Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Little Thing That Means A Lot

There is a little thing on the agenda for the regular legislative meeting of the School Board this week. It's so small that it is buried in the consent agenda. It's the annual approval of schools. It's a little thing, but it means a lot because it is required for the District to collect the Basic Education funding from the state. That's the bulk of the District's revenue.

The state makes districts fufill some requirements before sending their their annual wad o' cash and one of those requirements is that they write and approve an annual improvement plan for each school. In Seattle, the requirements for that annual plan are fulfilled with the CSIP, the Continuous School Improvement Plan. Here's the problem: the District didn't do CSIPs this year. All of the CSIPs on the District web site are out of date.

Worse yet, it's obvious. Anyone who knew about the District and looked at the evidence could see that no work has been done on these plans. The Cleveland plan doesn't even mention STEM. There is no plan for Jane Addams K-8. The plan for Arbor Heights is completely blank. None of the data has been updated for over a year.

So here's the $64 million question: will the Board notice or do anything about it? Actually, this question is worth much more than $64 million. If the Board makes no mention of this and just leaves it on the consent agenda and just passes it without any examination, that would be totally negligent. That motion would be ripe for appeal. An appeal of that motion would cost the District hundreds of millions of dollars, not to mention provide ample evidence of the Board's total failure to oversee the District.

In case you're wondering, I am not sitting back and waiting to pop out and yell "Gotcha!" on this. I have written to the Board and - in very urgent language - pointed out the problems with the CSIPs and pointed out the dire and urgent need for them to take action. I hope they do.

Of course, if they don't it would be, as I wrote, ample evidence of their failure to fulfill even the simplest elements of their duty. If they don't take some action to fix this, then the decision will need to be appealed and the Board members will need to be removed from office.

37 comments:

Anonymous said...

I heard about this year's CSIP from our principal at a meeting with parents. The CSIP's for this year were due from dist. staff recently. They will be posted on SPS web soon.

Before posting this topic, would have been good to check with your own principal or someone else at district about CSIP's. Certainly district at fault for slow info on website, but authors here can check own facts prior to creating a topic (and prior to creating a tempest in a teapot).

CSIP coming

Anonymous said...

Well, of course, CSIP coming, that makes perfect sense, but you know that this blog likes to use speculation as truth-just look below at the hysteria over the APP move that's being touted as a given. And this isn't the first time-in fact it's one of MANY where website information is offered up as gospel when anyone with any common sense knows that webistes are NOT legal documents, are NOT often updated as much as they should be and are NOT the same as actual in-office paper files.

But it sure sounds more dire if you write that what you see on a website is actuality, that a "crisis" of unheralded proportions is at hand and it's all going to come crashing down on everyone.

It's yet another thing to hammer the district about, even if it's not true.

Anonymouse

Melissa Westbrook said...

CSIP Coming, the frickin' meeting is tomorrow! Getting it done at the last minute BEFORE the Board can even check it for themselves (their job) is wrong. So even if it's done, it's not done in time for the Board to do due diligence.

Wh

Anonymous said...

my point Melissa is not that it's OK for the district to do this last minute. I agree with you that that's not ok. My point is that you got the facts wrong because you didn't fact check. I respectfully request that you fact-check before you post. You have actually asked other posters to support their assertions; please do the same.

CSIP coming

cascade said...

"It's done but we haven't had the time to get it on the website" is the district's The Dog Ate My Homework. It appears with regularity, about every 6 weeks by my quick count. Even if it is true - and I have noticed some baldfaced lies in this area - it looks bad.

If the district can't process info in a timely manner then perhaps it has too much on its plate. This goes back to the lack of operational leadership and follow through within JSCEE and it also goes to the fact that our superintendent has not given enough attention to running a truly empowered and professional communications department.

Patrick said...

There is a CSIP for Jane Addams. It is at http://www.seattleschools.org/area/csip/csips/janeaddams.pdf

The District hasn't updated the links from the CSIPs main page, but that's a very different thing from not having the CSIP at all.

Melissa Westbrook said...

This is Charlie's post, not mine. There's a fact check

Second, you don't know he's wrong. Do you know if every school got it done or just your school? Okay then.

