Wednesday, October 07, 2009

Work Session Notes, Part One

I'm just going to try to plunge in with some info I got at last night's meeting. I'll try to group it but some of the info may seem random.
  • There should be additional space at JSIS. This was explained by moving the BOC kids (I didn't hear where) and so there will be additional seats.
  • Tracy said, "Special Ed and Advanced Learning certainly have plans under this new SAP." I know this is not telling you anything you don't already know but it's good to have heard it said out loud so we can remind them later. She also said about the assumptions used to create the boundaries, "Reasonable people can disagree about the assumptions and their use."
  • We are using a modified VAX until 2011-2012. I guess they can't get us off it until then.
  • Under Next Steps, the Super mentioned that there is early registration going on now. I don't get it.
  • The projected size of the district by 2015 is almost 48,000.
  • Why do some schools look like they have small attendance areas? Tracy said density is the key to that question.
  • DeBell, along with several other directors, voiced the opinion that the new predictability factor might draw back private school parents. Tracy didn't agree but I sure do. I absolutely think it will be something that would give at least some private school parents pause.
The following are Q&As between Directors and staff. Many questions asked were framed by "I know my constiuents will ask me about X so I need to be able to answer their questions."

Sherry Carr remarks:
  • She asked about "balancing" schools between haves and have nots and asked Tracy about the process. Tracy said all the data will be available on-line for viewing. (She did say, later on, that not every single block is explained so don't look for that kind of detail.) Interestingly, walk zones are created by a City committee with staff from SPS . The issues is about adult crossing guards which the City has been supplying. With money tight, that will likely end after Dec. 2010 and the district is trying to figure this one out.
  • Sherry is also worried about Metro (which is a worry for other Directors as well). There was an article in Seattle Times today about this issue. Fares may go up for students (which means the district will pay more for a Metro pass). Our transportation director seems to think it will be offset by help from the state but the Eastside schools doubt that. Something to keep on the radar.
  • Sherry asked if something visual could be created to overlap old reference areas on new attendance areas.
  • She asked about this finger of Green Lake at the top of the attendance area that goes into Maple Leaf. She also asked about McDonald straddling I-5 which she said could be a dangerous area because of drug activity.
  • Sherry brought up the development around South Lake Union as an issue for the future. The demographer, Rachel Cassidy, spoke a couple of times, including this issue, but was very vague. Sherry brought this up twice and was one of a couple of directors to say that we might need another high school. Tracy said that high school population was in a decline because of smaller coherts.
  • She asked about Laurelhurst's inclusion into Hamilton. Tracy said that one factor was that most of those students were out of the walk boundary to Eckstein and had to be on a bus anyway.
  • She pointed out that part of GL that would go to Eckstein would then go to Ballard and was in Roosevelt's walk zone. (There are several of these anomolies around.)
  • She also mentioned, kind of out of the blue, a question about whether APP would stay at Garfield. Tracy said most APP middle school students make the choice to go to Garfield and her understanding was it would stay.
Michael DeBell:
  • He managed to stump Tracy. (A new game show: Let's Stump Tracy Libros - first prize: enrollment in the school of your choice.) He asked her if the district had tried to establish equitible ratio of option school seats to middle school areas.
  • He worried aloud about real opportunities for Open Choice seats. Tracy kind of said that siblings would likely get in anyway so that the seats would be open. (She forgot about siblings of students in the school for programs like Special Ed and ELL.)
  • Michael said he thought the Census data would help but Rachel Cassidy said it wouldn't come for years. He seemed a bit wistful about it.
  • He said he was concerned about walk zones. He saw some that looked good (like Adams) and some that looked off.
Peter Maier:
  • He expressed concern over modified VAX use but Tracy said they didn't want to try to run two systems in parellel and said they do use modified VAX on some items every year.
  • He worried over Metro use to Ingraham especially along Aurora.
  • He expressed concern over walk zone to Whittier.
  • He expressed concern over reopening schools without solid demographic data especially when presenting the case to the public. Rachel said she wasn't really planning to go into this issue in her presentation to the Board at the Board meeting (she makes a presentation on the October numbers tonight). I didn't hear a good answer to Peter's concerns.
  • He suggested shifting the north boundary for Ballard 5 blocks north and rotating Ingraham counterclockwise.
  • He also wondered about the Green Lake finger that will go to Eckstein and then to Ballard. Harium explained that the #48 goes from GL to Ballard easily. (It still seems weird.)
Cheryl Chow:
  • She questioned how some middle schools only have 4 elementaries feeding into them versus places like Eckstein/Washington that have 9.
  • She also brought up the oddity of having an elementary go to a middle school that then doubled back to a different high school. (For example, Laurelhurst used to go to Eckstein and then many students to Roosevelt. Now Laurelhurst will go to Hamilton but double back to Roosevelt. Maybe it will take getting used to.)
  • She then asked a strange question about where 8th grade Spectrum kids go for high school. Hello? Cheryl? There is no path for Spectrum students and never has been. Why did she think of this now?

