Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Seattle School Board Meeting (Part One)

The Board meeting was fairly entertaining and informative tonight.

First up was a wonderful presentation about Special Olympics and soccer teams made up of SPS students from 7 of the 10 high schools that formed a league this year.  (Rainier Beach's team won the championship this year.)  Created by SPS Athletic Director Eric McCurdy, it is to expand to all 10 high schools this year.  Really hard-warming and a great community effort from both Special Olympics and the Seattle Sounders. 

Then came public testimony.  Since the star issue on the agenda was TFA, most of it was about TFA.  Highlights:
  • Watchdog Chris Jackins asked how the district was dealing with the very large number of personnel changes especially at headquarters.  He also offered good luck to the TFA hires but asked if there wasn't a lot of resources and effort towards TFA for just a couple of teachers.  He questioned whether it was all about academics or maybe there was an attempt to curry favor elsewhere?
  • Cecelia McCormick carefully laid out the questions about whether the TFA recruits have done everything that is required to become a conditionally certified teacher.  She has been unable to obtain a clear answer from staff (and it happened again tonight) about this issue.   She asked the Board if it isn't clearly explained that all qualifications necessary have been fulfilled, why would the Board take staff's word that the fingerprint and background checks have been fulfilled as well?
  • Then we had the parents of a former TFAer.  They were sincere people who clearly are quite proud of their daughter(s).  (They felt compelled to give a lot of extraneous details about their family almost as if their honor was at stake.)  But, their testimony was a little off.  Both of them, in trying to explain where their daughter had taught in Hawaii, referenced that their daughter was white and the majority of her class was not.  The mom said that her daughter, "inspired students who might not normally meet someone with her talents."  (She also called TFA recruits  "the best and the brightest" and that they represented the "spirit of reform started by John Stanford."  I'm not sure I would agree with that statement or what she based it on.)  Then dad said he was glad that there would be TFA students at UW and that they would bring diversity and more math and engineering teachers to SPS (neither of which is happening so far).
  • Olga Addae, the SEA president, spoke about the contract and how it is building on a 3-year program for professional development.
  • Jonathan Knapp, Vice-President for SEA, was scheduled to speak and disappeared during the testimony only to reappear afterwards.  He was supposed to speak on the conditional certifications.
  • Then there was a wonderful speaker, Diane Steen, who spoke about an SBOC panel of former SBOC students now all at UW.  They invited SBOC students and parents to hear about their stories.  She said 3 were from Somalia, 1 from China, 1 from Mongolia and several from Central America and Mexico.  She said one person said the biggest challenge was believing in yourself and that you can do it.  She also said one person stated that he had really like his school because it had a roof.  Meaning, he knew what he had come from and knew what he was now getting.  
  • There was also a mom, Karin Youngberg, who spoke about her daughter who is working through a traditional teaching degree.  I wonder if the parents of the TFA teacher even understand how upsetting it is to those students to be told that TFA teachers are the best and the brightest. 
I spoke as well and pointed out several issues including:
  • none of the women would add diversity, 
  • none has a math/science degree, 
  • since none have a math/science degree then none are paid for by Washington STEM and who is paying?  I pointed out that the Board keeps saying the district will be more transparent and yet it's like a murder mystery.   
  • there was no real community engagement
  • Director DeBell had pointed out last week that schools are going to open overcrowded and he was not corrected on that point by any staff.  I also said that at a budget work session last spring that principals should not staff to previous levels.  I wondered out loud how this would all work out to hire more TFA recruits when they open schools on the first day and oh my gosh! we need more teachers and stat!
Superintendent's Comments
  • She mentioned the kick-off to the new school year on August 30th from 4-6 p.m. at Fisher Plaza.  Everyone is invited.
  • She said that the mantra for this year is "attacking gaps, raising expectations everywhere."  
  • She stated that they finished the org charts and "it was a huge task and too the bulk of time the last few months."  That left me speechless.  Here are the charts and boy, Central Administration doesn't look slimmed down much. 
  • The "wheels on the bus" enrollment outreach netted 90 enrolled students.   (Unclear if they are new to SPS students or just late.)  
  • Madison Middle School received a national award but the title was so long I couldn't get it.  I'll try to find it.
  • She briefly mentioned the furlough day and how it is difficult for all.  She also said she had a different contract and would be paid but would be paying the money back to the district for that day.
  • She said that she had told principals and PTA leaders at a community breakfast this week, "There's never been a better time to be in SPS."  No comment.
Board Comments

Carr
  • She introduced the new Internal Auditor, Andrew Medina, who seemed a bit shy.  He said that he felt welcomed by staff and that they "are ready for change" and to "set things right."   Sherry went on to say that the Board's commitment was to openness and transparency which I appreciate but honestly, at this point, what else could they say?
  • She also said that the Audit and Finance Committee, with staff, was setting up a calendar of items to track through out the year so that they will be looking for cut-off dates, etc.
Maier
  • Will have a new location for his community meetings this year.  
  • That two new schools are opening - Rainier View and Viewlands and that Viewlands' kindergartens are full.  
Smith-Blum
  • Said that at her next community meeting, Executive Director Nancy Coogan will also be in attendance.
Martin-Morris
  • Stated that just like the last three years, he would not be taking his authorized $4800 for School Board service.  
  • Stated that his own brother had been part of Special Olympics for the last 35 years and Martin-Morris is glad for the partnership with SPS and the soccer league that has been created.  
Patu
  • She said she will be at the same location for her community meetings and that while she can't answer all her e-mail, she does answer a lot of questions at her meetings.
  • She said the RBHS meet-and-greet for the new principal, Dwane Chappelle, went well and she congratulated the PTSA for a job well done.  (I briefly attended and got to meet Mr. Chappelle and he certainly made a good first impression.) 
  • She also said she was glad for the two executive directors for her region.  She also said that Hawthorne and Wing Luke had made AYP this year.
Sundquist
  • Mentioned that West Seattle Elementary had also made AYP this year.  
Then it was onto the TFA discussion where it got interesting.  That's Part Two tomorrow.