I'll bet they aren't all done. We as parents go with what is on the website. I don't expect Charlie to check every single school.

Charlie Mas said...

The Board Action Report is an official document. It is the official document that the Board uses as a basis for decisions.

The Board Action Report provides exactly one reference to the CSIPs and it is the web page. That makes the web page the official record and part of the Board Action Report by reference. It makes the CSIPs on that page part of the official record as well. The web page and the CSIPs linked to it are the data on which the Board is expected to base their decision.

Let's be very clear. The CSIPs linked to that web page are horribly out of date, some are missing, and at least one is blank.

The web page is what it is. Whether there are later versions of the CSIPs or not, those later versions are not available to the Board, are not part of the official record, and are not part of the basis for a Board decision. Those hypothetical later versions are not part of "the facts" that the Board has available to them. Those hypothetical later versions are not germaine. The only documents that matter are the ones referenced in the Board Action Report - and those documents, which I did check, are horribly out of date.

Let's remember what I asked the Board to do. I didn't ask them to reject the motion. I didn't ask them to fire the superintendent. I only asked them to remove the action item from the consent agenda and find out about the status of the CSIPs before they approved the motion.

If the District staff can provide good answers to the questions, that would be wonderful. But the Board has to do their job and ask those questions.

If there are updated CSIPs, then why weren't the updated CSIPs provided to the Board in time for this vote? Isn't that, in itself, a failure by the staff?

I'm just a blogger following up, and I'm supposed to investigate and find the current CSIPs, but the District staff have no obligation to do that? And the Board has no obligation to do that? I think they do. And that was the topic of the blog post.

CSIPs coming soon isn't good enough. The CSIPs have to be here in time to be part of the record. They have to be available for review by the Board and the public.

Charlie Mas said...

Patrick, there may well be a CSIP for Jane Addams, but it isn't linked to the Board Action Report so the Board doesn't know it exists and neither does the public. The people who have a duty to oversee need to be able to fulfill that duty. That means that if the staff tells the Board "There is a CSIP for every school and here it is", then there should be a CSIP for every school where the staff claims it is. That didn't happen.

All I'm saying is that the Board needs to pull this action item out of the consent agenda and ask "Where is the CSIP for Jane Addams; it was not in the material you provided." and "Where are the updated CSIPs?" and "Where is the completed CSIP for Arbor Heights?" and "Why do almost none of these CSIPs address how the school intends to serve their advanced learners?"

I hope that they will ask these questions and I hope that they will get good answers. But if they don't ask the questions then the Board isn't doing their job.

Charlie Mas said...

By the way, CSIP coming, how do you know that I didn't check with someone at the District about the CSIPs?

Charlie Mas said...

Oh! For Anonymouse, the speculation about APP moves is pretty clearly described as speculation. I'm sorry if that wasn't clear enough for you.

Will all opinions have to be prefaced by the words "In my opinion..." or can a reader be expected to be able to discern the difference between an opinion and a fact? Can a reader be expected to discern the difference between a projection and a determination?

Clearly I'm giving Anonymouse far too much credit as a critical and discerning reader - or, maybe not. Anonymouse apparently could discern between the two but presumed that other readers were not as capable. Wow! Elitist much?

wseadawg said...

Anonymouse: Re: APP panic - A prediction is not an assertion of facts. I don't think anyone who reads this blog interpreted Charlie's APP post as anything other than a prediction. Hyperbole, rhetoric, speculation...yes, it can be rampant at times, but I think this blog's readers can filter it just fine.

wseadawg said...

And opposing viewpoints like yours, Anonymouse, help readers clarify and sort through information. This is the beauty of our system! When somebody spouts BS, call BS on it, and we're all the better for it.

Is this a great country or what?

zb said...

"By the way, CSIP coming, how do you know that I didn't check with someone at the District about the CSIPs?"

Did you?

My personal demands that you fact check are low. I'm pretty comfortable with the fact that you're a volunteer, posting information that you see and understand, and I treat it with a "In my opinion, when I looked, . . . " preceding it anyway (even if you don't write that). So, I don't expect you to check with district leadership before you post something. But, if you do, I'd love to hear about it.

