A few comments on the agenda for this week's school board meeting.
1. University of Washington Excellence in Educational Leadership Award –
Princess Shareef, Cleveland High School
I happen to respect Ms Shareef, but I don't really see how anyone can give an award for excellence in educational leadership to the principal of a school that is getting transformed due to persistent low performance. It sends a strange message. I thought the idea was to hold the education professionals responsible for student achievement and for their evaluation to be based, in part, on student achievement. The low performance by Cleveland High School students would seem to disqualify Ms Shareef from any sort of award, regardless of her indisputable talents.
2. "Curriculum" Adoption action items
All of the action items for materials adoptions are mislabeled "Curriculum Adoption". This misuse of terms contributes to the confusion of these terms. They should correct the titles of the action items to read "Materials Adoption" instead.
There are a number of people who believe that the District intentionally cultivates confusion around the definitions of the terms "curriculum", "materials", "content", and "Standards". The misuse of these terms on official District documents and by District staff is exactly the sort of thing that supports this suspicion. The misuse of these terms detracts from transparency and community engagement. This example is particularly egregious because it speaks to an adoption. These actions do NOT adopt a curriculum, only materials.
The titles of these motions have been corrected in an updated version of the agenda.
3. Transportation Contract Extension
Here it comes again, the annual transportation dance. The staff brings forward a plan that makes no sense. The Board is puzzled by it and reveals that it makes no sense. The staff admit that it isn't a very good plan, but, they say, we absolutely must adopt something now as we are hard up against a deadline. The Board votes to approve but they insist that the staff bring forward a better plan with better thinking next year and that they bring it forward earlier so it can be discussed. The staff swears that they will. Then, the next year, the entire farce is reprised.
This will be yet another example of how the staff don't do very good work and don't do the work that they have committed to doing, but that the Board is either incapable or unwilling to hold them accountable in any way. It reveals everyone as a miserable failure.
4. Web site upgrade
The District is going to spend $700,000 on the web site over the next five years. The Strategic Plan says that the web site will be upgraded as funding becomes available. At the time I thought that they were hoping for private sources to fund it. Now we see that it is getting funded out of BTA II and BTA III. I don't remember seeing this on the BTA III list of projects, do you? Is this really a better use of BTA money than maintenance and repairs from the backlog? Is this really an appropriate use of capital funds?
5. Lease of closed buildings
Here's where you can see who will be in each of the closed school buildings and for how long. Muslim Youth Academy at Van Asselt for 3 years, Torah Day School at Columbia for 3 years, Westside School at Hughes for 10 years, Peoples Family Life Center at Mann for 3 years, and the Hamlin Robinson School at TT Minor for 7 years. There will also be renters in the John Marshall building. I continue to be confused about how it is that these buildings would need millions and millions of dollars of repairs for our students to be in them, but they are just dandy for the students of these other schools. What's weird about this is how the District said that we would save all of this money by closing the schools because we wouldn't have to pay to maintain them, but the terms of the leases require us to maintain them. I'm totally okay with the leases, but I just don't get the claims about savings that were made when the schools were closed. They don't make any sense at all.
6. Sign off on state Race to the Top petition
This is all empty political gesturing. It doesn't mean a thing.