news by 6 pm.

Affected school principals are talking to their staff now. The "workshop" for the public with the Board and District is at 6 pm tonight at the Stanford Center. (I hope to attend and "live blog" the event.) And then a statement will be released to the media and all district employees at 7 pm.

I have mixed feelings about spreading rumors that are already out there, but I decided to go ahead and post here what is already posted on the The Stranger's blog (The Slog) to generate discussion and hopefully collect more information from anyone out there who knows.

********

From The Slog:

City School Closure Rumor of the Day
Posted by Jonah Spangenthal-Lee on Tue, Nov 25 at 12:08 PM

The Seattle School District will announce its preliminary closure plan at a school board meeting tonight (6 pm at district headquarters) and there appear to be a few big surprises on the agenda:

According to sources in the district—who asked not to be named—the district will recommend closing TT Minor Elementary, Alternative School # 1, the African American Academy and Lowell Elementary, which currently houses the district's Advanced Placement Program.

The district will also apparently move Thornton Creek Elementary to the Jane Adams building—which currently houses the Summit K-12 program—and move Summit's program to Rainier Beach.

Seattle Public Schools spokesman David Tucker would not confirm any of these changes before tonight's board meeting, but staff at several schools have already been told about the district's plan.

Where's the News?

Here's what the PI had in today's edition about the closures. The district also ran (probably because it is a legal requirement) a notice about the closure meeting (good time to run it, the day of the meeting) and the "workshops". The Times had not one word about the meeting or the announcements tonight. I expect that from the television stations but I would think the Times would do better.

Is this event at the district website on either the events or district calendar pages? Nope. Just on the Board's calendar page. On the News and Calendars page, you'd have to hunt for it to find it.

Almost as if no one wants to discuss this or say that it is really happening and yet a lot of people are going into their Thanksgiving with stress and sadness and uncertainty.

Monday, November 24, 2008

So Where Else Can We Save Money (Other than Closures)?

So over at Denise Gonzalez-Walker's education blog at the PI, she talks about "leadership by example" and comes up with so good (and startling examples) of where the district spends its money. From her blog:

"At the same time (July), the board voiced optimism over the "creation of several new positions, such as a math manager and a director of school improvement." Yep, more executive-level staff.

Goodloe-Johnson isn't the only one enjoying generous salary increases. When Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno came on board in April 2006, her salary was $142,653, according to a Seattle Times article. A little over a year later, the Times lists her salary as $150,821--over a 5% increase. More recently, OSPI data accessed via the Seattle Times searchable database
shows Santorno's 2007-08 salary at $183,408--over a 20% increase since being hired on in 2006."

Over a 20% increase since 2006? Wow.

Look, all of us know that education is not easy. We DO have a large, urban district that is both complex and complicated and we need to keep good people. But, we are in hard times. This district has had money problems for years so it's not like we didn't know it in 2006.

There should be a hiring freeze - across the board in every department - and salary freeze (or only COLAs).

What I would like to see is a budget forecast - where we are, where we are going and how to get there. If, as the Times suggests, I-728 money should be taken away, what does that mean and how will it affect the classroom? BEX projects should be scaled back and be more modest (that means no Smart Boards, for example, which are costly to buy and costly to keep and most teachers don't even use them well).

Ripples From Closures Already Starting

From the district website:

"A School Board vote on the final recommendation for capacity management and building closure is planned for January 29. The enrollment calendar for this year has been adjusted to ensure that families have time to consider options and to prepare registration and application materials prior to the rescheduled Open Enrollment period. Seattle Public Schools welcomes new and returning families for 2009/10. Please call on us to answer any questions you may have about the enrollment process or timeline. Key dates are: • Open Enrollment for 2009-10 has been rescheduled. Originally in February, Open Enrollment is now March 2 -31, 2009

The School Fair has been cancelled. Originally scheduled for January 10

Information on School Tours and Open Houses will be posted at www.seattleschools.org by December 5.

Assignment letters will go out by the end of May."

I knew that the assignments would be late but I thought early/mid May. End of May is very late. As well, I think I can understand why they canceled the School Fair but now parents have to do the tours if they want information. The district is being fairly cold about the closure process anyway so why not have the Fair without the schools on the closure list (the final list is to be released Jan. 7th).

Where is the conversation?

On November 5, the Seattle School Board wrote a guest column in the Seattle Times about the need to close schools. In this announcement, the Board wrote:

We need the public to be engaged in this conversation and we understand that many of these discussions will focus on the fate of individual schools. As members of the School Board, we pledge to continue to act in the best interest of the entire district, and make our decisions based on what will be most effective in serving students across the city.

We hope Seattle students and families join us in a dialogue to bring "Excellence for All" to life. We believe our success as a community and the success of our children hinges upon our coming together. We must do whatever it takes to make our students successful.