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to the Board two weeks ago about the CSIPs with essentially the same information.

No updated CSIPs were provided.

Let me re-state what I have already stated: I am not trying to play Gotcha! with this. I didn't keep the information to myself until after the vote so I could spring an appeal on them and make them appear foolish. I have written to the Board to advise them of the problem. They have a responsibility to take action. Nothing would make me happier than for the Board to take some sort of action and for the CSIPs to be completed, updated, and made available to the Board (and the public).

If I wanted to make trouble I would have kept my mouth shut and filed an appeal with the Court after the Board negligently approved the motion within the consent agenda. I'm not doing that. I'm trying to head off trouble. I'm helping the Board to do their job by shadowing it and finding trouble for them to attend to.

Charlie Mas said...

I find it odd that I get pushback on this, a situation in which the District is clearly and unquestionably in the wrong.

I'm really surprised that someone makes this their rallying point for What's Wrong With The SSS Blog. Really? You want to take the other side of this? You want to contend that some record other than the official record is the one that counts? You want to contend that the blog is no good because it doesn't look for hypothetical apocryphal documents in lieu of the offical documents as the authoritative record?

I would have picked something else. I would have gone to some the really nasty things I have written about Director Maier. Really ugly stuff like that would make a better platform for discrediting the blog than this: "Charlie researched hundreds and hundreds of pages of data provided by the District and attested to be complete, up-to-date and accurate and found it missing critical elements, out-of-date, and inaccurate. As a result he encouraged the Board to learn about it before making a mistake that could be costly." Wow! Really? What a scumbag. That Charlie guy totally sucks. He's a total dick. Why would he do such a dreadful thing? Doesn't he care about the children?

Chris said...

Thank you Charlie for raising these points. You for one are notorious for bashing the board/district for Stuff They're Supposed To Do and Stuff They've Promised To Do.

Which is alot more reasonable that the rest of us who love to rant about their stupid and illogical ideas and actions...

wseadawg said...

Charlie: L-O-friggin-L!!

Easily Confused said...

Charlie--I noticed that the TITLE of your post was called 'Possible' Garfield outcomes. Maybe that wasn't clear enough.

Charlie Mas said...

I just noticed something else funky about this motion. On the Board agenda, it says that the motion came through the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee. But I have reviewed the recent agendas for that committee and this topic does not appear.

This motion DID NOT come through the Curriculum and Instruction Committee as claimed.

Jan said...

Ok, now -- as dust settles around my feet. After all this, I am not sure where the consent motion (and the supporting CSIPs) stand. And what the correct conclusion to draw is.

We are now 24 hours from the Board meeting. Are the new CSIPs now posted?

If they are not posted, do we have any clue if they have been given to Board members, even though they have not been publicly disseminated?

IF that is the case -- am I the only one uncomfortable with something that is supposed to be public being circulated to the Board for a consent vote when no one else has ever had the opportunity to review it?

I am not positive I understand how committee approval works in the context of this board, but if the CSIPs weren't available, so no committee review has ever taken place, does that mean that, in essence, the Board will be put in the unhappy position of "approving" something that no Board member has had a chance to read, and no committee (with Board input?) has discussed or vetted?

Anonyturtle said...

Here is what I think (have thought for some time -- but this seems to be another example of it):

This District is not well managed, by either the Superintendent, or her bosses, the Board. MGJ attempts way too much, starts zillions of things, manages them badly (at best) or deceitfully/dishonestly AND badly (if one wants to believe the worst), and lacks any follow through or accountability.

The Board to date has let her get away with this by not following through on the things she and her staff promise. They don't get reports on time--or at all. She doesn't do the things they direct her to do.

And regular old "stuff" -- like CSIPs, don't get done on time (I guess we will never know whether, had Charlie not written, they would have been updated at all).

