Saturday, March 14, 2009

Upcoming Board Meeting: Bell Times and Food

The Board meeting this week addresses two hot items for many families right now: the proposed changes to bell times and food preparation.

Sign-up to Testify: sign-up starts at 9:00 am on Monday. Call (206) 252-0040 or e-mail boardagenda@seattleschools.org and give your name, telephone number, e-mail address, and the topic you would like to address.

Bell Times Proposal Changed Slightly: The latest information on the agenda shows that the proposal is now 8:15 am for middle schools, high schools and K-8s and 9:15 am for the K-5 schools. (see Transportation Standards, page 4)

It's interesting to see what was added and what was deleted in this latest version. For example, the following was deleted: "Schools not receiving yellow school bus service may adjust their bus schedules providing they review all time changes with Metro Transit, and the district Transportation Department to avoid service conflicts."

Elementary school days seem to be getting longer by about 15 minutes. Instead of a standard of 9:10 am to 3:10 pm, the new standard is 9:30 am to 3:45 pm. And for elementary students at K-8s, the day will be even longer: 8:15 am to 2:45.

I also find it intriguing that elementary schools start 9:30 am "With individual exceptions to accommodate shared school bus service." Which schools? How big an exception? And will we know before open enrollment ends in 17 days?

It doesn't sound like it. From the PI article Mel posted about today comes the following excerpt:
"District officials said they've been deluged with e-mails and calls on the topic, and they're considering changes to the proposal before the School Board votes on the transportation policy package April 8."
The School Board is voting on the policy change after the end of Open Enrollment! How are parents supposed to make decisions about which schools to select for next year?

Food Services Change
A presentation by Don Kennedy is on the agenda about the proposed food services change which would have all meals prepared at a central kitchen and then re-heated at individual schools. However there is currently no additional detail or links to the presentation.

23 comments:

Keepin'On said...

I have a question - I remember somewhere else on this blog something about start times and bell changes really being up to the teacher's unions - especially with adding time to the school day.

My question - can the board make these changes, and then see them derailed if the teacher's unions don't want them?

Just curious.

SPSMom said...

That was my thought, can they extend the school day outside of the teachers union contract? Maybe they have been working with the union and they are in agreement on this point?

Keepin'On said...

Did you also notice the discussion about the school year calendar? Apparently, SEA is refusing to cut short mid-winter break, and also are driving the timing of Spring Break as to have one week of full instruction before the WASL starts. That is why Spring break is so darn early now.

Also, I was surprised to see that in 2009 school doesn't start until September 9 because they refuse to start before labor day (unlike private schools) And that we don't get out until June 22?

The power that the union has to drive the calendar makes me think that the bell times are not going to be allowed unless the teacher unions have agreed to it.

My question: Who is really in charge in this district?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Beth for pointing out that the bell times will NOT be established before the enrollment period ends. I saw this and then forgot to include it in my thread.

I find this sad; the Board is elected by and frankly, responsible to parents and to not say to staff, "We owe to parents to get this done so they can make clear choices about enrollment." is wrong. It could be done and isn't - I don't want to hear any whining from staff. They claim this is so important to the budget, fine but why are parents always last on the list to consider?

But there are lots of other interesting things in this agenda.

- calendar for next year. The district apparently wanted to shorten mid-winter break and the teachers did not. They compromised for next year, it will remain a week, but it will be up for negotiation during the contract talks.

-so the district now has this Board policy that any contracts over $250,000 have to be approved by the Board. And in the agenda there is a payment to the law firm that represented the district in the recent case of the West Seattle student who was paralyzed during a wrestling practice. We are paying them (not sure if this is in full or a final payment) $552,479. What fund this is coming from is also unclear. What is also interesting is that this item cites the Board policy about payments over $25,000 but then it flies in the face of Board policy that says you can't introduce AND act on a motion at the same meeting. Board Policy B45 says that only emergency actions can be introduced and acted upon and this is not being introduced as an emergency.

-The district is spending nearly $600,000 on new portables for Hale during its renovation. Maybe some school that is using old portables could inherit them after Hale is done.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, upon examination it seems that the original contract with the law firm that represented the district in the wrestling case was $447,521 and we are now paying $552,479 extra to a nice round $1M. How that happened is a good question.

Melissa Westbrook said...

(I've got to slow down.) I got the right policy but the wrong wording. Any non-routine, non-emergency item has to be introduced at one meeting and voted on at another.

Maureen said...

Elementary school days seem to be getting longer by about 15 minutes. Instead of a standard of 9:10 am to 3:10 pm, the new standard is 9:30 am to 3:45 pm. And for elementary students at K-8s, the day will be even longer: 8:15 am to 2:45.

Given that this is from the "Transportation Service Standards" do we know if these are actually start times or are they target drop off and pick up times?

