Sunday, September 25, 2011

More from the School Board Meeting

So in a wrap-up to last week's Board meeting (which I left at half-time), here's some highlights:

-Bob Boesche, our finance guy gave an update on enrollment (no, I don't know why he did it).  He stated that they had projected enrollment at 47,979 and right now it is at 48,311.   He said there were still adjustments to be made.  He said they had staffed conservatively with subs and that executive directors were working with principals to address building and classroom needs.  He said there were several schools overstaffed and underenrolled and transfers have addressed that issue.  He said they are all awaiting the Oct. 1 account and that it's a "positive problem."

Here are the stats:

         last year   projected this year   actual
K-5   24,104      24,929                     24,875         -54
6-8      9,603        9,885                       9,962        +77
9-12  13,301      13,165                     13,474       +309

So we are up 332 with surprise! the biggest growth in high school.  My take is that that one is the economy.  If you know your child's high school for certain and private high school is more expensive than at any other level, you may have chosen to come back to public school.

The directors then asked some questions.  Director Maier asked why high school?  He then said something that I think he misphrased but he asked if these additional students "were these the students we expected to dropout?"  Not sure what he meant.

Director Smith-Blum asked about the 8th grade numbers versus the 9th grade numbers and asked if that info could be in the next Friday update.  (By the way, I have a friend who is trying to get the Friday updates to be publicly available which I think would be great as they are a snapshot of the district over a week.)

- COO Pegi McEvoy did a really quick rundown of the 47(!!) capital projects accomplished this summer.  It's usually about 23 so kudos to them.  The new head of capital projects is Lucy Morello (this is an in-house promotion).  Director Patu said she had visited Rainier View and was surprised to see lockers in an elementary school but the principal said they were helpful.   I wasn't aware that we were redoing the reopening building for elementary students to have lockers.  It seems like that would be something you would do if you were flush with money. 

- Board comments - Most of it was about the great start to the new school year, visiting schools, etc.  But Director DeBell seemed to want to make JSCEE staff feel the pat on the back; he said he had faith in staff to better the climate, engaging in transparency, period of shared sacrifice, and SEA working in partnership with the district.

Director Smith-Blum did allude to my testimony about the hard-to-place building sale money and said she'd like that information sooner rather than later. 

Director Carr then did a presentation about the work on audit findings.   It was fairly dry.

Director Sundquist said he had been at his community meetings and that capacity management was discussed and satisfaction expressed.  Really?  Anyone from SW/West Seattle confirm that?  He also had a funny slip of the tongue when he asked his "opponents" but quickly said "his colleagues" for a vote on removing something from the Consent agenda.  It got a good laugh.

The item removed was about Hamilton and final acceptance of the work there.  Apparently some of the outside lights are casting light/glare into neighbors' yards.  Sherry wanted to make sure that acceptance of the work didn't preclude the Board from getting some accountability for this issue from the architect who designed the lighting.  Mr. Nichols said it wouldn't but that it wasn't really negligence on the part of the architect.  So the district ended up making (and paying for) the shields which cost $15K each. 

- Action Items.  This was interesting because as I reported from the last Board meeting, the district is using in-kind dollars (money they already have from grants) to support the High Point Neighborhood effort.  But there were a couple of issues with this.  Namely, the MOU was wrong on two counts.

One, the district managed to create an agreement that did NOT state how long it was for.  It got signed by both parties who belatedly agreed it was for just one year. 

Two, the action item only references High Point Elementary and Denny Middle School but the MOU references Chief Sealth.  Courtney Cameron, the head of community partnerships, mentioned this but didn't seem to think it was a problem.

Again, this is how the district gets itself in trouble.  Contracts, MOUs, etc. are legal documents.  It really does behoove the district to get those kinds of documents right BEFORE they sign them. 

Director DeBell said this was a good proposal but that the new policies earlier adopted call for a more deliberative process for this kind of partnership.  And so we continue down the road of adopting polices that aren't going to be enforced.

-TFA.  Holly Ferguson stated that the Seattle Foundation is to give the money for the TFA fee directly to TFA.  (Now the contract says that the district is to pay this  to TFA but apparently that doesn't matter now.)  She stated that all the recruits have passed their exams and that OSPI considers them "highly qualified".  All of the candidates hired are in the UW program.  (She said "assigned" but no, they cannot be assigned under UW's agreement - they have to be admitted like every other student.) 

Ron English, legal counsel, said that he asked Mr. Barnett at the City's Ethics office if School Board members who received campaign donations from people who were paying for the TFA fee would have to recuse themselves from voting on TFA.  Mr. Barnett said no and that as long as they have fully disclosed their contributors, it is fine.