They make reference to a "conversation" that they need the public to engage in, and state their hope that students and families will join them (the Board) in a dialogue.

When and where is this conversation, and when and where is this dialogue? When has this Board engaged in ANY conversation or dialogue? I cannot recall even a single instance. Yes, individual Board members have talked with people, but none of them speak for the Board. And what are people supposed to do? Arrange seven separate meetings?

I have not seen the Board create any conversation or dialogue at all. The Board's column directs folks to a web page, but there are no references anywhere on the web page to any discussion opportunities since the column was published.

Let's note that public testimony is NOT a conversation or a dialogue because they don't respond. Likewise, public hearings are NOT conversation or dialogue. In their column they promise conversation and dialogue and nothing less will suffice.

Sunday, November 23, 2008

What's in a name?

AS#1 (Alternative School #1) is considering changing its name as a way to reposition itself within the Seattle Public Schools community. Many families of young students (K-3) feel like a new name would help breathe new energy into the school. It would allow us to distance ourselves from the inaccurate reputation that we are a "hippy" school that lets the children run wild or that we don't care about education. These families have chosen AS#1 despite the threat of closure and misrepresentation by the enrollment centers because it offers a dynamic learning environment that values each individual child in a small school environment

Others argue that the name AS#1 is historic - we are the first Alternative School in Seattle and we set off the chain of events that helped bring choice to Seattle schools - and the name should be preserved so the work we have done for the past 35 years is not lost. Many families have left over disagreements with the more structured and less democratic direction the new principal has taken the school. As a result of this loss of veteran families, burn out by families exhausted by the all-consuming task of fighting off multiple closure attempts, the loss of our website last year, and the retirement of many founding faculty, there is a disconnection between our current program and our history

The connotations of the word Alternative have changed since the early 1970's when AS#1 was founded. Back then it meant choice, a different way, out of the box thinking, a progressive option. Now, the word is associated with delinquent children, a place of last resort, and sub-par education. 

Do you think its possible to bring back the luster to the word Alternative, or would AS#1 be better off finding a new name to represent its commitment to an education that is child-centered, experiential, authentic, equitable, and democratic?

E-mail From Dr. GJ

I received this on Friday:

Dear Seattle Public Schools staff members:

I want to ensure that you have easy access to information about the capacity management and building closure process as well as answers to any questions and concerns you may have. This email provides updates and links to key information.

On October 29, the School Board unanimously voted to accelerate the capacity management process, which is one of the five key focus areas for this year as we implement Excellence for All, our Strategic Plan. As we balance capacity in each area of the city, we are considering how to ensure that we provide equitable access to quality programs for all students. On Monday, November 3, the Seattle Times published an opinion editorial by the School Board that sets out the context for capacity management and building closures.

At the School Board meeting on November 12, we discussed the guidelines and foundational questions that will be applied as buildings are considered for closure. Guidelines include building condition, lot size, cost per pupil, proximity and academic performance. Foundational questions focus on opportunities to strengthen programs and increase equity of access to programs across the district.

I will present the preliminary recommendations on capacity management on November 25, and the School Board will vote on the final recommendation on January 29. A detailed timeline is available at our Capacity Management Web site, where you can also read updated FAQs and get more information about upcoming community workshops and public hearings. On November 25, the preliminary recommendations will be presented to the School Board at a workshop beginning at 6:00 p.m. at the Stanford Center. Staff at buildings and programs included in the proposal will receive information from their Principal on Tuesday afternoon. All staff will receive an email from me on Tuesday evening with the details of the proposal.

Building closures and program changes are among the most difficult decisions school systems face. The process, as well as the final outcome, can be very challenging for students, staff and families. I know that staff and families at the buildings identified for closure or program changes will have many questions about next steps and how each individual in the school community will be affected. We will provide as much information as possible with the preliminary recommendation. Our capacity management team, which includes the perspective of a staff member who was principal at a building when it closed in 2006, is planning carefully to be able to provide the maximum support possible to our students, staff and families.

Thank you for supporting each other and our school communities. I appreciate your continued emphasis on learning and teaching throughout this process.

Best wishes,

Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D.

Superintendent

Latest Budget Missive

Hello

I received this on Friday:

Dear Seattle Public Schools Staff Members,

Earlier today I held my first brown bag lunch discussion on next year’s budget. The discussion, which occurred in the TV Studio at the JSCEE Center, was a live internet broadcast that allowed a studio audience and me to interact through a question and answer session on the budget. We also had several people join the conversation via teleconferencing. The feedback I received after the session was that people liked the opportunity to express their concerns about the budget and to get immediate answers to their questions.

Two weeks ago, after I announced that I would hold the brown bag lunches, I received feedback from some of our teachers that the times of the studio brown bags would not fit their work schedules. I am therefore modifying the schedule for the next two sessions as follows:

· Tuesday, December 2, from 2:30 to 3:30

· Wednesday December 17, from 3:30 to 4:30

I hope that this change will allow teachers to participate. I will plan additional sessions for January following the winter break.

