The Seattle Council PTSA was very gracious in dispensing with the business part of the meeting and went right to comments from the panel and then questions. It was an interesting format because you could submit a written question and, at the end, ask a question. I had printed out all the budget questions I had received from my thread and gave it to the moderator.
Enfield: pretty much what we have heard except to clarify that they are NOT abandoning the Strategic Plan but with fewer resources they will be, as Steve says, "trimming the sails." I was happy to hear about direct interventions and the use of MAP as a resource to teachers and parents. She said that "not everyone wants to be an assessment expert."
Sherry stated that when she and Michael DeBell went looking for an interim CFO, their peers almost uniformly said to ask Robert Boesche. She also said that they had several applicants for the volunteer oversight person for the Audit and Finance Committee and looked forward to bringing that person on-board soon.
Steve again apologized for the financial scandal and said the audience could ask him questions if they wanted. I have to point out that I still haven't seen one Board take personal responsibility for their role but that may be too hard to say outloud.
I was impressed with Mr. Boesche. His background is in teaching (10 years as a business teacher as well as a vo-ed counselor). He said he wasn't inclined to this job but he couldn't say no to Dr. Enfield (he said this with a smile and a laugh). He said he "was struck by those who are here, not those who are gone." He said he is convinced that Susan Enfield will "walk her talk." I can say at this point that his communication skills appear to be far superior to Don Kennedy's.
Questions (I'm not going to run thru all of them because some were items we have heard before or that Charlie covered in his thread):
Q: Do you have an action plan for equity for the SE?
A: Again, as Charlie reported, there is to be a second Ex Director for the SE. I don't really buy into this plan given the money issues we have but Dr. E. thinks it necessary. She said they are publicly committing to "seeing growth in that region next year." I believe she meant academic growth. She also said that she was committed to making sure that the smaller high schools had one adult assigned to oversee several students' progress. Pegi McEvoy said she and Dr. E. had written a grant last year (high school graduation grant) that would support some of the work of the SE Initiative (thought that was done and gone but I guess not). No word on when they might know if this grant will come thru.
Q: What about capacity managment?
A: Pegi said she had been in a 2-hour meeting yesterday talking about this issue. She mentioned the usual issue of program placement, boundaries, etc. and then said something about the district having too many departments in "silos" from each other. I'm glad she recognized this but it's discouraging because Moss-Adams said this 10 years ago. Obviously, it's still going on. Steve mentioned asking the Mayor's office for help on demographics.
Q: How will budgets account for schools that turn up overenrolled after the October headcount?
A: Steve said the Board had not seen a plan yet that satisfies them. Pegi said that there is a short-term plan for next year but hasn't seen a template for the long term. He didn't not specify the short-term plan. Mr. Boesche said that he wanted to dispel the myth that the October head count is the only one. Then he said something telling - he basically said it was better to be understaffed than overstaffed by October 1. To me being overstaffed is very much the problem for the Central administration but understaffing is very much the problem for schools.
Q: There were two questions about cultural competency.
A: Susan said they were in a process about how they "induct" new teachers into SPS and providing that kind of instruction.
Q: Can parents submit an ethics issue to the City's office (as staff can)?
A: Yes, they can. (When this deal between the City and the district is finalized, I'll find out what the process is.)
Q: There was some question around serving students with special needs but I missed the body of it.
A: Susan stated that Bob Vaughn, the head of Advanced Learning, had received resources this year to provide professional development for teachers. She said they were trying for "Spectrum is Spectrum is Spectrum " at all the schools. (Good luck with that.) She also said that students who need extra challenge need help just as much as any other student.
Q: Alternative schools and supporting them.
A: Susan said she had met with a group(?) of them and that John Miner, principal at Thornton Creek, was leading this effort. She said they are trying to figure out a rubric to allow alts to be alts and still be able to show their growth. She then talked about working with the SEA on schools with "innovation" status where those schools might have flexibility on staffing, materials used, assessments, etc. She said everything should be on the table and that they would be "R&D" schools.
Q: Tell us about the Families and Education levy.
A: Steve went over this briefly. Susan said that they are working more closely with the Office for Education. She also mentioned work with the New School Foundation around PreK-3.
Q: A couple of questions were about saving elementary school counselors.
A: There was a lot of wistful hedging but I think they are going to do it. There wasn't much in the answers to make me think otherwise.
Q: Two questions/requests to involve/listen to parents.
A: The usual yes, yes but without any real commitment to how that might happen.
The evening ended with a great plea from an immigrant mom from Dearborn Park thanking them all for the education her child was receiving. She said she feels very welcome. She said they don't want to beg for help but be partners. She was very heartfelt and it was nice to hear that at least some immigrant parents are willing to get up and give feedback.
- I have a good feeling about Robert Boesche (his name makes me laugh because it was the name of the character in the Adam Sandler movie, The Waterboy, Bobby Boucher). He is very much a straight-shooter but I hope he remains his own person and doesn't get led astray by those in the district who want the status quo.
- Dr. Enfield continues to impress me.
- I feel a little worried about all this talking. I'm only feeling the sense of urgency at about 60% and I'd like to see it at about 90%. After Dr. Enfield makes her rounds of getting to know the community, she needs to attack the work.
- I liked this talk about innovation schools because it dovetails into some work I am doing about what direction the district should go. I hope to get this out to Dr. Enfield and into the world in a week or so.
- I also liked the parents who said "listen to us." That should be the message going forward - listen to the feet on the ground. That would be parents, teachers and principals. They know more about what the schools need than Central office staff or the Alliance or the Gates Foundation.