It was also reiterated that if the district didn't have the money for the fee, under the contract, they don't have to pay it.  (Yes, I'm sure TFA would be fine with that.) 

Smith-Blum asked about the length of the contract for each TFA recruit and Ms. Ferguson said one-year.  So each one of them will have their contract reviewed next year as would any other teacher.  (That's an interesting question if a school found a TFA teacher less than satisfactory and didn't renew but we signed a contract for them to have a two-year term.  A bit confusing, no?) 

I did speak with someone at Seattle Foundation who said they were only funding the fees for ONE year.  So we will be doing this dance again next year as the district spends more energy and time on a very small program.  (I was also told that the Foundation had no idea that Washington STEM had said they would pay for any math/science majors.  They seemed happy to hear this news even though, of course, at this point there are no math/science majors who are teaching.) 

Then came the directors' comments and I was quite surprised at how they all felt compelled to say something when they had already voted in TFA recruits previously.  It was as if they needed to justify this action again.  Hmmm.

Maier took a very deep breath and said TFA would expand the pool of candidates with more math/science majors.  No additional costs to district.  He said the Board had said they want an annual report of how these teachers are doing.  He said it will help close the achievement gap.  He said he would bring a more diverse teaching corps. 

Patu said she voted no last year and wants to support the teaching corps we already have.  She said she had "no problem with TFA but that her dedication is to SPS teachers."  She said she would vote no (but ended up abstaining). 

Smith-Blum said the research is mixed and she had no opinion on whether it was right or wrong.  She said she trusted the principal corps and hiring teams.  She said principals in her district (when she polled last year) were split on whether they would hired a TFA recruit. 

Carr said she wanted to "expand" the pool of candidates, more diversity, more math/science and that it was "not a strategy but a tactic" to close the achievement gap.  (I note that last year she said it was a strategy and has now downgraded it to a tactic.)

Martin-Morris - a bit confusing as he said something about knowing some of these people from UW.  If that was true, he really should have recused himself.

DeBell said that the lack of clarity around the funding is troubling.  He said all the components should have been in order.  He mentioned TFA as part of national ed reform.  He also said it was only 5 teachers.  He thinks it's a valuable experiment.  He said that the testimony of Mr. Maldonado was "passionate" and that if there are those who feel drawn to the calling of teaching should have the opportunity if "they pass muster." 

(That would be fine except that the only way to get in this way is thru TFA.  Our largest university in Washington State created a very small and narrow alt certification program for one group of people who are privately picked.  Why not a program so that ANYONE who wants the opportunity to "pass muster" teaching can access it?)


Sundquist - his reasoning is 1) principals have enormous responsibility and (2) TFA, on a national basis, has more diversity than SPS.

Where to start? 

- math/science - zero recruits
- diversity  - mostly white (one African-American but she was already a certified teacher and one Latino)
- closing the achievement gap - TFA has never done this in any school or district. 

If the directors want to keep saying this and hope people will believe it is happening and/or true, then fine.  It's not true.  

DeBell's experiment has already played throughout the country to mixed results.  But sure, let's try our own 5-teacher experiment here. 

Also, it seems clear that despite the best efforts of TFA, most of the Board is not on-board with their research.  The Board seems very conflicted about the research either because there is so much for either way or because they haven't read through enough of it to feel they can make a categorical statement for the veracity of TFA's claims. 

33 comments:

StopTFA said...

It's the sound and fury again, drumming out the evidence of bonafide strategies that really work. As my avatar clearly indicates, I'm as tired of this BS as most everyone else is. This "tactic" is the poster child of what ills our School Board and our central admin. And then they blame everyone but themselves for dropping test scores and increasing cynicism.

Anonymous said...

Re: Lockers at Rainer View. RV was leased by the Muslim Academy for awhile. They serve older kids, any chance the lockers were something they installed and left?

-Curious Kate

seattle citizen said...

"Holly Ferguson] said [TFA hires were]"assigned" but no, they cannot be assigned [to UW's U-Act program] under UW's agreement - they have to be admitted like every other student."

This is a matter of concern to me:
TFA interviews and "hires" people to go out and interview. The person interviews and gets hired. My understanding is that the agreement that the UW has with TFA is that it will take all TFAers who are hired. Am I wrong?

If this is the case, then the UW has come to a place where a University program doesn't get to interview, look at transcripts, etc, and determine whether or not to accept someone into the program; TFAers are automatically given access to the program - For the first time that I know of, a university doesn't get to decide who gets into its programs, an outside agency does.
Is this the case? If so, it's discouraging.

