Tuesday, June 21, 2011

Why It's Hard to Take our District Seriously

Let's go back to those days of yesteryear when we were a district with little money.  The district had:
  • "hiring freezes", 
  •  RIFed teachers,
  • laid off central administration workers, 
  • laid off elementary counselors 
  • and the state cut teacher and principal pay
    Oh wait, that's today, right? 

    I think anyone looking at that list would say that the district is experiencing a severe money crunch.

    But as I've always said, this is a district that finds money when it wants to do something.  

    STEM?  No, don't go out and do the hard work of getting the program at least half-funded by private companies and entities (even though our area is rich with science/technology companies).  No, we just take money from other schools.  (Not saying they shouldn't have created the program but that they could have done it in a way that was more cost-efficient to the district like the STEM school over in the Tri-Cities.) 

    Consultants?  Sure.  (Even consultants for a department like Communications.)  Academic coaches?  Sure.  Multiple principals at schools?  No matter what the year, there's always one school with dual principals.

    And raises?   Tell me, what government entity do you know for sure - the City, the County, the State - has been giving out raises over the last two years?  I can tell you one - Seattle Public Schools.

    At the last Board meeting, Dave Westberg of Local 609 spoke before the Board.  He had a document detailing salary increases for various reasons for some central administration staff.  He pointed out that the district, since 2009, had been giving out promotions and raises to the tune of about 7% average raise per person.  There were raises given out as late as June 1, 2011.  The dates on the document run from 9/09 to 6/11.  What's interesting is that as Meg Diaz points out, there are people on this list who were allegedly RIFed in spring 2010.
    • Everyone who got a general raise (as opposed to a raise based on a promotion) was listed under an odd category called "market study."  There were about 28 people who, in total, received just under $100k in pay increases.   In the category of "position review/reorg/internal equity adjustment" about 24 people, in total, received just under $100k in raises.  
    This term "position review/internal equity adjustment" comes up several times and it looks like a renaming of a position with a pay bump.  (There were also people with a category "reg/added responsibility."  I don't have a problem with people who are asked to do more getting more money. )
    • Michael Tolley got a $9k "promotion" raise even though his post was more of a re-org. 
    • Last July, Cathy Thompson, when she was Executive Director of Instructional Services, got a "retention/equity adj"of $21k.  When she was promoted to Ass. Superintendent, she received a raise of $25k.   That's a total of $56k in one year. 
    • Cordell Carter, one of MGJ's Broad residents, came in at about $91k and left making $106k.  He was with the district less than 3 years and I certainly would love to know what he contributed.  I had begged the Board not to keep on the two Broad residents because of their cost but they did (and here we see that not only did we keep them on, both received raises). 
    • What's also interesting is that some people received no raise or a modest $1-3k raise.  I have to wonder if the squeaky wheel got the grease. 
    I did ask the district for a comment and this was the response:

    -Non-represented staff were not eligible for a step (seniority) increase for the 2010-11 year.
    ·        - Salary increases to some staff have occurred based upon the following criteria
    o   Change in job or significant change in job responsibilities – change amount determined by a classification/compensation review. One example is the central office reorganization this spring
    o   Change made because of market analysis showing the position is significantly under-compensated. Examples include reclassification of bilingual IAs (requested by SEA) and reclassification of nutrition staff based upon market study and difficulty filling open positions.
    Regarding the central office reorganization this spring:
    A.  Not only were some staff salaries increased, some were also decreased parallel to diminished responsibility
    B.  The cost of Superintendent Enfield’s current transitional reorganization structure is currently producing a net savings of approximately $127,000

    All the positions at the central office that are non-represented administrative will be subject to the district’s final plan in dealing with the 3% salary allocation reduction from the Legislature.  Those classified positions that are represented (primarily by SEA) may be impacted by the 1.9% salary allocation reduction by the Legislature, however that will be subject to bargaining. 

    To the first point on seniority, so what?  It doesn't mean the district didn't give out raises because they did. 

    To the second point, ..."market analysis showing the position is significantly under-compensated."  And now in the middle of a recession when the district is laying off other workers, they decide to look into market conditions for some workers?  It makes zero sense.

    To the third point, in the document, there were very few people who took a pay cut.

    To the fourth point that the district is saving money, I don't believe it.  It is time for the district to QUIT saying how much money we "save" on closing schools, cutting back bus service, centralizing food operations and reorganizing and SHOW US THE MONEY.  They never do.

    What do you think this looks and feels like to a laid-off maintenance worker or cafeteria worker or teacher or even principal? 