Right now, at our K-8, buses have to drop off by 8:55 for the middle schoolers to fit in their 6 hour 20 min day. But school doesn't start for the K-5 kids until 9:15. They are supervised by nonteaching staff on the playground or in the cafeteria or library--but nothing academic happens.

Is the District really commiting to a 6.5 hour instructional day for K-5 students who attend K-8s? Is that explicitly in writing somewhere?

seattle citizen said...

Keepin' on,
It would only seem proper that any additional time added to labor contracts be negotiated.

If the board makes these changes (if they add time to the contacted work day without negotiating that added time) I would hope that the unions would act: Not by "derailing" the changes (isn't "derail" putting the onus on the union?) but by rightfully holding the district to the negotiation process.

It's my understanding that the board MUST negotiate with the union before changing the contracted work times.

That would make sense, wouldn't it? It is, after all, a contract. Unless one of the signing parties wanted to, say, derail the process by acting without negotiation.

I don't believe that start times would have to be negotiated unless they add time to the contracted work time.

seattle citizen said...

Keepin' on,

The district, in negotiation with its labor unions, determines all the stuff you are so upset about.

These are, in fact, negotiations: both sides come to the table with certain expectation, they compromise. Ideally. It's not fair to slam the unions when the results are the product of joint negoatiation.

Keepin'On said...

Seattle Citizen- we meet again. You are right - it is not accurate of me to slam the teacher's union for what is presumably a jointly negoitated deal.(although I question the idea of an "ideal compromise" )

I will save my slamming for the contract negotiation post.

Priya said...

Both of my kids attended K-8's for significant chunks of time. I have a lot of issues with k-8's starting at 8:15am

1. With some bus routes being over an hour long and mandatory time for kids to eat breakfast at school, 5 year olds will be getting on a bus at or before 7am. Wake up time for that wee kid? 6:30? 6:00?

2. Having 5 year olds riding buses with 7th and 8th graders? Um, no.

3. How does moving the k-8's to middle school save the district money? All of the k-8s are currently piggy-backing off of elementary routes! TOPS kids double up with Lowell, The New School with Dunlap, etc. The system is already in place. The current middle schools aren't close to K-8's, so that would mean longer bus routes!

My kids are older now, so this wouldn't matter for them. I'm just not ok with little kids starting their school day at 8:15.

/soapbox.

seattle citizen said...

Keepin' on,
Yes, there is no "ideal" in these negotiations. Both sides have unreasonable demands, both sides want too much...alas. So it goes.

Let's talk about, oh, food service:

Centrally managed! Blech!

THERE'S some "negotiation" for you: cut costs or provide quality?
Supply the necessary ingredients or substitute pablum? Save on labor or maintain adequate service? Cut extras or provide beneficial extras to increase retention? Standardize menus or allow creativity? Reduce hours of operation or fully fund contract, uh, breakfast?

"We'll meet again...don't know how, don't know when..."

Teachermom said...

I am not sure where people get their information about SEA and what it wants, but every teacher I know (including me!) does not like having a week off at mid-winter break. It majorly disrupts instruction after we have recently returned from the long winter break and had at least two 4-day weeks since (MLK day and day between semesters).

I think what may happen is similar to earmarks. In negotiations, it may be said by the district, "If we shorten midwinter break, then teachers have to do x, y, and z." then if the union negotiators take it to teachers and teachers say that they will not do "y", then the district can say that teachers do not want to shorten mid-winter break. Evil teachers. They want yet another week of sitting on the couch eating bon-bons.

Beware district officials and principals blaming the teachers' union every time something doesn't get done.

seattle citizen said...

Yes, Teachermom,

This is what I meant when I wrote about the negotiations. Certainly there are unrealistic demands made by both sides, just as there are realistic demands made by both sides.
But the negotiation process is part and parcel of a system that finds compromise between two groups with some different goals:
Management wants to be free to do what it wants, and to cut costs; labor wants to gain benefits and increase salaries. To just blame the union is...just blaming the union. When someone does that, it speaks to the larger issue of whether there should be unions or not.
I think there should: Education is not a business. Cutting costs, outsourcing, standarizing widget manufacture...these principals are often at odds with true teaching and learning. Not only do unions protect hard-earned wages and benefits, but they protect students against damaging "efficiencies" that might save money but also diminish education. I find some union actions to be beneficial to education.
Ideally.

momster said...

just talked to a belleview teacher yesterday who said they negotiated the midwinter break mostly because parents were taking their kids out during that month to ski (?!) - while they don't really like it (the break), it was better than having kids out on a random basis.

priya - i used to take a bus to my parochial k-8, with everyone from kindergarteners to 8th graders on it, and it was fine. maybe times were different then, but the young kids sat in the front with their friends and the older kids in the back, likewise - and the older kids even looked out for the younger ones at the stops (one walked me to the bus every day).

on a related subject, i always wonder - how many k-5 kids are actually out there waiting for the bus by themselves without some adult (even if it's not their own parent but one of one of the other kids at the stop?)

i think it's the middle school kids who are at the stops by themselves...

adhoc said...

