Thursday, February 19, 2009

Disturbing Trend

I'm beginning to see a disturbing trend from the District leadership - big promises made in public with lots of fanfare that are unfulfilled in private without any notice. This is consistent with the District's historic record, but now we have all new performers giving us the same act. It doesn't seem to matter who is the Superintendent or on the Board or serving in the "C" level positions in academics or operations, it is the same old stuff as ever.

The Superintendent promises accountability but doesn't deliver. Whom do we hold accountable for that? There are lots of big promises in the Strategic Plan, but the follow through has been lacking. The work deadlines are missed and no one talks about it. The promised community engagement and communications is totally absent, but that is swept under the rug as well. There were big promises made with the Capacity Management Plan around the Design Teams, but the follow through has been lacking. They were billed as super heroes and now we see that they are practically bystanders as the decisions are made and implemented unilaterally by the principals.

On academics we have big promises of more school choice and integration for students with IEPs, but the follow through has been lacking. We have big promises about equity and access in advanced learning, but no follow through. We're promised data-based decisions that contribute to academic achievement and equity, but we get the same shoot-from-the-hip caprice that we have always seen. There is no transparency, no public input, no engagement with stakeholders. The math curriculum continues to be a total fiasco without relief in sight. There's no one who seems willing to even acknowledge the problem.

We were promised data-based decisions in operational decisions as well. Instead, we see the same high-handed practices we have always seen as Facilities, Capital Projects and Transportation make all of the decisions without any interaction with the stakeholders or any apparent concern about the consequences. The driving factors for the decisions continue to be operational efficiency and internal politics instead of academic goals or community satisfaction.

The Board members ran campaigns promising management expertise, improved communication, and accountability, but we're not seeing any of that. Their community engagement practices are horrendous - so bad that they would not be accepted by any other department of the District. They show no interest in managing the Superintendent or the staff, and no interest in holding anyone accountable for anything.

Right now, things are about as bad as they have ever been. In a way, due to the promimises, they are even worse. Raj Manhas didn't consider public input as a factor in his decisions, but he never claimed that he would.

22 comments:

dan dempsey said...

What also is particularly disturbing is that the board in violation of their own policies did a non-emergency action where introduction and action took place at the same meeting in extending the Superintendent's contract and providing her with a 10% raise {June 2008}.

I would say it is pretty hard to have more disregard for the public than that, except this type of disregard is now routine.

Directors DeBell, Chow, and Bass are up for election this year .... anyone running?

Did $100,000+ campaigns produce better directors in the board elections of summer 2007 ... thus far it looks like NO.

Harium Martin-Morris spent less than $70,000 in this field of $100,000+ winners. Peter Maier spent $167,000. Any predictions on campaign expenditures for 2009?

The Times predicted some candidates might spend as much as $50,000 in the 2007 campaigns prior to the campaigning.

hschinske said...

Considering the guy Harium was running against, I think he could have spent about fifty cents and still won.

Helen Schinske

Seattlehorn said...

Run, Charlie, run!

rugles said...

How much does being on the school board pay anyway?

dan dempsey said...

Dear Rugles,

School Directors receive very little. I think per diem comes to around $4800 per year.

Dan

dan dempsey said...

In the disturbing trend department:
1. Read "Excellence for All" the strategic plan .. June 2008
2. Read the Superintendents update on the strategic plan .. January 2009
3. Notice everything that the Update left out.
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I received the following from Anna-Maria dela Fuente in regard to my inability to find the results I was expecting because I read page 17 of the strategic plan and expected immediate actions to take place because of the title "Immediate Actions".

"The elementary math coaches are working on alignment of EDM with the new standards (PEs) which go into effect next year. Elementary teachers have access to the current pacing and instructional guides, which will be revised near the end of the year after the alignment work is completed. It is our full intention to make sure that students at 5th grade, as well as other grades, have access to the mathematics learning needed to meet the new standards."
-----------------------------
But the strategic plan says this should have happened in the summer of 2008.
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The kids are just not going to have access this year to the mathematics to meet the new standards.