The Board needs to cut back on what they want MGJ to accomplish. They need to tell her "no" on a number of her "new" initiatives, when she cannot manage the ones she currently has on her plate. The District needs to figure out solutions for RBHS's attendance problems, finish rolling out the MAP and determine whether it is working (which means we also have to figure out what we are using it for (accelerated placement, teacher retention/bonuses, informing classroom instruction at either a group or personal level, etc.), deal with the shortcomings of RIT. They need to finish up and implement the waiver policy. They need to deal with the teacher support/training stuff that came through the new contract. They need to fix/rework/whatever the problems with Special Ed. They need to finish fixing the problems with the NSAP. I winced at the comment left by one parent who attended last night's Garfield meeting -- that reports out of his groups with unworkable overcrowding at elementary schools (his was Stevens) also must be fixed, and fixed NOW -- before next year's classes enroll.

And NEW stuff -- like TfA, the "standardization" of the science curriculum, etc. -- has to be put on hold. No board of directors would allow a company's management to become so distracted, would allow the number of a company's new initiatives and startups to become so out of control.

Sometimes I wonder whether she things that if she just manages things into a total, riotous calamity -- keeps ALL the plates spinning, and keeps whipping out new ones and setting them to spinning too -- , no one will have time to think through the bad ramifications of any one disaster, and she will never have to really be accountable (slogans notwithstanding)?

Dorothy Neville said...

"the Board will be put in the unhappy position of "approving" something that no Board member has had a chance to read, and no committee (with Board input?) has discussed or vetted?"

unhappy position or par for the course? How long have you been around, Jan? Remember the NTN contract? Or the one for a consultant on curriculum alignment where each board member announced that they didn't know what it was (but most of them said yes anyway)?Signing a consent agenda without reading it is a no-brainer compared to those contract approvals.

Anonymous said...

the CSIPs are part of the School Reports - page 2

I checked Cleveland's - it appears to be up to date

- Ramona Hattendorf

Jan said...

Hmm. Well, yes, Dorothy. I see your point, and I WAS around for (and did read the pathetic first draft of) the NTN contract. I was just getting warmed up when the curriculum alignment consultant vote was taken. I guess that, the dollars flying out of the door notwithstanding, I was proceeding from an (unexamined) assumption that somehow, the CSIPs matter more -- that for each school, this document is really IT. It is where the rubber hits the road. It is what the schools are actually planning to do (and be held accountable for) during this next year -- and for that reason (wow -- actual information drafted by the actual schools -- how often does the board get that?), it mattered MORE, even though it is not a direct expenditure item like the contracts. I guess I had also thought that there would have been lots of (or maybe only a few, but an important, meaningful few) District staffers who would have been all over the CSIPs at the committee level -- which maybe it looks like did not happen.

But maybe I am wrong. Maybe this is all just a meaningless paper pushing exercise, done for the purpose of appeasing the state.

So, I am truly confused. Now that the CSIPs are out (at least that is how I read Ramona's post) -- but so LATE, what should happen now (and what WILL happen now -- not the same thing).

Here is what I DON'T want to do. I don't want to spend a lot of time dinging the District for minor stuff, when there is so much major stuff going on. But -- apart from meeting a state requirement to have a bunch of pieces of paper in hand, and to approve them (read or unread), is this still big (because they matter, and no one will have read them) or little (because they don't matter, and so it is one more example of bad execution of administrative functions, but not as bad like the other really bad things (dismantling of support for special education and ELL, weakening of APP by creating unequal splits and housing HIMS program in a hostile school, dismantling of teacher autonomy in choice of program materials and school authority in teaching innovative classes, creation of havoc in overcrowded schools through faulty implementation of NSAP, etc.)

owlhouse said...

Ramona and Jan- my understanding is that pg 2 of the school report and CSIP share common language, but the I believe school reports are brief by comparison.

Charlie Mas said...

Ramona, you are incorrect. I'm a little troubled that a person in your position doesn't know about these reports.

The CSIPs, formerly known as school transition plans, are their own report - not a part of page two of the School Report. They are typically 48 pages long.

Here is a link to the CSIP for Cleveland. The document is dated 3/10/10. It makes no reference to STEM. It makes no reference to project-based learning. It's a pdf, so you can easily search it for those words. It does, however, say that the school will "dontinue to use Reader's Workshop" and Read 180 to boost HSPE pass rates.

The Cleveland CSIP is clearly out of date.