Am I also correct in understanding that if one wants a conditional cert in SPS they HAVE to be part of TFA? Can Joe Blow walk off the street, interview, be hired, and then get a conditional cert at UW or some other university?

dan dempsey said...

Breaking News!!!
Linda Shaw's article in the Times

dan dempsey said...

"Smith-Blum said the research is mixed and she had no opinion on whether it was right or wrong. She said she trusted the principal corps and hiring teams."

Apparently no chance any of these folks or OSPI has any intention of even discussing the law much less following it.

We have now in place the Monster Bucks law => When Seattle Foundation and other organizations outside the district make pronouncements and / or plunk down big dollars. The existing laws are ignored by:

1.. The Seattle Superintendent
2.. The School Board
3.. The executive director of the Professional Educator Standards Board.
4.. The Professional Educator Standards Board
5.. SPI, Superintendent Randy Dorn.

Dorothy Neville said...

The school board and upper management have agreed that the Friday updates would be on-line one week delayed, because some of the information is not appropriate for immediate public knowledge, like personnel changes or something like that. Perfect? No, I was disappointed, wish it could be faster, but it is probably something like not publishing draft minutes and waiting instead til they are approved, which takes a month.

dan dempsey said...

SC said:
For the first time that I know of, a university doesn't get to decide who gets into its programs, an outside agency does.
Is this the case?


========
Well the UW has had many NSF summer institutes. I attended one in summer for Chemistry teachers. 29 teachers and about half resided on campus. Each received 8 credits in Chem from UW for a 5 week course. All the instructors were UW instructors. I do not believe the selection process went through normal UW channels.

I believe that Application was made to the NSF and acceptance came from the NSF. .... which seems similar to TfA .... except this program was for 5 weeks total .... but I know there were longer NSF programs elsewhere and some were a masters program .... as to whether Universities got more involved in the admissions process for these I do not know.

Universities are interested in collecting money from special programs and hardly interested in standing in the way of money.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Curious Kate, maybe but I don't think so. They made them sound new but your explanation might be the answer, thanks.

SC, the agreement with UW and TFA says that the students are "admitted" but it also says "The UW expects the students in this program to be identified by the TFA program. The College of Education will have complete discretion about the admission of these students to the program." So no, UW doesn't have to take them but I doubt that anyone, after going thru TFA's selection and SPS's hiring, are not going to get into UW.

The University of Washington only has one alt cert for education and it is thru TFA. No one else can apply to be in the program unless they are TFA.

However, people have other venues to get an alt cert (thru Seattle U, etc.) that would allow them to apply to SPS as a teacher. You have to do the alt cert before you can apply for an SPS job whereas with TFA you do the alt cert as you work as a teacher.

StopTFA, do I have this right?

StopTFA said...

There are other alt route 4 programs (SPU, PLU, City U, and Saint Martins) on the PESB website. Per the RCW, one must be already employed by a school district under a conditional certificate and would serve as "teacher of record". Only SPS and TFA turns it upside down, signs up the inexperienced, then hires them. It would be my guess that HR would not pass along resumes of non-TFA with comparable backgrounds and no cert. Those would be "weeded out", as they do not carry the TFA imprimatur.

Alt rtes 3's and 4's take about the same amount of time to get to a residency cert, but 3's would work as interns (pay unspecified).

SolvayGirl said...

As a state taxpayer, let alone the parent of a school-aged child, I am concerned that the UW offers a program that is only available to someone who has signed on with another, private institution. So if my understanding is correct, a state resident who would like to try to get an alt cert (perhaps someone with a MS in science or math) would need to first connect with TFA before they could be considered. That's just wrong!

anonymous said...

"Smith-Blum said the research is mixed and she had no opinion on whether it was right or wrong. She said she trusted the principal corps and hiring teams. "

I agree with KSB. If a schools principal and hiring committee decide a TFA recruit is right for their school, I think we should support them. They are the boots on the ground and they know what their community needs.

seattle citizen said...

Anonymous,
The Principal of South Shore said there were 98 applicants for her open position. 97 had certificates. But she hired the non-certificated applicant.

Conditional certificates are for emergency, when there are no applicants for the position or it is a specialty area.

Do you think we should support prinipals in hiring non-certificated people when there are so many certificated applicants?

Why was a non-cert even allowed to apply, and how can someone with so little training or experience be considered better that someone who as taken the coursework, student taught, and otherwise shown the dedication to teaching one would expect?

