Tuesday, September 21, 2010

NE Regional Meeting

There were about 30-40 parents in attendance at the meeting along with a plethora of staff; Dr. Goodloe-Johnson (who came about 7 p.m.), Dr. Enfield, all the NE principals, Bernardo Ruiz of Family Engagement and Directors Maier, Carr and Martin-Morris.

A couple of heads up for anyone attending the other meetings. One, for some reason they had the sign-in sheets in the auditorium instead of when you head in. So look for those if the building you are in is using an auditorium. Also, they had two tables at Eckstein and different handouts at each so check if you want to make sure you get everything. Two, get those questions ready because they took any and all questions.

I was surprised to see a table of Starbucks coffee, bottled water and granola bars for the audience. It's a nicety but I thought we were a poor district. I asked Dr. Enfield and she said she didn't know what budget this came out of. Apparently I hit a nerve because Dr. Goodloe-Johnson later said the district didn't pay for it. (Alliance for Ed gave SPS a food budget? Who knows?)

It took awhile to get started as there were introductions to all the principals, some of the staff and the Board members. The meeting was introduced as the "Superintendent kicking off her public engagement plan." We were told that Job #1 for the Executive Directors is to support principals as instructional leaders. Also, parents, if you have a concern, you must go to your teacher first, then the principal and THEN the Executive Director. This was pretty much the extent of explaining the new regional system which I thought a little odd.

The Superintendent seemed quite relaxed. She told us a fairly long story about her daughter wanting to pick her own kindergarten teacher and being told she couldn't but that her daughter was happy in the end. She said Maya was filled with joy and that she wanted every parent to be "filled with joy" with their child's teacher. She emphasized that she wanted parents as partners in the district.

She had ended her remarks saying something about an excellent classroom so I was the first question of the night, "What is an excellent classroom?" Her reply was that it means teachers are supported as professional and so they can support students whether they are ELL, special ed, etc. and provide a way that provides access to standards and creating that ability to do so.

I had to laugh a little. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson always has so much to pack into a thought that somehow, sometimes the thought gets a little lost. Also, she suffers from my disease which is speaking too quickly.

Other Questions:
  • movement of principals? Yes, there was a lot of movement but they couldn't anticipate all the moves, "life happens and people make choices". They hired 20 new to the district principals.
  • testing and the district's view? An odd question so she basically outlined what tests the students take.
  • question on quality teacher versus what we find out from testing, something of a "sanity check" on teacher performance? We expect students will grow and that it will be typical growth against standards. (I think I know what the parent was asking here but I don't think Dr. G-J wanted to answer. I think it was how do you measure all the qualities of a good teacher versus a test score.)
  • teacher contract and the supplemental levy? This was interesting because the parent said he knew virtually nothing about the levy which is not good for the district. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson had Peter Maier answer the question about the levy but he really bobbled it. He said the levy will "fill the gap by the cuts by the legislature." He explained that some of it would be for teacher raises, paying for collaboration time, career ladder stipends but he left out the $2.4M implementation cost. (The levy sheet says it will reduce the gaps and so there's this big question of whether we are restoring money that was cut or just partially filling hole and if so, which ones. The levy sheet says " ...we can't specify the services and programs at this time." Ah, so just give us a blank check.)
  • Then there was an interesting question about the music programs at Eckstein, Roosevelt and Hale. I want to do a separate thread on this but basically, the parents are worried that due to lack of students in the orchestra at Hale, they want to try to allow those students to go to Roosevelt at the end of the day to work with their orchestra. They also have a long-term plan to "grow" students so that all high schools can have an orchestra program (which needs a critical mass). Parents working out solutions; there's the partnership that Dr. G-J could embrace.
  • Coming middle school crowding in NE? Dr. G-J kind of danced around this one saying that in December, the district will be looking at issues that have arisen from the new NSAP. She didn't directly address this question but that's the time they will be addressing any and all issues. This parent did press on and Dr. G-J did mention the October 1 counts for each building.
  • Unhappy parent over the NSAP. This was a funny question only because this parent was obviously foreign-born and said she had come to this country for choice and now there isn't any in SPS. Dr. G-J did explain that the process had come over 3 years. Sherry said they did it, in part, to save transportation dollars.
  • Parent who is part of the less than 30 families left with two kids in two schools because of the NSAP. She had brought both her children and said that she couldn't move her oldest to the youngest new school because of the program at the older child's school. So she is homeschooling the younger one for this year. It was asked if the waitlist could be continued for these families? Basically Dr. G-J said no, that it ends on Sept. 30th.
  • Chris Jackins asked that the transportation savings be submitted in a report. Dr. G-J admitted that they were supposed to and it was late and "I'll be happy to check" which I'm hoping isn't a Don Kennedy "I'll get back to you."
  • Question about "standardized curriculum" and what about schools that have other things that work? I could tell the Superintendent was not happy because yes, she said, "We are not standardizing the curriculum. We are aligning it." She did mention that teachers can supplement and do creative things and that it doesn't change what alts do. My question would be about pacing guides and the district not paying for supplemental materials so how possible IS it for teachers to be creative?
We were told all the questions and answers were recorded and would be posted at the SPS website and this would happen for all the regional meetings.

