Friday, November 13, 2009

Public Hearing On Operations and BTA III Levies

(Update: I totally left out parent Bruce Taylor's great remarks about how we might be making a mistake opening Sand Point when the district projects more than 100 open seats at Laurelhurst in just a few years. He asked if it was worth spending $7M for 134 seats. Saying Sand Point will fail if Laurelhurst is a choice people can make because there's space at a good program, he urged them to put in an international program there. )

This was a quiet affair, 4 Board members, 7 staff and 7 speakers. We were in and out in 20 minutes. However, that didn't mean it wasn't interesting.

First of all, Peter Maier ran thru the pleasantries and it was announced that the other 3 Board members AND Dr. Goodloe-Johnson couldn't be there because of a commitment to attending a fundraiser at Chief Sealth. Good on Sealth for getting all these people to attend. However, this was a public hearing, a legal obligation, and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson couldn't be there? There were already 3 Board members at the function. (I mentioned this at the end of my remarks and said I thought it disrespectful of her. Do I believe Dr. G-J is going to listen to the audio of these remarks? I do not.)

So there was one speaker, Dora Taylor, worried about seismic issues at Meany (and rightly so except that the district's version of seismic is shoring things up, not necessarily bringing everything up to code - there are different levels of seismic safety allowed). And, some of the work at Meany wouldn't be done until 2014/2015 which is quite a long way off.

Chris Jackins mentioned numerous issues including oversight of BTA (there is none), green initiatives and yet the District still wants to cut down some of the grove of trees at Ingraham, an accounting of closure and reopening costs for Rainier View and Viewlands, the loss of Cleveland as a comprehensive high school, etc.

I spoke about my usual issue with BTA. I did include some new information so I'll just exerpt my remarks here:

"The BTA III levy will NOT get us out of this mess. It will barely make a dent and that’s because nearly about 18% of the $270M sought for the levy is for just 5 buildings, all of them over 50 years old, that aren’t even schools yet. One of these buildings, McDonald, was toured by Director Carr who said she was appalled and shocked at the condition of the building and couldn’t imagine its stated use as an emergency site.

Additionally, I note that the “B” in BTA spending is slowly going down. The first BTA was at about 65% for buildings and the second was 53% and now this one is down to 51%. With the lack of basic maintenance AND spending on buildings going down in this BTA, realistically, how do you expect to get ahead on maintaining our facilities?

I ask for two things BEFORE the levy election. One, a good faith measure by the Board to show that they will, in the next budget, put more money into basic maintenance by bringing spending up to 1%. That good faith measure could either be putting it in writing that you will bring up the spending in the next budget OR dipping into reserves slightly to prove you are serious about change. The second thing is a promise that there will be a bi-annual accounting report made available to the public that shows where the BTA and BEX money goes. Not a mere list of projects but actual accounting."

Heidi Bennett, who is the Legislative person for the Seattle Council PTSA, spoke about good things on the BTA list (and yes, there are lots of them) but interestingly, had issues with the Operations levy. She feels there isn't as much transparency in what happens to the money (although she said she just saw some newly-updated info at the SPS website).

Then, there was Betty Hogland. Betty is another long-time education activist and she is currently the president of Schools First which is the citizens group that runs the levy campaigns. Betty, like me, has been around a long time and is very knowledgable about the district.

So she came out first with her Schools First talk about BTA being the workhorse levy affecting every school, needing technology in every school, etc. Then, unbelievably, she took off that hat and put on a taxpayer's hat. She, too, said we have a huge backlog of maintenance that needs to be addressed. Yay, Betty!

She said, "We need to protect these investments." and it's a great point. What schools are at the very bottom of the basic maintenance list (besides the closed ones)? That would be the newly-remodeled schools. That makes sense, right? However, just like every building that is not being maintained, these spanking-new buildings will start looking shabby sooner. They will have issues long before they should. What will Roosevelt look like in 10, 15, 20 years? These are building that are supposed to be built for a 50-year cycle because we have poured tens of millions of dollars into them. Quite the investment to allow to decay quickly.

