Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Quick Notes and a Promise for Longer Threads

Are you slammed with things to do? Me, too.   But meanwhile, lots of things are happening.  So a quick round-up of thoughts that settle in my brain as I try to go to sleep (if only there was an on/off switch for our brain at bedtime).

1) Just attended a land use committee meeting. They voted 5-3 to allow 6-story buildings across from Roosevelt High School.  The final vote will come on January 17th.  I'll write further about this but there was some crowing about all the new kids to the neighborhood who will be able to walk to Roosevelt.  Do we need a new high school?  Yup.

2) On capacity management, I am really, really worried.  There is so many moving targets and so much that could go wrong with the wrong choices.  I hope FACMA, if in their guts they feel it, will put up a fight against any position the staff has that they worry about seeing go through.

We CANNOT make any more facilities mistakes.


Those capital dollars have got to be stretched and that means a clear accounting NOW of every single dollar we have.  All of them.  

Among them:

  • I still need to cross-check what staff is saying about the JSCEE but I think something is still off.  But because the district does not seem to know how to write a narrative (and I think this got proven out by Sherry Carr having to constantly ask what different pages were stating), it's hard to know.  BUT, we cannot just sell off the building and have them move.  Believe me, I think some people should be hanging out in portables for the next five years to share the experience that some children in our district are having.  But it's not really going to help or change anything.  
          My one thought - and I know it's not a happy one - is to sell off some of our acreage at Seattle Center.  It would quickly get rid of this problem and we truly could move on.  

         Is it what I really want to do?  No.  Do I worry we might wish we had that acreage later on?  Yup but I think the chances of having a downtown high school built in say, the next 20 years, is non-existent. I think the chances of Lincoln becoming a high school are much more plausible.  

        Also, just to make clear (and I believe Charlie to be wrong on this point) - yes there ARE still people who had direct influence and work on the money spent on JSCEE.  Those people really should be exited.  This is appalling work and that DeBell asked for this info for years and got put off, well, some people should just go (and you know who you are).  

3)  We really need a big master plan of academics, services and facilities where we can say: what do we have, what do we need, what do we want?  How far can BEX IV take us there?  

4) Ballard High teachers have figured out a way to support their PTSA without being members (and thus having the money go to the state where they perceive the state PTSA as being for charters).   

At Ballard High School, the PTSA has set up a fund specifically for teachers to contribute financially to the PTSA. In paying into this, teachers can demonstrate their involvement with and appreciation for the PTSA's work on behalf of their school. 

It is understood that any teacher (or parent) paying into this fund is not an official PTSA member, and therefore lacks voting rights. At Ballard, at least, there are so very few controversial PTSA agenda items that this is, for most teachers, not an important issue. In fact, only a very few teachers participate actively in PTSA, although over 70 were members last year.

Understand that each school has a minimum number of dues paying members required to constitute a PTSA, and if teacher's official memberships are needed to meet that minimum, we strongly encourage teachers to join and pay dues in the regular way. However, once that minimum is reached, we encourage local PTSAs to then cap the "official" memberships and allow everyone joining the option of participating "unofficially" in the way described earlier. There is no need to send additional dues to the State organization beyond the minimum.

Furthermore, we still encourage teachers to actively participate in PTSA, including attending and voting at state-wide meetings where charter school agendas are being pushed by state PTSA leadership. Very very few teachers are participating at this level, and more teachers being involved could help divert the PTSA's charter-school agenda. Local PTSAs can send teacher representatives to these meetings. We encourage staff at each school to select a teacher to actively participate in PTSA by paying dues, and attending all local and state meetings.

5) I actually believe that the state PTSA is trying to say they don't "support" charters but are exploring it. I'm not sure they are doing it in a fair manner and frankly, I think they DO support charters.  So good for the Ballard teachers.  

6) the SEE (Social Equality Educators) are urging the Board to have a superintendent search.  

The previous board promised that after a year of stabilization under an interim, a search would be initiated. To break that understanding would be wrong.

We are aware of the tremendous pressure being directed at the Board by the small but monied business interests represented by the Alliance for Education, Stand for Children, the League of Education Voters, and, behind all of them, the Gates Foundation. We remind the Board that while these interests have the money to employ full-time operatives to pester the Board with emails, phone calls, and personal contacts, they are UNELECTED. They represent only a small constituency and the Board has other constituencies to whom it owes some small consideration: communities, parents, students, and teachers.

