Sunday, January 25, 2009

Updated Info Via West Seattle Blog coverage

Thanks to the West Seattle blog for their coverage of yesterday's public meeting with Director Sundquist. There an important piece of information that needs to be clear because I had stated that I believed they could vote on each school. According to Director Sundquist they will vote for the amendments first (which, if adopted, would obviously change the package vote) and then, vote for the closures in their entirety as outlined in the final recommendations. Thus no school by school vote on Thursday. (It is not clear whether they can't vote school by school or decided not to.)

From the blog:

"But if there are amendments, he noted, “any and all permutations are possible.”

That leaves the door open and now he's the second Director to say this. Either they are trying to look open-minded or there really might be something that they do not agree with in this closure package.

Also from the blog this statement from Director Sundquist:

"(The compressed timeline of the closure process, he reflected, is “particularly tragic” … forced to happen sooner rather than — as originally planned — later, he reiterated, because of the budget crunch; Sundquist lamented that it has to happen before “support” is in place for schools facing challenges that have left them more vulnerable to closure now - “I’m sorry, if i had complete freedom of motion, if i didn’t have the economy crumbling in front of me, if i had the luxury of time, I wouldn’t do it in this order.”)

Can I just say, oh please. Every single freakin' time from the Board and/or staff an excuse as to why they couldn't have a complete process or more community engagement. We are always in a crisis and on a hurry, hurry, hurry schedule. I'm just not buying it for this little amount of savings. Not that there isn't a crumbling economy but sorry, they are not going to realize that much in savings that quickly.

More interesting quotes about APP:

"He repeated something he’s said before, that the program is “politically at risk” because its demographics currently do not match with district demographics in general —
a lower percentage of children of color and students from economically challenged families. But, “I like the program, I’d like to see it stay, I’d like to see it serve more kids.” He believes some APP students would have to be moved out of Lowell eventually no matter what, because it’s “pretty darn full” and if anything at all is done to get a more diverse population of children in to grow the program, there isn’t room there anyway. But he acknowledged, “the district’s been remarkably inarticulate in describing what it’s been trying to do with APP.” He believe the board “is supportive of highly capable education … but it’s coming in the heart of an" economic hurricane.”

Well, I missed this. APP is in danger politically? What does that mean? This is not a feel-good program or an arts program; this is a program for kids with special needs. There is a legal federal designation for this program. (UPDATE: I confused federal law which provides funding for gifted ed grants. The state also provides funding for gifted education although neither is a mandated law to create gifted programs.) They could get sued for trying to end this program. I could care less about what Dr. Goodloe-Johnson or any other educator feels about it philosophically. There will always be on-going debates over teaching, curriculum, methods, etc. But what is the recourse, put everyone in the same classroom and differentiate? Let's see that work. It doesn't and it doesn't especially for this group of kids.

Also, as I said to the Board and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson at the public hearing; if there is any fault in why this program is not more diverse, it comes from leadership. Not the Lowell parents, not the Lowell administration or teachers. Top leadership who do NOT follow-thru and make sure that this program is advertised in every single school during its testing and enrollment period. The bad-mouthing of this program or hiding it from parents by principals is why this program is not more diverse. Dr. Vaughn has bent over backwards to do outreach to minority parents but to no avail. I will not deny the possibility that putting half the population in another school further south might get more minority students. But do I think it will solve anything in a big way? No.

Why is the accountability on this issue?

About marketing as a way to get more students (and money) in the district:

"He said he’s canvassed the philanthropic community in search of marketing dollars but they’re not interested - they prefer to give money to test their theories about educational programming."

On the one hand, this echoes what former Board member, Steve Brown, told me once. He said that many philanthropists are more interested in starting a new school based on "new" educational philosophies than helping existing schools. On the other hand, it's a cop-out. There's NEVER any money even remotely given over to marketing. I know parents in marketing who would help, free of charge, but the Board and the staff never ask the parent community. We are wealthy in this district - with parents who come from a wide variety of backgrounds and would love to help but never get asked. Maybe someone should talk to the Alliance for Education.

Again, thanks to the West Seattle Blog for their tenacity on this subject.