46 comments:

h2o girl said...

Melissa, I greatly appreciate your taking notes and typing all this up for us. Thank you! Glad to see the board asking questions.

Keepin'On said...

From an earlier post- and I see Melissa addressed it in her notes. I think Tracy Libros is dreaming if she believes private school parents will not be sending kids to the north high schools. The economy is in the toilet, in case she hadn't noticed, and a guaranteed assignment to Ballard, or Garfield, or Roosevelt or Hale is going to look mighty attractive to people not able to fork over 10-25K per year tuitions anymore.

So here is the previous post:

I have a question about the numbers they are using, that I will ask at a community meeting, but want to ask here as well.

Have they accounted for private school students in these counts at all? You may see a larger than normal influx to Ballard and Roosevelt from the private schools, if those people know they have a guaranteed assignment. Couple that with the economic downturn, and it makes me wonder.

So, my question is, have they factored those students in at all?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Keepin'On, given Tracy's answers, I don't think so. It is certainly on the Directors radar.

Keepin'On said...

Well, it's nice to know someone is at least thinking about it.

Thanks!

TechyMom said...

Was Mary Bass there? Did she ask any questions?

I also expect private school returnees in the Stevens, Lowell, Thurgood Marshall and McGilvra areas, and possibly in Leschi if the new principal starts changing the culture. I don't mean that many people who have kids already in private elementary schools would move them to a public school. I mean that many entering kindergarteners who would have had Madrona or TT Minor assignements in the old system, and would have gone to private school, will choose these public schools instead.

There are LOTS of preschoolers in the northern part of the Washington Service Area, many of them affluent. This area has gentrified since the 2000 census, with many houses belonging to low-income seniors sold to young familes who work in software on the east side.

another mom said...

"Tracy said most APP middle school students make the choice to go to Ballard and her understanding was it would stay. " Melissa didn't you mean Garfield here?

another mom said...

Interesting that Peter Maier is concerned about Aurora and metro routes used by students to Ingraham. Students use the routes on Aurora NOW.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Another Mom (a little woozy with words here), I'll correct it.

another mom said...

Would have taken me days to transcribe and get my notes posted! Thanks for doing this so fast. It does not look like any concern voiced about the proposed size of Eckstein?

Renee said...

Melissa -

"He suggested shifting the north boundary for Ballard 5 blocks north and rotating Ingraham counterclockwise."

I am trying to understand the impact to the eastern Ingraham boundary. Would it change the alignment along I-5 (where I-5 as drafted serves as the boundary between Ingraham & Hale)?

Maureen said...

Renee: Maier (or maybe it was Harium?) did point out that you can walk over I-5 to Ingraham easily at that point (on 130th?) so I-5 shouldn't necessarily be the boundary.

Renee said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SolvayGirl1972 said...

Keepin' On...
I know a number of kids who could have gone to Garfield, but are in private high schools...so I'm with Tracy on this. Plenty of people still have money...and many are concerned about Garfield & Roosevelt's large size, fuzzy math, and the overall dysfunction of the District in general.

I even know one ex-Bush family who is sending their kid out of District to Interlochen in Bellevue!

Sure, people who have lost their jobs might return their kids to public school, but how many of them are there?

whittier07 said...

The Whittier walk zones are a nightmare ... why would they change the boundary lines so that kids now have to cross major streets (15th, 85th & 8th)??? Our school currently has a HUGE walkability factor that will be removed with these changes. I've never been a big fan of Peter Maier but thanks for bringing this up when our School Board rep (Sherry Carr) didn't notice.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Renee, I'm reporting what he said. Did I understand it fully? Nope. You'd have to ask him what he meant.

Josh Hayes said...

I'm not sure where to put this comment, but I have to wonder: since schools are being re-opened at significant expense after having been closed just two or three years ago (e.g. Viewlands), at significant expense -- thus vitiating the entire justification for closure -- surely someone's head will roll.

