Wednesday, February 24, 2010

NTN Contract

I went through the NTN contract and found any number of concerns. I wrote them up and handed them to each Director at this afternoon's Board Work Session on the budget. I got there early and was able to ask Harium about it. I only asked about the issue of separate schools with separate staffs versus two academies in one school.

He claims that in the appendix with the criteria this is not true. So I went back and reread that. It is open for interpretation. You could either see it as each academy is a school (and therefore has to have its own totally separate staff from the other academy/school). Or, what it means is that Cleveland can't be bigger than 450. Here's the actual wording:

Size: Schools will be designated a small school with no more than 450 students for grades 9-12, with a firm commitment from the district to hold enrollment level.

I would read that as saying the school can't be bigger than 450. But I still think Harium is wrong because the last page labeled "Exhibit D: Fees and Expenses" has a chart with two columns labeled "High School Name 1" and "High School Name 2" and each is charged $400K for services. That equals $800,000 which is what we are paying.

Here are some of my other concerns from reading the contract:
  • the district has 60 days to deliver a "Master Plan" with tasks, timeline and persons responsible for implementation. If NTN doesn't approve this planning application, either because it is incomplete or insufficient, "the actual implementation start date may be delayed". My question? What will the district do if that happens? (Note: they just lost a court case over not doing what is sufficient.)
  • there is a training program that the district would get charged for per participant. Okay but then it says that the fee can be deducted from the Special Expense Fund. What is that fund? I can't find reference to it anywhere else in the contract.
  • Enrollment is capped "with a firm commitment from the district to hold enrollment level" at 450. So that means Cleveland would be an underenrolled building for the size it was built for.
  • all courses have to be project-based learning as the "primary methodology". Does that include foreign language, PE and CTE?
  • "students will take their entire core curriculum through the School" - no Running Start then?
  • teachers and principals belong to "the School" and will not have their assignments divided with other schools. Again, could you overlap some teachers for non-core classes?
  • "School principals will have significant autonomy from involuntary or undesirable transfers from other schools." What does the SEA say about this?
  • NTN gets an "advisory partner" role in picking and approving a principal. What does this mean in specific?
  • One lead teacher has to be a liaison between staff and NTN. How much will this teacher get paid extra for this?
  • the School has to send a team regularly to their NTN national conference, leadership training, staff training and IT administrator training. Who pays for all these trainings and trips?
  • "parent group contributes in the financial sustainability of the School by facilitating large scale events or activities within the community" Get ready to pony up folks (they aren't subtle, are they?).
  • Here's my favorite about "work product" - To the extent District or any of its
    employees or agents creates or contributes to any New Materials, then District agrees that in consideration for the Services and License and in compliance with the terms and conditions of this Agreement District will assign, and will direct its employees and agents to assign, to NT upon the request of NT, all right, title and interest of District in any New Materials. District will cooperate with, and to the best of its ability, assist NT (at NT’s expense) in NT’s efforts to secure, vest, protect, record, further document or register such assignment and NT’s rights in any New Materials, including but not limited to executing all papers reasonably desirable or necessary to further document this assignment and vesting of rights in NT. I'm not a lawyer so help me out. I read this to say that anything developed by any SPS employee working at Cleveland is owned by NTN and the district will make sure of it. Outside groups, including universities, might not like this particular facet of the contract.
These aren't even "how will this school work" questions. These are far-reaching implications for Cleveland as a school. Again I wonder: how is it we are paying them but somehow they control the school?

27 comments:

dan dempsey said...

Bait and Switch

BIG TIME !!

This is just totally unacceptable to advertise one thing to the public and then buy another.

We bought Problem Based Learning and are required to use it as the primary instructional mode in every class.

Well now you know why the NTN schools have uniformly poor performance. Hey we are only obligated to do it that way for 3 years!!! We have sold our children into NTN bondage.

Look over the CONTRACT
Melissa said:I got there early and was able to ask Harium about it. I only asked about the issue of separate schools with separate staffs versus two academies in one school.

He claims that in the appendix with the criteria this is not true.

......PLEASE!!!
What contract is Harium reading?


FACILITIES
 Separate Facilities: School facilities are physically separate from other schools and support a unique identity.

 Size: Schools will be designated a small school with no more than 450 students for grades 9-12, with a firm commitment from the district to hold enrollment level.