Then we broke off into informal groups to ask the various staff questions. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson circulated the room. She even came up to me and asked if all my questions had been answered. I said yes but really, what else could I say that late in the day?

In summary, I was a little surprised that more wasn't explained about the benefits of the new regions to parents. However, this was a great time to have access to key staff including the Superintendent. I guess the jury is out on the Superintendent's new charm offensive but in the spirit of wanting to believe the best in people, I give her credit. (This doesn't mean that she and I are new BFFs or that I have changed my mind on her agenda but it does mean that she's a human being making an effort - albeit a lot late - to reach out.)

32 comments:

Maureen said...

I had just typed up a summary and posted it on an earlier thread when Melissa opened this thread. I'll copy it here and delete it from the other thread (sorry for the redundancy-Melissa's is clearer, but mine may contain some additional useful detail.)

Good summary Chris. I was also struck by the way we were offered the choice of asking Qs in front of the group or breaking out into individual discussions. (The venue was not particularly great for mingling-it was held in the auditorium at Eckstein). The ratio of staff to parents was embarrassing (for parents).

MG-J was 25 minutes late, the point of her story about her kindergartener was that she wishes all families could count on having great teachers (my take away-wouldn't it be great if ALL schools could afford to do home visits with new kindergarteners!).

Question: Melissa asked her to define an excellent classroom. Answer MG-J talks really fast sometimes. I jotted down: teachers are supported as professionals so they can support students; so we provide what kids need; kids need ACCESS (her emphasis); teachers have flexibility creating support.

Question: Will there continue to be a lot of principal movement? Answer: (basically) life happens/things happen, we can't predict. (I believe she said they hired 20 new principals this year.)

Question: About testing, but unclear to me (he seemed to be saying that there has been a decreased emphasis on testing)--I didn't get the answer.

Question: (mine and too long) We seem to be defining good teachers as ones who raise test scores and then judging how good teachers are by how much they raise test scores, isn't that circular? Has SPS even done a study to see if the teachers principals and Ed Directors identified as poor preformers in the past actually had students who showed less growth on standardized tests? (as a sort of 'sanity check' to support her SERVE proposal). Answer (short) no. (long) there are lots of studies that show that good teachers are very important in raising achievement levels of students (cites the one about three years of bad teachers being equivalent to (?) a lobotomy or something, I forget.)

(continued)

Charlie Mas said...

I'll be going to the Central meeting on Wednesday night.

I started writing down a list of questions to have ready, but they are nearly all about advanced learning. This may not be the right venue for them.

Maureen said...

Question: About the levy-what's it for? Answer Peter Maier took this one. He says it's to fill the gap left by legislature's budget cuts. $48mill total over 3 years. I wrote: $19mill total for SEA contract stuff: raises, mentor teachers/master teachers/collaboration time; $6mill for books (HS science, K-5 music, HS LA, MS something) and the rest is for make up for what the legislature cut. There was also a handout, but I'm not going to retype that. (It lists $2.4 mill "to implement the teacher evaluation system (that is a subset of the $19mill Maier mentioned). That is the only part I see that they are pointing out is going to admin.)