On the good side, however, there is now a link the Jane Addams CSIP, the dead links for the closed schools have been removed, and the school names have been corrected.

The real work, however, remains undone. The Arbor Heights plan is still blank and none of the other plans have been updated.

This motion, if passed, remains vulnerable to appeal. That means that the District's basic education funding from the state remains vulnerable. That's unacceptable.

Charlie Mas said...

The link for Martin Luther King Jr. elementary (formerly Brighton) is now missing.

I got an answer back from Steve Sundquist about this yesterday, which, I suppose, is partly how and why the work was done on the web page (if not the plans).

I took a look at the plan for South Shore - to see what the name of the school was on the title page of the plan - and found the plan really, really incomplete. Lots of boxes are un-checked, lots of spaces are blank.

Not good.

Dorothy Neville said...

Charlie, one of the main plans for dealing with the budget shortfall is to band together with other districts to lobby legislature to reduce the number of onerous requirements they put on districts. Honestly, with such a bare bones central office that has suffered tremendous! cuts! in staffing, districts simply cannot! take the time to fulfill all these doggone paperwork requirements. Nosirree, no way no how. So, we should please cut them some slack, they have no one left on staff who could possibly take the time to get this done. And we should all lobby legislature as well, to reduce the regulations, to reduce their oversight, so the district can continue to function with all those cuts central administration has faced and will face.

Perhaps Ramona in her new lobbying job will help out with this effort. Really, the compliance with such regulations, dealing with audits after not complying and all that are such a waste of precious resources that could go to the classroom.

(yes, this is exactly the plan for balancing the budget, get the state to reduce all those pesky paperwork requirements.)

Charlie Mas said...

Let me try to organize all of the divergent thoughts on this matter and explain why I am so troubled by it.

Let's work it in chronological order.

First, the motion says that it came through the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee, but there is absolutely no reference to this item on any of the recent C & I agendas or in any of the recent minutes. That leads me to believe that the motion did not actually go through the committee. This is troubling for two reasons: 1) Motions are not coming through committee as they should. 2) There is a false claim that the motion came through commitee when it did not.

Second, it is obvious that none of the Board members made any effort at all to actually read or review the motion. This is just the dead minimal amount of oversight that Board members should do. Really, the dead minimum. Yet none of them did it.

Had they bothered to click on the hyperlink in the Board Action Report they would have seen the web page with the links to the CSIPs. Had they done that they could not helped noticing what was wrong with it: closed schools were on the list and lots of schools were misnamed on the list. I simply cannot imagine how Director Maier could have looked at that page and not noticed that there was no link for Jane Addams K-8 on the list. Epic fail for Director Maier.

I would reasonably expect the Board members to at least take a look at the plans for the schools undergoing radical change. Had Director Patu checked the plan for Cleveland she could not have failed to notice that it makes no reference to STEM or project-based learning. It's pretty clear that she didn't bother to check it. Director Patu: fail.

Director Sundquist could not have noticed that the CSIP for West Seattle Elementary makes no reference to the transformation in that school. Clearly, he didn't check it. Director Sundquist: fail.

Director Sundquist also failed to check or notice that the CSIP for Arbor Heights is blank. Completely blank. Director Sundquist: fail #2.

This is particularly poor performance from Directors Maier and Sundquist, who think that they have what it takes to be Board President.

All of the other Board Directors get a second fail also for being too lazy to check any of the plans and notice that they are horribly out of date. Extra servings of fail for those who have enough tech savvy to check the file properties and see that the "last modified date" is in March of this year. I believe Director Martin-Morris falls into that category.

Honestly, though, I think it is too much to expect the Board Directors to know that the CSIPs are supposed to include a reference to any advanced learning programs and that they are all supposed to describe how the school will serve its advanced learners. I know that, but I don't expect the Board Directors to know it.

So what we have is a Board that is charged with governance and oversight, a Board that was just called out by the State Auidtor's office for failing to do their oversight work, a Board that had a Board retreat that was all about doing the oversight work, a Board that has sworn to really focus on doing their oversight work, and not one member of this Board was willing to do so much as a mouse-click in fulfillment of their oversight responsibility. Super fail for all of them.