 Unique School Name and School Code: School will have its own identity, with a unique school name and state school code. School will have appropriate signage for recognition as unique site.



 Dedicated Staff: Teachers and principals are full-time employees of the School and will not have their assignments divided with other schools.

Look at the Success Rubrics
a detailed version of "Plays well with others"

Little wonder the NTN folks steer clear of End of Course assessment scores on their race to the Bank.


 Leadership: School will have a full-time principal.

 Principal Selection: NTN will play an advisory partner role in principal selection and approval.

 Staffing Autonomy: School principal will have significant autonomy from involuntary or undesirable transfers from other schools. Hiring and assessment procedures must reflect the specific requirements of the model.

===============================

How can board members be expected to have knowledge of a contract without more assistance. These are the folks who were unable to understand a one sentence court order because it had the word "Remand" in it.

This deal has a lot in common with the concrete business in Jersey ... the fix was in ... NO Doubt.

Good to see the 2007 well funded campaign victors voting as an entire 4 person block in a 4-2 decision. Why expect anything less?

Certainly after all the bizarre voting and evidence free explanations you were not expecting more... were you?

========================
in the appendix with the criteria

Do we have access to this appendix NOW or will it be created tonight?

gavroche said...

OT (or maybe not), but teachers at a Rhode Island high school are being fired en masse because the high-poverty school is not doing so well.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/nationworld/2011171663_apusentireschoolfired.html
Plan to fire all its teachers roils poor RI city

Connecting the dots... RI's new education commissioner, Deborah Gist, who is helping to oversee this extremist action, is a graduate of the Broad Foundation's Superintendent Academy (http://newsroom.dc.gov/show.aspx/agency/seo/section/2/release/15509/year/2008/month/11 State Superintendent Deborah Gist Graduates From Urban Superintendents Academy )
-- just like our own School Superintendent, Maria Goodloe-Johnson, who is also on the Broad board (http://www.broadcenter.org/about/board.html).


From the RI article: "The shake-up comes as Rhode Island's new education commissioner, Deborah Gist, pushes the state to compete for millions of dollars in federal funding to reform the worst 5 percent of its schools, including in Central Falls. State law requires schools to warn teachers by March 1 if their jobs are in jeopardy for the following school year."

Is this what Broad graduates are trained to do? Strong-arm and scapegoat teachers and wreak havoc on school districts?

Broad itself admits that the privatization of public schools via charters and "performance pay" are at the top of the list of its investment agenda.
(from its 2009 Annual Report: http://www.broadfoundation.org/asset/101-2009.10%20annual%20report.pdf)

"The election of President Barack Obama and his appointment of Arne Duncan, former CEO of Chicago Public Schools [AND BROAD BOARD MEMBER], as the U.S. secretary of education, marked the pinnacle of hope for our work in
education reform. In many ways, we feel the stars have finally aligned.

With an agenda that echoes our decade of investments—charter schools,performance pay for teachers, accountability, expanded learning time and national standards—the Obama administration is poised to cultivate and bring to fruition the seeds we and other reformers have planted."


Who in Seattle voted for the Broad Foundation's agenda?

Does Goodloe-Johnson also plan to bring charters to Seattle?

Who is our Superintendent answering to? The parents and community of SPS -- or Eli Broad and Bill Gates?

dan dempsey said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

It has become clear that the Board members did not read the contract.

That fact, by itself, makes their approval of the contract an arbitrary and capricious act.

Charlie Mas said...

Given that the terms of the contract with NTN require two separate schools with totally separate identities, sites, staffs, principals, IT administrators, and state testing codes, it is becoming increasingly clear that the members of the School Board either:

A) did not read the contract with NTN

B) intentionally mislead the public about the plans for STEM

or

C) fully intend to violate the terms of the contract with NTN

Which is it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have let some in the media know about this. When Harium told me I was wrong naturally I thought "maybe I missed something or they didn't post everything." But I looked at the criteria page that he mentioned and then the Fee page and thought what Charlie thought. They are not going to do it the NTN way.

This and then I go to the Work Session and hear all the things that have to go away plus STEM still needs another $180K (what the heck is the $2.6 in the BTA for then besides computers for each student?). Is STEM the altar that we sacrifice everything else? Something is wrong here.

Maureen said...

Has anyone asked Kay Smith Blum what she thinks about the contract?

Charlie Mas said...