27 comments:

AutismMom said...

Federal mandate for APP? I don't think so. The district provides this at its pleasure. It is definitely not covered under IDEA. What federal statute requires APP or any special "gifted ed"?

AutismMom said...

Well, a quick google, shows very little required by the feds. Evidently, there's one law: Jacob Kravitz Gifted and Talented act. It doesn't protect legal rights of children, it only provides for the establishment of model programs. Here's some information on that.

another mom said...

Autism Mom is correct. There is no Federal mandate for the district to provide "gifted ed." The state offers a carrot in the form of the Highly Capable grant which SPS applies for and receives on an annual basis. It is entirely optional.

WAC 392-170-035; 036 sets the minimum indicia for "giftedness," but allows school districts to design their own programs for said students. SPS uses APP on the grant application, as the program designed for its students. Right now, Spectrum does not meet the minimum criteria to receive the grant. Audits are conducted for compliance with the WAC.

uxolo said...

Since when doesn't Spectrum meet the grant requirements?

Danny K said...

This just makes it even clearer that unnamed people in the system are gunning for APP. It's never been clear to me why, but it makes me mad.

I agree, AutismMom, there's no mandate -- in fact I read recently in the Washington Post ( a good source for education stories) that the Fairfax, VA school district had gotten rid of the "gifted and talented" classification entirely.

jason said...

On another post, a writer commented that Michael DeBell told them yesterday that the school district CANNOT choose principals for affected schools. If this is so, why are both APP sites promised to have a principal who is knowledgeable of gifted education? I imagine this is so the district can say "this won't be Madrona II." Well, now we hear that the district can't control the principal and we could be on our way to repeating the Madrona co-housing mess.

From what I have been told, there is actually a WA State law governing exactly how principals can be moved from one school to another.

jason said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

My error; I certainly confused the state law with the federal law (but I didn't say it was covered under the IDEA). I did confuse Javits funding with state funding. (It's Jacob Javits, not Kravitz.) However there is some federal law that would include gifted youth:

"For certain types of gifted youth, there are protections under federal law. The Office for Civil Rights in the United States Department of Education has the responsibility to protect the educational rights of students in programs or activities receiving federal support. Equal opportunities to participate must be offered to children and youth regardless of age, disability, gender, national origin, race, or color. A review of the letters of findings from 1985-1991 in response to complaints revealed 48 rulings involving gifted and talented students. The majority of the rulings focused on African-American students, although other areas including disabilities and students of various native origins were found (Marquardt & Karnes, 1994)."

Spectrum has never met the grant requirements (I think it's only the top 2% who qualify).

I will correct my error in the post. But I think any move to try to dilute or end APP would be one the district tries at its own risk.

AutismMom said...

Protection is not the same thing as a guarantee of service. Protection means you can not be denied access to something, or be denied opportunitites to participate in certain access. Yes, sorry about the typo. And even filing for a state grant is not the same thing as a required service. The district is not required to even do that.

Charlie Mas said...

The grant amount is based on the district enrollment. The formula is a certain dollar amount multiplied by 2% of the district-wide enrollment. This has led to the mistaken belief that the District either must serve at least 2% of the students or that the District may not serve more than 2% of the students. Neither of those interpretations are accurate or appropriate.

The simple fact is that nearly all - if not all - Spectrum students meet the criteria defined by the State. They could be covered by the grant but the District has chosen not to cover them. The WAC that regulates the grant sets the most liberal standards that the state will allow and allows schools to select to serve their most highly capable.

The question about covering Spectrum students with the grant is sort of a distinction without a difference. The only question - and it's a thin one - is whether or not including the Spectrum students in the grabnt would then require the District to offer them services. Apparently the clear moral and professional obligation isn't as compelling as the faint possibility of a legal one.

dan dempsey said...

What is this "we can not wait because of the economy". Obama has talked about Federal dollars to renovate schools as part of his economic stimulus package. This seems like an idea time to wait.

adhoc said...

Well the law may not mandate this district offer Spectrum or APP or ALO's, but if they didn't offer them, this district would become less than desireable and families would leave for districts that did provide them. It would be devastating and SPS knows it.

dan dempsey said...