    This is our district and how it operates even during hard times.

    Update:  I attended the joint Mayor/Superintendent event tonight (separate thread to come) but I asked the Mayor two things.  One, how many staff at City Hall got a raise since he has been Mayor  because the District had and, if he was hearing from powers that be about taking over the school district.  (I pointed out that we RIFed teachers, laid off elementary counselors and maintenance workers with a $500M backlog in maintenance.)  On the latter, he said no and that he felt that they were still in the collaboration stage with the district and it was working well.  On the former he stated that the unionized city workers had been persuaded to NOT take a 2% raise but take the amount of inflation and that NO other city workers (non-unionized) had a raise.  (He said he could not himself take a pay cut under City Charter but had given $10k to charities and that his staff was making less than the previous administration.)

    The Superintendent jumped in and said that they gave bumps to people who got promotions.  I had specifically said in my question to the Mayor that these were not for people with promotions and/or additional job responsibilities and I said that again.  She then said that they had found that they hadn't been paying people what they should and gave them raises.  You can imagine how that went over in the room. 

     Paying administrative people what they are worth in a poor economy in a district that says it has no money.  It is not the fault of those people to ask for the money but it is wrong for the district to pay them more now.  There's no amount of waffling that can change that. 

    33 comments:

    dan dempsey said...

    STEM .... go out and do the hard work ....

    These folks did not even select a decent plan for instruction much less figure out how to fund it.

    It was incredible what I found in reading much of the 20,000+ pages the district submitted as a transcript of evidence in an attempt to satisfy "RCW 28A 645.020" as usual this transcript was NOT certified to be correct as required by the RCW. It hardly made the expenditure of $800,000 for NTN look like a reasonable decision based on evidence. Another crowning example of arbitrary and capricious instructional decision-making with Susan Enfield playing a key role.

    From the SB Action Report of March 12:
    The District examined the standards-based achievement results of STEM-focused New Technology Network (NTN) schools around the country, and provided the following feedback in a memo sent to the board on January 29, 2010:

    #1 most of the schools examined were not STEM schools
    #2 the schools analyzed had been cherry picked and were not typical of NTN schools on average.

    Sundquist, Martin-Morris, and Enfield visited NT Sacramento and said wonderful things about it...

    HERE is the version of the Anderson Memo that Enfield submitted to the Court. It is missing the last paragraph of the Actual Memo sent to the Board in the section on Overall findings. Here is the Anderson memo actually sent to the Board ... which never was filed with the court.

    It is really apparent that Martin-Morris was attempting to mislead the public with his story about NT Hillsdale in Durham, North Carolina. He talked about the high number of students that would be entering Calculus ..... the state scoring showed a school with lots of students with huge math struggles ... of course perhaps not struggling as much as the 0% Algebra II pass rate at NT Sacramento.

    dan dempsey said...

    While most folks would read this "financial" absurdity and say "What do these folks think they are doing? and why are they doing this?"

    Would those same folks look at the academic direction under the huge ed reform push that the directors and Superintendent Enfield are so much a part of and ask:
    "What do these folks think they are doing? and why are they doing this?"

    It is really difficult to take this District seriously.

    Anonymous said...

    So you know. Ms. Enfeld said tonight at South Shore Town Meeting that raises were given to administrative staff because they were so excellent that they'd leave if she didn't and she didn't want to loose such qualified employees.

    Believe it or not!

    LaCrese

    dan dempsey said...

    Holy Mackerel .... these administrators would leave without raises. (???)

    What skills do these folks possess in the current economic climate that would make anyone believe these folks could find jobs at even close to their old rate of pay?

    Where is the performance in the SPS that makes anyone believe losing any of these folks would severely impact student learning?

    --- Un - Friggin' believable ... but par for the course in the SPS.

    Another finding about what Ed Reform is all about ... paying administrators well, when contributing minimally toward student learning ..... But there is a budget crisis .. so lower the teachers rate of pay and bring in TfA.

    ============
    It seems the big skill and perhaps the only major skill that many of these folks have is the ability to agree with the Ed Reform Wave ... in spite of the fact there is no evidence of success from it .. These folks are true believers ... so they get a raise.

    seattle citizen said...

    OT, but there are THREE pieces in the Seattle Times today regarding education: a great editorial, an article about how districts deal or might deal with the state's 1.9% teacher's paycut, and a short article announcing the merger of LEV and New Schools.
    Op Ed, by Alex Alben:
    Every dollar counts in getting young people to graduation
    Concludes with “While Susan Enfield has shown promise in her brief tenure as interim superintendent, the management of our schools needs to refocus on the core mission of providing quality education and resources for teachers in the classroom.”