We also want the Board to understand that although you have heard one glowing opinion about the interim Superintendent from SEA leaders, this is only a personal opinion and does NOT represent the majority of SEA on this matter. Tomorrow, the SEA Representative Assembly will deliberate and vote on 3 different motions put forward by different teacher constituencies (not just us) to urge a search. Only then, we believe, will you get a decision that fairly represents the majority teacher opinion on this matter.

7) The Governor apparently is still on the "bad teachers" kick.  

8) Time Magazine's person of the year is...The Protester.  So to all those out there who stood up on an issue at any point this year to be counted - whether in Egypt or Seattle - good for you.

31 comments:

dan dempsey said...

3) We really need a big master plan of academics,

No doubt. Perhaps an efficient master plan, one based on evidence.

It would require actual courage to do what has proven to be effective in high performing nations. Far more likely the Board will continue with Ed Reform and continue to spend too much money to produce substandard results.

mirmac1 said...

Holy Crap! Lowell in lock down based on this report.

Field trip parent spots one of America's most-wanted!

Anonymous said...

We received a call that all buses from Lowell would be late, with no explanation why. That explains it...

Dora Taylor said...

In terms of facilities, someone needs to head up the department who understands architecture and construction and is respected in their field with lots of years of experience. Until then, you will have people who have no idea what they're doing making decisions, basically bad decisions, on costs and schedules.

I know because I am an architect myself.

You need an ARCHITECT who knows what they're doing as head of the department and no, I am not pushing myself. I have other horizons to follow.

Anonymous said...

" My one thought - and I know it's not a happy one - is to sell off some of our acreage at Seattle Center. It would quickly get rid of this problem and we truly could move on."
It is my understanding that this has been tried many many times but the property (stadium) was donated under the condition that the district can never sell it. They either keep it, or give it back. This may be wrong but it's what I'm told.

Rumor control

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:09

Unfortunately, those of us at Lowell at Lincoln also received a phone call that all buses would be late. This didn't affect Lincoln at all, though.

Just one more of a million reasons why Lowell Capitol Hill and Lowell at Lincoln should be separate.

Lincoln Parent

bully pulpit said...

STEM (K-5) in West Seattle? Is the rumor true? Decision made?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Rumor, my reading (from the archives) is that the district couldn't use the land for anything but school-related uses. But they could sell it.

There was to be a land swap with the city for a nearby parking garage that we could then build on. I thought there was also some money involved. I'll double-check.

Yes, they are talking about a STEM at West Seattle. I am baffled at undertaking such a cost-heavy, intensive program when Montessori would be a lot easier (and is pretty popular).

Disgusted said...

Bush School would have provided the District with $7M to lease MLK. Yet, MGJ felt it necessary to "gift" this property to First AME. Very generous of her. Now, we're looking at ways to pay for JSS. I'd love to get back some of her golden parachute.

Ridiculous.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, I heard the governor yacking on about the teacher evaluation system. But the legislature already passed a bill mandating a four-tiered system. Apparently she wants to fine-tune the system. That, ladies and gentlemen, is the governor's BIG IDEA.

What seems like a million years ago, we had a rough consensus on public education policy in the form of Washington Learns. The plan was supposed to include a funding mechanism, but the governor kicked that piece down the road until after her reelection bid. Coincidence? Not likely.

The legislature then created a task force to create a plan for a plan. At which point I realized that Washington Learns would never be seriously funded. Alas.

Now, instead of consensus, we have division, a privatizer's divide-and-conquer dream.

I weary of this endless conflict created by self-styled reformers. I feel nothing but contempt for Governor Gregoire. I don't feel much better about our state delegation.

In the meantime, I note that, despite the financial crisis, international schools are still hiring. They particularly like teachers with experience in IB and in international schools.

DWE

Anonymous said...

Keep on keeping on says

Don't give up DWE. Public school profiteers and their purchased reformers are betting on teachers giving up the fight. You are smarter than they are, as are most teachers who look up and decide to fight these public school "supporters".


At least Gregoire did not totally gulp the reform profiteer koolaid. She said NO to charter schools in yesterday's press conference. Not that LEV or Stand or DFER Lobbyist Lisa Macfarlane are going to mention it. Thank god for KUOW Phyllis Fletcher Tweets. Reformistas may have Lynne K Varner on a puppet string but they'll never get Phyllis.

dan dempsey said...

A big thanks to
Keep on keeping on

for the Gregoire info on Charters...

Charters will be a hard sell when cutting Public school funding .... but I'd be expecting Rodney Tom and Eric Pettigrew to be pushing some kind of nonsense in 2012.