Who gets fired for this? Someone MUST be, right? This is as big a balls-up as I can imagine in the closure venue (we need to close a school -- now we need to reopen it!), so surely someone was simply incompetent, right?

After all the anguish, the kids schlepped all over hell's half-acre, after all the hooplah, surely someone will be willing to stand up and say they screwed up?

My wife works for Microsoft, and the idea that someone could so totally bollix things up and NOT lose his/her job made her laugh and laugh. Frankly, I need a scapegoat from JSC. Will someone be thrown to the wolves? Or will they just hope we didn't notice how incompetent they are?

zb said...

Well, I have no interest in scape goats. I think having dicussions about what went wrong is useful, because it might help prevent identical things from going wrong in the future. But the comparison to a private enterprise is flawed. School decision making is a model that includes JSC, the school board, the public, the politicians, . . . . Any of those people (including the public) can be a "scapegoat" in this issue, in terms of being at fault. We should talk about it, so that we can think about how all those people could modify their behavior, but throwing someone at JSC to the wolves isn't going to help us moving forward, unless not having them there would have made an actual difference in decision making.

another mom said...

The functional capacity of Viewlands looks off to me. It does not look like it will hold 420 students. The district believes there will be 410 there by 2015. Something does not look right about this to me. It is a fairly small school with some old portables.

emeraldkity said...

According to the district utilization rate analysis from 2005, Viewlands held 299 without portables and 412 WITH.
However- configurations change and that could also be a best ( most) case scenario.

another mom said...

Thanks emeraldkity. Yes, I think that would be the most case scenario for Viewlands. Maybe they will erect a couple of portables in Carkeek Park or on the roof? Guess the plan is to "stack 'em deep and teach'em cheap." (I don't remember who said this but it seems appropriate.)

Reopening schools seems essential to making the plan work in the N.end, and dependant on a capital levy that won't be on the ballot until February?? Are Board members concerned about this? What about deferred maintenance in buildings that are currently open?

Charlie Mas said...

I'm not necessarily looking for a head to roll, or even for someone to accept personal responsibility (although it ultimately lies with the superintendent). I'm with zb in wanting an acknowledgement of the mistake - perhaps even an accounting of it (how much did this cost us in mothballing and vandalism?) - and reforms to prevent its duplication.

However, the fear that a vengeful public wants a human sacrifice might make the district want to sweep it under the rug, and therefore not learn from it or prevent its repeat.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Another Mom, I'm writing a thread on your question. Much is dependent on the levy and it is not good. They are worried and they should be worried. The sell to the public will be difficult.

wseadawg said...

The North End has exploded and needs the classrooms. This trend will continue, regardless of market forces. The City is growing, and families are starting in the city after decades of moving up and out to greener pastures. This is a long term trend that shouldn't surprise anyone. Seattle recently eclipsed its highest population ever which was, I believe, in 1968 or 1969. We're now bigger than we've ever been, and keep growing.

As the North End fills up with density, the South End will follow, and is following, right behind. We can't outrun population growth.

Given all this, the Board needs to just open all the damn schools they need in the North End, including, and especially, Lincoln High School. Five years down the road, RB and Cleveland will be much larger than now if the district would just stick with properly resourcing the schools, holding staff accountable, and embracing, instead of alienating the South End communities.

Why the cowards on the board pussy-foot around with cultural and racial politics is absolutely beyond me. Give families what they need.

Keepin'On said...

The levy may certainly be difficult this year. What is the capacity plan if it fails?

Dora Taylor said...

The most recent census bureau report stated that there would be a 50%-100% growth of schools aged children in the Central/Capitol Hill areas between 2005 and 2012. Also, DeBell was well aware of the over-capacity issues in the north end area which he represents.

SPS had the census information because DeBell told me that is what they established their decision on to close schools.

One parent, Meg Diaz, did an exemplary accounting of the demographics for the school board but their minds had already been made up by the superintendent. See:

http://andrehelmstetter.com/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis/Capacity_managementfinal_analysis.htm

It has been a complete waste of time, money and resources to close schools, uproot children, rif teachers and move equipment, furniture and supplies around just to now say that we are over capacity and need to re-open seven buildings.

It reflects a complete lack of competency on the part of the superintendent and her chosen staff.

