Saturday, August 28, 2010

September 1 Board meeting

Lots of fun, interesting stuff on the agenda for the September 1 Board meeting.

It begins with a work session on the Strategic Infrastructure and Maintenance Initiative. Give it a big fancy name like that and it creates the illusion that something's happening. Nothing is happening. Just as they do with students working below grade level, the District counts and tracks backlogged maintenance, but they don't actually do much about it. They will, however, produce a glorious powerpoint and lots of matrices and spreadsheets about the problem with no solution in sight.

The Legislative meeting opens with Public Testimony. It will probably be dominated, again, with people talking about the teachers' contract negotiation. Of course, since that contract isn't on the agenda, everyone who wants to talk about it can get bumped by people who want to talk about agenda items. If you can put together a group of 20 people who will sign up to speak to agenda items then you can freeze out all of the contract testimony.

Then comes the staff updates. No word yet on what they will be about. Does this comply with the Open Meetings Act? Can they just say "Chief Academic Officer's Update" without referencing a topic. It is difficult for citizens to speak to these topics in a timely manner if we don't know when they are going to be addressed.

After Board comments (which are always inane), and the Consent agenda, comes the votes on the action items.

First is the Highly Capable Student Program Grant Application. Interesting thing about this vote, the actual grant application that the Board is approving does not appear on the Board Action Report. How can the Board approve the grant application if they haven't seen the grant application? Oh, right, I forgot the NTN contract. I guess it won't be any impediment at all. They are happy to vote to approve documents they have not read. The Board Action Report also claims that "Best practices recommendations from a review by national experts from the University of Virginia reported to the Board in November 2007 are currently being implemented." This was, at one time a project in the Strategic Plan, but it was quietly dropped and has no timetable, no action plan, and no budget.

Then comes three contracts for work at Viewlands, Rainier View and Queen Anne Elementary paid for with BTA III money. None of these schools were on the original list for BTA III projects because they were all supposed to be closed. In fact, all three of these schools were closed in the capacity management project because the District had excess capacity for the foreseeable future and then reopened the following year because the District had insufficient capacity. Together the three votes spend over $10 million. There was no community engagement done for any of these.

Then comes the authorization to pay $1 million as a judgement against the District for retaliation against an employee who made allegations of sexual harassment. Let's be very clear - the award is not for the harassment, but for the retaliation. Again, no community engagement was done.

The action items are followed by the introduction items. There are two.

One is the creation of a Capital Asset Preservation Program. This appears to be required by the OSPI "to monitor and report on the condition of Seattle Public School facilities". There is, of course, no community engagement. This is just for buildings, it doesn't log or track the District's other capital assets - the sort that the state audit found missing and un-reported.

The other is the Approval of Annual Families and Education Levy
Contracts
. The City got tired of sending the District money and not getting any results. So now they tie the funding to outcomes - if the benchmarks for outcomes aren't met, the funding is cut off. This action item is to approve the five contracts that list the funding and the benchmarks. I notice that the motion includes some language ("with any minor additions, deletions and modifications deemed necessary by the superintendent") that allows the superintendent to alter the contract without the Board approving the changes (cf. NTN contract). In fact, as is typically the case, it isn't even necessary for the Board to read the contracts (cf NTN contract), as they are not attached to the Board Action Report. The Community Engagement element says that "The levy was planned with significant community involvement." so it isn't necessary for the District to do any engagement on this.

That pretty much wraps things up. It should be a quick meeting as just about all of the action items could have been put on the consent agenda and there is no discussion possible on the two items for introduction since they are pre-determined as well.

The Calendar does have a work session on strategic planning scheduled for Wednesday, September 8. Those are always funny because all of the strategic plan projects are all overdue but the Board never asks about that and the staff never offers it. There is a school board retreat scheduled for Sept 11. I sure hope they talk about their response to the state audit. They ARE going to make changes in response to the state audit, aren't they?

4 comments:

another mom said...

There is also an executive session on Sept 8 regarding the Sup's evaluation. I would love to be a fly on the wall with that one. It is a closed meeting right?

Art said...

Yes, executive sessions are closed meetings for that purpose, as allowed by the Open Public Meetings Act.

Michael said...

@Charlie - "Then comes the staff updates. No word yet on what they will be about. Does this comply with the Open Meetings Act? Can they just say "Chief Academic Officer's Update" without referencing a topic..."

Yes. There is no requirement in the Open Public Meetings Act that requires them to provide a detailed agenda (and not requirement, in fact, that they provide any agenda) or allow public testimony. Allowing public testimony is good for showing an attempt at community engagement.

"“Then comes the authorization to pay $1 million as a judgement against the District for retaliation against an employee who made allegations of sexual harassment. Let's be very clear - the award is not for the harassment, but for the retaliation. Again, no community engagement was done.”

I'm at a loss as to what type of community engagement you would expect to see regarding the payment of a legal judgment against the district.(??) Honest question - not an attack. they have to vote in public on authorizing the payment, but can discuss it in private in an executive session (legal matters).

Source and basis for my comments: RCW 42.30 at http://apps.leg.wa.gov/rcw/default.aspx?cite=42.30

Charlie Mas said...

I had believed that the Open Meetings Act required the Board to post an agenda 24 hours in advance of the meeting. Upon reading the law, however, I don't see anything about that at all. My belief was wrong.

Nevermind.

The community engagement that could be expected around the payment of a judgement would be at the "inform" level. The District would describe what steps they are taking to avoid such errors in future. While we can reckon that they have expressed their contrition to Ms Williams in almost a million ways, some expression of contrition to the taxpayers who pick up the tab or the students and families who could have benefited from having a $1 million more to spend in classrooms would not be out of place.