I have an email from Kay Smith-Blum in which she says that she was told that the terms of the contract were different than what was posted to the District web site.

Charlie Mas said...

I could not find any record of any discussion of the NTN contract.

I could not find any record of any intimation that STEM would be two separate schools with separate staffs - including principals.

I could not find any record of any discussion of the terms of the NTN contract.

More and more it appears that the Board members did not read the contract.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, that's what Harium has led me to believe, that what is posted isn't correct. Then why post it?

SolvayGirl1972 said...

So, can anyone get a copy of the final contract that was signed by the Board? I find this more disturbing than any of the debacles already passed.

How can a Board member vote on something they haven't read? This is worse than our congressional reps voting on bloated bills with unknown add-ons.

With all of the cuts the District is planning on making for 2010-11, it is unconscionable to think that they would proceed with the STEM program in its present incarnation.

yumpears said...

Melissa - you mention the media. I just read in the Puget Sound Business Journal that KPLU News in Seattle has added an education reporter Charla Bear. Maybe another person to send info to.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I wrote to all the directors about my concerns about NTN - they have a hard copy and I reiterated them in an e-mail.

I wrote to Joy Stevens (and cc'd Harium, Gary Ikeda/Ron English of Legal) asked for the final, signed contract to be put on the website immediately. I know this can be done because it exists. If the wrong one is there and we are barking up the wrong tree, then straighten this out now. I asked that this be expedited as they can be very slow in public disclosure request turnaround.

If not, then whatever the fallout is, that's their problem and they brought it on themselves.

Charlie Mas said...

The contract on the web site is dated 2/2/2010, one day before the vote.

Even if there were a later version - which I doubt - how could it be that as late as one day before the vote it still included all of the talk about completely separate schools?

Charlie Mas said...

I'm trying to bring this story to the attention of Nina Shapiro, Linda Shaw, Lynne Varner, and Scott Sunde.

I have written to the STEM email box and left a message on the STEM hotline. No response as yet.

I suggest a number of other folks write to the STEM email address and call the STEM hotline about this.

stem@seattleschools.org
206-252-0046

Charlie Mas said...

Depending on the response from the Board members and the slim possibility of a final version of the NTN contract, I think we have an interesting choice before us.

While there can be little doubt that the decision to enter into the NTN contract was arbitrary and capricious, particularly if we get confirmation that the Board members didn't read the contract, would it really serve anyone any good to appeal the contract approval in Court?

There are a lot of reasons to think that an appeal would be successful. There is the arbitrary decision to go with Project-Based Learning - never discussed or questioned. There is the arbitrary decision to make EVERY class taught through PBL - never discussed or questioned. The is the arbitrary decision to make every class taught through PBL starting with the first day of school - never discussed or questioned. There is the caprice of comparing a PBL provider, NTN, against STEM providers - never discussed or questioned - and rejecting the STEM providers because they couldn't meet the arbitrary standard of providing PBL for every class starting on the first day of school. Finally, there is the cherry on top: the Board members appear not to have read the terms of the contract, or at least they never discussed them or questioned them.

So let's say that a group of citizens appealed this Board decision to King County Superior Court. They would have a very strong case. Would that be a good thing?

No doubt it would have a negative impact on enrollment at STEM. It would also have a negative impact on recruitment at STEM. Since a lot of the Cleveland teachers are choosing to leave (with super seniority status), the school needs to recruit as many teachers to replace them. It's also sure to have a negative impact on the morale at STEM. It is also sure to have a negative impact on the fundraising for STEM - the District still believes that STEM will attract a lot of grant money, but I don't know if the grant money will come with a Court case pending.

Then, when the case is decided - and probably decided against the District sometime after school starts - it will leave STEM without the support it needs to continue the PBL style of teaching it used at the start of the year. STEM can adopt another model and go forward without NTN - that's for sure. But what GOOD will be done?

The District will save a lot of money - the $800,000 gets paid out in quarterly installments. But how will this serve the students? I suppose there will be some LAP dollars that will become available for other schools. Other than that, I don't see much benefit from reversing this decision.

What do you all think? Is it a worthwhile pursuit? Just because a thing CAN be done doesn't mean that it SHOULD be done.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Agreed and that's why I haven't jumped on the bandwagon for a recall. Are there other things to be done? Yes. Is there public calling out to be done? If what we fear is the case, yes.

SolvayGirl1972 said...