It is also unfair to expect to take money out of the upcoming Levy monies to pay for these mistakes. That money is to go to schools who desperately need funds to upgrade school buildings and address other items that were on the table before this came up.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

I agree with Dora...
Perhaps we should pressure SPS to cut some of the consultants, etc. to pay for reopening schools.

Roy Smith said...

It is also unfair to expect to take money out of the upcoming Levy monies to pay for these mistakes.

The mistakes have been made and now correcting them needs to be paid for. So where should the money come from?

SolvayGirl1972 said...

It probably won't be much of a dent, but it would go a long way in making peace with the taxpayers.
Every other city entity is taking a big cut to their operating budget, why not the District?

Chris said...

Will somebody start a thread about the meeting last night? Meg's testimony about the increase in central administration costs and the obfuscation around it, and DeBell's response...A few heads rolling would cut some costs.

It is true that if no heads roll the voters may feel more like making them roll..

Dora Taylor said...

Roy, it is my understanding that the rainy day fund was not touched even though it was argued during the school closure debacle and the rif's that those funds be used rather than take a hatchet to our school system.

The funds are there and can be used. With the international and national financial picture beginning to become brighter, there would be opportunity in the near future to refill that fund.

Oh yeah, and what about the money that Gates and the Broad gave SPS of $10M total. Why couldn't we use those funds so that the levy money can still go into making our schools safer?

Dora Taylor said...

I would like a thread on the money that was given to SPS by the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates, $10M. I want to know where that money is now, what it is being used for and the relationship between those funds and the Alliance for Education. By the way, the last school board retreat was paid for by the Alliance for Education.

Many school board retreats around the country are financed by the Broad Foundation which is a proponent of charter schools. Was our board's retreat funded in a circuitous fashion by them as well?

Central Mom said...

I did a whistle in the wind test yesterday based on the SAP release and knowledge that the levy will be necessary to make it work as far as opening new facilities.

25 Central District folks, about 70-30 percentage of district parents to non-. The levy went down. Hard. Reasons for thumbs down included economy, feeling and I quote "shafted" by SPS program policies in the CD (specific schools were mentioned in each case) and two votes of no confidence in District facilities. Two said they never vote on levy matters. Thumbs up reasons given were all along the line of "I always vote for public school levies."

This is a small poll, but interesting to me. One note is that I'd consider all of these people to be relatively educated.

Chris said...

Since we're talking about closure fallout, last night we learned that the greatest "district attrition" rates (leaving SPS entirely) was seen in Summit and AAA communities. Does this alarm anyone? It's not like the latter population has the resources to go private!!! I really hope they have the resources to go to Renton, but it seems like a real possibility that SPS put some kids on the streets. ??? I can't believe no directors even asked anything.

hschinske said...

Is it *that* unlikely that any kids from AAA would have gone private? Lack of resources isn't necessarily the issue. If you're poor enough to get a full scholarship (90% of AAA students were on FRL, so that's a reasonable assumption), it could actually be a little *easier* to go private than it is for people who make enough to have to pay part or all of the tuition.

It still wouldn't be easy, full stop: there aren't a lot of private schools with openings for full-scholarship students, and it might be hard to get in. But it wouldn't be any harder because of being poor. Given that AAA was an alternative school, you wouldn't have too many parents incapable of planning ahead about their kids' education.

Helen Schinske

TechyMom said...

It's also possible that there were out of district kids from Renton at AAA. There are at Madrona and were at MLK.

Dora Taylor said...

Well, I found out about the Gates and Broad funds and they are connected to the Alliance for Education. By the way, the Alliance for Education funded the last school board retreat. And what funds were used? Those provided by the Broad and Bill Gates.

See:

http://www.broadeducation.org/asset/0-alliance-sps%20release%20final%203-10.pdf

My next question is, who decided that this money would be used for this purpose and did the school board have a say in this? We have schools at over-capacity and in disrepair, schools closed and teachers rif'd and the best thing they could do with the money is testing and evaluation of students? Isn't the WASL enough of a statistical evaluation of how a student is doing? A good teacher, and we have plenty of them in our school system, can evaluate where a student is at any point in time. I know that my daughter's teachers can and I can also as an educator.

And, why do we need the Alliance for Education to handle such funds? Can't that be done within SPS and monitored by the school board who are in turn are monitored by us?

It is interesting how these grants were provided to SPS just before the superintendent's evaluation and based on how well they thought that she was performing. Particularly considering that our superintendent is on the Board of Directors for the Broad Foundation. As my daughter would say, "Coincidence? I think not."