    Two articles by Linda Shaw:
    Schools' dilemma: Workers don't have to accept pay cuts that state passed
    and
    Two education groups head toward merger

    Cap'n Billy Keg said...

    From Ms. Enfield's email to all staff:

    "Over the next few months we will be identifying what is working in our schools, engaging families in identifying barriers to student success and also working with our families and the broader community to create solutions for student success."

    Yep, more of the SAME "smoke and mirrors"... The BIGGEST barrier to the "success" of this district, let alone the students and their families, is MORE OF THE SAME...!

    When you have someone in "leadership" defend (weakly) that raises were given to keep certain "administrators" from exiting stage left, then it is time for the search committee to convene and find a better leader - a real one, not an interim one...

    KG said...

    Mr. Westberg did a very good job for the Superintendent and school Board and showed transparency for them. They could learn something here.
    Maybe they ought to pay him for doing their job for them. Also, I noticed later on in the meeting that Betty Patu asked Duggan Harmon about these raises. Duggan of course could not answer this as he does not know and had to pass it onto Mr. Boesche whom said that the district downsized and in turn gave some tasks from the employees who were let go to the existing staffers, and gave them raises for doing these extra tasks.This apparently rationalizes what Mr. Westberg said.I suggest that all watch the Board public speaking section and Mr. Westbergs speech should help di-sect this.
    Listen carefully to the Food-services part. This is transparency at its best.

    Nice try Mr. Boesche, rationalization 101 at its best.

    Now Duggan says the District is down to 5.98% spent on Central admin. No way. that would mean a cut in central from last year of approximatley 18 million dollars.

    Is he drinking the Kool-Aid? I am not.

    Carol said...

    I can't see the document from here but please tell us Ron English's name isn't on it. Please?

    KG said...

    I echo Carol, we need to see the list.

    Paul said...

    Seattle Citizen

    Right on. Perhaps somebody should direct Linda Shaw to that list as a possible explanation as to why actual direct service providing employees "don't have to accept pay cuts"; the folks on that list couldn't keep a straight face when asking.

    Linda needs to stop getting all her information from the PR people in "Communications" and get out more often.

    ABL said...

    Carol, I can't see the list either, but I understand from past discussions that Mr. English and Ms. Chess-Prentice got substantial raises about two years ago. Not sure if Mr. English is getting another bump up for his current role as Acting General Counsel. I also heard that John Cerqui got promoted, so presumably he got a raise as well. Not sure about the new attorney (sorry, he's been there awhile now but his name escapes me). Given that they increased the General Counsel salary substantially before Noel Treat took the job, that would indicate to me that at least 4 of the 5 attorneys are now costing the district a lot more than they did two years ago.

    Has there been a corresponding increase in quality? With the exception that Mr. Treat seems to actually do work, I don't see any.

    Anonymous said...

    Yer kidding, right? Linda Shaw should be on the SPS Communications payroll. Give her a raise!

    Mr. Ed

    Noam said...

    I went back and watched that guy on video. He said a "campaign" had begun over 4 years ago, while MGJ was closing schools, to raise all the administrators salaries secretly.

    Culture of fear indeed!

    Melissa Westbrook said...

    The list is attached in the story; can you not open it?

    Yes, Ron English is on the list for a "market study" raise of about $6k. Cerqui got a "position review" (and his job name changed) and he received a bump of $6k as well.

    The market study raise are straight-up raises and nothing else. The district will try to waffle on this and there is nothing to say but they decided these people needed more money.

    KG said...

    Noam,

    do you think it is Ok that the District do this?

    Dorothy Neville said...

    Looks like Jim Ratchford got a pay cut. Ouch.

    You think that's accurate?

    Chris S. said...

    LaCrese - when I saw the word "retention" in Melissa's post that's the first thing I thought. In the case of Cathy Thompson, what a missed opportunity! Consistent with Charlie's idea that Enfield has a blind spot w.r.t. her old department.

    Meg said...

    Pay cuts on this list totaled around $45K.

    The total pay change on the list, though, went up about $700K, including those demotions.

    Around 24 HR employees got "market study" increases. Seriously?

    The biggest raises on this list went to people who are alreay highly compensated. Maybe there's a better explanation, but it looks like fat cats takin' care of their own. And while it's frustrating to lose good people, it does happen. When you promise no raises, you're kind of supposed to not give raises, even if someone might leave for greener pastures.

