In brief, they are:
- despite Dr. Enfield's promises, we still do not know who is paying for TFA. I think she may believe that the donor(s) himself can just pay TFA and remain anonymous. The contract with TFA reflects that SPS is to pay TFA. There is nothing about money passing to TFA from a third-party. This lack of transparency is deeply troubling. It almost feels like any kind of change or program can be bought and installed at SPS if you have the money.
- The overhaul of Board policies (tonight it's the Series 4000 ones) seems to have some urgency to it that I am missing. That many of the policies use the word "should" instead of "will" also makes you wonder about the teeth to the policies. They already are underenforced so having that kind of vague language only makes it more possible.
- The renovated elevators at Sealth are troubling because I looked at the original emergency action taken by staff. (The issue is that the elevators starting showing problems at the beginning of the school year and yet it took staff until June to make a decision to truly fix them. Conveniently, the Board was not around to approve the money so there is an RCW that allows staff to spend money on an emergency basis.) What I found is that staff used the RCW as their reasoning to spend the money BUT then, did not follow it to the letter. They were supposed to notify the Board within two weeks and didn't. They have a vague "sorry and we'll do better next time" in their original emergency memo but NOT in the item on the agenda tonight. I wonder why not and I wonder if the Board will yet again get rolled by staff.
The three things I am going to cover tonight are TFA, Series 4,000 and the Denny/Sealth BEX elevator issue.
On TFA, I asked Dr. Enfield at the press conference, if she was finally going to say who the donor for the TFA fee per teacher per year is. She gave me big smile and said, "A group of private citizens."
That's not going to work as an answer. This is a PUBLIC school district and wealthy people cannot just put money into something so they can get their way. If I had known that countering TFA was about money, I would have started a campaign long ago.
You don't have to read all of what I reprint below but note the highlighted words from the agreement with TFA and SPS under fees:
Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual fee for each Teacher employed by Seattle Public Schools under this Agreement to defray expenses Teach For America incurred in recruiting, selecting, providing pre- service training and continuing professional development services to the Teachers employed by Seattle Public Schools under this agreement.
All fee payments called for in this Agreement are contingent upon Seattle Public Schools receiving private donations to make such payments.
With respect to each Teacher whose employment by Seattle Public Schools is to commence in the 2012-2013 academic year, Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual amount of $4,000 for each year in which such Teacher is employed by Seattle Public Schools, up to two years.
Teach For America will invoice Seattle Public Schools for all amounts due
Do you see the common thread there? Seattle Schools is to pay. Not private people. The money has to come to SPS and SPS has to pay TFA. I don't know if someone thinks this is a clever way to not have to tell who these donors are but it does not seem to jibe with the contract.
And, as you recall at the last Board meeting, Dr. Enfield said when TFA hires are made, she will announce the donors. Saying it's a group of private citizens does not cut that messaging and it certainly isn't transparency in action.
Series 4000 - All I can say is to repeat what Director Carr said at an A&F meeting a couple of months ago - this is not work on a timetable. This is work that the Board should do with careful deliberation. I have no idea what the rush is but clearly the public and parents have not been apprise of this work and what it could mean to their student.
And there are WAY too many "should"s in this document instead of "will". Should does not get the job done.
Denny/Sealth elevators - I'll just say upfront what I think. I don't think the Sealth elevators just happened to start going bad the minute the building reopened last fall. I think BEX staff knew this but said nothing because they hoped it would go away. (Once again, ignoring a maintenance problem until it's a major maintenance problem.) They knew, according to the action item, in spring but still said nothing. But when the Board was recessed, then it's an emergency.
What is interesting is the Emergency document says a couple of things left out of the item on the agenda.
One, it says:
The Fire Marshall has advised that if the work is not done, it may be necessary to limit occupancy of the building due to the possible unavailability of the elevators in an emergency situation.
What's odd is that in the previous paragraph (and in the item on the agenda) it only says, "The Fire Marshall will not permit occupancy..." So which is it?
Two, after explaining why it is legal for them to sign this document authorizing the work, they then admit fault (again, this is NOT in the item on the agenda):
Note: we acknowledge that this memorandum should have been submitted promptly after the problem was recognized in mid-June. However, it would not have avoided the need to obtain the emergency declaration or Board ratification. The lack of timely management of this problem will be addressed. (bold theirs)
Let's go thru that statement to see the problems.
One, they fail to state the reason they should have done it sooner is because the RCW they cite to authorize the work without your okay states that you are to be notified within two weeks. Obviously, that didn't happen.
Now we ask ourselves why not. What would have been the big deal to get this memo to you in a LEGAL and timely fashion? I have no idea (but I'm sure in the next audit, the SAO will call this out).
Also, hilariously, they say they will address the lack of timely management themselves. That's handy. So is the Superintendent going to actually say something to Noel Treat, Cathie Technow, Don Gillmore (gone thank goodness), Pegi McEvoy and someone else whose signature I can't read?
And will you point this out to the Superintendent as something she should do - tell her staff to follow the law? Because this is the SAME nonsense that you as a Board get year in and year out from staff. "Whoops", "we'll do better next time" "time was of the essence".
There are laws and policies for a reason. If you allow yourself to be their doormat every single time, you better believe the culture in this bureaucracy will NEVER change.
Be the change you want to see.