My most recent meeting with the Board’s Finance Committee was yesterday. I recommended to the committee that we change the budget development calendar to allow more time for us to work together to make recommendations for balancing the budget. The Finance Committee agreed to change the dates for Board presentations as follows:

· Preliminary recommendations presented on January 14

· Final recommendations presented on February 4.

These changes were made because, (1) the Board will not vote on school closures until January 29, and these decisions will impact how we develop the budget, and (2) there is currently too much uncertainty about how the state’s budget shortfall of $5 billion will impact funding we rely on from the state. The governor’s proposed budget should be released just before winter break, and our recommendations will be informed by information in that budget proposal to the legislature.

The Information Technology department has created an email exclusively for you to send in questions regarding the budget and our budget development process. I will either respond to these questions during future streamed budget sessions or via email. The email address is: Don'sBudgetTalks@seattleschools.org

Thanks to all who participated in today’s session. Your input was helpful today and will continue to be an important part of developing a budget that will help us realize our goals of providing every student with an excellent education.

Sincerely,

Don

The Calm Before the Storm Or Not?

The district is going to close some schools and the number is somewhere between 3-9.

The last time this happened there was A LOT of talk and articles and discussion. Is there anything about the announcement of the preliminary list in either the Times or the PI today either as an article or editorial or op-ed? Nope. The last "education" article was about a couple of cheerleaders who took nude pictures of themselves, sent them out to someone(s) electronically and big surprise! the pictures got out to the entire school. Not much on education there.

Maybe they might discuss it on KUOW this week but their schedule isn't listed yet. Crosscuts, ditto, nothing (and they even have a former School Board member, Dick Lily, who writes for them).

The only place talking about it - true to form - is the great West Seattle blog which has information listed that we don't even have here (and I'll put it below). Those people, wisely, know that this process needs to be tracked because it is likely that most (or all) of the schools closed will be in the SW or SE.

What the West Seattle Blog reports is that:

1) the Board will be announcing the preliminary list at the Board workshop on Capacity issues on Tuesday at 6 p.m. It seems odd that this information is not part of the title of the workshop on the Board's calendar page. If you saw the name of this workshop you would assume it is about capacity issues in the NE/NW and not closures.

2) there will be two "workshops" about closures. Here is the info on these from the district:

The purpose of the community workshops is to consult with the public, present information and listen to concerns and ideas. A number of recent studies have urged Seattle Public Schools to balance its capacity, both in terms of overall excess capacity as well as geographic location. Interpreters will be present at the workshops in the following languages: Amharic, Cambodian, Chinese, Oromo, Somali, Spanish, Tagalog, Tigrigna and Vietnamese.

Dates, Times and Locations:

Thursday, December 4th, 6:30 p.m. - 8:30 p.m.
John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, Auditorium
2445 – 3rd Avenue South, Seattle, Washington

Saturday, December 6th, 9:30 – 11:30 AM
Filipino Community Center, Main Ballroom
5740 Martin Luther King Way, Seattle, Washington

Ideas? About what? The Board has decided the criteria some of which no school could defend against namely, building condition and geography.

Actually, though, because these workshops are not the public hearings (those come later) that are required for each school, anyone can show up and pretty much say or ask anything. That works out well for me (note to the Board: yes, I'll be there...at both the workshops asking you some hard questions).

Again, not a peep from the district about staff reductions at the headquarters (even though that was on the Auditor's list) .

So maybe the newspapers and radio and others are just waiting for the "news" of who is on the list instead of maybe doing the journalistic thing of investigating how and why we got to this place. But I guess it's just easier to stick a microphone in the face of someone whose school is on the list and say, "How do you feel?" Why couldn't they do a story on the criteria which is already known? Why couldn't they point out that the district and Board are not doing (or even mentioning) all of the points in the Auditor's report about SPS?

Maybe we're, as parents and the general public, are so overwhelmed by the terrible daily news of our economy coupled with that end of the year rush of holidays and events that we don't have time to absorb and understand and contemplate what is happening or how it is happening. It works out well for the Board and staff to have a short timeframe in an extraordinary time during a busy holiday season. But it would be nice to see some news outlet doing something other than the obvious.

Update: this from Harium Martin-Morris' Director blog:

At the November 25th workshop, here's some information that will be released:

  • What type of school the Jane Addams building will be
  • Where the Summit program will be placed
  • Which buildings will be closed
  • Where, if any relocations will be.
And, keep in mind, there will be delays for ALL in terms of learning of assignments to schools for the school year 2009-2010 because of the closures. Meaning, instead of the end of March or early April, you are not likely to know what school your child is assigned to (if you are enrolling your child in a new school), until mid-May.

