I attended the public testimony portion of the Board meeting (and spoke up myself). The crowd was filled with many elementary counselors hoping to get their jobs back. Director DeBell was not present as he is in South Korean as part of a sister city delegation.
Princess Shariff of Cleveland accepted a principal's award from the UW. She was cited for her advocacy for STEM among diverse populations in her community.
As is the Board practice, two students from a high school, this time Sealth, spoke. And again, it was interesting. A very articulate young man spoke. He had quite the resume but what was interesting was that he said he got started (partially) as a leader when he led students against the co-joining of Sealth and Denny. He made some good points about summer school being too much about credit retrieval with not enough push in it. He said that the high school core requirements are not enough for college (I don't know if he feels it is Sealth or just the district in general). He also said that he had taken a few courses at a private school (and he alluded he had worked at one but I don't know doing what) and sat he saw the difference between public and private school. He hastened to say it wasn't so much that public was bad but private seemed better. He also said that it was difficult to understand the district pushing kids to take the SAT and ACT and yet they got rid of the Career counselors. Smart guy.
Many of the speakers talked about the possible RIFs and a big theme was (1) it had to be done for good reason and (2) as a very last resort after all other possibilities had been tried/considered. The SEA president pointed out that schools were given back money as discretionary money which is not the same thing as keeping with the WSS. (I don't know/understand this nuance but it was clear from both the Budget meeting on Tuesday as well as the Board meeting that there is a difference in terms of how the schools got their money back. Apparently that makes it more of a Sophie's Choice for principals.)
Several teachers came to talk about the RIFs including a Ballard science teacher who said that the RIFs are demoralizing for a school and that the RIFs last year (even with rehires) were very upsetting for all and didn't need to happen. He invited them to come for a day to his class and see what he does. He also, as the first in a line of speakers to say this, asked them if they were using standards and data in assessing if the Superintendent was doing her job/making the right choices.
Another teacher had a spreadsheet of the ratio of managers to workers at headquarters versus 1 principal to a school of teachers.
Another teacher from West Seattle High had done some work and said other districts with financial troubles had rejected RIFs. He said that we consistently run the largest ending balance in the state and have for several years. Interesting.
A counselor from Washington Middle school said that the district had said that the principals had gotten rid of the elementary counselors because it was their pick at a principals' meeting on the budget. He said this was NOT so and that no one in the district could explain how this got out there as fact. (And I heard this at a Board work session on the budget as well stated as fact. I think I even have it as part of the staff presentation.)
Long-time watchdog Chris Jackins made several points but did do well in stating that running the HVAC system at South Shore (their early solution to the problem) was not the same thing as finding the source of the contamination. As well he warned the district they need to be vigilant in making sure that other newer schools don't have this problem as well because the district had told the public that the big capital money spent on these buildings would make them better buildings for students and staff.
There were two slightly odd testimonies from different APP parents. Both were from other countries (I think Iran and China) and were very unhappy about their treatment from Dr. Vaughn, the head of Advanced Learning. One issue was making kids repeat a grade because of test scores. Any APP parents know about this in a general way?
Great testimony from Nova parent, Joe Szwaja, about the district needing to push the energy efficiency program in the district. It does save money AND schools who do really well get money back. Nova had to really push to get light switches that switch off in their school (odd but that's what he said). There were then several Nova students testifying about how great Nova is and how the curriculum alignment could be difficult for their school (they have multi-age classes sometimes and with the LA alignment you could have kids reading different books). Again, Nova is such an inspirational school.
Meg Diaz again scored well with her testimony about Thurgood Marshall and Title One. Nothing like having data and facts on your side.
Then there was the South Shore parent who just let Dr. Goodloe-Johnson have it. She said that the whole situation had been a communication crisis with some parents knowing very little about what was happening. She said Dr. Goodloe-Johnson did not attend a single community meeting. She said that there is a "deficit in trust and dollars" in the district. She also cited the movement of principals this year and the fear and uncertainty this engendered.
Finally, there was a parent from Hale who is worried about the over-subscription of Ballard. Apparently a Spec Ed program got moved, supposedly just for this year, to Ingraham but now may not come back to Ballard because of the push for more students.
So the Superintendent's update was on...South Shore. She gave just the facts about where the students would go, info at the website, orientation for the parents for the new schools, day care at Rainier Beach CC, families accessing lesson plans for this week, etc. She said health testing continues on the building. That she did not address anything that the South Shore woman said was a bit awkward given the testimony was almost just before her remarks. I think one of Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's best tactics is to NEVER try to explain her position or actions. It works most of the time but I thought she might want to deflate some of what the woman had said. She didn't.
Acting President Steve Sundquist asked if there were questions or comments. Only Betty Patu spoke up and said that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had done the right thing and thanked her for it. Okay so maybe Betty had heard grumbling about the closure but what I have been hearing was that people had been asking for it sooner. I have heard virtually no complaints about the building closing (except from some yahoos in the comments section at the Times claiming it is mass hysteria).
My own testimony was to point out that we just spent about $433k for 4 portables that Hale used during their construction. That's about $108K each. Now when parents were asking for portables as a way to expand enrollment in the NE, staff said too expensive and at least $200K. (When Facilities wants something, it's affordable; if not, it's expensive.)
I also again asked the Board if they would provide any kind of input solution for parents who had comments or concerns about the teachers' contract. I can't believe they won't be having any public hearing or put it on the Board agenda or even have a webpage for parents to give input. They're our elected officials and they aren't forming their goals for the negotiations around any input?
Then I explained how poorly I thought the Budget meeting went on Tuesday night with specific examples. And Gavroche, I quoted you (but not by name) because I thought what you had posted about the overhaul being needed to be done at the headquarters and not in our schools was dead on.
My last sentence was from that post:
"Above all, it is increasingly evident that when funding does get allocated to our school district, most of it never finds its way to the classrooms, but instead gets hijacked by the central administration and redirected to fund excess staff, excess salaries, "teaching coaches", outside consultants, unproven testing products, layers of management and an overpaid Superintendent."
It seemed well-received.
Anybody else stay (or watch) the rest of the meeting?