Yup Phyllis Fletcher is gold.

dan dempsey said...

Yes, they are talking about a STEM at West Seattle. I am baffled at undertaking such a cost-heavy, intensive program when Montessori would be a lot easier (and is pretty popular).

Any data that this STEM would be effective?

Is this likely inefficient and particularly ineffective Project Based Learning for k-5?

Why not something that works?
Core Knowledge

Guess C-K is not faddish enough for the SPS... Why do what has been proven to work ... when something new, expensive, and unproven can be attempted? (No wonder there is never money to pay off the JSCEE and begin dealing with the maintenance backlog.)

Please search for a Superintendent with a clue.

Is it really necessary for the SPS to spend more than Auburn to the tune of $2,500+ annually ... to get inferior results on grades 3, 4, 5 testing?

Will STEM k-5 be the next SPS expensive boondoggle?

dan dempsey said...

WOW!!!

Lisa Macfarlane ... guess she is a paid mercenary in the WAR on public education...

There must be really good money for the Reformistas...

Perhaps someday ... we could see some actual data ... from peer-reviewed studies that confirms anything pushed by the mercenaries is worth using.

TfA and Charters have no evidence of efficacy.

I am still trying to figure out why UW's only route to alternative certification is based on: a plan to place marginally trained TfA corps members in jobs previously held by veteran teachers to ease the Seattle school districts’ financial problems at the expense of students in high poverty / high minority schools?

Is because Enfield likes this plan ... sufficient reason?

Anonymous said...

I'm still mystified as to why Lisa Macfarlane considers herself a Democrat, but at least her career change to paid lobbyist for privatized schools should make her politically toxic enough to keep her off the School Board.

--J.R.

Anonymous said...

Ah, Phyllis Fletcher. I have profound respect for her.

DWE

former dragon said...

DWE,

Don't give up! Your class is my student's favorite one.

Anonymous said...

Thought from Friend of public schools--------------

Anyone want to take on this investigation? What is that crap lobbyist group paying Macfarlane? What was her sellout price?

What for that matter is LEV paying Korsmo? What does the Alliance pay Morris? What does Stand on Children pay Shannon Campion? How lucrative is it to tear down Washington public education?

Dorothy Neville said...

Melissa, regarding the bond issue. Please do cross check the documents and figure out if you are correct that something is still wrong. And please let us know if you didn't find anything wrong with the presentation.

As for the presentation, there are a few places I would have tweaked a word or format for clarity, overall, it seemed rather straightforward to me. So Sherry asked questions? Sherry *always* asks questions. A better metric would be: were the answers sufficient? Michael and the UW accounting professor seemed to follow along without problems. Anyway, in addition to the presentation on the bond related transactions, we got thick stacks of supporting documents, so we can cross check as we wish.

I do want to follow up on something from an earlier thread, where I stated that I believed Charlie had gone too far claiming that Sherry wanted it quiet before the election. I have not seen any proof of that. At the August A&F meeting, Kathy Technow brought in some bond information and that was incomplete, but it was a start. It was on the agenda because Sherry, the committee chair, had asked for it. She admitted that Michael has been asking a long time and that she was more recently asking because one of the public advisers of the committee told her to. When it became clear to all, Michael, Sherry, Bob, Duggan, that the information was not enough and evidence was pointing to sloppy accounting AND a potential lack of continued funding for bond payments, Bob and Duggan were quick to agree that more work needed to be done. They promised it by the end of the calendar year and they fulfilled their promise. It required sorting through hundreds if not more transactions on a variety of funds dating back 11 years. It required digging through board archives and perhaps listening to archived legislative meetings, because not only did they report on what happened, they reported on - to the best of their ability - past boards' intentions. Remember, committee minutes were bare of any details until the last year or so.

If anyone who was working at SPS 11 years ago AND was in a position of power to persuade or mislead the board into accepting the sham bond deal OR is culpable in other ways, please let us know. I don't know who is working at the district now who would have been in a position with enough power back then to have been part of this mess.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ron English and Kathy Technow have been around a long time. And Board members have been asking for this for a long time. They both knew this and yet we didn't have this report until now.

Dorothy Neville said...

Ron English does match the qualification that this be a person with power over the years. You did suggest he was a power behind the MLKjr building sale, but did the SAO audit back that up? I seem to recall he looked a bit better there from that investigation.