Question Would SPS support collaboration between (e.g., RHS and Hale to build capacity (e.g. in music) during the SAP transition? Answer: Sounds like a good idea (music people broke out later and talked separately--sounds like they have had trouble getting support from Carrie(?) Campbell downtown?

Question What's the plan for M.S. overcrowding? Answer: Here I think MG-J was being deliberately obtuse--i.e., not wanting to say anything in particular--said the new capacity mngmnt policy means they will review every winter, but wouldn't say what remediations could be. (questioner tried to tie her down--maybe got a better answer in the break out?).

Complaint Compared NSAP to lack of choice in (I think) Eastern Block. Complained about lack of choice, this is supposed to be a democracy. SUpported my another parent who is homeschooling kindergartener cause can't get her into older kids school...Have they consdered extending waitlist. MG-J thinks not-will take feedback.

Question Timeline for report of transportation savings from the start time (etc) changes Answer: MG-J doesn't know, will followup on that.

Question (Chris Jackins I think?) What happened to report of impact on kids whose schools were closed? Answer: MG-J acknowledges report is overdue, will followup on that.

Question Standardization?Answer: They aren't standardizing-they are providing all children ACCESS to the same curriculum, teachers can supplement with whatever they want. Access doesn't change what alt schools can do.

That's what I got.

David said...

Thanks for going to this meeting, Melissa, and summarizing it for us here. And, thank you attending the next meeting, Charlie. Both of you ask important and critical questions, in part because both of you track issues more closely than most parents, and it is great to have your voices there. Very much appreciate you doing this.

emeraldkity said...

They hired 20 new to the district principals.

In a district of 97 schools, doesnt that seem like a lot?
I understand that SEA has the interests in teachers in mind & the same for whatever the principal union is called, but could they get together to poll if teachers are encouraged/supported at all to move up to " administration" as it were, and if it is just that we did not have enough applicants within our district or is it that the Stanford admin, is CHOOSING to hire outside the district- for their own reasons?

I echo my appreciation for those who withstand these grueling meeting and report on them for readers- I don't think I could take that unless they replaced those bottles of water & granola bars with tequila shooters & chips.

Charlie Mas said...

I just thought of the question that I want to ask:

"The Board is developing a policy - or at least some guidance - around granting schools waivers from using the Board-adopted materials to experiment with other things - Singapore math, Saxon math, Marine Biology at Garfield, and the variety of LA classes at Roosevelt are common examples. A critical element of that guidance will be to monitor the effectiveness of the alternative materials and, if student performance falls below some benchmark, the revocation of the waiver. That seems sound, but it begs the question: What measures are we making of the effectiveness of the Board-adopted materials and will we replace them if student performance falls below some benchmark?"

Maureen said...

By the way, I asked (Harium and John Miner) about the principal's contract (PASS) and they said that negotiations are ongoing, no timeline per se but that principals will continue to work under their old contract. Basically they said that they couldn't really do the PASS contract until the teachers' contract was settled.

Melissa Westbrook said...

So how come we can't all see the final ratified on both sides teachers contract? Hmmm.

Jan said...

Charlie: good "turn-about question. But the one I want to ask (and I am not sure I can articulate it well -- or whether I can defend the premises (based on what the District has said) is: Where alternative materials are being used (and in some cases have been used for many years) in schools with relatively high performance scores (either school wide or programmatic -- as in the case of elementary math WASL scores at Schmitz and North Beach), why is the District's position not to permit the continued use of what are evidently appropriate (if not actually highly desirable) alternative curricular materials?

Why is there not a presumption of curricular soundness in courses taught in schools where students do comparatively well on tests?

Unfortunately, in asking this question -- I am doing what I hate - and that is - exposing one problem while seeming to agree with the District on another (the use of rigid curricular alignment/standardization in schools where students are performing lower. I don't agree that this will be useful. And I think it will deliver a degraded educational experience to kids whom we would most like to reach with enriched, personalized education.