What attributes do you think the principal at South Shore valued so highly in an inexperienced, uncertified person that she would hire him over all the others?

What did she find, "the the community needs," in that applicant?

seattle citizen said...

Oh, and that principal told the Board that the TFA's experience was "about the same" as all the others, on average. How could that be? He hasn't student taught, he has little training...He has five weeks, all the others had a year's worth of important classwork and a few months student teaching. I don't get it.
Maybe you can help me out there?

Anonymous said...

Maybe the South Shore principal's strategy is to welcome TFA with open arms, hoping for some additional "trickle down" benefit either directly from TFA or from local (or regional or national) TFA benefactors.

Oompah

Guichon said...

"Martin-Morris - a bit confusing as he said something about knowing some of these people from UW. If that was true, he really should have recused himself."

Par for the course. This guy always trys to sound smarter than he really is.

Maureen said...

From what I recall, last year Harium said that, in years past, his wife taught some students (in a science department at UW)who joined TFA but couldn't be placed in Seattle so left for other cites and he thought that was too bad because he thought they were really smart and nice.

mirmac1 said...

There's Harium using evidence and data to drive his decision-making...

He's got to go.

Dorothy Neville said...

When I was in elementary school, we had a cloak room attached to the classroom. We don't have those in Seattle, do we? Lowell has lockers. Where else would kids store their wet outerwear and their lunch? Are you sure these lockers are new? What do other elementary schools do?

dan dempsey said...

Dorothy,

Thanks for the memories ... our coat room consisted of a long panel of doors along most of one wall of the classroom. Each door swiveled on its own central axis. When the handle on the first door was used to open it, all the others opened as well with a 90 degree rotation.

There were two long shelves and coat hooks below them. Students only went to the coat room at assigned times. At the beginning and end of Recess for coats and start of lunch for lunch boxes and or lunch bags.

I remember being made to stand in the coat room on at least on occasion, but I do not remember the reason. Perhaps I was not paying attention .. so they made that more difficult.... or more likely I was making it difficult for someone else to pay attention .. thus I was banished.

No I did not mess with anything in the coat closet during my exile.... the school had corporal punishment and that fact had my attention.

dan dempsey said...

I should add that it was called the cloak room as Dorothy said. I used the term coat room for those under 40 lest they think I went to school in the medieval era.

Jamie said...

Dorothy,
At Whittier they have cubby cubicle things inside the classrooms - they have hooks for coats and shelves for lunchboxes, etc.

mirmac1 said...

With lice so prevalent, it's a wonder they don't have hermitically sealed autoclaves.

dj said...

Dorothy, at Thurgood Marshall, the classrooms have cubbies. My other SPS kid's school has shared lockers (better from the drippy-stuff-in-classroom perspective, worse from the lice perspective).

Anonymous said...

"Director Sundquist said he had been at his community meetings and that capacity management was discussed and satisfaction expressed. Really?"

Melissa- The few parents who attend Sundquist's meetings anymore are his cheerleading team. The rest, especially those with capacity management issues have given up. Apparently choice seats are a myth, just a bait & switch tactic that the community thought they were buying into.

No amount of transitional one-time tiebreakers are going to balance out 6 elementary schools funneling into Sealth and only 4 into WSHS. Not even all of the Denny graduates got into Sealth!

---NSAP maps need more balance

Erin said...

Bagley has lockers in the hallway. Since she was at Bagley, maybe she got the idea from there. I can't imagine lockers cost as much as built out wood cubbies.

Jan said...

Ah. Cloak rooms! Being medieval, I remember them too. AND -- if you go to older vintage parochial schools (like the one attached to St. Marys) -- they are STILL there (or at least were, a few years back).

seattle citizen said...

Oompah,
you write that
"Maybe the South Shore principal's strategy is to welcome TFA with open arms, hoping for some additional "trickle down" benefit either directly from TFA or from local (or regional or national) TFA benefactors."

A) what does this tell the ninety seven applicants who did the hard work? That they just don't have what that five-weeker has?
B) Why don't the benefactors just benefact (?) directly to the school?

What benefits do you see "trickling" down from TFA that certified teachers don't get?

RosieReader said...

seattle citizen -- are you really sure you want to judge people solely on their "paper" credentials? If that's all we're looking at, I'd rather have someone who got straight As in a broad-based liberal arts education at a good school teaching my kids then someone who squeaked by in an okay-but-not-great education program with low C's and lackluster, but still overall acceptable, student teaching. Then again, I'm an elitist who feels that good grades from a challenging school mean more than mediocre grades from a mediocre school.

