This was my first look at South Shore. Fairly nice building but the rotunda is silly (and it cost a lot extra). Interesting textured walls in the restroom (I assume to discourage graffiti because otherwise they also cost a lot).
Luckily, Dorothy Neville show up to tell me you need a number to ask a question. When I get one, I ask why no one is telling people this as they come in. No real answer.
By 5:20 p.m., the Mayor was there.
The room wasn't even full by 5:30 p.m. the official start time but that was okay because nothing happened.
Dr. Enfield got there about 5:40 p.m. Still nothing. About 5:50 p.m. the band starts. Pretty good for middler schoolers and hey, the vocalists are on key. The School of Rock rocks!
Finally at 6:10 p.m., they start. The moderator, Gregory Davis, first had to explain the "parameters" for questions. The audience learns about the number system; not many happy faces. He claimed no one could take longer than a minute for a question (but held absolutely no one to it). He also felt it necessary during the event to single out and thank every person working there (plus his church).
Then the Mayor had his 5 minutes. He talked about the feeling of schools being centers of their communities. He spoke of the Youth and Families initiative that laid the foundation for the Families and Education levy. He said one thing his staff is doing is looking at what they do towards education and looking for outcomes from services provided. This was a good point as you can say you spend money on education but is it money well spent?
He also gave a sneak peek at an attendance incentive program the City is starting in the fall. He wouldn't say more but it would reward students with perfect attendance (remember that from your school days? I do). It would also reward schools with the most improvement as well as classroom improvement.
Dr. Enfield also spoke about looking at what parents want in their child's school. She said she felt parents want their child to be known and challenged and cared for but that there are no quick fixes.
She also announced a new initiative - AGREE - Attacking Gaps, Raising Expectations Everywhere. It is directed at how to improve every single school. Details to come.
They finally got started with questions at 6:30 p.m. I pause here to express my exasperation. C'mon. I didn't expect a nearly 2-hour Q&A but I sure didn't think it would be one hour of entertainment and talk (and I don't think the rest of the audience did either).
- Several parents from RBHS PTSA stepped up to question why nearly 90% of the teachers are leaving and why there is no announcement of a new principal despite the work put in interviewing candidates? That there is frustration and exasperation is clear. Enfield acknowledged the parents but I believe she did it with a tinge of annoyance. Basically, she going to announce the principal by the end of the week. She said it and she'll do it. She said she doesn't take this lightly. (Okay but she is being a little myopic about how RBHS has been treated for years and how the mere announcement of an announcement isn't really enough. RB Community, please note this when you vote for School Board Directors.) There were also concerns raised about cultural competency.
- There were questions around the "night use" issue which is a source of great concern for this community. I knew they were rebuilding the RB Community Center but I didn't realize that 9 months later, nothing has been done but the building is closed. These people are trying to get clarity on what will be available to their children for the summer months. South Shore apparently will be available for a month but it is unclear what happens after that. Dr. Enfield said she couldn't make any commitments. The speaker had referenced being escorted from a Board meeting and Dr. Enfield said that adults have to be sure to model good behavior at meetings to children.
- One speaker said thank you for the arts and wants more support from the City and district. The Mayor agreed and said that music and arts keep kids in school. Dr. Enfield said she had a commitment to arts in SPS. They both referenced a Wallace Foundation grant for $1M for the arts in SPS but I have no details about what it means.
- Dorothy Neville stated that the Strategic Plan appears to be a failure, according to the Board evaluation of it. The evaluation said there needs to be more teacher collaboration in our schools but Dorothy asked how teachers were to be asked for their opinion on how to do that. Dr. Enfield said a lot of about asking staff and said it "should be building driven so it doesn't all look the same."* Charlie leaned over and asked me, "How is this different from C-SIP?" According to Dr. Enfield (and this was verified by an SEA rep), all elementary school teachers will have one hour of collaboration a week starting this fall.
- Another speaker talked about volunteers being treated unfairly in schools. It was a little confusing and all Dr. Enfield could say is that the staff at each school is responsible for who is in the school and safety of children. She said that school staffs could do a better job at managing volunteers.
- Around another question about RBHS, Dr. Enfield said that it is an issue about staff at schools understanding a parent advocating, even strongly, for their child and not being thought of as an annoyance. But she again stated the issue of role modeling for children. She said that the district also needs to rethink its policy on long-term suspensions. (This is echoed by School Board candidate, John Cummings, himself a teacher, who said that taking students out of school for long periods does not work in his experience.)
- Then there was an odd and long-winded question about teachers who dress in a sloppy manner and don't speak to parents. There was also the issue of not teaching children etiquette and to "dress for success." The speaker ended saying all teachers care about was a paycheck. Dr. Enfield noted the speaker had raised a lot of issues but also said that SPS "does not have a large number of bad teachers." Dr. Enfield was also forced to say that she had no control over how teachers dress. This was a tricky one but I think if anyone - student or staff - is not dressing appropriately, it is the role of the principal (or vice-principal) to speak up.
- I then asked my questions. I first asked the Mayor if anyone at City Hall had received a raise in the last year or so. (Poor guy, I think he thought I was trying to trick him.) I also asked him if anyone - the Alliance, Ed Murray, Don Nielson, anyone - was whispering in his ear about mayoral control of the district.
- He said no one had been talking to him about the City taking over the district. He said he felt they were still in the collaboration phase and it was going well.
- He said most city workers are unionized and I said , no, not the unionized ones. He said that his staff was receiving less money than the prior administration and that while he couldn't, under city charter, take less slary, he did donate $10k to charities. He said no one that he knew had received a raise at City Hall. I then pointed out that the district had been giving out raises since 2009. Dr. Enfield tried to say it was for promotions or added job responsibilities but I had excluded those. She finally said they had done a "market study" for some jobs and found they hadn't been paying people what comparable districts were. At least from behind me, I could hear a slight gasp go through the crowd. That's not surprising because really, who does a market analysis on pay in the middle of a recession? SPS really thinks people will walk away from their public service jobs because they perceive they aren't getting paid what someone else in Bellevue is? I don't believe most in the room were buying it. It was not my intention to embarrass the Superintendent but she and the upper management staff have to own everything they do including giving out raises in an recession when they are laying off other employees.
- Another speaker asked about the loss of SCAN tv and how there is no "live" tv for their public service broadcasts to his community from NSCC which is taking over that role. The Mayor said he intended to look into that issue.
*I do not get the growing divide with alignment and testing and then this idea that each school is its own island. Who's in charge then - the district or the principal/staff? I don't understand why this keeps getting said while the district continues its drive towards conformity for schools (especially via Ex Directors which I think was the issue with Martin Floe).