Adhoc said:
"this district would become less than desirable and families would leave for districts that did provide them."

Seems like that has already happened in many instances. Poor offerings in many areas is a continuing problem.

Check the latest on the long time district favorite for High School Math adoption Interactive Math Program HERE.

TechyMom said...

Just to play devil's advocate for a minute...
APP's demographics are similar to those of the City of Seattle. SPS is significantly poorer and more minority than the city in general. Should APP match SPS? Or, is the problem that SPS doesn't match the city demographics? That too many white and affluent kids go to private school? If we turn this problem on its head, APP becomes a shining example of what is needed to get families with options to choose SPS, to get SPS demographics to more closely match those of the city.

So, the issue isn't marketing in the sense of advertising. Consumers of education are willing to take time to research the options. The issue is marketing in the sense of understanding the market and building a product that it wants. The New School is marketing in this sense, and it is foundation funded.

Charlie Mas said...

TechyMom's conjecture isn't new. There is a legitimate question, however, if the demographics of school-age Seattlites matches the demographics of Seattlites of all ages. The fact is that it doesn't. The city is changing. It is becoming less White.

That's how Seattle, as a city, is 70% White but Seattle Public Schools are only 40% White. Yes, a significantly greater share of the private school population is White, but the total and the school-age demographics would not be equal even if every one of the 25% of students outside the public schools were White.

The issue isn't marketing in either sense. The issue is developing the nascent talent in minority students and students living in low-income households. Seeds that are not watered will not sprout. We need to throw a little more water around.

And let me be very clear: APP is not the water. APP is where the sprouts are gathered after they appear. APP cannot be the source of the equity just as APP is not the source of the inequity. We need to do a better job of identifying and supporting gifted and talented students in their neighborhood schools. That failure is what is repressing the numbers of under-represented groups in Spectrum and APP.

Seattlehorn said...

Obama, in his memorable statement about the Iraq war in 2002, said: I'm not opposed to all wars . . . I'm opposed to . . . a dumb war. A rash war. A war based not on reason but on passion, not on principle but on politics.

How apposite. I would venture that most of us here (and in ESP) are not opposed to all closures, just dumb ones.

Maureen said...

Underenrolled schools in poor parts of the city should add preK to water those seeds (and fill those buildings). Or, ideally, comprehensive preschool/daycare with a parent-ed component priced on a sliding scale. Could SPS work with the community colleges (they offer coop preschools with parent ed)? But where will the money come from? (Why is the Gates Foundation so focused on High School?)

samdinista said...

"(The compressed timeline of the closure process, he reflected, is “particularly tragic” … forced to happen sooner rather than — as originally planned — later, he reiterated, because of the budget crunch; Sundquist lamented that it has to happen before “support” is in place for schools facing challenges that have left them more vulnerable to closure now - “I’m sorry, if i had complete freedom of motion, if i didn’t have the economy crumbling in front of me, if i had the luxury of time, I wouldn’t do it in this order.”)

Ugh. The more this asinine, pathetic charade grinds on, the more I am reminded of GW Bush. MGJ and Debell are using the same tactics to force these closures through that the Bush administration used to force the Iraq war - fear, panic, disinformation and shifting justifications. It is disgusting.

I must ask why is this community not demanding a vote of no confidence in MGJ? Why isn't there a loud grassroots campaign to have MGJ removed from office? Anyone?

samdinista said...

Will you begin a thread to discuss whether there should be a vote of no confidence on the leadership of Maria Goodloe-Johnson?

If any of you support a vote of no confidence in MGJ, please make your voice heard now.

Sahila said...

Dear Board members...

As I understand it, on Thursday 29 January the Board will vote on amendments to the Capacity Management Plan first, and then vote on the Plan in its entirety, rather than school by school or programme by programme. If that is the case, as my representatives, would you please put forward the following amendments on my behalf as a member of the Seattle Public Schools community (I am a parent at AS#1):

1: a: That the Board rescind its earlier decision to repurpose the Jane Addams building and return that building to the Summit programme.

Failing that:
1: b: That the Summit programme be relocated to a central location

2: That the current Closure Plan be rejected in its entirety.