I never left my k-5 kids out at the bus stop alone, I wasn't willing to take that risk. I do occasionally see very young kids standing at bus stops alone, and am always taken aback. They are not only without an adult but they are without any other children too.

Perhaps with the new assignment plan we will see more kids attending their neighborhood schools, which may mean a group of kids standing at the bus stop together, which would be much more safe. Or we may see more walking to school together in pairs or groups? I've posted before that we have 7 families on our block and they are divided between 5 different public schools, and a private school. All of the public school kids take different buses, and all are the sole kid assigned to their bus stop.

hschinske said...

Priya, if you have a K-8, don't you by that very fact have kindergartners on the bus with 7th and 8th graders already? Plus, with the doubling up of buses you mention, you get kids who aren't in a K-8 school who are also on the bus with 7th and 8th graders. The Dunlap kids are on the bus with New School middle schoolers, the Lowell kids with TOPS middle schoolers, etc. The only difference is that younger students will now be on the bus with middle schoolers who are at comprehensive middle schools.

I'm not in favor of the plan, and I think your other points are logical, but this one I didn't get.

Helen Schinske

Charlie Mas said...

I notice that the program placement update that was removed from the last Board meeting agenda has not re-appeared on this meeting's agenda. What's up with that?

For those who are interested, here is Board Policy B45.00, which clearly states:

"Emergency motions may also be introduced and acted upon at the meeting at which they are introduced. Such emergency motions shall state that immediate adoption is in the best interest of the District. Non-routine, non-emergency items shall be introduced at one meeting, and the final vote for adoption shall take place no earlier than the next succeeding regular or special Board meeting."

Perhaps the Board should be reminded of this Policy. Perhaps, according to their Affirmation of Responsibility, one of them should do the reminding:

"3. Abide by the policies and bylaws of the Board and work with our fellow board members to change those policies as needed to improve student learning.

"We will maintain fidelity to these commitments and will welcome the intervention of our peers should we fail to live up to this oath.
"

As for the portables at Nathan Hale, I don't understand why they don't use some of the surplus portables all over the district. There are TWELVE portable classrooms at Mercer Middle School, which, according to the functional capacity assessment, has about 162 empty seats. There are two portable classrooms at Aki Kurose, which is also desperately underenrolled to the tune of over 400 students. Surely these schools don't need their portables. I'm sure there are other examples.

Central Mom said...

Wait. Am I having a caching problem on my computer, or am I seeing that the latest posting has rolled the K-8 start time back to 8 a.m. again?

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/board/08-09agendas/
031809agenda/
transportationstandards.pdf

If it has changed again, with no notice, I am flabbergasted. Hopefully I am the one in error.

Sharon R. said...

In attending the SPS School Board Executive Committee meeting last Wednesday morning I learned the following: there has been discussion as to whether transportation issues are administrative - and therefore under the purview of the Superintendent and staff - or come under the review of the School Board. Noting that staff had brought the transportation item to the School Board to be placed on the agenda, Michale DeBell commented that this obviously brought the transportation and bell times issue under the purview of the Board. DeBell and other Exec. Committee members Sundquist and Carr therefore faced the tough question of whether to introduce and vote on the item in one session (with virtually no opportunity for comment) or to push the vote back outside of the end of open enrollment. They chose the latter with a commitment from Carla Santorno that information on the proposed changes would be shared with families. I hope that we will get more of a sense of which way the Board is tending before the close of open enrollment. If you have already submitted an assignment request form, remember that you can always modify an initial enrollment request until the close of the open enrollment period. Sharon Rodgers

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you Sharon.

However, I wrote the Board on this issue and said that parents get the need to save money. But could the Board POSSIBLY throw parents a bone and call a special meeting at the end of next week to vote? That way parents will know for certain on the bell times and make any adjustments before the enrollment period ends.

They have called special meetings before and this would not be out of the ordinary unless we go with the flow which is parents come last.

No, I haven't heard from one Board member.

Charlie Mas said...

"They chose the latter with a commitment from Carla Santorno that information on the proposed changes would be shared with families."

Oh, well, so long as Ms Santorno has committed to sharing information with families.

HA HA HA HA HA

And when has Ms Santorno ever met a commitment like that?

Why do they still believe these people?

Charlie Mas said...

If you read the Board Action Report for the transportation change and you check the section titled "Community Engagement Process", you will find no mention of any community engagement whatsoever regarding the bell time change.

You will also note that the Best Practices section and the Research and Data Sources section are blank. In other words, there is no research or data to support this change and it does not reflect best practices.

The Board should reject any Action that does not have a complete Board Action Report form.