Saturday, November 22, 2008

Grading Policy Reform

The High School Steering Committee has been meeting for over a year. One sub-committee of the Steering Committee has been discussing changes to the District's grading policy.

The High School Steering Committee is a staff committee. There is no one on the committee who does not work for the school district.

The School-Family Partnership Plan (on page 15) calls for the Board to: "Develop policies and procedures that require parent and family involvement in district decision-making and advisory committees." But the Board hasn't taken the first step towards enacting this policy, so there was no student family representation on this committee.

This committee is about to make a number of recommendations to the Board. These include a shift to an eleven point grade point average system and rules and procedures for awarding high school credit for classes taken in middle school, among other things. The Committee is supposed to be doing their community engagement on the proposals now, but that "community engagement" consists exclusively of asking high school principals what they think of the proposals. The recommendations are scheduled to come before the Board in January or February.

Friday, November 21, 2008

An Interesting Speech

Hello

I subscribe to the Public Education Newsblast and here is an article I received today:

In her first speech since being elected president of the American Federation of Teachers, Randi Weingarten signaled her openness to a number of school reform ideas that have been unpopular with teacher unions. Speaking at the National Press Club, Weingarten stated: "With the exception of vouchers, which siphon scarce resources from public schools, no issue should be off the table, provided it is good for children and fair to teachers." Weingarten urged that all stakeholders in public education -- parents, teachers, school administrators, business leaders, and elected officials -- take responsibility for public education and work to find common ground on divisive issues like differentiated pay, tenure, and teacher assignment. She also took exception to what she considers the widespread scapegoating of teachers and teacher unions for low student achievement, and called the No Child Left Behind Act "a stand-in for real discussions at the state and national levels about a robust education policy that prepares our children for the 21st century."

Here is the link:

http://www.google.com/hostednews/ap/article/ALeqM5jaw70rM4p8LIMz4KilYt-ZyWjLHQD94H0ENG3

More about Science at Summit K-12

A question was posed, in response to my last post, and I took it to one of the science teachers at Summit K-12 to make sure my answer is accurate.

She says: "You are correct that we are using district curriculum that is supplemented by each individual teacher. I was told by the district to teach the subject matter I am teaching this year, and I do have kits from which to draw for the teaching of the units. I am also supplementing instruction with other readings, field trips, and hands-on activities of my own creation."

I also know that the elementary teachers use the science kits provided by the district, though am currently uncertain as to if they have a district-assigned curriculum like the upper school does. When I get that information, I'll update here.

Happy Friday, all!

Updated about 2:45pm, 11/21
"Elementary also uses district curriculum with kits."

Thursday, November 20, 2008

What Works? Views From the NY Times

The NY Times this week had several articles that overlapped in their take on education. There seem to be a couple of different issues.

One article is a column by Nicholas D. Kristof, "Obama and the Our Schools". He first takes issue with education coming in 5th on Obama To Do list. (I'm thrilled it's even there at all.) He then had this startling piece of news:

"The United States is the only country in the industrialized world where children are less likely to graduate from high school than their parents were, according to a new study by the Education Trust, an advocacy group based in Washington."

Then he goes for his premise:

"The most effective anti-poverty program we could devise for the long run would have less to do with income redistribution than with ensuring that poor kids get a first-rate education, from preschool on. One recent study found that if American students did as well as those in several Asian countries in math and science, our economy would grow 20 percent faster."

And, of course, he's right. Invest in education and your country, your society reaps the benefits ten-fold. From better workers to better citizens to more informed parenting and on, a country gets back what it puts in.

He discusses a book he read (anybody read this one yet?):

"One of the most important books of the year is “The Race Between Education and Technology,” by two Harvard economists, Claudia Goldin and Lawrence Katz. They argue that the distinguishing feature of America for most of our history has been our global lead in education."

He details how the U.S. led in education goals until about the 1970s. The problem isn't that we don't have any good schools but that we have too many bad schools that leave kids behind.

Solutions?

"A study by the Hamilton Project, a public policy group at the Brookings Institution, outlines several steps to boost weak schools: end rigid requirements for teacher certification that impede hiring, make tenure more difficult to get so that ineffective teachers can be weeded out after three years on the job and award hefty bonuses to good teachers willing to teach in low-income areas. If we want outstanding, inspiring teachers in difficult classrooms, we’re going to have to pay much more — and it would be a bargain."

I agree with the idea of making tenure more difficult to get rid of teachers who aren't doing well early on (or conversely, get them help early on so that can succeed). Which leads me to the next article, "A Superintendent Takes on Tenure, Stirring a Fight" about Michelle Rhee, the take-no-prisoners superintendent of Washington, D.C. From the article,

"Ms. Rhee has proposed spectacular raises of as much as $40,000, financed by private foundations, for teachers willing to give up tenure. Policy makers and educators nationwide are watching to see what happens to Ms. Rhee’s bold proposal. The 4,000-member Washington Teachers’ Union has divided over whether to embrace it, with many union members calling tenure a crucial protection against arbitrary firing."

