Monday, March 14, 2011

Over $600 for Coffee and Bagels

Let's go back to last Friday when the district was hosting a "summit" with the super-peppy name of "School Improvement Superstars Summit." I asked the district some questions and here are the answers.
  • What was the goal? The goal is to share the best practices that have led to improvements in student achievement in Title I schools so that other schools/students can benefit from those best practices.
  • What was the cost? The event was funded with nearly $1,000 of Title One money. The coffee and rolls for about 130 participants was $646. The rest was for binders and printing.
  • Why was it free to participants? Again the purpose is staff development, which we believe is an important component of ensuring a well-trained employee workforce, and the cost was covered by Title I.
  • Why did this event have its own website? The website was created by a consulting teacher working in the grants office as part of her workload and as part of her own professional development.
  • Why were there 4 principals there? Principals were invited to attend but it was not required. They were offered an opportunity to meet with colleagues and share ideas with the goal of school improvement that will benefit all students in their schools.
I want to point out the following: every single presenter was from SPS but one. So it was a lot of SPS telling other districts how we use Title I money.   I looked at the sign-in sheets at 10 a.m. and there were maybe 4 other SPS staff besides the SPS presenters.  So how did this really help our workforce?

In checking the Grants and Fiscal Compliance page, you can see the following about Supplemental Education Services (SES - this is additional academic instruction to increase the academic achievement of students who are low income and who attend schools that have not made Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) for 3 or more years.):

Participation in SES in Seattle Public Schools
2010-2011 School Year
4497 students eligible
1233 students participating (maximum capacity)
27% participation

2009-2010 School Year
3500 students eligible
1797 students participating
51% participation

2008-2009 School Year
1471 students eligible
897 students participating
61% participation

2007-2008 School Year
1107 students eligible
327 students participated
29% participation

What the heck happened from 2008 to now?  We lost that much Title One funding that we are maxed out and yet serve only 27% of students? No matter - that $1,000 would have been better spent to help SPS children in the classroom.

Why is SPS spending time and resources educating other districts?  This looks a lot like a one-day echo chamber of Silas Potter.

Frankly, I find this sickening. There is NO excuse for this kind of self-indulgent "summit."We don't have the time or the money to be putting on a dog-and-pony show to help other districts.

Title 1 funds should go DIRECTLY to students for their academic needs.

32 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Ironic that this is the first year SPS could qualify as an approved SES provider...and uses the money to pat itself on the back. It could not before because it was technically a district in improvement.

I would say it still needs improvement.

The auditor may be able to determine if this is a proper use of grant monies....

Salander said...

Coffee and Bagels +++++++
Speaking of wasting money- Up Front program on channel five yesterday offered up some interesting statistics.As if we didn't already know the District is top heavy (spending double other I-5 corridor districts on administration). Also presented were the figures for the percentage of money going into clasrooms =66%. Whereas in other district the figures are over 70% and as high as 75%.

Peon said...

While I agree that Title I money should go directly to kids, I see the benefits of leadership collaboration too. We all seem to agree on the importance of teacher collaboration so why is it so disturbing at the leadership level?

The topics covered were ELL strategies that work, How Clover Park SD closed their achievement gap, A schools AYP success story, steps of improvement to plan and target instruction, and math and literacy classroom strategies, to name a few.

I think it is fantastic that districts are communicating with each other and sharing what is working for them.

Imagine if Renton was part of this symposium? They could have shared their strategies for increasing their graduation rate and success improving performance of their under served students. I for one would have loved SPS leadership to have heard that.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, only SPS was hosting the workshops. There was one speaker from another district. That's not exactly sharing.

SPS leadership was not in attendance.

Peon, we're in a time of financial crisis, no? This is really the best use of the dollars?

seattle citizen said...

Peon,
I agree that sharing success is important and motivating. That is what digital bulletin boards, blogs, email and other resources are for. These are accessible at all ours, and staff of the various districts can participate in them when they are not busy with other school matters.

ALL districts are in budget crisis: Do they have time to spend $200 per FTE (daily pay) times what, 130 (plus presenters?) = $26,000 to do this? Is this the most efficient use of $26,000 (plus bagels and coffee and preliminary and set-up FTE time...)

