People have often asked me, "Why don't you run for office?" The painful slog that is sometimes the Board meetings and/or committee meetings is one reason. Today's Executive Committee meeting was one such experience. Started at 8:30 am and ran probably till noon (probably because I left at 11:45 am). This is Part 1.
Not that it wasn't chock-a-block full of news - it was. But Brian Rosenthal from the Times left early (and surprisingly right before a good part) and Charlie, a twitchy guy on his own, was fairly chomping at the bit to get out of there.
I'll start backwards because that's one of the most interesting parts.
Good news - they picked the "focus group' community for the superintendent search. For the most part, a good list with touches of greatness and one truly bad choice. But I have faith in the abilities of the majority of the committee.
Bad news - the process was a mess. I hate to be this hard on the Executive Committee but this was NOT good organization or vetting. They all seemed tired or unsure or in a hurry (but I won't name names). For the most important job in the district, they did almost everything but get blindfolded and play "pin the name on the committee". Why it happened this way, I don't know.
I am not at liberty to say who is on the committee because they need to ask the finalists and have made provisions for alternates in case some people need to drop out. There was a hand-out of those who applied but it didn't seem like the committee had read it or had much of a clue about certain people on it. One thing that Director DeBell did do (and I think it was a good idea) was to include at least five random picks for the alternates. This allows for an eyes-shut diversity and the picks turned out to be good ones.
The committee is 25 people plus several alternates. There is diversity (although this got to be problematic for several reasons.) I think in trying to reach out in all directions, the committee made some de facto choices (like having finding a business-type or someone from the Alliance). There are several strong personalities on the committee but I think they will balance each other out.
Keep in mind, it is unlikely that the public will ever hear from or meet the finalists. This has been made clearer and clearer. I attended Sherry Carr's community meeting on Saturday, this topic came up and she demurred. Then, a worker bee from Stand for Children said that she had been tasked by Shannon Campion, their leader, to organize some community meetings to meet the finalists.
Now Sherry Carr has a champion poker face but even she did a bit of a double-take. Stand thought it would just borrow the finalists and have meetings? Hilarious. Sherry said she didn't think there would be time in the process for meetings.
So this Committee is very important because they will literally be the eyes and ears for the public. I would think they might have the final announcement sometime next week.
Snow day waivers
This was also a topic at the last Audit & Finance Committee meeting. The district has a confusing explanation (I'm with Kay on this one) about how they would lose money from the state AND it would cost us money if they do have them. There is also the issue of how useful those end-of-the-year days are. However, even if they don't put them in, then the (new) last days of school become useless. Where does it end?
Some of the Board seem to want them in anyway as we would be down to 174 days of school by then. Dr. Enfield promised some messaging for the Board around them but it still seems up in the air as to whether they will happen or not.
Money from sales of district property
Apparently there is some sum of money from the sale of each property to go towards youth and family centers in these buildings. It is a bit unclear to me how that was decided or when the centers would get the money.
Acknowledgment of South Shore-SPS partnership
When speaking of recognitions at the School Board meetings, Director Smith-Blum asked that South Shore/New School be recognized for the now 10-year partnership with the district. Holly Ferguson mentioned she had a meeting with LEV folks today and would ask about it. That does remind me to ask about the MOU between New School and SPS given that New School is now in LEV's fold. Is that MOU still valid? What will the new one look like with LEV?
At the April 4th School Board meeting, an NWEA rep will be there to talk about MAP issues. It is likely there will be a public meeting with this rep for parents to come and ask their burning questions about MAP and MAP scores. Stay tuned for more info on that meeting.
Nothing much to report as committee meetings just started today. Ms. Ferguson mentioned almost every ed bill but the charter school ones. Odd. She also noted that School Board members now have the same restrictions as other candidates on campaign contributions.
Apparently, though, the idea of a "25th" month (the Dems idea of waiting one extra day to pay districts' money due them) may become a forever rule and thus remain harmless even if the economy doesn't recover.
Also, the new teacher/principal evaluation legislation syncs up with SPS's policy fairly well, according to Ms. Ferguson. Director Smith-Blum noted that the State came to SPS for information on our policy already in place. DeBell said he receive frequent questions on how it is working and would like some talking points to stay informed.
There was discussion of how SPS doesn't get as much from the State as other districts due to not building NEW buildings but renovating our old ones. Another issue is that SPS has more square footage per student than other districts but as Ms. Ferguson pointed out, we have older buildings, many with higher ceilings and wider halls. She also said the district has many joint-use agreements with the City and thus had built many full-size basketball courts to accommodate that use. She said that the district needs to talk with the legislature about these issues.
Coming work is ramping up with the FACMAC, BEX Oversight Ctm work and the upcoming community meetings in early April.
Seattle University Lead Partner MOU
On the heels of the great news that our partner for Bailey Gatzert received an national award for their service to the school and its community, came the continuing agreement with SPS and SU. What was interesting is that Mr. English, lead counsel, made a statement about Creative Approach schools that was something to the effect that a school would have to ask the Board to use an outside partner. And, that the Board had to know, in advance, what policies were being waived. I'll have to call him for clarification.
The district is part of an organization of a group of districts that is suing the state over fully-funding school. Each district is asked to pay $1 per student for legal costs and the district is committed to continuing with the group. The money is part of the Legal department's budget. (NEWS is the acronym for the group but I can't find the sheet that spells it out).
Alliance for Education MOU
Another fascinating section of the meeting. The MOU was on the agenda and basically the Alliance wants more money for taking care of various school accounts. It was explained that the Alliance wanted the cost for taking care of these fiscal issues to go up from 5% to 7 1/2%. Plus apparently, the Alliance takes some interest for every $25k that they hold for school groups.
DeBell explained this is a big help for new groups who don't have the fiscal acumen and there is a lot of volunteer turnover at schools so it is a help to have a continuity at one end. He said the bigger donor groups like the high school foundations don't use the Alliance's services.
There was a lot of vagueness as to exactly what the Alliance had been doing for years and who was paying what and what the Alliance's take was.
So leave it to Director Smith-Blum who cut to the chase - "Bottom line, we are reimbursing for 5% of what?" I take time here to reiterate what Smith-Blum let the entire room know - she has done fund-raising for years and knows this subject very well.
Anyway, the answer was a bit vague so Smith-Blum pressed on about how much Alliance staff time was taken for this work. The answer was about 1.4 FTE. So Smith-Blum does some back of the envelope calculations and said, "This seems a bit high to me. I think 5% is about right." Could have heard a pin drop.
Now Charlie, the numbers guy, has been looking askew at the Committee because, as he wrote in a note to me, "why doesn't this go out to bid?" Yes, how do we know that 5% has been a good deal and now the Alliance deserves 7.5%? Honestly, I don't know but if it is work we are contracting with the Alliance to do, maybe it should go out to bid.
Sara Morris and her aide, Amy, did not look happy. I'm thinking they thought this would be a fairly easy sell given that, well, they are the Alliance. Morris said that 5% is the "extreme" low-end.
Smith-Blum pointed out that the Alliance would get $133k at 7.5% (based off a sum I didn't hear). She said that it would be better to pay two Alliance staffers $50k each than pay out that sum. DeBell did not look happy at this point but Smith-Blum had the one-two of (a) she's a business woman and (b) she's done a ton of fundraising. Enfield looked at Noel Treat and she, too, looked very unhappy.
DeBell struggled on and said the rate had been negotiated between staff and the Alliance. Smith-Blum just said maybe it would be better to get the full information to the entire Board and this should wait for Introduction at a Board meeting. The Alliance staff left, looking none too happy.