This money would come from foundations who she says have already lined up behind her.

Her plan?

"Ms. Rhee has not proposed abolishing tenure outright. Under her proposal, each teacher would choose between two compensation plans, one called green and the other red. Pay for teachers in the green plan would rise spectacularly, nearly doubling by 2010. But they would need to give up tenure for a year, after which they would need a principal’s recommendation or face dismissal. Teachers who choose the red plan would also get big pay increases but would lose seniority rights that allow them to bump more-junior teachers if their school closes or undergoes an overhaul. If they were not hired by another school, their only options would be early retirement, a buyout or eventual dismissal."

On the other side?

“Fire all incompetent teachers — that makes a good sound bite,” said George Parker, the president of the Washington Teachers’ Union. “But remember that not only teachers are to blame for the problems in this district.”

“Without tenure,” Dr. Mirel said, “teachers can still face arbitrary firing because of religious views, or simply because of the highly politicized nature of American society.”

Okay, so looking at these articles we see that teachers are at the crux of what we believe is important in learning. If we get rid of tenure and teachers are trying to get bonuses (not only from going to teach in challenging schools but also by getting results), will teachers teach to the test? Will they fear losing their jobs because of sexual orientation or religion or just because a parent complains about a grade? Maybe tenure is too far and no tenure isn't enough to make teaching a "safe" job.

But teachers are not the only thing and we can't just look at them as the whole package. There's curriculum, there's principals and most of all, there are parents.

Teachers? What is going to work? Parents, what do you think?

Wednesday, November 19, 2008

From The State PTSA

I received this e-mail today from the state PTSA.

********

As you know Basic Education Funding continues to be the #1 Priority for the State PTA, Seattle Public Schools and most of our local units. State budgets that were established in the 1970’s don’t work in today economic and technological world, our kids aren’t getting enough from their public school education.

The Seattle PTA in conjunction with the League of Education Voters and CPPS, has scheduled a conversation with Rep. Ross Hunter who is on the Basic Education Finance Task Force. The Task Force is working on their final recommendations to be presented in mid- December. Rep. Hunter will present the current proposal and be available for questions

Where: John Stanford Center Auditorium, 2445 3d Ave S (at Lander)

We are asking that every school send at least one representation to know more about changes that will affect our schools and opportunities that lie ahead. Also, please spread the work and announce this event at your school. You can send out the flyer (attached) or use blurb below via school communications to let parents know about this event.

Childcare will be available but please request it so we can plan ahead. To reserve childcare, contact: Heidi.Bennett@seatttlecouncilptsa.org.

Closure Guidelines

The Superintendent has announced that district staff will use five guidelines when making school closure recommendations:

Geographic Need - do we need seats in this area?

Building Condition - what does it cost to maintain this building?

Cost per Pupil - what are non-instructional costs (including admin) on a per-student basis?

Proximity - are there other schools nearby that serve the same grades?

Academic Performance - has the school made AYP?

How would your child's school fair by these guidelines? I can think of good schools that might not look so good by these measures - Montlake and NOVA, for example. Meany would be at risk because all of the Central Region middle school students could fit easily into Washington if APP were not there - and there are rumors of changes in APP.

How does Rainier Beach or the AAA measure up if judged by these criteria? What about Thurgood Marshall or the various programs at Wilson-Pacific? What elementary in West Seattle would shake to the bottom on this scale?

Think of how Leschi is saved by the condition of its building and how building condition makes Pathfinder a candidate for relocation. Cost of maintenance counts twice, once in building condition and again in cost per pupil, so it is clearly the focus of the effort.

Do these guidelines give you any hint of what's to come? And, after the recommendations are announced on the 25th, consider how well they match these guidelines.

Math curriculum concerns

As we all know, the keystone of the strategic plan, "Excellence for All", is to align the math and science curricula across all schools. We are assured that this doesn't mean that every third grade teacher gives the same lesson on the same day, but it does mean that they all teach the same body of knowledge and skills to their students during the year.

As we all know, within the last couple years Seattle Public Schools adopted new math curricula for K-5 and 6-8.

As the Board considers the adoption of a new textbook for high school math, the head of the Math Department told the Board that the curriculum is set by the state through their standards and GLEs and that the teachers pick and choose elements from the textbooks to support that curriculum, but that the textbooks dictate neither the curriculum nor the lessons. She was really strong about this. She assured the Board that "reform" style textbooks could be used to support traditional style teaching and vice versa. Board Director Martin-Morris questioned her on it and she made the statement repeatedly - the state sets the curriculum, the teacher sets the lesson, the textbook is just supporting material and dictates neither the content of the class nor the style of teaching.