Ahhh...damned if we do; damned if we don't. I think the District counts on this, knowing that what harms them as an entity can also harm students. So we squawk, and they ignore. There's got to be a better way, but for the life of me I don't know what it is.

Maureen said...

Could they just ADMIT they were WRONG and say they are SORRY for once?!

Melissa Westbrook said...

FYI, I did leave out one other concern simply because I didn't want the post to be overly long. One other facet of the NTN contract is that they want to district to restrict as much as possible and as narrowly as possible any requests for information that they might consider protected. Now what they consider protected might not be but the contract specifies that they want the district to give out as little information as possible.

I do know that at least one reporter has contacted NTN for any comments they may have. My request for the final contract, either sent to me or put online, has received no feedback yet.

We'll see.

Sahila said...

The GOOD being done by challenging this (as with all the other challenges), is that we slow this juggernaut down, we remind the District and the Board that they work for our kids and us - not private enterprise and Eli Broad and Bill Gates and Mike Milken - and we teach our kids not to take roughshodding lying down and to insist on good governance - a really important life lesson worth a little bit of upheaval in their formal learning curve....

They are not going to lose their places in college because we parents grew a backbone and said" Enough is enough...

The only proviso I would offer is to be strategically clever, so that we are not left in the position of handing MGJ complete power to do carry out the rest of the Broad/Gates/Milken agenda...

What we should be doing is coming up with and implementing a strategy that gets MGJ (and the other Broad people) out of SPS and all the reformists such as The Alliance, LEV, PTSA de-clawed....

dan dempsey said...

I believe strongly in sticking up for long lasting principals and better outcomes in the long run.

A few year back I asked a friend to join the NAACP of which I am a member. My friend is African-American. He said no way they will not get $30/year from me. I asked why?
Because they have morphed into the complain dept. and nothing more.

How do you figure?

Well ... when they had no piece of the pie in pre-1966 days, they did something and accomplished a lot over about 70 years. Then they got a little piece of the pie and have not done much since.

I asked if the NAACP sued OSPI if that would change his mind.

He said of course it would. They have just cause and they would get my $30 and a lot more.... But they won't, because someone might lose some pie.

So I have Black friends who have paid big bucks to get life-time NAACP memberships to help advance the cause. The complaint department is a necessary function but so is advancing broader systemic improvements. The contrast of the first 70 years and the last 40+ is something to consider. Is the pie that good?

dan dempsey said...

The PBL pie is not big enough to worry about.

The broader issue is ongoing decision-making that is seriously flawed. The board does not consider evidence in decision-making. A few members may but there are always at least four who are oblivious to evidence. The staff seemingly operates on a predetermined outcome so what is the point of research.

Some recent legal history may be needed. Use the slider to watch from minute 22:15 to 28:30. Click HERE.

Accountability will never happen if it is not required.


The NTN Contract was flawed beyond belief. This was a done deal apparently from the 'git go as no one from the SPS did any research on NTN. They believed the vendors brochures, which contained an a large number of errors. Once again in explaining his decision Director Sundquist used information from the action report. This time it was flawed. He spoke about good achievement at their more established schools. That would be NT Sacramento ... but like most NTN schools their EOC tests scores are pitiful in math. Their API scores fell like a rock annually 6, 5, 4, 3.

Other pure fiction included NT Sacramento with a 98% graduation rate and the highest graduation rate of all Sacramento High Schools.

Marty and I went to court in hopes we could find someone who wanted to use accurate relevant data to make a decision. we put in hundreds of hours of work and lots of folks are helping to pay a $13,140 legal bill.

Where are we now? is the board going to appeal a decision that says.... you cannot exclude evidence from the public. You must use all the evidence in decision-making ... so try it again using all the evidence.

The board did not examine all the evidence in the NTN situation .. because again I provided test scores from California Colorado and Oregon showing these schools were not worth copying at any price.

There is a pattern here and if you do not like it, then do something about it. Trust me the pie is never worth it in the long run.
============================

Plan to stop the nonsense.

#1. File recall petitions to recall everyone that voted for "Discovering". The Spector decision is clear evidence of misfeasance on the part of any director that voted yes: Sundquist, Maier, Carr.

#2 Gather 40,000 signatures against each for recall (32,000 valid signatures are needed) but with signed twice and not registered etc best be safe.

#3 Recall election vote to recall each of these three directors.

