On January 12th the Board will have their annual Legislative luncheon. It was interesting because (1) they are all very worried about the state budget and (2) Michael asked about evaluating the district's lobbyist (we have one of those). It was agreed that it was a good idea but I think it surprised some staff. This would be done at a Board Executive Session.
Michael said he had met with Rep. Carlyle about curriculum adoptions at the community college level and how it affects SPS. He said there was a group of teachers interested in piloting it and Dr. G-J said the district would have to pay the teachers. Michael countered that they had to do professional development anyway and the other Board members agreed.
So on the agenda for this meeting was Community Engagement. The time came for this topic and the Superintendent said there was nothing new and she can't do more. It was somewhat awkward because she seemed defensive but said nothing. I was a little surprised she didn't mention what she HAD been doing (Coffee chats, teacher lunches, etc.) and how that informed her thinking. She did state that they were finishing on the budget survey and heard from the SCPTSA that they preferred a simple report out and that they could do a community meeting about it.
So the district is hiring yet another consultant, this one to do organizational work on governance. Her name is Karen Reed. (Nothing on how much she will get paid or how long or who she is accountable to.)
Discussion came around Board work plans and the lack of hours to get everything done. Kay wanted to voice the concern around changes that occur at the last minutes or getting items at the last minute. She said she understood the weather issues but, for example, she thought the Work Session on Tuesday was about one thing and it had something else in it. (She's referring to the integration of budget and transition plan which staff hadn't communicated to the Board.) She said that "we need to be on the same page". Silence. Steve agreed.
Mr. Kennedy then mentioned reporting out on the audit oversight but I was confused here because I didn't see this on the agenda. Nothing else much was said here.
They then discussed rescheduling the hearing for the Board to deliberate on the use of Brave New World. There was discussion about doing this after a Work Session but Steve felt it was important enough to be on a Legislative session day. They were all careful to say they would check with the family to find a satisfactory date for all. I think they would like to do it in December but that would have to be on Wednesday so I think it is more likely to happen in January.
So then we got to the agenda item "Correcting errors in district reports and statistics". Yes, it got interesting.
Michael had two concerns. One stemmed from Rep. Carlyle's post on his blog about the 17% statistic. Michael said he had left Patti Spencer (Communications) an e-mail about a letter to public officials and community leaders who used the stat at face value to apologize for the wrongness of the stat. He said it was "starting point". He acknowledged the Superintendent's letter to the community but felt the Board and district owed these leaders an apology because so many of them had used it as a touchpoint and it left them in a vulnerable position. Silence.
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said the district would do this. Silence.
He said he had asked Patti about this before Thanksgiving but hadn't heard from her. He had asked Reuven if he had received anything and he said no. (That's embarrassing for Michael, for sure.) Michael said he talked to a couple of City Council people and they had all used that figure when speaking to people about Seattle public education.
He said that this incident highlights the importance of clear use of reports and stats. He basically said that it was not good enough to explain something in appendices. He said it was not appropriate to use a number and not associate it with its proper meaning.
He then said that he wanted to know if there would be anything in the school reports that could be a problem. (Yoo hoo, Charlie, want to chime in here?) He stated this was a concern going forward about transparency and the message we are sending about how we describe ourselves.
Kay asked about Charlie's issue about the stat in the school reports (she referenced a blog notice). She said "the community is digging in the weeds now" because of the 17% blunder and looking to understand what the numbers mean.
She said the community is now questioning stats on the scorecards.
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said slowly that the district wanted to acknowledge when a mistake is made or a misrespresentation made (even in an appendix) and they haven't apologized yet.
Then Steve stepped up and said it seemed like a good topic to take up with the quarterly evaluation of the Superintendent. He said Michael was to be credited for asking questions early on. He said if there are other stats, we need to be clear about the complexity of issues about student achievement and make sure we are vetting stats and understanding the advantages and disadvantages of stats. "Are we getting at the fundamental issue that we want to when we use stats". I could have hugged him.
Michael stated that the letter of apology needed to go out to these officials and leaders AND the public. (Again, it would have been a hugfest if I had my way.) He said the way to prevent this is using a critical eye as part of the quarterly evaluation of the strategic plan. He said there should be follow-thru on concerns raised by Board members. He said what level do Board members concerns warrant attention? (It was hard to hear this because if Board members ask questions and get blown off, what hope do the rest of us have?) He said there was no clear mechanism to get answers unless someone on the Board goes to the rest of the Board and creates an action to get feedback. He then wanly said it was a problem of being a complicated organization. He went on to say that Brad B. had explained the Colorado growth model at the Work Session but Michael said he had grad classes in statistical methodology but most people haven't.