There's no possible way to second guess this decision. That leads me to a basic maxim: If we say we trust the principals, then we trust them. And that means when they do things we support, as well as things we don't particularly like.

Jan said...

I agree with RosieReader -- if we want more site-based autonomy and less heavyhandedness from JSCEE, we have to be willing to live with decisions that principals make.

BUT this assumes two things: first, that there is also community involvement (and policy adherence) in the selection of principals. There certainly wasn't under MJG -- though at least at RBHS, there appears to be a return to community involvement by Dr. E. But most principals now have just been foisted on their schools. As just one example -- there should NEVER be a principal at a Spectrum school who is unwilling to support Spectrum (and there certainly seem to be some now!).

And second, all bets are off, if the system is "gamed." For example, emails from TfA suggest that what they initially wanted was for each TfA application to be given "priority," with respect to all other applications. The union contract evidently saved us this time -- but it distresses me that the District might ever have even considered giving preference to TfA applications (based not on application strength -- but just on the TfA label) over potentially equally or better qualified candidates without that label. That is wrong on so many levels I don't even know where to start! So, no willingness to "accept" principal decisions if the decision-making process is "rigged."

And finally, Rosie -- I am not as dazzled as you by Ivy league (or Berkeley, or MIT, or whatever -- transcripts. In private schools (where Ivy-leaguers with connections and good grades, but now ed certificates abound), I have seen both great, inspired teaching by energetic, hardworking people who clearly loved to teach, and cynical, careless, dismissive teaching by teachers from "the best schools" -- but who gave every indication that they thought they were far brighter than any of the stupid kids foisted on them either were or could ever hope to be. Yes, they knew their biology and chemistry, but they sure didn't know (or care to know) how to reach and teach kids. And the impression of the kids was that they didn't like teaching OR kids. At. All.

Great, inspirational teachers, ones willing to pour their hearts out year after year for all kids, can come with all As from top schools, as well as with Bs and Cs from far lesser schools. We know -- from all of the incentives offered by big corporations to TfA'ers after their two years are "up" that TfA is not necessarily selecting kids with a passion to teach -- they may be selecting kids with a passion to run companies, or be investment bankers, or GE salespeople, or consultants. A good principal and hiring committee can probably sort all this out just fine -- as long as the selection system is not dishonest.

Not so curious said...

Not that it really matters, but my daughter volunteers at Rainier View and was surprised to see lockers as well. They told her the lockers have been there for "years" and that the littlest kids are just agog at having real lockers like high schoolers. They predate the Muslim school as well as Ms. Jones.

I grew up in the days of coat closets too. Cubbies still seem a little strange to me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Speaking of "good" schools, I'm reminded of a story from one of my least favorite Justices, Scalia.

The article I reference was about how nearly every single Justice has every single clerk come from a good "name" school. Has to be Harvard, Northwestern, Stanford or Princeton.

However, if a Justice dies or leaves office, then the other Justices inherit that one's clerks.

Scalia was aghast at the one he got who went to ...Ohio State. He said something like he just couldn't believe how great this guy was he came from Ohio State ("for God's sake).

I've been around a lot of people who went to these "good" schools and I would never judge a book by its school.

StopTFA said...

Well, interestingly we have no idea what Mr. Maldonado's grades were at UC Santa Cruz but...

Of the TFAers in Seattle, they are for the most part qualified to teach in the categories of: LA/SS, Elementary, and ELL. Not rocket science. With the exception of ELL, we have no shortage in those areas.

QC said...

I am a STEM professional (literally a rocket scientist, actually) applying to TFA as a method by which to effect a career change to teaching. I would consider my technical qualifications to teach physics, chemistry, or mathematics to be exemplary. I have a huge desire to teach (not temporarily, but as a career) and love the Seattle area.

The appeal of an organization like TFA to me is primarily fourfold:
- I am not interested in having to complete an additional degree in Education before teaching.
- TFA has the political clout to place me in a position, even when districts are apparently not hiring (at least that I can see from the normal channels, which I did check first).
-TFA status allows me to apply for AmeriCorps grants to cover the cost of certification courses.
- The normal byzantine array of certification requirements, hiring processes, and individual district job listings is at best annoying, and at worst an active deterrent to those not moving through the traditional School of Education pathway to teaching. TFA will simply place me.

If the SPS establishment is in need of subject-matter-qualified STEM teachers and is so opposed to external organizations like TFA, why is there no "STEM PROFESSIONALS CLICK HERE" button to streamline this process? That aside, can you suggest an alternative to TFA that would provide the same ease of application and assurance of placement in a high-need school?