Friday, November 18, 2011

Updates

Did you know pizza is a vegetableAccording to our Congress it is.

The House of Representatives dealt a blow to childhood obesity warriors on Thursday by passing a bill that abandons proposals that threatened to end the reign of pizza and French fries on federally funded school lunch menus.

The scuttled changes, which would have stripped pizza's status as a vegetable and limited how often French fries could be served, stemmed from a 2010 child nutrition law calling on schools to improve the nutritional quality of lunches served to almost 32 million U.S. school children.


Who got this pushed through?  Why our friends in the AFFI (American Frozen Food Institute) with members like ConAgra, Heinz, General Mills and Kraft. 

The USDA wanted at least one-half cup of tomato paste on a pizza to qualify as a vegetable serving instead of the current two tablespoons. 

Even Italians wouldn't call pizza a vegetable.  Boo to Congress.

Heard back from one person who went to the last Board/PTSA meeting on superintendent qualities/traits.  This seems to have been a different meeting in the south end than the north-end ones. 

The consensus there (about 95%) was FOR a national search.  Carr and McGuire got called on their lament about time and cost by one attendee who said it was as if they were trying to dissuade people instead of just giving them the facts.   The point was made that the district, in early 2011, had an extra $110k for Strategies 360 to do communications work.  If we have that kind of extra money, we have it for a superintendent search. 

So whether or not they do a search, money can't be the issue.  (In fact, if it is, I'LL raise the money for it.) 

I attended the BEX Oversight Committee meeting this morning at Ingraham High School.   The new addition is coming along and looks very nice (if somewhat stark).   It is better but the school still has a piecemeal look to it (given that all Ingraham has ever received is piecemeal work).    Move-in for the new addition will be MLK, Jr. weekend so the students will come back use a new part of their school.

Capital Updates from the meeting:
  • it seems that they have one(!) heat source for both Denny and Chief Sealth.  As I wrote in my notes, "Was that a good idea?"  It seems there are some complaints from teachers about the heat as well as the dawning realization that Sealth didn't get all-new equipment and so some of the old equipment is working as it always has.
  • Garfield's final acceptance of work has been decoupled from the lawsuits by contractors against the district.  There seems to be no end in sight for the lawsuits.
  • The district's lawsuit with the contractors over the floor at South Shore K-8 also has no resolution in sight yet either.
  • They received a dozen applications for four spaces on the Committee.  They hope to make a selection (this is the Board's work) by early December.   Kay Smith-Blum said they were really pleased with the quality of the applicants.
  • There was also mention of capacity management and that the district doesn't want "to publicly catch up again."  No kidding.  
  • The district also hired another "Senior project manager" for capital programs  with an eye to ending the use of the ESD help that they have been contracting for over the last year.  They also discussed hiring a "planner" (versus a demographer) to help with capacity management and BEX IV.   
BEX IV was discussed in draft form (guiding principles).  Basically, the district may go much bigger this time.  BEX III was about $490M and, with inflation factored in, BEX IV could be $560 or go as high as ...$800M.  That is a big chunk of change.  The district needs it but I think that is one scary number (even with the recent passage of the larger Families and Education levy).  They also note "reduce dependency on temporary structures as part of the long-term capital program."

7 comments:

RosieReader said...

I am showing my age by remembering when, under Reagan, ketchup became a vegetable. I am not sure if this is a step forward, back or sideways. It's completely pathetic.

Lori said...

I still don't understand levies and district funding. Let's say voters approve BEX IV for $800M. Do we actually get $800M to spend? Or once the money goes to Olympia and the voodoo equations about levy lids and levy equalization are applied, do we only get a portion of that amount to spend? Or maybe I should just stop worrying about picayune details like this, but I can't help myself in this economic climate.

Now for some snark about the pizza issue. The Chicago teacher who spent a year eating cafeteria food and blogging about it offered this fantastic "lesson plan" that aligns with the Chicago science standards: http://fedupwithlunch.com/2011/11/americas-lesson-plan-pizza-is-a-veggie/

If you've ever read thru your elementary student's science notebook, you'll appreciate the humor, "...Getting out our materials, students will observe, feel, touch, and smell both pizza, tomatoes, and random vegetables. Students will write down observations, describing words, and characteristics of pizza, tomatoes and veggies in three columns. Note similarities and differences...." Maybe Congress should have gone thru this exercise!

cascade said...

How many people were at each of the superintendent quality feedback forums? 5? 25? 100? 95 percent of what?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Good question, Cascade. I believe it was reported that there were 25 people at the Roosevelt one. I'll ask about the South Shore one. They all seem to have been very unattended (less than 35 people per meeting).

Lori,we would get the full $800M. This is capital money, not operations. The levy lids and equalization are not part of this equation.

However, last time we did a bond which allows the district to get ALL the money upfront (which is good and helpful). However, to pass a bond, you still need a 60% margin. Pretty dangerous territory if you decide to ask for $800M.

You can ask for it in a levy which only needs 51% but then you get it in stages.

The issue here is with such a staggering amount of money, it would appear you would have a larger-than-usual amount of projects. The district is getting better but if we are managing more than 5-8 projects, I worry. And, the district doesn't always do what they say they will do with the money which can sometimes be a bait-and-switch to some communities (if not the voters).

Jan said...

Melissa -- the devil will be in the details, I think. But I am actually intrigued. I think we are going to have to either build, or do some whoppingly expensive remodels/renovations in the north end to accommodate upcoming growth. Lincoln has been SO useful as an interim site that I cannot fathom what we would do without it (the way they did Ingraham seems to me not a great way to remodel a school, and I don't know how you would ever make it work with the kind of remodels we did at Roosevelt, Garfield, etc.)

Arguably, this kind of figure gives them enough money to actually BUILD some stuff up north -- PLUS money left over to continue to do the kinds of school-by-school renovations of existing schools that is needed for all the OTHER problems out there. If they have the numbers (from the capacity folks) to support it, some evidence that the District has finally gotten its house in order in terms of financial oversight, and a plan that gets people enthusiastic, who knows. This board could get to oversee the true renaissance of Seattle schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh yes, Jan, they could use the money. I just meant the figure takes my breath away.

The head of Capital Programs said she thought they might end up doing a lot of additions at more schools rather than total renovations. That would add on space and bathrooms, etc. but without having to build a whole new school.

We also have the issue of a number of older buildings that may have historic status and that is a building headache in itself. We can't afford historic rebuilds at this point.

Jan said...

I have to say -- I am with you on historic rebuilds. My kids have gone to GHS, and while they definitely needed a remodeled/new school, it is like vinegar on open sores every time I hear about the lawsuits, cost overruns, etc.

I guess if someone could tell me all that money would have just gone for stupid, destructive contracts with ed reform companies, I would feel better -- but I suspect it is money keeping someone else's school from being made earthquake proof, or getting a decent playground, or working HVAC equipment -- or. . . .