Kathy Technow? What position of power did she have? Does she have? She certainly doesn't have the authority or ability to produce such a report. She works for the CFO, not for the board. Ditto with the general counsel. Would she have even known that a lone board member (remember, it was only Michael who was curious) wanted the information? Would she have had access to the archives and the enormous amount of time it would take to gather the information?

Anonymous said...

More on the headquarters fiasco today in the Weekly.

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2011/12/this_is_for.php

dw said...

Dorothy said: They promised it by the end of the calendar year and they fulfilled their promise. It required sorting through hundreds if not more transactions on a variety of funds dating back 11 years. It required digging through board archives and perhaps listening to archived legislative meetings, because not only did they report on what happened, they reported on - to the best of their ability - past boards' intentions.

Just as an aside, this appears to be a great example of what staff can do, if motivated. I'm so tired of the excuses (if they even bother to give an excuse) year after year for why staff doesn't gather real, meaningful data, and this seems like a case where they did, and did it in a relative hurry.

I think it proves two things: 1) we have new people in the upper ranks of SPS, and 2) it's all a matter of motivation.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kathy doesn't have power (well, some, she's the head of Accounting). I'm saying THEY KNEW. They knew this was money being switched around and they knew that any cost savings was not going to pay the bonds and they knew we were getting further and further in the whole.

They had to know.

mirmac1 said...

Dorothy, you are more forgiving than I am. Public agencies that use public funds must follow generally accepted accounting principles established by the GASB. That does not include moving funds willy nilly without a clear record of those transfers. This issue is NOT NEW.

2003 Moss-Adams report, pg 69

"There is no effective review of budget changes and no use of an audit trail to maintain control. When this lack of control over changes is combined with the lack of oversight related to budget modifications, the risk of inappropriate transfers increases significantly, because unplanned expenditures may be made with no funding in place.

The number of personnel who are authorized to make budget changes should be as few as possible once the system is configured for a current school year. Most of these personnel should be in the Budget Office. The key to control is to grant rights and authorities to those who have responsibility for maintaining budgetary control. For example, transfers out of the general obligation budget should be performed only by analysts who are responsible for managing the general obligation budget, possibly with oversight authority. Part of this responsibility would be to ensure that management approval is obtained for transfers either into or out of a cost center, and that a log is kept of the transfers made, as well as the reason for the transfer."


Can we get a refund on the salaries paid from 2003?

The authorities matrix, just updated again last month, still does not provide for review and approval by the Supt and Board for budget modifications among capital projects. Pg 5 Authorities Matrix

mirmac1 said...

I believe Kathie raised the flag on the improper sole-sourcing to NWEA for the MAP test, so she has demonstrated to me that she has a strong sense of duty and informal power. But who knows?!

Dorothy Neville said...

I am not sure I follow regarding forgiveness. All this happened before Moss Adams. Who was in enough authority then to have done something and didn't? Did I suggest we forgive anyone?

Might as well add Betty to the list to blame. She's been on A&F all of 2011 and has been mentored by Chris Jackins. Why didn't she add her voice to Michael's? After all, if two committee members agreed to ask for information then staff is suuposed to comply.

mirmac1 said...

Okay, not forgiving. Tolerant? Accepting?

Somebody(ies) since 2003 knew that they were playing a shell game with our money. Why wouldn't they/he/she undertake a review WITHOUT the dictate from the Board.

This speaks to the wholesale lack of credibility from some key staff and administration. Sure the Board must exercise oversight, but babysit?! No.

Dorothy Neville said...

Tolerant? Accepting? What have I said that suggests that? The question is what key staff and administration loses credibility?

The fact that MossAdams was scathing and that the district didn't fix the problems is not news. The current folks in charge do seem like they are implementing change. Yes, it's late and yes that means money wasted. I cannot change that. But I am not trying to justify anything. Melissa thinks they are still hiding something. I attended the same presentation and did not conclude that. She does have more history following Capital side of the district so maybe she's right. She has the documents, so we will find out if there is anything to uncover.

SPSLeaks said...

I will be interested in posting information for all to see...

Julian

mirmac1 said...

"The question is what key staff and administration loses credibility?

The current folks in charge do seem like they are implementing change. Yes, it's late and yes that means money wasted. I cannot change that."


The only person I know I'm NOT accusing is you, Dorothy. It should not matter how short or long someone's tenure is. If you see something wrong, you speak up and start rectifying it. In my case, I don't just say this, I DO this.

It is unfortunate that, due to the actions or inactions of their predecessors, district staff must now make that extra effort to fix problems and demonstrate their findings and actions.