$646 for 130 participants, I make this to be about five dollars per staff. Them's some expensive bagels and coffees, particularly when volume discounted.

The priority right now is to support classrooms. Bagels, coffee should certainly be "BYO"; the meeting itself seems to be un-necessary at this time of crisis.

On a related note, the TIF grant supposedly requires the district to spend $350,000 hiring a company (West Ed) to review its TIF stuff (merit pay, et al). So here, and there, we see way too much money being shovelled everywhere but into the classroom as the district(s) struggle through a horrendous budget crisis.

More and more money spend on "reform" as schools starve? Perhaps. Why isn't every penny going into schools, instead of paying people to network, "review," and "manage performingly"? Some say it's part of the plan: Starve schools, point to the emaciated bodies, and say, "WE are implementing the new, NEW way! Look over HERE!"

Anonymous said...

If you look at the agenda and ppts available you will notice the TIF grant also presented. Maybe this was part of the propaganda strategy they hired Strategies 360 to help them with.

seattle citizen said...

Speaking of "reform," Arne Duncan, in conversation with our Governor, calls Washington State's education system "illogical," as under-reported by the Seattle Times today.

Peon said...
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Peon said...

"SPS leadership was not in attendance."

Melissa, do you have a list of all who attended? And since when are principals not leaders?

SC, should we take teacher collaboration time away too? There is a financial crisis, and we can only imagine how much teacher collaboration time costs the district? Shouldn't teachers just collaborate by email in the evening, on their own time, after they get their stack of papers graded? And shouldn't we get rid of professional development while we're at it too. Plenty of bulleting boards and blogs for that.

seattle citizen said...

Peon, teacher collaboration directly impacts the classrooms. The very next day, probably. With real-time discussion and feedback about actual students.

Teachers, for the most part, are NOT paid for collaboration time. I'm sure they do it between classes or on prep, when they COULD be doing grading etc (instead of taking it home to do on their own time) or they do it after school, after their contract hours.

And the district isn't bringing coffee and bagels to the faculty lounges.

dan dempsey said...

Huummm Coffee and Rolls $646

So how does that improve the situation for title I students who need interventions?

In the interest of the Transparency and Accountability that the District speaks of so often and yet does such a poor job of implementing, I am making a free contribution to improve this situation.

A weekly online education Magazine and interactive Blog.

Check it out.

www.School-Truth.com

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually yes, I did see the list.

I actually think this district does go overboard with a lot of professional development (ask any teacher if they could do with concentrated development rather than many smaller but less than useful days).

emeraldkity said...

It irks me to no end that in a district with Title 1 schools who are struggling to serve their students that something like this takes away money & time from the children that most need it..

I am involved with several different non-profit groups in the region & we never spend our own money on " refreshments". You either have it donated or you bring your own.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Emeraldkity,, that is the point above all. We need to act (and spend) like a district in a financial crisis. That summit is not what we should be sponsoring or paying for now. Maybe in a couple of years but no, the mindset at the headquarter is "we want what we want."

That is what I truly believe and it is so frustrating. I know it is as well to many who work there.

Peon said...
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Peon said...

SC, I happen to think inter district collaboration could benefit classrooms just as much as teacher collaboration does within SPS schools.

As I said, imagine if the Renton and Everett SD's were invited to this symposium and they spoke about what they were doing to support their struggling students?

Melissa I know you like what Everett and Renton SD's are doing. I'm curious, would you have the same reaction if they were invited to this symposium and they spoke about what their districts are doing to increase graduation rates, and intervention for struggling students?

another mom said...

Peon while I do not disagree that school districts should collaborate on strategies to improve academic acheivement, but isn't this is the kind of thing that Randy Dorn and his office and the Ed. Service Districts should be doing? Why did Seattle take this on and use Title I money to provide food for conference attendees,rather than kids living in poverty.

seattle citizen said...

Peon, I agree that sharing information between districts could be good. (Not incidentally, we've known, courtesy of the newspapers, what Everestt has been doing for awhile. Good things. How come we're not doing those things, too?) But we are laying off teachers, Schools are getting budgets that are tens, if not hundreds of thousands dollars less than they were last year. Services are cut, The state has stolen our ed stimulus funds. We just lost three million to the SBDP, and we've lost millions more to MAP and other apparently unhelpful peripherals.
We need to tighten EVERY belt before we lay off even one more educator.
We can take up "sharing" next year.