"We have to make sure that any indicator that gets picked up as something it is not, then we own the mistake. That's the vigilance I'm asking for."
Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said she would be "happy" to follow up on all these comments. (That was a poor choice of words given how often she has said that in the past.)
Noel said that there should be a good "scrub" of primary reports to start making sure we don't have issues. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson said the 17% measure should have had a public conversation a year ago. She has a concern our numbers are not accurate and "we own that".
(I would take issue with that statement because if you read her letter to the community, it sounds more like the public isn't bright enough to follow the high level work they are doing and sorry if we misunderstood. That's not owning a mistake.)
Michael then said something a bit odd. He said that "Brad measured what he was asked to" and it wasn't fully clarified to the public. Brad B. said that he created his own measure of college readiness so even if he measured it, it was to a standard he created (or used from the Colorado model).
We then moved onto "Proper oversight and the role of annual reports". Michael said he wanted to follow-up to the "awkward" moment with the C-SIPs at the last Board meeting. He said that Joan Dingfield (Board staff) had been asked to look at the prescribed reports and what our policies ask us to insure on an annual basis. He said that incident at the Board meeting did not present the professional face that they want and it calls in their credibility. He said they didn't want to get themselves in that position on live tv. We need to have a schedule about what reports are legally required and what the deadlines are so they can meet public expectations.
Susan Enfield said that she and Jessica de Barros talked through the timeline and had to make sure it aligned with budgeting. Basically, it was about school improvement plans shifting ahead of compliance to improvement. She said, "We won't be in this position again." Steve said it was a difficult moment and thanked Susan for her grace. He said "we are accountable for our votes" and the quality wasn't what he expected. (And yet, he still voted for it.) He said it was less about the document itself than the perception of shared belief of outcomes. (But again, they said the C-SIPs are where the get some of the info for the all-important school reports. Either they are important to get right or they aren't.)
Then Susan said that the Executive Directors are working very closely with the principals and that it will take time but there is a disconnect between outcomes and the collective teams at schools. The principals say they have a fine team and yet the outcomes aren't what they should be.
Steve said it goes back to shared accountability from the top down. Kay said the timeline is critical and that she had gone back and checked some of them. She said a simple checklist that things get done would work for her.
Michael then said the C-SIP was an obvious example but it ran deeper than that.
That can be a compliance question or accountability tool. If this is the basis for performance management money and change, then there has to be integrity and it has to be real and not an empty exercise.
Kay then referenced other missed deadlines for other reports.
Noel asked if there was a list of types of reports? Oh, Joan is working on that.
(Sidebar; there is no schedule/list out there for these things that is accessible to the Board?)
I think at this point staff was thankful to move on to BEX Oversight Committee vacancies. There are currently two but Mr. Martin seems to think there is no urgency to fill (except that sometimes they don't have a quorum). Turns out this is another area with no real process on how to fill these vacancies. Kay talked about getting people who know land use issues or finance issues or construction, etc. They passed out a sheet with names but I didn't see it. Bill said there was a charter and so they did have to follow that and not just pick people. Michael said it should go thru Operations and then ont0 the Board for confirmation. They will make an announcement at the next Board meeting. Bill said the current Committee should have input on candidates.
There was a brief discussion of the Superintendent's evaluation format with quarterly sessions to offer feedback. Michael and the Superintendent seemed to have different recollections of what was agreed to. It was agreed to keep to quarterly sessions in executive session. Kay said that was fine but for the Board to be sure to refer back to previous areas of improvement (either made or recommended).
End of notes.
Pretty amazing. All three of the Board members made it known that they had discomfort with leaving other elected officials in the lurch over the 17% (as well as community leaders). They asked for and are getting a letter of apology sent out to those people as well as the public. They all expressed concern over how stats were being used, that those stats could be understood properly by the general public and that they did not want to be surprised/embarrassed again. That Michael also called out that he didn't want a public display of confusion like at the last Board meeting over the C-SIPs was great.
This is accountability I can believe in. This is what I am looking for. No yelling or wagging of the finger needed. Just "don't like this, get it right, don't let it happen again."