There is a lot going on here that needs further study.

Dora Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dora Taylor said...

It just occurred to me that these student assessments that the Broad and Bill Gates are paying for will not inevitably be about how a student is doing but how a teacher is performing which would later be the basis for determining merit pay.

See:

http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

and scroll down to merit pay to see how it ties into charter schools, the Broad Foundation and Bill Gates.

Also, check out who is on the Board of Directors for the Alliance for Education. I don’t see too many educators on this board.

http://www.alliance4ed.org/about/board.htm

emeraldkity said...

regarding teacher pay- I thought this was an interesting way of handling it-
This is from the school Chancellor in D.C. ( however- I don't think the union has signed a contract yet)

Earlier this year, [Rhee] proposed a revolutionary new model to let teachers choose between two pay scales. They could make up to $130,000 in merit pay on the basis of their effectiveness--in exchange for giving up tenure for one year. Or they could keep tenure and accept a smaller raise.

I don't know how to get the HTML link but updates are in the Washington Post

Dora Taylor said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Dora Taylor said...

Merit pay is an issue that is closely associated with charter schools and is a reiteration of the No Child Left Behind Act.

Basically, it requires that teachers pay be based on how well their students perform on standardized tests. For our students, it could be the WASL or a similar test such as the assessment test that is being created thanks to the donations of Bill Gates and the Broad Foundation. (See my comment above regarding that.) With the No Child Left Behind Act, teachers and staff were pressured to teach much of the class work to the standardized tests. With so much focus on the test, many other parts of knowledge building, creativity and understanding of subjects and their synthesis with other knowledge had to take a back seat. For many students, teaching to a test meant that they were not able to reach their full potential which would have been far beyond the level of the tests.

No one wins in this situation.

Part of the fallout also is that if a teacher's pay is based on how well their students test, many teachers will want to teach in a school where they know that the students will perform better. Those schools are, for the most part, not the minority schools.

Some students do not perform well on standardized tests for many different reasons and yet a teacher's pay can be tied to that student's performance. High stakes testing also puts pressure and stress on the students who become burdened with the thought that they need to perform well on one test. The test becomes a focus with little opportunity to explore and have fun learning, creating and synthesizing new thoughts and ideas.

If we are to have merit pay in Seattle, it needs to be based on many factors and not just what is indicated on one standardized test.

Also, where would we get the money for these bonuses? We are cash strapped as it is.

For an interesting article regarding the subject, see:

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/gerald-bracey/obama-and-duncan-champion_b_245565.html

Dora Taylor said...

By the way, emeraldkity, to get a link to your comment box, just left click on the link that shows up in your browser where your artice is, highlight it and then right click your mouse. Click the command that says "copy" and then go back to your comment box and hit the left button on your mouse to get the bar to flash that shows where your mouse is and then right click again and click "paste".

It's just like when you want to cut and paste in a word document.

Hope that helps.

emeraldkity said...

thanks for the help for the html link- but I am on a macbookpro with only a trackpad. and no left/right button

and I think in the case of the DC schools- the money was being donated for teacher salaries- but that is like opening a can of worms because once you start getting donated funds- it isn't often no strings attached

lendlees said...

A quick tech comment for emeraldkity--we're a mac family too and to get a left click on a trackpad, hold down the control key while you click and that will bring up the traditional dialog box that Windows users get.

reader said...

For many students, teaching to a test meant that they were not able to reach their full potential which would have been far beyond the level of the tests.

No one wins in this situation.



This is kind of a hip, and pat response against standardized testing. But it isn't completley correct. In fact, WASL has forced teachers to reach out and teach to where the students are... and to try much harder with students they would ordinarily give up on. It may be on a limited scope, but it is better than before. MAP testing tests a huge range... so students ahead of the state standards can still be measured and expected to make at least a year's progress in a year's time. EG. If you're working at year ahead, next year you should still be a year or more ahead.

The problem with WASL is the high stakes nature of it. Perhaps it can't be avoided ... because students who aren't required to take a test, may well not show up... or may not try hard if they do show up, which reduces validity.

TechyMom said...

another way to get a link
<a href="http://example.com/page.html">text you want to show for your link</a>

will come out like this

text you want to show for your link

You can just go to the page and copy the URL (the http://example.com part) from the address bar of your browser, and type the rest.