Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Buy Your Own Start Time

The new start time proposal that will be presented at the School Board meeting tomorrow night not only returns to the 8:00 am middle school/high school/K-8 start time and the 9:15 am elementary school start time, but it also includes a return to some very vague language about which schools are impacted. The proposal says:

Designated Elementary and K-8 Schools 8:00 AM to 2:30 PM

Middle Schools 8:00 AM to 2:30 PM

Elementary Schools 9:15 AM to 3:25 PM
(With individual exceptions to accommodate shared school bus service)


So does that mean that Lowell and Thurgood Marshall are back on the early start time list? Or are some other unsuspecting elementary schools going to be added?

And which K-8 schools had enough influence with Ruth Medsker to get off the early start time list?

And how about this interesting tidbit:

"Individual schools may request a waiver from these times provided that the requesting school funds any additional transportation cost."

So if your PTSA can raise the funds, you can have a different start time. That is beyond incredible! I realize the budget situation is bad, but we can't start down this path. We need to work to decrease inequities among schools, not increase them. I am completely appalled.

Charlie is right. The Board should not even consider passing this proposal (or any other proposal) without the Best Practices and Research and Data Sources sections being complete.

But the absolute gall of allowing a "pay-to-get-what-you-want" start time proposal is just unbelievable. There are only 3 people scheduled to speak on the bell times proposal, including Sahila. I'm going to see if I can arrange childcare so I can show up and hopefully speak as well.

Of course the proposed changes to food service are equally upsetting, and I'm glad to see that 4 people are signed up to speak on that topic. But I'm still in shock over this proposal.

Seattle School Board members and District staff: The financial situation is not desperate enough to warrant a complete sell-out on equity, best practices and data analysis.

22 comments:

Eric B said...

With earlier start times and earlier end times there will just be more under-performing kids at home sitting at home watching television waiting for their working parent or parents to come home for longer. In the mean time, kids with a stay at home parent or parents with resources will do after school programs and have other enriching experiences. It will make the achievement gap grow in much the same way that summer break does. Such a shame.

seattle citizen said...

sigh.

This is bad. But ya know what's also bad? Non-continuing contracts were, for the most part, not turned into continuing contracts this year. This means new teachers are out (except for some positions, evidently, such as math, where there is a shortage.)

Also bad: lots of displaced teachers floating around, few jobs.

Also bad: many funding cuts of district-originated positions, such as Pathways, etc, many of which rely on sketchy state funding.

In other words, as buildings complete their budgets in two weeks, there's gonna be a veritable ****storm of staff cuts.

Transportation is important, yes, but without some serious infusion of funds, we are looking at...RIFs, reduction in force. This means not only will there be a hiring freeze, not only will displaced teachers take open slots (due to retirement, etc), but the bumping will begin.
Seniority will come into play here. That discussion about whether Summit staff would deign, or like to have a job at Addams? Moot point: Staff with more seniority will scramble for jobs as budgets are cut, and they will displace lower-seniority staff. Carefully put together schools and programs will be torn asunder as staffing levels are cut, some staff is riffed and replaced with higher-seniority staff....

This is the crux of it. While I've argued for retention of lots of things, and for lots of "extras" (?) the budget woes in district have compounded and been added to by the obvious budget woes averywhere.

Transportation is a wee little bit of this; the question is becoming, do you want transportation or do you want staff in your schools?

Sorry to be all gloom and doom, but that's where we're at. Now. Unless someone drops quite a bit of cash into the system to maintain anything close to current staffing levels.

Beth Bakeman said...

Seattle Citizen,

So "buy your own start time" is okay with you as long as it protects us from other budget cuts?

Beth Bakeman said...

And making decisions without "best practice" information or research and data is also okay as long as it saves money?

Not to mention that we're not really sure how much money this will save, but hey, it's really a desperate situation so it's okay, right?

While I dislike the current proposal for start times for lots of reasons, that's not what I'm completely incensed about.

What I cannot stand is the insufficient data analysis, lack of regard for any potential educational or safety impacts, miserable communication (they have not even had the decency to notify staff) and complete lack of community engagment.

It is the process that has pissed me off. And allowing some schools with PTSA's that can raise enough funds to buy a different start time has pushed me over the edge.

We cannot allow this kind of process in our district nor the implementation of a "buy your own" system.

seattle citizen said...

No...

It won't protect us from other cuts. Staff at the "buy your own start time" schools (those that are lucky enough to raise funds for such a thing) would have to decide if they wanted that bilingual aide or a purchesed start time...

I wasn't addressing that issue, per se. I've just come to realize the depth of the budget bomb. I believe it's going to effect building budgets a lot more than we realize, and a big part of that will be staff cuts.

If I were on the budget committee of a school that had raised, say, 200,000 from outside sources, I would have to ponder long and hard about my priorities: 15 minutes of start time either way, or a Bilingual IA.