But still -- why not give "clearly working" materials a "pass?"

seattle citizen said...

Melissa, a contract is up on the SEA website. It LOOKS like the 2010-2013 contract, but I didn't see signatures on it. It's 149 pages, with multiple appendices. It's dense with contract-ese.

But is it the "final, ratified" contract? I just don't know. I recall a few years ago that there was talk about whether significant changes were made after the vote...

Charlie Mas said...

When curricular alignment was first introduced, the staff was very clear to say that they would not disrupt successful programs. And then they did.

Josh Hayes said...

Charlie sez:

"That seems sound, but it begs the question: What measures are we making of the effectiveness of the Board-adopted materials and will we replace them if student performance falls below some benchmark?"

No it doesn't. It raises the question, it doesn't beg the question (which means "to assume the conclusion"; "begging the question" is a particular type of logical rhetorical fallacy.)

I know the proper use of the phrase is shot to hell, but I'm fighting a rear-guard action.

Other than that, however, it's a great question, Charlie.

Dorothy Neville said...

"Parent who is part of the less than 30 families left with two kids in two schools because of the NSAP."

Don't forget that sibling grandfathering was only discussed and agreed to for this year's kindergarten class. So anyone with a larger age gap in children is out of luck. I suspect that there will be more split sibling issues in the next couple years.

One dad I met in my anti-levy campaign is in this position (child at VR, I think, and a couple more not yet in kindergarten age.

Luz said...

There is actually no sibling grandfathering this year, just priority in the wait list, and the promise of aggressive handling of wait lists. Priority for siblings is going to remain under the NSAP as well as the injustice of separating families.

Dorothy Neville said...

Luz, thanks for the clarification. Do we have data that predicts how bad this issue will be in the next couple years?

I guess we are all waiting for the Oct 1st count.

Luz said...

Dorothy, Keep Our Kids together should have some numbers, which might not be accurate at this point in time, though. What is clear though, is that schools are packed, independent of the sibling issue.

klh said...

One of the topics Melissa wrote about was people who are trying to work on the music program difference(orchestra in particular) between Roosevelt and Hale. Are there any parents reading this blog who know more about this?

Rabbit said...

"What is clear though, is that schools are packed, independent of the sibling issue."

Of course if some schools are packed that means others are not packed.

Garfield is packed, RBHS is not.

Roosevelt is packed, Ingraham is not.

Bryant is packed, Jane Addams is not.

And so on....

Melissa Westbrook said...

Klh, I plan on doing a separate thread in the next couple of days on the music issue. I hope to get contact info so that more parents can join in this effort.

SE Mom said...

About the orchestra issue:

It would be great to get follow up about orchestra at other high schools also. We were told at a tour of Franklin that they would start offering orchestra this year. And at Sealth, we were told that they were going to hire another music teacher to be able to offer more string classes.

Did those classes materialize?

krod said...

Sibing issue at JSIS will be more next year. This year, JSIS offers 4 kinder classes, and they are completely full, and 5 families remain split, and we are of course one of them.

Funny thing is that I called enrollment center to find out the current K enrollment numbers at JSIS, and they wouldn't tell me.
Since we have only 8 days for waitlist being active, I wish someone would communicate a little bit better about this. We are so frustrated, and there is nothing we can do about it!!

Maureen said...

Krod, do you know how are they handling the need to hire more Japanese and Spanish fluent teachers? Has that been a problem? Is there any discussion of just having the new classes be English only, or of cutting back the amount of day spent in immersion?

Bird said...

So sorry for you krod.

I'm sure we will be in your shoes come next year when the big sib wave hits the school

Bird said...

do you know how are they handling the need to hire more Japanese and Spanish fluent teachers? Has that been a problem? Is there any discussion of just having the new classes be English only, or of cutting back the amount of day spent in immersion?

They hired some teachers in the spring. As far as I know it has gone ok so far.

The surprisingly large first grade classes are still waiting to hear back from the district as to what the solution will be.

