Not enough time to do this justice but some thoughts from yesterday at Denny/Sealth and today at Lowell at Lincoln (and McDonald) and key points from the Board meeting.
It's a pretty big campus and I feel for the security guards. It's a lot of ground to cover. On a good note, they are going to keep the galleria area (the common area for both schools) closed off from each other. (I had asked Dr. Enfield about how fast they could close that off in a lock-down and she didn't know and referred me to a staff member.) I have to say, though, it must be pretty noisy at lunchtime with two schools eating at the same time.
Sealth got "modernized" but it is obvious which is the new building (Denny). Some interesting things at Sealth, though. Upstairs there are two areas in the long hallways where the lighting is different colors. In one place it glows orange and the other purple. I have no idea why it's like that but very groovy. They also have a very nice art facade of Chief Sealth on the front of the building.
Denny is new so it's nice but not a really distinguished building. They use shades of a calming green color throughout. The library was still being worked on.
I actually got confused as I walked thru the buildings but one of them has a lot of flat wood railings. I can see those things scratched and carved up in just a couple of years. It's beyond me why anyone would do this at a middle or high school. The other thing was that in one outside area - sort of a commons - they had some nice blue benches. Then, for some bizarre reason, there are sets of three chairs, grouped in a manner of speaking, and they all are mounted on a metal circle so they twirl. Why? Who thought this was important enough to spend money on instead of more benches?
Lowell at Lincoln/MacDonald
Kind of confusing there. I walked in and thought I was in the Lowell area but nope, it was MacDonald. It is bright and cheerful in the building that is the main area for MacDonald. Parents were all greeting each other and the Japanese teacher was showing the students their lockers with their names in Japanese.
Outside in front, the Lowell parents and children had massed. Apparently MacDonald starts at 9 and Lowell at 9:30. I guess this is because they don't want a mass of buses and kids all at once. (I was told by one parent that he thought the MacDonald staff didn't want Lowell coming in while MacDonald's day was starting. This all begs the question that the Lowell kids will have to come in earlier at some point. I mean it does rain and even get cold here. They can't stay outside until just before the bell.
Now Lowell had this odd set-up where certain grades when in a side door on one side of the building and the upper grades in through the front door. That means the kids on the bus have to get off and walk along half the building on the side and half in the front to get to the front door. If that bus is late, don't count on that kid getting in the building in less than 5-7 minutes. It's a walk.
Also, they had bus zones but also car zones next to it and boy, people are really going to have to be careful. None of the buses I saw for Lowell had more than 8 kids in them (full size buses) but maybe more parents brought their kids to school for the first day.
The Lowell parents all seemed very enthused and determined to make this work. The theme I heard was "as long as we are all together." Good attitude. There were at least 100 parents at the coffee hour that Dr. Enfield attended. It was stated that Greg King is the principal of record but Reena is the site administrator. No other administrator was mentioned.
It looked a a crowd but it was mostly people there for the presentation. The presentation was to thank and acknowledge the partnership with Pacific Northwest Ballet. In the past decade over 5,000 SPS students have been in their outreach program in the schools at low or no cost. It is available at 6 elementaries and two K-8s. There was a great short video featuring 3 students who talked about what a difference it made and one child said, "Dance is my happy place." Me, too.
I'll do a wrap-up of the testimony later but just to let you know there were two quite interesting things that happened (both related to my previous thread about my testimony).
One was a bit odd. Peter Maier said he wanted to take the Sealth elevator item off the Consent agenda but then it was discussed and voted on. This was about the "emergency" renovation of Sealth's elevators and the staff using a Board policy and state RCW to do the work before getting permission from the Board (it cost over $250k which is the cut-off for permission; the work was $375k).
The issue for me was not that the elevators shouldn't have been fixed but that the staff used the RCW as their reasoning to not ask the Board and yet didn't comply with all of its directives. So Ron English, our Chief Counsel, comes to the mic to say that it was only a "small" noncompliance. They were required to give notice within 14 days and they did it in 19. He said that the next opportunity to tell the Board was in 19 days.