I think I was reacting to the magnitude. We're discussing in here some of the things that we ould like to see, many of them important and good and, in my opinion necessary (fair transportation, where those with the means can't jack the system to get what they want), but the bigger picture, the MUCH bigger picture, is that there are going to be HUGE and catastrophic hits to many major aspects of education.

A principal I know remembers when riffing (laying off lesser-seniority staff) went all the way up to FIFTEEN YEARS seniority! Are we there now? Who knows? (Though one would hope that once the numbers are in, say mid-April, someone will have the guts to explain what, exactly, we are going to get hit with...

These cuts go so far two million in transportation that bus service pales in comparison.

This was my immediate, emotional reaction.

Buying different start times? bad.

seattle citizen said...

I agree, Beth. The process is flawed, it's reactive, it's hurried, it's not being done with due deliberation nor with commnication.

I agree.

I also believe that there is money..SOMEWHERE...to avoid this. A lot has to do with priorities. And this saddens me more: Iraq is costing us probably 100 billion a year; that's two billion per state. That'd fund a heckuva lot of education, eh?

AIG executives, 70 of them, are walking home with, on average, 2.5 million$ each. each one of those people could fund transportation for a year.

You're right: These are tough times, change might have to come...but where's the planning? Why are we building a wing on Ingraham when their enrollment is 300 shy of capacity? Why have we invested in programs that are cut months later, after huge expense? Where is the long term plan, where are the details? As Charlie has recently pointed out, Where are the elements to the strategic plan? What changes are coming that we haven't been told about ("pacing"?) Is direct instruction around the corner for every school, or just those of the poor?

I'm as mad as you, but I'm also in shock because it's here.

Beth Bakeman said...

Updates from Harium's blog, on the current proposal:

1) Salmon Bay and TOPS are the two K-8s that they are considering moving to the 9:15 am (elementary) start time.

2) Lowell and Thurgood Marshall are both proposed to start at 9:15 am.

Beth Bakeman said...

Harium writes:

"In looking at the ride data for TOPS and Salmon Bay, they have some the lokng ride times of the K-8. The board is looking at putting these two schools on elementary teir for that reason. It is my understanding that this will not change the saving in a negative way. I still wish to know of the 11 K-8 what is the over-all impact to the savings."

Johnny Calcagno said...

This is the first I have heard this, but just for the record, I'm about 99% sure that no one at TOPS has offered to pay to be moved to the 9:15 tier, nor can I imagine that happening. Traditionally we raise a decent amount of money through fundraising (it's a pretty big school), but I can't imagine our community going for this kind of deal.

I agree with Beth that this entire proposal should be scrapped, and hopefully as early as tomorrow night. If I had more confidence in the actual savings, or if it had been done with more community (including staff) engagement, that might make it palatable. As it is, no.

Megan Mc said...

Arg! This whole thing is so frustrating. I proposed this scenario to the district two weeks ago:
Do schools have the authority to set their own start times based on the values of that community. If the answer was no, I asked if a school (thinking of AS#1) could reject yellow bus service and use their own money to pay for transportation to have the autonomy to set their own start times and geographic draws.

My reasoning was twofold:
1. AS#1 lost its all city draw which is an important part of our community and we were already trying to figure out alternative ways to serve our non NE and N cluster student's transportation needs.
2. Our survival is based on increasing our enrollment. Being a K-8 that started at 9:15 and could draw from the whole district would greatly improve our chances of filling our enrollment requirements. Many of our students are driven to school because the bus ride is so long as it and their parents value the extra 45 minutes of sleep.

I never heard back from the district or board on this proposal. I have since learned, through our budget process, that we don't have anywhere near the money needed to provide our own bus service and would have to give up a lot of "extras" to provide this.

How can the district guess what AS#1 and the new Jane Addams travel time would be since they haven't ever calculated it?

Why do the two most popular K-8's (Salmon Bay and TOPS) get to drop out? Are they going to present evidence that breaks down the travel times between all of the K-8's?

Charlie Mas said...

There is no data that supports standardized bell times. The savings does not come from all of the schools having the same bell time; it comes from pairs of schools having a sufficient gap between their bell times to allow one driver to serve both schools.

The research would argue against these bell times.

There was no community engagement done on this proposal.

The Board should simply reject it based on the inadequacy of the Board Action Report.

Now, after all of the insistance on the benefits of ending the shared buses, we learn that they will continue to share buses.

Now, after all of the insistance that the savings are predicated on the K-8s having the middle school start time, we learn that two of the K-8s will have the elementary school start time.

Now, after all of the insistance on standardized start times we learn that schools can pay to choose their own start time.

This proposal isn't ready for a Board vote. The staff should work on it a bit more until they have it right before they bring it forward. The Board should send it back like an undercooked steak.

Josh Hayes said...