We have three members of the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee - Martin-Morris, Sundquist, and Patu - who didn't notice that this motion didn't really come through their committee even though it says it did. Super fail for them.

Worst of all, we have a District staff that is so confident that the Board won't bother to do even as little as click on a hypertext link that they can throw this stuff out there and expect to get away with it. That is the saddest commentary of all. And it doesn't come from me; it comes from Dr. Enfield. She fully expected that she'd be able to throw this right past them.

Maureen said...

Charlie, is there anything the Board can do at this point to make it right? Can they approve a motion to delay the approval until the CSIPs are posted and the C&I Committee reviews, or will that make them miss a deadline for state funding?

Charlie Mas said...

The Board should vote to table the motion to their next meeting and direct the superintendent to post updated, correct, and complete CSIPs for all schools on the web site by the end of the week.

The Board should be clear that they expect all - ALL - of the CSIPs to be current, they expect the CSIPs to reference advanced learning programs at the schools that have them and for all - ALL - CSIPs to describe how the school will serve advanced learners.

The Board should be clear they expect all - ALL of this work to be completely done by 5:00pm on Friday, November 19.

And then, sometime this weekend, each of the Board members should review the CSIPs for the schools in their District to confirm that they are current, complete, and correct.

So, come the December board meeting they can cast votes to approve this motion with confidence that they have done their duty.

Charlie Mas said...

The CSIP for Arbor Heights has now been posted. It has today's date on it.

Maureen said...

Charlie It's good that the Arbor Heights CSIP was produced and posted. I do feel the need to point out that CSIPs cover a moving range of years. I noticed that the one posted for our school is not the most recent one (that our BLT submitted at the end of October 2010) however it does refer to 2009-2011 so could be said to be up to date. It looks like a whole batch of them were posted March 5th 2010 and are "dated" 2009-11. (Unless the state has different standards for updates?)

I see the new school names are listed now but the links go no where.

Charlie Mas said...

While the plans may say "2009-2011" on their cover pages, they are supposed to be annual plans, not bi-annual plans.

I'm pretty sure that the plans were done by each school and were done by the end of October, but the updated plans were not available.

You might reasonably ask, "What difference does it make if the plans were posted online or not so long as they were done?" The answer is that even if the school staffs and the Chief Academic Officer did their jobs, the Board has to do its job. What is clear is that the Board did not do their job. What is also clear is that the staff didn't expect the Board to do their job. Finally, it is also clear that the staff did not provide the Board with the necessary resources to do their job. The data available to the Board to use as the basis for their decision was the faulty data. That remains the fact.

The failure of the District to work transparently, to post the plans on the web site, is disturbing.

I would add that the absence of references to advanced learners in every school and advanced learning programs in the schools that have them continues to be a troublesome matter.

Finally, the false implication that the motion went through the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee is a little disturbing.

There has been a lot of progress in the last few days to correct the problems, but none of this would have been corrected if I had not contacted the Board with the warning. Why are they relying on me for this assistance?

Greg said...

The board shouldn't be relying you for this assistance, Charlie. The board shouldn't require you to notice the problem and give them this warning.

But don't get too annoyed by the trolls and district shills commenting here. I (and I am sure other parents) appreciate that you did spend time and effort on this. I think parents appreciate those who detect and expose these kinds of problems.

Jan said...

So now -- we will see. I think Charlie is right. Now that I have actually read at least one of the CSIPs (the one for Garfield, the only school I know anything about), the ONLY credible board response tonight would be a motion made, seconded, and approved to table the motion to the next meeting, and a direction to the Superintendent to verify that every school's CSIP is up to date by this Friday, so the board can review them over the weekend.

And yes -- if advanced learning is supposed to be in there, the schools should go back and amend them to put that in.

And -- this is something that the APP advisory committee should be all over. There is (or should be) a lot more advanced learning going on than just APP -- but they are the only group out there, and they should speak for ALL advanced learners by advocating for getting advanced learning plans into the CSIPs. (They should go farther with the APP schools, and actually read what those plans are, and advocate for changes, if necessary).