"new standards (PEs) which go into effect next year"


These go into effect next year in Seattle because someone decided not to follow the strategic plan.

Most districts use the state standards. They were released by May of 2008 so that districts could use them in 2008-2009 school year.
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As Charlie says we have no math curriculum.
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State audit says SPS is top heavy with administration by 40%. Why can't the Immediate Actions for math in the Strategic plan be carried out as indicated?

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Please somebody run for school director ... this is nonsense.
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High School adoption coming...
but we have no curriculum ...
we have no performance expectations k-8 that are in use.

This is now beyond .. far beyond Disturbing.

none1111 said...

Seattlehorn said: "Run, Charlie, run!"

Yeah, go for it Charlie.

You tried it before, but times are different. There's a lot of anger directed toward some of the sitting board members. Seems like an opportune time.

snaffles said...

Go for it Charlie.

But, if Charlie wins he needs two helpers for the other two positions. ANY takers...My district is filled with the infamous: I'm listening, Mr. Maier.

Who can step up in the other two spots if Charlie runs?

Dan, Thanks for the laugh regarding immediate action. After attending and listening to countless School Board meetings; I believe Immediate Action is a code word for: Fling money at it and cover our mistake.

Beyond that, there is no action, but lots of words. We should get the $25 million if it is based on IDEAS---lots of ideas but no action from the board.

TechyMom said...

Mary Bass is ok. She may do things that make her less effective some times (one amendment that has no chance of passing instead of breaking it up so some parts might pass), but she does listen to her constituents, ask hard questions, and try to do the right thing. She doesn't seem like an obvious target.

Chow seems to do nothing, and actively pooh pooh concerns from citizens. I'd say she's the one who most needs to go.

I don't know much about DeBell.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Snaffles,

if only:
"Beyond that, there is no action, but lots of words."

The board gave us more than words with the following actions:

Connected Math Project 2 by a vote of 6-1 (dissent from Sally Soriano)

Everyday Math by a vote of 7-0

Denny/Sealth by a vote of 5-2
(dissent from Ms. Bass and Mr. Martin-Morris)

Out of compliance with board policy MG-J contract extension and 10% raise by a vote of 7-0

So that means that Ms. Chow and Mr. DeBell voted with the majority every time.

The math votes took place prior to Maier, Carr, Harium M-M, and Sunquist's elections in Fall 2007.

In the words of Brita Butler-Wall in regard to the math adoptions. I choose to trust our hired professionals. That plan produced 10+ years of math chaos. The hired professionals knew next to zero about effective math programs and chose to follow OSPI and/or UW rather than thinking and analyzing the relevant data.

Beyond disturbing. I have no idea what the odds are for this H.S. adoption being any better.

Charlie Mas said...

The Board gets a quarterly update on the progress of the Strategic Plan. Prior to the last update to the Board I went through the Plan and made a list of everything that should have been done by then. Any Board member could have done the same.

The update, when it came, was far from comprehensive. It focused exclusively on a handful of initiatives and generally stayed away from discussion of the action items with passed deadlines. No member of the Board sought a more comprehensive review. No member of the Board went through the Plan document, reading off the action items with passed deadlines and asked if they were done. There was no oversight at all.

This is a direct failure to fulfill their duty, even a direct failure to fulfill their Affirmation of Responsibility, which says that they will:

"Maintain a strategic plan for the District that clearly defines success and accountability for the board, the staff and our students.

Focus on the policy work of the Board and monitor progress on the indicators of success articulated in our strategic plan, leaving the day-to-day operation of the district to the superintendent and staff.
"

So where is their effort to maintain accountability around the strategic plan? Where is their focus on monitoring progress? No where. They just aren't doing the job.

dan dempsey said...

Speaking of monitoring progress... How about monitoring some student progress????
Where are the PSAT results?
Why haven't they been posted?
Students received their individual scores a long time ago but still no group reporting of results by the SPS.

hschinske said...