3: That the Board then commissions a committee of parents, educators, District staff and other community stakeholders to research and formulate a new city-wide, all school (elementary, middle and high school) capacity management plan, which uses and implements educational best practice standards in both traditional and alternative education settings as the baseline to set geographic, school building and capacity parameters.

That this plan will incorporate a Student Assignment Plan based on those findings, and will be presented to the SPS community for discussion, and to the District/Board by January 2011 for approval and implementation by September 2011.

4: That monies available in other funds (the "Rainy Day" and the capital fund interest sums) be used to maintain the status quo within the District, until the outcome of amendment 3.

5: Failing a successful vote on Amendments 2, 3 and 4:
That AS#1 retain transportation to and from the NW cluster, in line with the busing policy operating at the northwest K-8 alternative, Salmon Bay...

Thank you for representing me in this matter.

Yours sincerely

Sahila ChangeBringer
tel: 206 297 7511

Sahila said...

While I realise it would be embarrassing for the Board now to vote 'no confidence' in the Superintendent, I too call to the Board for just such a vote.

MGJ's view of education as a business, where schools should make a profit, that class size, for instance, does not affect educational outcome and her moves to supersize and standardise schools run counter to educational best practice, and so should not be tolerated.

Better for the Board to have the courage to admit that her appointment is not working and is taking SPS, and more importantly, our children, in a negative direction, than to allow her to continue to take us all on this path to inflict more damage that will not be so easily undone further down the track.

Sahila said...

Procedural question for the meeting on 29th Jan:

Who puts forward any/the amendments - Staff, Directors, the public?

And if the public can, how does one go about that and what is the deadline for getting them on the agenda?

Beth Bakeman said...

I think Dr. Goodloe-Johnson is going to improve Seattle schools for most children in the district. I don't necessarily like her, I certainly don't agree with everything she says/does, I'm concerned about her lack of support for alternative education, but I am impressed with her and believe she's the right person to lead our district.

It's standard process across the country to toss out the Superintendent every couple of years. That won't lead to better schools.

We (the community) should work with the current superintendent, Board and staff to improve schools.

Beth Bakeman said...

Sahila,

The Board members are the ones putting forward the amendments. The staff then are supposed to research the implications of them and provide the Board with enough detail to inform the vote on Thursday night.

As I understand it, this self-imposed amendement deadline was created so that Board members don't propose amendments the same night of the vote.

adhoc said...

While I don't always agree with all of MGJ's decisions, I do believe that she is a strong leader, and trust her to lead this district in the right direction.

Our last two superintendants (Olschefski and Manhas) both received votes of no confidence. It is a pattern here is Seattle, and can be destructive and divisive when abused. Voting no confidence yet again, for three consecutive Superintendants, will further destabilize our district, and make it less desireable, not more desireable. We can not continue to run our leadership off, we can not continue the chaos and we can not continue picking up the pieces and starting over. It just doesn't work.

It is also destructive to the districts reputation. When this last Superintendent position was open we have very very few applicants. The pickings were extremely slim to say the least. Seattleites became so nasty some of the handful of candidates that we did get dropped out.

I would like to see the community work together with the leadership and work towards a proposal that is acceptable. I think this administration HAS listened to our input and revised the proposals several times to reflect what we have asked for. Lets uncross our arms and work together.

Beth Bakeman said...

I've started a new thread to discuss the district leadership and our assessment of it.

I've also started a new thread to discuss what amendments we would propose to the Final Recommendations if we could.

Melissa Westbrook said...

First, fyi, it's Olchefske (and that's the last time I hope to mention his name here).

Second, how were Seattle citizens nasty to superintendent candidates? All some of us did was Google their names (which if the Board had done BEFORE naming them as candidates, would have saved embarrassment on all sides). What Board members, newspaper editorial staffs and parents in their former district have to say about them (a) is valid to know about and (b)of course, should be taken with a grain of salt. However, if you see 10 different sources all saying similar things about working with that person, then maybe you might want to know that in advance.

I found that several of the candidates offered in the last couple of rounds of superintendent hires to be great. I didn't feel like it slim pickings at all.