She had an interesting thought. She said that in the next BEX cycle (which will come up in 3 years and the list is forming now), they should NOT redo a school and take that entire sum of money (which could be anywhere from $55M to $100M depending on what type of school leaves the list) and use it towards basic maintenance. Very intriguing because that would be a HUGE amount to put towards getting things done and righting this ship. However, that is more than 3 years off (and things will only get worse) AND I'd have to see it in writing that the district/Board will do this.

My takeaway is that the district has a lot of dissent out there from many corners. It's not going to be enough to say, "It's for the kids." and think it will win the day.


joanna said...

The underlying demographic numbers have not been presented that would make the case to reopening all the schools.

I will write more later, but Nina Shapiro expressed a similar concern below. Earlier I had gotten to a possible 74 students and am continuing to check my numbers. During closure the District published actual number for each of the reference areas and I think that maps and charts depicting the new proposals should also be in the data books and are not presented. I believe there is definitely a case to be made for two of them, one being Viewlands which we spent money on closing. And it was not protected from vandals making the reopening cost even more.

"At a school-board workshop at the John Stanford Center last week, board members expressed concern about reopening McDonald in the Wallingford/Greenlake area, which has been shuttered the longest and would cost the most (nearly $15 million) . Several board members noted that district projections show that only 54 more student seats are needed in that school's attendance area, and only for a short period of time. "Fifteen million dollars is a lot of money to open a school if we're only talking about a three-year stretch," said board member Sherry Carr.

"Let us go back and look at it," said Libros, the enrollment manager."

joanna said...

I noted some typos in my comment. So sorry. By now I should know to check before I click "publish."

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

The district projects 134 additional seats.

But based on the addresses listed in our 2009 student directory, I project only 80 seats will be gained -- and that's only if they add portables at Sand Point.

That's a poor return on $7 million, especially if the school craters.

Sand Point can go a LONG way toward solving overcrowding in the south part of NE Seattle -- but only if the board insists on compelling programming. They must do better than they did at Jane Addams K-8. Eventually students were force-assigned to that option school because not enough parents believed the programming was worthwhile.

joanna said...

The needed 54 seats refer only to the area that McDonald is in. As McDonald will then take many seats away from other schools. Should a school be reopened for 54 students especially in an area with ready access to additional option schools?

Melissa Westbrook said...

And McDonald needs $14M+ of work. It's a lot of money to invest in an old building.

Keepin'On said...

So lets see,

They need 7 mil for Sand Point, 14 million for McDonald, and that totals 21 million, for less than 200 kids, and yet they somehow cant find the money to open another high school in the north end. Which, I know they might say they don't need now, but man, oh man, what are they going to do with this huge bubble of elementary kids who will eventually get be be in 9th grade?


WV - Latere. Like "Later" as in "we'll think about that issue later?"

Marie said...

I attended the Sealth event, and only two Board memebers attende, Steve Sunquist and Peter. It was the first Sealth even, so to me it made perfect sence that DGJ was present. I know that the Roosevelt PTSA has well established fundraisers, but not all PTSAs have the privilege of well healed donor bases. The Sup's support was appropraite and apprecated. The Board's job is actions like this, if you want to complain, I would direct it at the absent directors, who clearly weren't all at the Sealth event.

sixwrens said...

doesn't the district need to spend money on mcdonald regardless of whether it becomes an attendance area school? It's supposed to be an emergency school, but could not serve in that capacity in its currrent condition.

Charlie Mas said...

According to the information provided at the Board work session, a significant amount of the $15 million for McDonald is for furniture. I'm not sure if the District would or would not have to spend that if they didn't re-open the school.

There is some money that the District needs to spend on McDonald to keep it ready as an emergency site - and just to maintain their property. Of course, they should have been doing this work all along.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Marie, I'm sensing a little bit of tartness in your answer. I'm not sure what Roosevelt has to do with Sealth.

Dr. G-J DOES have a role in the BTA because she is the one who directs what happens to the money. It was nice of Peter to go to both.

Sixwrens, well now, the district has been "outed" on its claim that McDonald could (is) an emergency site. The way Sherry Carr was talking about it, it would seem she's thinking it should be cleaned up for use whether it is or not. But, that she seems to think as long as they are fixing it up, it could be used. I may be reading too much into what she said but she was the one who raise the first red flag about whether the district needed to reopen McDonald or not.

emeraldkity said...