As we all know, the state of Washington adopted new state standards and grade level expectations for math for grades K-8 about a year ago and new standards and grade level expectations for high school earlier this year.

Seattle Public Schools has not altered their K-8 math curricula to reflect changes in the State Standards and GLEs. There is no movement on the Board or in the Math Department on this work. It is regarded, somehow, as unnecessary.

So as the K-8 math programs align their curricula, what are they aligning to? Not the State standards and GLEs. Not any Board adopted curriculum. The answer appears to be that schools are aligning to a "fidelity of implementation" based on the textbooks. In other words, the textbooks dictate both the curriculum (not the state or the Board) and the lesson (not the teacher), and the alignment DOES in fact mean that every third grade teacher delivers the same lesson on the same day.

Does anyone else find this confusing and contradictory? Does anyone else find this troubling? Can anyone provide some clarity?

Tuesday, November 18, 2008

Hands on Science at Summit K-12

Hi, all -

Thanks to Beth for letting me post on here!

For my first post, I thought I'd share with you one of the really cool programs that Summit K-12 has. The upper school has a science field trip to Maui, and their trip this year just started. If you would like to find out what sorts of things they're doing, visit their blog at http://summitmauitrip08.wordpress.com/. I am eagerly awaiting their first update, myself.

Cheers,
Sabia

Monday, November 17, 2008

KOMO Investigation Into Missing District Property

KOMO-TV decided to do an investigation into missing assets at the largest districts in the Puget Sound area. They found the worst problems in Tacoma but here's what they found in Seattle:

"In Seattle we found more uncertainty and more guesswork. Among an inventory of 40,180 assets, 1,908 of them are gone.

District spokesman David Tucker said some computers, printers, scanners - even big items like universal weight sets - haven't been seen in more than three years.

But it doesn't stop there. Inventory sheets put question marks around another 2,225 'unresolved' assets. School administrators suspect they're in some school, somewhere, but they can't tell us which one. On this long list of unresolved items: a Kubota Tractor, three John Deere utility vehicles, and a Steinway grand piano.

After the Problem Solvers started asking questions, the district tracked down those five items. They also located most of the missing universal weight sets. But whether the items are 'missing' or 'unresolved,' the fact is Seattle School District officials still can't lay their hands more than 4,000 pieces of equipment.

"There are things that we certainly need to improve upon and we certainly acknowledge that," Tucker said. "

Sure, it's a big district and things get moved around. But that's a lot of stuff. A lot of people don't even read a newspaper. But many people watch tv; it's this kind of thing that's going to make it harder to pass a BTA levy.

BTA Levy Nominations Invited

The district is asking the community to make BTA Levy nominations by December 1st. (see below) My question is, what point is nominating a building for renovations if the district is about to close it due to building condition?

Does the overlapping schedule, logistics and cascading effects of assignment plan, closure and consolidation, and BTA Levy decisions make anyone else's head hurt?

*********
Community invited to nominate projects for next Capital Levy scheduled for public vote in February 2010

Community Input due by December 1, 2008 for BTA III, Buildings, Technology and Academics III

Seattle Public Schools invites staff, families and community members to provide input as the District plans for the next capital levy, tentatively scheduled for a public vote in February 2010.

Staff and community members are encouraged to nominate (suggest) projects for consideration as the capital program package is developed.

The nomination form, together with background materials and a presentation shared at a series of community meetings held in October, is available on the capital levy planning Web site.

The School Board at its October 15 meeting approved a contract with MENG Analysis for consulting services, which includes providing the District with a prioritized list of potential projects along with cost estimates.

Seattle Public School students are fortunate to have voter support for capital levies and bonds. Since 1995, the District has placed two levy or bond measures before voters on a three-year cycle. These include an operating levy (which provides approximately 25 percent of the District's operating budget) and a capital measure. The capital measures alternate between large capital projects (Building Excellence) that pay for major or complete school renovations, and Building, Technology, Academics (BTA) measures that pay for a wide range of smaller projects.

More than a third of the 100 buildings in the District's current inventory are over 50 years old.

BTA III 2010 Capital Levy Planning - suggestions due December 1, 2008
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/BTAIII/2010levy.htm

It's important to remember that BTA III will not increase your taxes since it simply replaces the expiring BTA II Levy.

Here is a very high level breakout of the BTA II Levy which expires in 2010 and a link to the website for more detail.

