So I have found an on-line site to create a petition. I would also like to try to circulate a paper petition at schools who have no PTAs (and may not have a central information center). So I need help with wordsmithing the petition as well as circulating a paper petition.
I wrote a long e-mail to the Board outlining my concerns about BTA III. Most of them concern (and here's a surprise) accountability and oversight. Here's what I wrote:
"It is painfully clear that facilities issues are truly damaging the ability of this district to move forward. If I, as a member of the CAC, had been apprised of this in any clear fashion, I would have recommended closing buildings of the poorest conditions and moving programs. That would have been the criteria. (And it's funny because the two things I heard the most as the Committee member in charge of reading and answering e-mail, was that the district should either (1) close the buildings in the worst condition or (2) save the best programs no matter their building condition.) Because of the situation we are in now, we should have closed the worst buildings.
You can go to the public, as David Tucker [district spokesperson] did, and say that we are in this time and place because of some failed levies in the '80s and '90s (and I still can't find the one in the '80s and David hasn't responded to my e-mail request - I did a search at the SPS website and Times/PI websites and cannot find a reference to it). Yes, you could blame all the backlog on the voters but you and I both know that wouldn't be true.
The truth is that for whatever reason, some Board or Superintendent or Facilities manager or all of them, decided to pull back on basic maintenance. It got worst as all untended maintenance does and especially in older buildings where age is already a strike working against upkeep. The district decided the money needed to go elsewhere. But, as I stated to you at the last Board meeting, it is part of your duty and part of a good, functioning classroom for classes to be in safe, secure buildings. So that "savings" really was illusionary.
You will have the unenviable job of trying to explain closing schools one minute and reopening other schools the next. You will have to explain how the district knew that the population growth was coming (and there are documents to show this) and yet did nothing. You will have to explain how this district kept dropping the amount it spends on basic maintenance from the General Fund until it is under 1% and now basic maintenance has become much larger (and much more expensive). And you will have to do this against the backdrop of high unemployment and a sagging economy.
I am going to write, with the help of people who visit the blog, Save Seattle Schools, an on-line petition. We will be asking parents to sign it and it will be asking you for a couple of things. One, to commit to the provisions of the maintenance and capital audits that you paid for. Two, provide clear lines of accountability via a detailed accounting of public funds spent on BEX and BTA at least 3 times a year to the public. (A third thing would be shake up the personnel in Facilities but I think the State Auditor's report might trigger that.) There might be more but I am not writing it alone."
Okay, the biggest issue to ask you about is this; should the petition reflect the idea that if the Board does nothing to shore up parent/public confidence in the district's handling of facilities, that the undersigned will not vote in BTA III?
Or, is it better to just ask people to sign a petition asking the Board to ask for accountability from the district so that voters will feel secure in voting for BTA III?
The carrot or the stick? "You have our support if we see you care about these concerns" OR "if we see no commitment from you for accountability for these monies, we will vote against the levy."
My personal feeling is that more parents will feel comfortable with the carrot but we can certainly mention the stick in the petition explanation. (Meaning, tell parents that we are asking for the accountability that the district promises and it's up to the Board to enforce it. But we could add a sentence that parents are voters who could show their displeasure by not voting for the levy or not voting at all.)
Then, once that is decided, what to ask for?
Above I mentioned,
(1) at least 3 times a year, a simple yet clear and accurate accounting of BEX and BTA spent (how much was there at the beginning, what it was spent on, the state of each project - on-time, on-budget -what projects are dropped or added, etc. and
(2) a commitment to the recommendations in the audits done on the capital and maintenance programs this last year. The Board would have to pass policy that explains this to the Superintendent and staff with enforcement benchmarks.
The Board would need to make their intent clear BEFORE the vote.
(I also want the Board to get the money to Nova and SBOC in Meany right now via movement of money from BEX III because of the promises made to those communities and the state of the building. However, I worry this will be confusing to parents so I would leave it out.)
I want this petition to be short but clear. I would like it to get on-line this week and have handouts about it at all the community meetings (I can make 2 but not all.)
Please give me your thoughts on what it should ask for and if you think it should be carrot or stick.