I strongly doubt it will be hire another immersion teacher. Splitting up the big first grade classes adds a new problematic dimension I hadn't known about before -- the classes have to have 28 kids at 4th grade to fund their teacher. So to split the 3 first grade classes into 4 classes of 25 is pretty much a non-starter.

This is why JSIS has always had very big Kindergarten classes. After 1st grade filling in holes when the occasional student leaves the school is hard, particularly in the Japanese classes.

I'll say it again 'cause it needs saying. It should not be a neighborhood school.

SeattleMom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SeattleMom said...

@krod: I presume you have e-mailed Tracy Libros, Sherry Carr and other school board members. But have you also e-mailed the principal and BLT (who discusses school internal budgeting and planning with the principal) at JSIS regarding the remaining siblings on the wait list? My son is in one of the Spanish K classes, and as far as I can tell there are "only" 26 kids in his class. In the past, they have had 28 kids in the incoming K classes, and I really don't understand why they don't let the remaining siblings in at least now since that would be only 1 more child per class (and maybe 2 in one case).

It just seems ridiculous that it is ok for schools to be overcrowded because the enrollment office drew boundaries incorrectly (IMHO), but that they cannot fit in those few siblings still on the wait lists. For those families still split up, the impacts remain huge.

krod said...

Bird: I am afraid that sibling waitlist for next year will be even bigger than this year since JSIS added extra Japanese K class (current 1st grade) last year before NSAP, and many of them come from out of attendance area.

Seattlemom: I heard one of the Japanese K class has 25 kids, and other has 26 kids. I don't know why they are waiting to let siblings in. I emailed principle, but he hasn't responded to me about enrollment numbers.

I don't understand why they can overcrowd classes with neighborhood kids, but not with siblings. It just seems crazy!!I guess SPS just doesn't understand because they are not in our shoes.

Josh Hayes said...

I appreciate your perspective, Bird, about JSIS and its neighborhood school status.

I wonder what you think SHOULD be the status of JSIS, and if it's changed to, say, an "option" school, how would non-option assignments work in the surrounding neighborhood? In other words, if it's NOT a neighborhood school, where do the local kids go? MacDonald? BF Day?

I have no axe to grind here; my kids are never going anywhere near JSIS (when we toured it, ten years ago, my 5-year-old son shook his head afterward and said, "too much like prison."). I just wonder how you think the program SHOULD plug into the city's school system.

Apologies if this constitutes hijacking the thread.

whittier07 said...

Same thing at Whittier in the NW ... K classrooms of 26 each with 2 siblings on the wait=list. Once a class is 26, would 1 more kid really be too much trouble? The district said that they would do everything the could to keep families together ... another broken promise.

Bird said...

Josh,

Capacity-wise, I do think the surrounding schools could handle the extra kids -- at least in the near term. I believe the district was hoping for 100+ Kindergarteners at McDonald this year. They go something like 60. BF Day, I believe has a couple of Kindergarten classes and has been usually be well under capacity for the building. I can't find the spring enrollment data, however, so maybe when the Oct 1 numbers come out I'll be proved wrong on my assumptions. We'll see.

I'll admit that my knowledge of how the current option schools work in the district is relatively weak, as I don't have a kid in one of these schools. They still have geographic zones around them that give kids in that area preference over lottery, yes? If so, that geographic zone gives the district a bit of breathing space in the capacity management, soping up what additional extra capacity exists in the neighborhood, if any.

The district could have a plan that starts with a very large geographic zone and gradually shrinks it over the years. That seems preferential to me as it eases the school in to an option status and hopefully reduces the number of people whose immediate plans for their kids have been put out of joint by the conversion.

As to how the "option-ness" works I'll leave that others who know better than me. Should it be district-wide? The absence of other programs like it says yes, but I think the district would say no.

Kristin said...

I am wondering who these 20 principals are, and where they came from, and what happened to the 20 principals they are replacing. How would I find out?

Charlie Mas said...

Kristin, it isn't easy to compile that sort of data. There are two ways to do it. One would be to make a list of every school and then record the principal for that school in each of the past three years.

Another method would be to review the District's news releases from the past couple years. The District usually issues a press release when a principal is changed.