BTA II 2004 Capital Levy - $178 million

BUILDINGS - $95.5 million

I. Roofs $25 million
II. Exterior Renovations $24.6 million
III. ADA/Life Safety Improvements $8.2 million
IV. Mechanical Systems/HVAC/Air Quality $22.1 million
V. Interior Finishes/Floor Coverings $11.5 million
VI. Playgrounds $2.6 million
VII. Furniture $1.5 million

TECHNOLOGY - $42.75 million

I. Classroom Technology $22.18 million
II. Computer System Upgrades $13.32 million
III. Computer Network Upgrades $7.25 million

ACADEMICS - $39.75 million

I. Athletics Improvements $15.4 million
II. Literacy, Arts, and Science Facilities Upgrades $8.55 million
III. High School Improvements $11.5 million
IV. Other $4.3 million

BTA II 2004 Capital Levy - $178 million
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/CapitalLevies/BTAII/BTAII.xml

For comments and questions, please contact Paul Wozniak, Senior facilities Planner, at 206-252-0699 or pawozniak@seattleschools.org.

Two New Summit K-12 Contributors

Two parents responded to my earlier post inviting Summit K-12 and any other parents/staff/community members affected by the upcoming closure and consolidation to become temporary blog posters

Please welcome Sabia and Liss to the blog. Hopefully, we'll see posts from them soon.

Whispers

The APP community has heard, through undisclosed sources, that the District has changes in mind for the program's configuration. There is no word, no hint, other than that whisper of change coming. No one from the District has made any effort to engage the community regarding the problem, let alone the ideas or the plans.

APP has capacity issues. The elementary program, at 500, is bursting Lowell at the seams. There was an abortive attempt two years ago by Raj Manhas to split this program between Lowell and Broadview-Thomson. The high school program, at 400, comprises about 25% of the enrollment at Garfield. There was an abortive attempt three years ago by Raj Manhas to dismantle the program. The middle school program stands at about 425 students and is located at Washington Middle School. Last year, Carla Santorno tried to split this program between Washington and Hamilton, but a board review revealed just how capricious that idea actually was and Ms Santorno, unable to provide data to support her decision, withdrew it.

Let's be very clear. The APP community is not opposed to change. They just want the District to be thoughtful about it so the program's quality and effectiveness will be preserved. Previous false starts at reconfiguration were not thoughtful - not at all. The community has been trying to actively engage the district on reconfiguration for years to no avail - the District staff just won't speak with them.

When the District withdrew their proposal to split middle school APP, they committed to engaging the community on the issue. They have failed to keep that commitment.

Sunday, November 16, 2008

Speak Up; She'll Listen

I have now attended two of the meetings for the new Assignment Plan. I am pretty impressed with how Tracy Libros is making this a low-key discussion-based process. Plan to attend one of these meetings between now and January (some are listed in other threads and the later ones will be listed as we get information) or forever hold your peace. Tracy is giving us all the opportunity to say what we think as parents on many topics.

The meeting I attended on Friday at the Northgate Community Center had 13 parents and 3 staff members. There were many scatter maps available for viewing. It's always interesting to read and analyze where students go to school versus where they live. (The maps are to be available online and I'll link them when they do.) There was a bit of confusion about them because they had maps for alternative schools (but left out Nova). Additionally they had maps for some schools only because they served certain populations or had all-city transportation (JSIS and New School but not Beacon Hill or Center School and, oddly, Kimball).

Tracy put out a few facts before us. For example, grandfathering will make the assignment plan rollout time longer. This means we won't really see true patterns for the new plan until all the siblings of current students make it through their schools (unless they don't enroll because transportation is no longer available which may be the case). She also said that 80% of students live close enough to one or two or even three schools they could walk to. I think it's that kind of knowledge that is hard for the district understand with the high transportation costs they have.

She handed out a working draft of a document called "Seattle Public Schools Academic Services Options for Consideration in a New Student Assignement Plan". It was a chart format detailing issues for consideration for elementary, middle and high school overall, then, for all those grade levels, issues for alternative schools, bilingual services, international schools, K-8 Schools, and Special Ed.

Our group talked a lot about alternative schools. Interestingly, I had thought there would be a lot of pushback from alternative school parents about transportation and choice. But these parents seem to see that the transportation costs are way too high and are already trying to think of ways to make their schools accessible even if transportation is cut back. They also seem to see that it is likely that alternative school choice is likely to be whatever is in your region (despite the fact that ALL alternatives are very different - it's not one size fits all).

There was a bit of tension in trying to get info from Tracy and Tracy trying to get ideas from us. For example, I said I couldn't speak to the best way to figure out how to offer Special Ed. Some of it is lack of knowledge of where the programs are currently located, trends in Special Ed (I think I am hearing that there are more autistic students and more types of autistic students in the system) and if parents would be happier if students were grouped in a region thus allowing better services because of the higher number of students OR do parents want services within their cluster to keep their student closer to home at the cost of maybe less service because of fewer students. Tracy didn't know some of the district side.

She, on the other hand, heard from our group on what we see as problems but she was trying to lead us to find solutions. We weren't much help.

