According to the timetable for the policy review process, the C & I committee will consider Phase II revisions for five - count 'em, FIVE - different policies. And not quick, simple, non-contentious policies, but five potentially controversial ones. I'm not sure what else the committee hopes to do in that meeting, but the discussion of these five policies could take a long time.
1. International Education C55.00
The current policy is pretty benign. It's un-enforceable because it only says what International Education should include. The policy doesn't say anything really. It doesn't say anything about equitable access to international education. It says that "the district is committed to teaching world languages in an immersion setting for grades K-5 in addition to world language classes and immersion language classes offered at District middle and high schools" but there isn't any force behind that commitment and there are no immersion classes at any high schools and they are only at one middle school with no plans for expansion. The Board recently overrode the staff when the staff wanted to stall the expansion of language immersion programs. These programs are expensive and the staff saw higher budget priorities. The board, however, insisted that the district stick to the established timeline for the rollout of international education. That seems to be the heart of the conflict here. Also the question of equitable access. During the recent campaign four board members - that's a voting majority - are on record as advocating for language immersion programs to be option programs.
The policy does have one enforceable element. It requires the superintendent to establish procedures that implement this policy. The policy was adopted in 2007 and no superintendent procedures were ever established. Oops. Naughty superintendent.
2. Program Placement, C56.00
Again, the current policy is pretty benign. It only requires the superintendent to provide transparency and an annual performance report. Everybody supports those two principles, right? Only the superintendent has refused to do either. She has directly refused to provide the required transparency and she is currently refusing to provide the required annual report. Another case of naughty superintendent. The Board, in turn, refuses to enforce the policy. The Executive Committee, at their December 14 meeting, considered suspending the policy but the superintendent promised that she would comply with it. It has been three months and she has not taken the first step towards compliance. If the superintendent won't provide the bare minimum of transparency or performance reporting and the Board won't require these bare minimums, I'm not sure what sort of policy they could draft that would say less. The controversy here is the Board's authority, ability, and willingness to actual govern the district by enforcing policy. My prediction is that the Board will cave. They may even decide to repeal the policy entirely.
3. Alternative Learning Experiences 2255
This is not the Alternative Education policy, C54.00, that governs schools like Salmon Bay and ORCA, this is the ALE policy that governs high school credit at schools like NOVA, Interagency, and the Homeschool Resource Center. I believe that Cleveland STEM is no longer an ALE. This policy doesn't have much to say other than to repeat the requirements for these programs under state law (WAC 392-121-182). I'm not sure why it was included in Phase II with other policies that needed further review. There is a superintendent procedure that goes along with it, but that procedure is brief and, again, mostly duplicates the state law. I'm not sure what the Board wants to change about this policy; I'm not even sure what they could change about the policy. The whole enterprise is closely directed by state law.
This state law recently changed. The state has decided to under-fund Alternative Learning Experiences. The state will only fund them 90%. The Board has already responded by changing the status of STEM so that it is no longer an ALE. Instead, they petitioned (and got the automatic approval) for STEM classes to have less than 150 hours of instruction. The Board may respond further to the under-funding of ALEs with a change in the policy. Meeting the requirements of an ALE is hard. Getting a waiver from 150 hours of instruction is easy.
4. Excused and Unexcused Absences 3122
Sorry, no link for this one because it doesn't appear that the District has a policy on this right now. This has recently become a hot-button issue because the state has changed the way that they fund schools. The state is paying sharper attention to unexcused absences. There isn't any uniformity across the district in how student absences are treated. While there are some absences which are universally regarded as excused (sickness, bereavement, etc.) and some that are universally regarded as unexcused (truancy), there are group of absences that fall into a grey area (family trip, school club trip, caring for sick sibling) and are treated differently from school to school. I believe that the district now grants principals the authority to determine the status of absences. They may continue to do so or they may set some guidelines. This question will speak to the level of centralized or de-centralized control that the District wants to exert.
5. Advertising and Commercial Activities 4237
This policy is so brief that I'm just going to copy here in its entirety:
It is the policy of the Seattle School Board to significantly restrict commercial advertising on or within district-operated property. Corporate support that maintains the integrity of the learning environment is encouraged.
The Superintendent is authorized to develop procedures for this policy, as necessary.Since there is no way to know what this means, it is meaningless. The Superintendent Procedure is much longer, four pages, and much more meaningful.
The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee is only supposed to discuss how this will apply to stadiums and calendars. Right now, the superintendent procedure prohibits advertising not permitted on scoreboards, readerboards, buildings, in Memorial Stadium or at district athletic fields. I guess they plan to change that. There is also a part of the procedure that says that commercial logos are allowed only as identification and not as advertising. I guess that will have to change as well if advertising is going to be allowed at athletic fields.
I'm not sure what the Board has to discuss here. The superintendent has the authority to change her procedures any time she wants in any way she wants. The Board retains the right to review those procedures, and they can direct her to re-write them if they don't like them, but the Board does not have the authority to write them or demand pre-approval.
From these examples it will be interesting to watch and see the extent to which the Board is willing and able to stay focused on governance, fulfill their governance role, and stay out of management. I can see that a number of these discussions will tempt them to either inappropriately interject themselves into administration matters or abdicate their governance responsibility. These board members in particular have shown that they have trouble with either staying out of administration issues or doing their governance job. Should be fun.