#4 This is what is called accountability. None of these three have shown any relevant evidence that they use evidence in making decisions. Calling vendors to get their opinion of the product they market is not evidence.

==============

On or before Friday Mach 5 file an appeal of the NTN decision.

Looking at the fact that MG-J has been incredibly inadequate. She is the superintendent and secretary of the School Board. Why didn't the board use all the evidence? Why did they exclude all the evidence from the public in making their decision. As superintendent and board secretary does MG-J have no responsibility for this. Why is the information in the NTN action report so far away from being accurate.
(2/3) of the 41 NTN schools are STEM schools .. that would be 27 out of 41. I finally got an email from the right person Michael DiMaggio.

dan dempsey said...

Dan, As to your inquiry, the (10 not 27)STEM high schools in the NTN are:

Indiana

New Tech School of IDEAS, Decatur

Columbus Signature Academy

New Tech @ Ft. Wayne High School (school opened 2009)

Louisiana

Patrick F. Taylor Science & Technology Academy

New York

Tech Valley High School

North Carolina

Anson New Tech

Warren New Tech

Texas

Manor New Tech

METSA (Carrollton)

ATEMS (Abilene)

Take care. Best, Michael

=======================
I'll go Sahila one better MG-J should be fired with cause. No buy out just Bye-Bye.

Everyone held accountable ... she be a good role model for accountability.

Did we ever find out which contract was where and what we bought for $800,000? ... what leadership....

Charlie Mas said...

Here's a charming clause from the contract:

(d) Survival of Obligations. Upon termination of this Agreement for any reason, District will promptly pay to NT all outstanding amounts due under this Agreement. Such obligation to pay will survive termination of this Agreement along with all of the following provisions of this Agreement: 3 through 19."

Even if the District cancels the contract, they will still owe NTN the whole amount.

Doesn't the District have any lawyers who can negotiate a contract? Doesn't the District have any lawyers who consider contingencies?

dan dempsey said...

Charlie this should be a fairly easy contract to get out of:

I think that most of the inaccurate information in the Action Report was provided by NTN. The is plenty of inaccurate info. it extends beyond the usual cherry-picking.

It is definitely time for TEAM MG-J to go away. Since Jan 15th I've seen, learned or discovered:

#1 Some Board members make decisions no reasonable director would make to support the MG-J TEAM.

#2 MG-J recommends discriminatory "Mathematically Unsound" materials.

#3 TEAM MGJ spends two weeks plus describing one thing 1 STEM school then contracts to buy something different 2 PBL Schools.

#4 TEAM MGJ is totally inept or disinterested in doing any research on the efficacy of the NTN product, preferring to simply print and apparently believe the vendor's claims.

#5 Board members frequently make decisions without weighing the evidence. Members elected in 2007 need training in how to evaluate evidence in making a decision.

#6 It is often easy to determine the right thing to do. How long does it take to decide to comply with a superior court order?

#7 Some directors use the information that I spend many hours researching to find (because staff does not) and others don't. In fact with Sundquist and Maier I would say never give my data any respect. Proof their HS math votes, NTN votes, and explanations given at the time of each vote.

How can a reasonable director make such votes?

These are not reasonable Directors.

With Performance Management vote coming on March 17, things are not looking good. MG-J has stated that "Broad" is not an advocate for charters. I found that not to be true. Mr. Broad is an advocate for charters.

#8 The is little evidence that decisions that should involve an overall awareness of the financial big picture are made appropriately.

#9 Several Board members need to be recalled and TEAM MG-J needs to be relieved of duty.

Charlie Mas said...

So I have heard from a couple of directors now (Director Martin-Morris has it on his blog) that staff is preparing answers about the NTN contract.

But that won't do.

None of my questions are about the contract. My questions are all about the Board and the due diligence job they did.

Did they read the contract? They say they did, but if they did then why didn't they ask any questions about the requirements having to do with the two separate schools? If they did, then why didn't they correct staff who referred to the capacity of STEM at 1,000?

Why didn't they ask any questions about the need for Project-Based Learning? Why didn't they ask why PBL has to be used in EVERY class? Why the absolutism? Why didn't they ask why the PBL has to be fully implemented in every class starting on opening day? Why the urgency?

These aren't questions about the contract or the pedagogy or the staff's decision-making process; these are questions about the Board's due diligence process and practice - or lack thereof.