    Central Administration may technically be 6%. Are they counting the couple million of consulting teachers who are currently billed to Teaching? What about coaches who are not school-based? What about the supervisors and administrators in IT, who are billed either to capital or to Other Support?

    SPS's administrative burden is, unfortunately, squirrelled away in expense segments other than Central Administration, and until the current administration acknowledges that, it will continue to be difficult to reduce the total administrative burden.

    Anonymous said...

    @Melissa - can you please repost the file or link. It doesn't seem to be working.

    A friend to Seattle

    Ellen said...

    Mel, I believe that the issue is that the link sends readers to "Scribd." I have been unable to open the document on two different computers. When I try, it crashes Explorer. Perhaps those with Macs or using other browsers can view. Any way you can post as a plain pdf?

    someone said...

    Right - the document, which I'm dying to read, does not load properly - your link will go to the site, then everything freezes up. That is an appalling cop out by Dr. Enfield - I know good people who were riffed - all for the sake of giving already overpaid execs more? OOOOOHhhhh this makes me so mad!

    Not to mention the game playing of moving admin dollars to other places so there's the appearance of spending less - do they seriously think we are all that stupid no one would notice this stuff happening?? ARgghhh!

    Charlie Mas said...

    The trick - and there really is a trick to it - is to follow the people instead of the line items in the budget. The line items can hop around, but the people might still be in the same place doing the same work.

    Anonymous said...

    Am I the only one who finds Jessica de Barros' $14K raise to a total of $105+ completely out of line with her duties and experience? Similarly, is anyone else dismayed with the fact that she heads up the Teacher Incentive Fund (TIF) and has not taught a day in her life?

    Bird said...

    These raises are completely unconscionable.

    I know from experience that RIF'ed teachers have a genuine negative impact on students.

    Not offering summer school has a genuine impact on students.

    The effect on students of having someone in central admin quit because they didn't get a raise? Almost certainly, zero.

    Any Superintendent that can't see that, or doesn't act on that fact should get booted from their position.

    Dorothy Neville said...

    Go to scribd.com do a people search for Mel Westbrook and look at her uploads.

    I got the spreadsheet to work for me, but I have an account, so perhaps that did the trick? I am running Windows 7 and chrome.

    someone said...

    @Dorothy - nope - doesn't work - it's either that you have account, or it doesn't work with IE - oh well.

    Dorothy Neville said...



    try this.

    Wondering said...

    How did it go over in the room? Did she seem to understand how out of touch that sounds? Did she at least sound defensive? How many people/parents attended?

    It's ridiculous. Everyone is asked to sacrifice or is being forced to sacrifice. Except bankers, lawyers, and paper-pushers in our school district, apparently.

    someone said...

    Thx Dorothy - that worked perfectly. Very enlightening, very discouraging. I can't help but question, in a time when many are doing without, losing jobs, losing unemployment, the wisdom of pursuing these kinds of increases. Especially when so many other public entities are having either hiring or pay freezes. And when they will clearly be expecting the line staff to take the 1.9% hit the legislature passed.

    Obscene is the word that comes to mind.

    Anonymous said...

    Wondering -- LaCrese says ask Charlie on the number in attendance of mostly Rainier Beach Crowd -- I'd say 150?

    It turns out that the called it a Town Meeting and the Levy was the least of their concerns. Folks came to address issues of long standing.

    First of all, to get Dr. Enfeld to stick with the issue, the questioner had to eliminate all other possibilities. Her answer was not booed, but resistance or disgust could be felt from the crowd.

    That's my take on it. LaCrese

    Noam said...

    KG

    Not at all.

    We are curious about the "campaign" that guy refered to.

    If true, we wonder who all got raises in the two years before 09?

    Carol said...

    Bless you Dorothy

    We got it. WOW!

    Outrageous doesn't begin to portray our emotions.

    There are good people there but overall, as Meg says; Really?

    dan dempsey said...

    Mr. Boesche whom said that the district downsized and in turn gave some tasks from the employees who were let go to the existing staffers, and gave them raises for doing these extra tasks.

    How interesting. This reminds me of the shrinking of the longshoreman's union over the last century.... To move to containerized cargo and bigger cranes labor demanded bigger salaries for those who remained... The Union is now extremely small in numbers when compared with long ago ... but the salaries are fabulous.

    Is Mr. Boesche trying to tell us these administration folks are working much harder now than they did before? How odd?

    Does he have a clue what larger class sizes do?

    Perhaps the Board members running for reelection would care to comment on salaries.