Thursday, March 31, 2011

Seattle Council PTSA Meeting Last Night with Enfield and Boesche

The panel last night was Steve Sundquist, Sherry Carr, Pegi McEvoy (COO), Robert Boesche (CFO) and Dr. Enfield.   Peter Maier also attended but was not part of the panel.  Linda Shaw from the Times attended and there were about 30 people in the audience.

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.

My impressions:
  • 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. 

20 comments:

Anonymous said...

Dear Sundquist:

Show us one concrete example of what a pullback or slowdown of the Strategic Plan would look like.

"Trim the Sails" equals "I am pulling something out of my (@&# and have no idea where we are going."

bobblehead bobblehead bobblehead

I can't believe we are saddled with this man as Board President.

-skeptical-

mary s said...

Interesting that they are saying "Spectrum is Spectrum" since they just approved a "cluster" model at Lawton. Spectrum students will be apparently be clustered together, but not in self-containted classromms

Kathy said...

Thanks, Melissa.

Did you get any budget answers?

Melissa Westbrook said...

From my post, it's just probably no to the elementary counselors (even to sharing) and the somewhat revamp of ICS. I kind of wish they had kept it to the budget because the questions were all over the place but it did give people a chance to ask what they wanted.

KG said...

Melissa,

So it looks to you they will save the elementary counselors? Thank you for asking the question.

lendlees said...

Sherry's comment about the A&F oversight volunteer being on board shortly surprises me as my husband (who happens to teach Government & Not for Profit accounting) applied and hasn't heard a peep from a soul downtown. Just a 'thanks and we'll get back to you'.

Chris S. said...

I am sure I don't understand all the implications of the "innovation" schools bill and therefore it makes me nervous. BUT I can say, and I WANT to say, that about one-tenth of the alt school issues are around hiring and require involvement of the SEA, whereas NINE-TENTHS of our issues are with district policy and the district should be able to grant with one very small brush stroke. Furthermore, that one-tenth labor issues is not a deal-breaker for us. If they have to give us all or nothing, that requirement is coming from them, not the alt school advocates.

Melissa Westbrook said...

KG, as I said in my post, I think the elementary counselors will go. Meaning, they will be cut. Both Steve and Susan were sympathetic but I could see no movement towards saving them.

For me, counselors versus coaches - no contest. Counselors are more valuable and important overall to the school. I wish schools got a vote on this one.

Counselors vs. Ed. Reform said...

Sundquist and Enfield support ed. reform. I suspect they want to eliminate counselors to support ed. reform initiatives.

Wondering about other board members desire to retain counselors.

Anonymous said...

Re "the somewhat revamp of ICD": is there a revamp???? So far all families are hearing is that you can't have hardly any basic needs to qualify and all those poor children who bought that services would come to their schools are arbitrarily losing ia support.

Not impressed wenfield

Anonymous said...

Just received the following tidbit from our PTA newsletter;

Anyone know what HB 1443 aims to do?

"Seattle PTSA News

Bill Sherman, Legislative Chair, PTSA

There are two bills of great importance moving through the legislature that would strongly affect our schools. If you’re interested, this would be an ideal time to let your legislators know how you feel about them. Below is a message from the state PTA about the two bills, and why the PTA supports HB 1443 and opposes SB 5475:

YES on HB 1443 – Concerning continuing education reforms, including implementing recommendations of the quality education council

Washington State PTA strongly supports HB 1443. With all the cuts to schools and services to kids, it is especially important that we prioritize improving the educational system wherever possible. This bill identifies low- and no- cost steps the state can take to improve instruction, close the gap and support teachers. It has strong bi-partisan backing and buy-in from key education leaders..."

KG said...

Melissa,

It is to bad Sundquist and Enfield supposedly believe in early intervention but seems like their words are empty. I believe when you have salaries and livelihoods such as these two one may forget common sense in what happens to most of us who need the counseling services and may not have access to them. It is all about the kids.
It will be a sad day if they eliminate these important positions.

Anonymous said...

If the Seattle PTSA supports it, it's BAD. Seattle Council PTSA are just LEV and Stand for Children without the salaries (at least I don't think they get a Gates check).

grumpy

UsedTaBeGrumpier said...

Hello Grumpy and Everyone--

I am a pta member, have been to many seattlepta meetings over the years, and will tell you right now... pta members disagree! We are not stand or lev or whatever, we are regular moms or dads or community poeple who are radical in some ways and mainstream in others, because, hey, life is complicated and most people are not capable of being put in little easy boxes. SO, here's the sell: if you are interested in city-wide politics (as was said last night at the meeting), please know you are welcome to participate, multiple views and perspectives welcome (and expected, as it is, after all, a grass-roots org, unlike the others), so go to the scpta website and contact nominating committee members if you want to drive the bus! pta gives options that way-- if you raise your hand, you help shape. Totally democratic. LEV and Stand have waaaaaay more people standing in background telling them what to do. pta answers to... local units, other moms, dads, guardians. Don't feel too grumpy; come on and volunteer! I'll spot ya coffee if you do.

Used ta be grumpier

Charlie Mas said...

Used ta be grumpier is right. There was an invitation to join the Board of the SCPTA. Anyone who joined and participated could exercise influence.

Also, grumpy, the PTA DID take a check from Gates to promote the Common Core Standards.

seattle citizen said...

WA PTSA just accepted a check from Gates for $190,000.

So one can influence the PTSA by actually joining, participating, voting...

I wonder what Gates wants his 190K to "vote" for, hmm...

seattle citizen said...

oops, one can influence by joining and voting, or one can write a big check.

sorry. early.

Peon said...

The PTSA is one of the few organizations that is truly grass roots, and community based. It is solely made up of parents, teachers and students.

It is also a democratically run organization, with plenty of oversight, and strict bylaws. They vote in (and out) their leaders, and representatives. Every parent, teacher and student that wants to have a voice, is welcome, and has the opportunity.

Since the PTSA is an organization made up solely of community members, with voting rights, then one must come to the conclusion that the community supports common core standards, and as such accepted the Gates check.

As I mentioned earlier, my belief is that a lot of the views expressed by posters on this blog are not representative of the views of the greater SPS community.

If you don't like what the PTA is doing, or where they are headed, then join them. That is the beauty of a local PTA, you can have an influence.

Anonymous said...

Peon, allow me a little license here:

"(The USA) is also a democratically run organization, with plenty of oversight, and strict bylaws. They vote in (and out) their leaders, and representatives. Every (citizen) that wants to have a voice, is welcome, and has the opportunity.

Since the (the US) is a (a government) made up solely of (duly elected) members, with voting rights, then one must come to the conclusion that the community supports Libyan airstrikes and common core standards, and as such accepted the Gates check."

grumpy

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, it is harder than you think to get change in a PTA even at a school level. And at the district or state level? Forget it.