At the risk of re-opening a past episode of my jerkitude, Salmon Bay is deeply connected to Thornton Creek -- two clusters away. This means that the district is, for now, unwilling to incur the wrath of the archetypal Angry Moderately-High Income Northeast Cluster Parent. The upshot is, to paraphrase the "Damn Yankees" song, whatever Salmon Bay wants, Salmon Bay gets. If that's going to wind up being a 9:15 start time, then, well, que sera sera.

All the other stuff on this thread - money spent on Iraq, and so on - is completely correct but also completely irrelevant. There's no school-money fairy coming to wave her wand and shower us with funding. For myself, I'm completely unconvinced that tossing K-8 schools into the earlier bus slots saves a dime, and that that dime is used for anything positive even so.

Frankly, for me the district has put itself into the position of having to show me the money: I just don't believe anything they say about, well, anything. They have to produce the numbers, otherwise I assume they're either wrong or lying - because they've generated such a terrific track record of both. It's a terrible thing to have to admit that, but that's the state they've put me in.

gavroche said...

Maybe it's time for a mass protest at the Glass Palace (JSC). And a WASL boycott. If test scores (and not our reasoned input) are the only commodity the superintendent and board value from us, let's use them as the currency that they are.

Sarah J. Lentz said...

I have to support what Gavroche said about boycotting.

Honestly, I would like to see any protest we can muster to boot Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson off her throne. I believe we do need someone in that office who can get things done. But, not at the cost of the partnership with parents.

We can't even utter the words "partnership with parents" in this current administration.

I'm sorry, but if this district wants another DIME out of Parents' pockets we had better be taken into account.

TechyMom said...

Charlie, I agree this isn't ready for a vote. As a manager, I would sent these folks back to rework the proposal with strict requirements for data and a fair dose of micro-management. I would also start looking for replacement staff, which the board can't do.

If, however, the board decides to send this back for rework, they will have to postpone it until next year. As bad as this proposal is, not knowing which schools start at what time before the end of open enrollment is worse. The board seems to be buying the $2 million number. I just can't see them putting this off for a full year, and I can't support them putting it off for less than that.

Charlie Mas said...

There's another weird element to this proposal, and that's the commitment (not that they will necessarily keep it) to form a Transportation Task Force.

In other words, this is a classic "ready, fire, aim" situation. They know the decision is bad, they acknowlege that. But they want to move forward with it anyway and they pledge to study the matter and get it right for next time.

No. No. No. Study it first, then make the decision.

How they can move forward with this decision while admitting that it is ill-considered and ill-conceived is simply beyond me.

Moreover, I do not - not for a moment - believe that they will form an authentic Task Force with any real authority or openness to solutions other than the one they are forcing into place right now.

Andrew said...

Just an update...

I wrote to Tom Bishop last night about the Lowell/Thurgood Marshall start times. Here's his response:

"The current start-time proposal has both Lowell and Thurgood Marshall starting at 9:15."

Of course, the proposal could change a few more times before being introduced but, at least for now, these two schools are "safe."

Now, if we could just find a way to stop them from moving ANY K-5 kids, regardless of program, to the early start time....

Andrew

annakae said...

I'm curious how this will affect schools like Garfield and Franklin that start at different times on purpose to avoid after school gang-related clashes. I remember reading something about how that was thought of as a highly effective measure to fight gang violence, since schools in the South end were getting out later/earlier than schools in the Central District....something about it made it safer for those kids who have to use public trans to get around. Is that part of the conversation, or even a valid issue? Seems like it would be, to me...

ArchStanton said...

"Individual schools may request a waiver from these times provided that the requesting school funds any additional transportation cost."
So if your PTSA can raise the funds, you can have a different start time. That is beyond incredible! I realize the budget situation is bad, but we can't start down this path.


Why does this make me think they'd like to force undesirable start times on the more affluent schools just to get the PTSAs to pony up for reasonable start times. (e.g. "Hey Laurelhurst, cough up some dough or your kids are starting school at 5am!")

Melissa Westbrook said...

Boy to hear Beth this mad/upset/concerned, then I KNOW this a a bad proposal. She's a pretty calm person.

I did point out that in the introduction of the item that there was virtually no engagement or research or best practices. IT'S ABOUT THE MONEY.

Except that we haven't seen real live numbers that support that over $2M will be saved. I'm not sure I believe it. And, you can give TOPS and Salmon Bay a pass except what happens when the Assignment plan changes. I would lay money that their boundaries will change.

The fact that we all can see that this is not well thought out (Charlie's "ready fire aim") should give pause to many.

north seattle mom said...

Let's see.

AS1 and Summit had the most expensive busses. Summit gone, AS1 now a two cluster school.

TOPS and SB now have the next two longest busses-- how long until there is a major change at both of those schools.

It seems pretty clear that we are going back to neighborhood schools one way or another.

seattle citizen said...

Yes, neighborhood schools, and alternatives serving just those clusters. In this model, alts would lose some of their uniqueness (compared to each other) because the thinking might be that each cluster would have a similar sort of alt.