Was there any promise to do anything with the PSAT data beyond counseling students individually? I never heard that there was.

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...

Great Question Helen,

It was my understanding (and I do not know why I thought this) that these PSAT results for the group were going to be made known because the WASL has no connection to any national norming. The PSAT was going to give us a connection to reality. That connection has been missing since Dr Bergeson gave IOWA tests the heave ho after 2005.

Charlie Mas said...

Dan has shared some of the email traffic between himself and the Math Director, Anna Maria delaFuente. It looks to me as if the people who wrote the Strategic Plan presumed, as I did, and as I suspect nearly everyone else did, that the new State Standards and Performance Expectations for math, approved in April 2008, would be implemented starting in the fall of 2008. Not so. The District will not implement the new Standards and Performance Expectations until the coming school year, 2009-2010.

Weird, huh?

Not only is it weird - to us - that four months (from April 28 to September 1) isn't enough time to change what math is taught, but it is weird that the people writing the Strategic Plan didn't appear to know that. It may be that the Plan writers didn't talk to the folks in the Math department about this and it may be that the plan was written during the change in personnel there - after Ms Winn left the position and before Ms delaFuente arrived.

Either way, I now believe that the expectation written into the Plan document is wrong. It's either that or the whole math curriculum alignment project is a full year behind the pace.

In either case, I think the Board and the public are due an explanation. An effective Board member - any one of the seven - would have asked the question. It's a simple question: "Here is a list of the tasks that, according to the Strategic Plan, should now be completed. What is their status?"

owlhouse said...

Anyone know where to find the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report? I'm only finding 1998, 1999 online- and those are listed as Consolidated Annual Financial Statements. Suggestions?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I was told by Dr. Vaughn that the district was indeed going to look at the PSAT results, both district-wide and individually, to create what I would assume to be a baseline for future years.

dan dempsey said...

Hey Melissa,

Great work. Any chance that when the district looks at PSAT results they will share what they see with the public?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie wrote:

Weird, huh?

Not only is it weird - to us - that four months (from April 28 to September 1) isn't enough time to change what math is taught, but it is weird that the people writing the Strategic Plan didn't appear to know that.

-----------------
Perhaps not so weird when the situation is examined. Under former Math Program manager Rosalind Wise there were no grade level performance expectations. The professional development for EDM (during summer 2007)was entirely focused on the "Fidelity of Implementation" to EDM.

It appears things have not changed. Despite Ms. Santorno's statement (May 16, 2007) that if the State Math Standards changed EDM could easily accommodate the change, clearly not so ... so far.

It appears that the Central Office would like everyone to believe that the "Immediate Actions" for math in the strategic plan (pg 17) have been followed. It appears those immediate actions never even got started.

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I wish it was weird, but instead it is just par for the course with this outfit.
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Let me see who is accountable for this?

dan dempsey said...

Dear Owlhouse,

Excellent Question:
Anyone know where to find the District's Comprehensive Annual Financial Report?

How about taking on a special project = getting the SPS check book on-line.

Take a visit to Peyton Walcott and find out how it is done.

Welcome, NH! Public school checks now online in 30 states! Total USA: 435 districts! 308 in Texas!

More at:
http://www.peytonwolcott.com/

Dan

owlhouse said...

Hi Dan,
Someone contacted me re: my concern for school closures and suggested that there may be major discrepancies between the CAFR and the annual budget. I have no budget or book keeping experience, but now am curious. All the more so after reading in Melissa's BEX report that Heery Int'l may not be fully cooperating with audit process. Many districts have accused them of fraud, kickbacks...

I did find this at the state- am trying to see if it includes any district info.
http://www.ofm.wa.gov/cafr/2008/default.asp

Further guidance welcome.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Owlhouse,

Remember when the Port of Seattle was audited by the state about 3 years ago. Lots of dirty laundry was found. Perhaps someone could comment as to whether a similar very thorough state financial audit is coming in the near future for the SPS.

I think getting the School District check register online ala Peyton Walcott would be a major step forward for transparency.

Dan