The PTSA at Sealth looks pretty organized to me, at least their website is more organized than some of the schools in this district.
Looks like the auction/dinner was a big hit- sold out a week a head of time- but I agree that by not attending yet another public hearing Dr G-J was giving the city what my daughter would call " the bum-bum show".

Perhaps if Summit had ever had the superintendent or a board member attend a function ( or visit more than occasionaly at graduation), they wouldn't be closed, because the district would have had better information about the program.

Anonymous said...

There is some discussion around making Sand Point an international language school. That's not a bad idea, but we already have one of those in the north end, so let's consider another, even more enticing program:

Traditional Math.

Yes, let one of these newly opened buildings, either Sand Point or McDonald run a traditional math program. I bet there would be a wait list for the building by the 2nd year of operation.

The current math situation is terrible, and looking worse with each passing year. Parents are complaining, teachers are seeing kids coming into their classes without the necessary skills to do even basic math - in 5th grade! When the teachers and parents have to start supplementing on the side (and on the sly), you know there are terrible problems.

This would be a really easy program to get started. Virtually no costs other than perhaps some other textbooks for a single building, and we do have Singapore books available. Teachers would need little to no training, as it's much, much easier to teach traditional math as opposed to reform math.

What do you guys think? Can we start a ground roots effort to push for this?

emeraldkity said...

Traditional Math.

Yes, let one of these newly opened buildings, either Sand Point or McDonald run a traditional math program. I bet there would be a wait list for the building by the 2nd year of operation.

I doubt that would ever happen because that would be admitting the curriculum choice for the district was a mistake although they are allowing supplemental Singapore materials.

I have the impression that it is more important for curriculum to be " culturally relevant", than rigorous, but who the heck would decide that 5th graders don't need to know how to do long division?

Anonymous said...

ek, sure, this is a long-shot, given the mind set of the district with math. But remember, we do have a new CAO, and if enough parents (and local businesses, think tech and engineering: Microsoft, Boeing) got organized and started pushing for this, perhaps it would have a chance. One can hope.

Anonymous said...

Regarding my presentation to the school board regarding the levy numbers, my concern is that the Old Hay building will be closed for a year while all maintenance items are addressed. Per the 2009 Meng report, there is a backlog of maintenance of $7M for Old Hay and that is the amount that is slated to be spent to re-open the building. I can't imagine, because SBOC functioned in the building before this, that all of that money is necessary to re-open Old Hay but that is what will be provided by SPS.

And yet, SBOC was relocated into a building with much more severe structural problems. These items were not addressed even when we requested that the work be done before Nova and SBOC moved into the building.

We are asking for equity. That's all.

My testimony went as follows:

You should have in front of you the Meng report dated 8/21/09 as well as the structural report provided by PCSA and dated January 31, 2006

First I want to thank you for taking our concerns seriously about the seismic condition of our school buildings and taking action to address those issues.

Upon review of the recommended proposal presented by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, I can see that the school buildings that have the potential for the greatest amount of danger to our students will receive seismic upgrading of the structural roof systems but according to the proposal, the remaining seismic upgrades would have to wait until 2014 and 2015.

The additional upgrades would include removing or tying to the structure the brick and other masonry so that the brick or other items would not fall on students and staff during the occurrence of an earthquake, replacing all glass with shatter proof glass, attaching the walls to the foundation and ensuring that all light fixtures and ceiling grid are tied into a vertical system so that the ceilings do not fall during a seismic event.

The safety of our students cannot wait until 2015, while buildings such as Old Hay are proposed to have all maintenance completed before the building is opened at the cost of $7M. Other buildings such as Meany have a backlog of maintenance for a total of $21M with no consideration of addressing those issues through 2015.

The funding of these building upgrades must be addressed in a more equitable manner.

It is only fair that the students in the SBOC program who were moved out of the Old Hay building so that the north end families could manage their capacity issues now be in a building that is as safe as their counterparts in the north end.


The amount of money proposed to replace the roof structure of the Meany building of $5.6M would cover the cost for seismically upgrading the entire building according to the 2009 report provided by Meng where the total to upgrade the entire building was projected at $5.3.

I would suggest that you revisit the numbers and make sure that the entire Meany building is seismically upgraded within the next two years by ensuring that you are receiving reasonable bids from your contractors.