This was also an issue with bilingual programs. Parents don't know how many kids there are to serve (and how many for each language) and how the dual language programs work. I was surprised to learn that all three of the language schools (JSIS, Beacon Hill and Concord) are doing things differently from each other. Concord has real immersion while JSIS and Beacon Hill are much less so. Are these schools for children whose first language isn't English? Should they be?

We also talked about high schools. After thinking about it, I realized that under a new assignment plan (where, for high schools, you enroll where you want but students in that area get are first in line) if we have lottery seats, it's a better opportunity than using the distance tiebreaker. Under the distance tie-breaker, if you live say in West Seattle, you have no chance but with a lottery, you have some chance depending on how many students are in the pool. I did point out that Director De Bell had said to me that they had to decide how many lottery seats there would be but it might be 10+%. I know that many parents in the NE would be mightly put out if 170 seats at Roosevelt were lottery seats. Ten percent is much higher than what I had thought (I had thought maybe 25 seats per school). But I don't really know what the number should be. Anyone?

Also, the change to Metro has not been working well for high schools. I can say from my older son's experience that it was frustrating when the bus was late or didn't come and he was late for school. They have glutted routes (and King County Metro has buses on order but when they will come is unknown) and the cost of bus passes has gone up significantly. So the savings the district expected is not really there plus the issues of students trying to access buses.

I'm favoring moving the district more towards 5-6 areas in order to view this discussion. Something like SW, SE, Central, QA/Magnolia, NW, NE. If we narrow it down, then we can see what is already in each area, what needs to be there, and the challenges for each.

Does anyone have input or even a grand plan about how we start with operational guidelines?

A Positive Place for Kids

Some good news: the Rainier Vista Boys & Girls Club and Rainier Valley Teen Center opened this week. It was profiled in this article in the PI. From the article:

"The steel-and-cement building with large windows has two gymnasiums, several basketball courts, a dental clinic, an audio-and-video recording studio, classrooms, computer centers and an Internet cafe."

It hopes to serve 4,000 kids a year up from 1,000.

Saturday, November 15, 2008

No plan for Aki Kurose, AAA

All schools in Step 5 of sanctions under the No Child Left Behind (NCLB) elements of the federal Elementary and Secondary Education Act (ESEA) are required - by federal law - to either close or reconstitute. All schools in Step 5 this year were in Step 4 last year. Schools in Step 4 are required - by federal law - to develop their plans for either closure or reconstitution in case they enter Step 5. For more detailed information about NCLB sanctions, please see this document from the OSPI web site.

Here's what it says:

Step Four

In this step, school districts are required to undertake "school restructuring." The district has one year to prepare a restructuring plan with an implementation timeline for schools in this step. The plan must be implemented the following year if the school does not make AYP again and enters Step Five.

The restructuring plan needs to include at least one of the following three actions:
• Replace school staff, which may include the school principal, who are relevant to the school's inability to meet standards;
• Enter into a contract with an entity with a demonstrated record of effectiveness, to operate the school; or
• Implement other restructuring activities that are consistent with the principles of restructuring.

The district must provide technical assistance that emphasizes (a) the importance of improving instruction by using strategies grounded in scientifically-based research so that all students achieve proficiency in the core academic subjects of reading and mathematics, and (b) the importance of analyzing and applying data in decision-making. The district must also continue to offer public school choice and supplemental educational services to all eligible students.



In Seattle, two schools were in Step 4 last year and entered Step 5 this year: Aki Kurose Middle School and The African-American Academy. These schools are under federal mandate to either close or reconstitute THIS YEAR. Last year, these schools were under federal mandate to develop plans for their closure or reconstitution. Neither school complied with the law last year, and neither school is complying with the law this year. I asked Seattle Public Schools to provide me with copies of the plans the schools developed last year and was told that their School Transformation Plans, now called Continuous School Improvement Plans, were the plans. These plans are only recently completed. I have read them, and neither of the schools' plans represent any effort towards re-constitution, let alone closure.

Both plans make only a single passing reference to the federal requirement in which they write:

Throughout school year 2008/09, we will be working with our ID and the SI Department to refine and implement a major restructuring plan in accordance with No Child Left Behind (NCLB) requirements.


Other than this one sentence, disconnected from the rest of the plan, there is nothing resembling or referring to any restructuring at all. Nothing. By no measure can these plans be regarded as compliant with the federal law.

So what happens now? Who is responsible for enforcing NCLB? The federal Department of Education? The State Superintendent of Public Instruction? The Board of Directors of Seattle Public Schools? The Superintendent of Seattle Public Schools? Someone is supposed to enforce this law, and they have some work to do because these two schools - and the District - failed/refused to comply with the sanctions put on them last year in Step 4 by not writing restructuring plans and are failing/refusing to comply with the sanctions put on them this year by not closing or restructuring.

This is grimly serious. The District is putting all of their federal funding at jeopardy. Even more of a concern, failure to address failing schools represents a failure to assist the students enrolled in them.