Dorothy Neville said...

If Renton and Everett came, perhaps it would have been worth the money.

However, we already had that opportunity, paid for by outside sources. Last November, there was an all day networking and sharing event targeting South King County children. Renton officials did speak at a pullout session, which was attended by Melissa and Dr MGJ.

Not only were bagels and coffee provided, so was lunch. And not one dime of Title I money was spent.

Peon said...

Look we here in Seattle are always trying to stave off charters, reform, and corporatist agendas. This Summit was an example of a local, grass roots, and relatively inexpensive way to collaborate on a local, inter district level.

I get that there is a budget crisis. I get that we don't have extra money to fund things that are not directly serving students. But just remember that Gates and Broad do. Either we collaborate on the local level, or we pass the baton over to Broad and Gates.

Be careful what you wish for.

Anonymous said...

Fed 150 recently. Coffee: $15 (can of coffee at safeway), use 2 large urn (each 30 cups, total 8 c ground coffe for120 C total liquid coffee).

Bagels: Costco or Safeway, around twenty to thirty cents each ($40 max).

Cash and Carry or Costco 5 lb blocks cream cheese, around $15.

Total should be closer to $75. Costco muffins are often used for these types of events b/c cheap, filling.

Chaired a series of events where I spent around $450 each time for supplies (for a full meal) and served this:

approx 80 burgers plus buns
apprx 80 dogs plus buns
salad
pasta with parmesan and olive oil
ice cream bars
volunteers brought cookies

$646, even if it included something other than bagels, cream cheese, and coffee is too much, especially with taxpayer dollars.

Been There With The Eats

Anonymous said...

+1 to "been there with the eats." Was the catering contract negotiated by Silas Potter?

And this story makes an interesting counterpoint to something I've noticed at our elementary. The PTA is no longer providing coffee for the "Principal's Coffee" morning meetings (these happen a few times a year and are a chance for parents to informally ask questions of the principal and generally find out what's going on with the school). The invitation now says "bring your own coffee or tea."

--I usually post as "Lisa" but am having trouble with the Google login today

Peon said...

Our school always used a huge commercial coffee pot for these types of events, and made large pots for a couple of dollars. I like the idea of the Summit, and am fine with Seattle hosting, but I agree, costs for coffee and bagels could have been lower.

kprugman said...

Almost always a conference like this is tied to a stipulation in a grant. It was probably mandatory to share best practices. Our district rightlfully tries to avoid grants that ask for matching funds.

Melissa Westbrook said...

If this was a stipulation, why didn't the district tell me that? Why hide it? Not buying it.

WenD said...
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WenD said...
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WenD said...
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WenD said...

Sometimes it's the little things that insult the most. Olchefske lost $35 mil, MGJ about $1.8, that we KNOW of, on her watch. But it's relative, 1990s dollars -vs - current dollars.

If the board wasn't hiding fraud while cheating kids, I don't think anyone would question the cost or the appearance of this event. There's also a history of cheating kids out of Title 1 funds. Remember Thurgood Marshall?

This event, like the 2010 retirement party, cost at least double what any of us could do with a Costco card or a trip to Cash & Carry.

The little things have been piling up and there's so much more that a forensic audit can uncover. So why doesn't the board ask to pay for one?

It's the little things, whether or not this event had value, that indicate that bigger things have been done with impunity.

We're largely a group of parents and caring people who work with kids. How many of us tolerate lies?

WenD said...
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WenD said...

@WenD, clarification:
"...why doesn't the board ask the ALLIANCE to pay for one?"

Sorry for the edits; bad keyboard.

kprugman said...

Where the money for the conference might have come from is probably an eye-strain. If Title I money was the source then that would be a problem.

However, hijacking Title I never stopped Birsin or Alvarado from dismantling all the support programs in their frenzied, insincere efforts to reform San Diego Unified.

There is no way that any one school site council made up of educators and parents could have stopped a determined takeover by an organized group of malcontents.