15 comments:

Anonymous said...

org charts. reshuffling the deck chairs on the Titanic.

grumpy

Anonymous said...

Looking at the ORG CHART Special Education is no longer part of the Supt's cabinent?


Parent

JvA said...

Oh, Melissa, cruel to leave us hanging!

Dorothy Neville said...

Mel quoted my favorite line from Mrs Mom-of-TfA about how wonderful (and novel) it is for the students to meet someone with her daughter's talents. She alluded to my favorite point of Mr Dad-of-TfA that diversity works both ways. Their daughter with Lithuanian/Western European ancestry brought diversity to that classroom in Hawaii where most of the kids were non-white. Not only was that enriching for the students, it was enriching for their daughter.

He also argued that since UW was one of the top schools for TfA corps members, that certainly we should have them here. He failed to state, or failed to understand, that until this year, only a handful of UW students were accepted each year. The sudden jump from 40th to 8th place in numbers of recruits accepted at the same time TfA and UW were hammering out their MOU for the alt-certification program tailored exclusively for TfA should be noted.

SeattleSped said...

Parent,

That's okay. It never really was. That just gave Marni Campbell an excuse to go to meetings alot and not answer her phone or email. She didn't bother to manage her staff or have them actually fix problems or answer their phones or emails.

dan dempsey said...

Bulletin...

The Times is at it again..

"The current board's professionalism is a welcome departure from the past,"

Guess the Times needed to watch the professional way that the directors ignored state law "Limited Certificates" in regard to TfA.

The Times article

-------------

emeraldkity said...

I was happy to be there for the presentation on Special Olympics & I was touched by Hariums mention of his brother.
I know some kids who have been involved & it is a great organization.

The parents whose daughter was in TFA in Hawaii cracked me up- you mean TFA couldn't find someone that would have fit in better to teach in HAWAII?
lol


What makes me mad isn't that TFA doesn't consider my child to be among the " best & the brightest" ( of which I would just say that ALL graduates of Reed college have to publish and defend a thesis to graduate which is not required at the UW),
but it's implied that the candidates would be from schools more exclusive than a state school, that the district would be lucky to get them, because ( again implied) that anyone who was smart enough to graduate from a top school ( like Reed perhaps?), wouldn't be interested in then going into education otherwise.

I have my own issues with seniority & layoffs, but when a position attracts hundreds of certified applicants, is that indicating a need for TFA?
When the district has laid off certificated teachers who have already put in a year or two, where I don't doubt they learned more than TFA could teach in 6months of boot camp- that shows the opposite of a need for TFA.

Much had been made of STEM grants that were going to attract math and science majors to the district with a guarantee that the $4,000 per new hire would be paid with the grant. This apparently placated the board and some others that didn't want to incur any new expenses, but who were intrigued at the thought of getting top math & science grads in the classrooms
Yet, now we see that none of the candidates so far actually have STEM backgrounds- yet some mysterious donor is going to pay any way- we are just supposed to trust them on that.

Well if we have donors that will pay for STEM,or pay for ANY TFA candidate, why don't we have this involvement for sponsoring- say paying for SAT tests, or counselors or something that will actually make a difference to the student's future?

StopTFA said...

Not only ignore state law but also Federal law. There are more stringent HQT standards for Title 1 middle and secondary schools. Staff could not tell them whether the proposed TFA hires met these standards. The four running for re-election were okay with that. Same ole, same ole.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Well if we have donors that will pay for STEM,or pay for ANY TFA candidate, why don't we have this involvement for sponsoring- say paying for SAT tests, or counselors or something that will actually make a difference to the student's future?"

Best question ever.

dan dempsey said...

Emeraldkity,

I enjoyed your excellent testimony.

In regard to the SPS and STEM.... what a joke.

Think about the selection of New Tech Network for a model STEM provider at Cleveland. The NTN schools are all serious under performers in math .... and this was about STEM for Cleveland... $800,000 down the drain ..., by a 4-3 vote.

In the affirmative were Carr, Sundquist, Maier, Martin-Morris .... another example of the Professionalism of the Board that the Seattle Times recommends.

(Mathematics is the anchor for STEM and the SPS is a k-12 math disaster .... Voting for the High School Discovering program were Sundquist, Carr, Maier, Chow in May of 2009.)

The Board is looking for a STEM bandaid while the math artery bleeds.

dan dempsey said...

"why don't we have this involvement for sponsoring- say paying for SAT tests, or counselors or something that will actually make a difference to the student's future?"

Because this does not fit the predetermined corporate agenda that the gang of four is selling us. This is not where the effort is going. Look how much effort went into TfA.

emeraldkity said...

Well yes Dan,- it was a rhetorical question, but I would like to hear the board's answer anyway.

& did anyone else feel a frisson of worry when the new auditor was introduced as coming from the Port of Seattle?

Ron English came to us from WPPS- didn't that teach us anything?

biliruben said...

If you want to connect names on that chart to 2011 Salaries...

http://www.myfreedomfoundation.com/index.php/site/view/washington_state_teacher_salaries

SPSLeaks said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SPSLeaks said...

Now in handy searchable form:

SPS salaries

just download as excel spreadsheet

Julian