Really Ron? Because the key word here is "emergency." If it was an emergency, then you tell the Board and the public in the legally required time.
See, the staff has this bad habit of not complying with laws. Like for two audits not following federal code requirements for the Native American funds. Like spending almost $1M extra on Cleveland and THEN telling the Board. And now, again, it was "minor." This is the kind of stuff that keeps our State Auditor in business and you'd think the Board would have had just about enough but nope.
The only one to speak up was DeBell who said he would have thought that any moderization would start with life safety equipment first. No kidding. And they all agreed and said they would do that in the future (sure they will). Our interim Capital manager said he would have expected that to happen here but didn't (and poor guy, it wasn't his fault).
But even though watchdog Chris Jackins pointed out that in the agenda it stated that it wouldn't do any good for the Board to not approve it, that maybe the Board should just not vote to approve it to prove to staff that they could. That got a good laugh. The Board did, of course, approve it.
Then on Transportation there was this discussion of how, over the last 5 years, the ORCA pass has gone from $18 to $27 to$36 and may go to $45 next year. Tom Bishop of Transportation said as long as the state will pay for it, they would go with the increase. There was also a question about monitoring its use on weekend (I guess to make the price go down). Mr. Bishop said they would study that for next year. That got voted in.
Then we came to TFA and it got very interesting. Holly Ferguson, our Governance person, came forward with the names of two more TFA, one for South Shore and one for Aki Kurose. Both had passed the necessary tests. She explained that this was an intro/action item so they can get certified sooner by OSPI. (The one at Aki is already an emergency sub there.)
Not many questions and I really felt surprised. I had asked, again, in my testimony who the TFA donor was. Dr. Enfield (and this is on tape) said at the last Board meeting that when there were TFA hires, she would say who the donor was. I asked that it be done tonight.
So with little discussion, there was a pause. Michael DeBell, bless his heart, spoke up. He said he had a conflicted attitude about TFA as he was happy to go with candidates who made it through the SPS process. He said however he was not comfortable with anonymous donors with unclear objectives. He said something about the Supreme Court and how money seemed to buy speech and access. He said he did not want to go down this road and not be transparent.
He then said he could not vote yes until we have a transparent process and called it a slippery slope.
Lots of stone-faced staff. He said he encouraged any colleagues who were inclined his way to vote to postpone.
Carr asked why, if we have donors, they did not want to be named.
Enfield said a lot of blah, blah about how they didn't know the total amount the donors would have to pay (not saying there will likely be more TFA hires but that was the implication). That was NOT what she said at the last meeting. She said nothing about getting any final head count and a total for the donors at that meeting.
Smith-Blum said well, school has started. We know the number so why not come forward?
Enfield said well, she really didn't know who they are. Really, Susan, and who does? The Alliance? The Seattle Foundation? Who is holding back this information from her (as she is implying)?
Then I did something I have never done in all my years of activism at Board meetings. I spoke out loudly and said, "Nonsense." Steve said it was the Board's time to talk. (I've rolled my eyes, shook my head and muttered under my breath but never spoke out.)
De Bell said he knew it was an awkward situation but he said they had been assured there was a funding source. If not, then how can we be hiring these TFA recruits? He said it was an "either or" situation.
Steve reiterated his support (as he does each and every time TFA comes up) and said he wanted to keep the process moving forward. Ron English rushed forward to tell Holly something. Carr said could this motion just be an intro and they will act on it at the next Board meeting.
The Board then took a 5-minute break to discuss it and the legal eagles conferred as well.
They came back and Steve suggested Sherry's suggestion. Not happy faces from the staff. Ms. Ferguson said they could "accommodate" that request. Michael said he appreciated that and they should resolve to work towards a solution. All the Board voted to intro the item tonight and vote next Board meeting.
I'm sure the Board will be getting a cheerful little earful tomorrow from various talking heads in this town but too bad. It is a public district and the taxpayers and parents of this district have a right to know where money is coming from that is paying for a certain type of teacher.
Why Enfield is now lying and stalling is a mystery but it does not look good on her part (and she has built so much goodwill among the Board and parents that it's sad she would act in this manner).