Also, in terms of having the work split into potential phases that are years apart, that is normally not accepted by the building department. Once work is proposed to address seismic code issues, all of the work is required to be completed within a reasonable period of time. I don’t think that the building department will think that five years is a reasonable time period to complete the upgrade of a building for earthquake safety.

These questions need to be addressed and clarified before the vote on November 18th.

Anonymous said...

After the meeting, Peter Maier and Tom Redman, the Capital Projects Community Liason, did come up to me to discuss my concerns.

I was asked to send the testimony to Mr. Redman which I did. He has sent it on to other parties to receive answers to my questions.

In addition to the testimony that I gave, where I had only three minutes to describe a plethora of issues, I included in the e-mail additional information and questions. The body of the e-mail was as follows:


I appreciate having the opportunity to speak with you last night.

Attached is a copy of my testimony.

In addition to what I said, I have other questions and they are as follows:


The Facilities Analysis that is shown on the SPS website shows 2006 numbers spliced into the 2009 Meng report. Those 2006 numbers are far below the cost projections shown on the actual 2009 Meng report. I provided copies of the 2009 Meng report to the board members at last night's meeting.

I was curious why that was done.

2. In the Meng report with a print date of 8/21/09, the "Seismic Mitigation" projected cost for the Meany building is shown as $5,380,458. That was to cover all of the cost of seismic upgrades that would be required. According to the proposal put forth by Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, the replacement of the roof structure had the projected cost of $5.6. Why the discrepancy? Have actual bids or estimates been presented to SPS for this work? I am hoping that the $5.6M covers all that is needed to upgrade the Meany building. Which gets me to my next question.

3. When you go to the building department to do a certain amount of work, there is a construction cost limit that if the estimated construction cost exceeds that limit, all seismic and ADA upgrades per building code have to be met. Am I to assume that the $5.6M covers all of the code requirements that would kick-in when the roof structure is either replaced or modified? You can propose to phase a project because a building is occupied but from my experience, no building department would give anyone five years to phase in code upgrades as is shown on the superintendent's proposal.

On another note, there are FEMA grants that have been provided through the stimulus package that can be used to upgrade schools per seismic codes. I had brought this up in a school board meeting and sent the information on to school board members but nothing came of it. These are Mitigation Funds and each grant is up to $3M with matching funds required from the school district. Another school district in Washington, I would need to check my notes to find out which one, has used this money to upgrade one of their school buildings.

I have the contact information for the person who handles this FEMA money in our state and would like to give it to the appropriate person or parties within SPS to look into this further.

Your assistance with providing me with the information that I have requested would be greatly appreciated.


Dora Taylor

We'll see how long it takes to get answers to my questions.

Bird said...

According to the information provided at the Board work session, a significant amount of the $15 million for McDonald is for furniture.

If they are initially only going to have Kindergarten classes, how could furniture possibly cost a significant portion of $15 million? Each kid gets a $50,000 desk?

I'd like to know more about the costs for this. The very small amount of currently available information doesn't really make much sense.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't know how much the furniture and other items would be but Sherry Carr pointed this out and I thought (but I will check my notes) that she said something like $2M.

mkd said...

If you are interested in my entire post, see mkd under "What's Due . . ." Something terribly disturbing happened today:

I found my younger son using one of our old homeschool books, PUBLISHED IN 1993, because it is the book used in his World History class. World Cultures: A Global Mosaic, a text where I learned Saddam was still alive and in power and Myanmar was still Burma. No wonder teachers choose to use their own curricula. Perhaps the money being donated (or if money is available in the budget) should be applied to new history books. (As for my copy, I bought it at a thrift store bag sale, $1.50 a bag.) Since I have lots of books on hand (many those more current we will be offering to donate to the school library).

mkd said...

When Durham High School was short tables and chairs, they hit the salvage sales.

emeraldkity said...

World Cultures: A Global Mosaic
Are these the books that RBHS is using?
( I think B&N has them for $15.)

I found a link that describes the book not as a history but but a cultural awareness text.

My daughter took AP history so she used a different text.
this site gave the book excellent marks as a world culture text.

Abc said...

I thought it was a World Culture book also. Apparently we were both wrong. $15 is pretty good. A couple of sites listed used copies at $1.71. They also had lots of copies in stock.

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