There will be a board meeting this week and it's gonna be a doozy. Check out this incredibly long agenda. Good thing they cut twenty minutes from public testimony. Those twenty minutes were the whole problem that created long meetings. Now the Board meetings will be over in a flash.
As you can see from the agenda (and every single previous agenda ever), the board is primarily concerned with property management issues. A full 40% of all school board votes are property related. Sometimes I think that we shouldn't be looking for people with education experience for the school board so much as we should be looking for people with construction and property development experience. The Seattle School District is one of the biggest property owners in the state - think of the value of the District's real estate - yet they are renown for their atrocious property management skills. That really needs to change. Someone needs to take this real estate portfolio more seriously.
Outside of property management, the board will vote on the Teach for America contract and the Board Procedure 1620BP. It's a good thing that they are voting on the TfA contract first, because if they voted on 1620BP first then they would never take up the TfA contract. 1620BP clearly states: "The authority and responsibility for hiring and terminating employees is delegated to the Superintendent." and "Board Directors shall refer constituent feedback on personnel issues to the Superintendent." and, finally, "Individual Directors should not publicly express negative opinions about staff members or the Superintendent’s personnel decisions." So the whole discussion of the contract with Teach for America would be a violation of the Board Procedure 1620BP if it were adopted before the discussion about the contract. Some folks may think that I'm making some kind of joke, but I'm not. I have always said, from the very beginning, that the Board should not have voted on the Teach for America contract because hiring teachers is a management question, not a governance question, and the contract value does not exceed $250,000. This whole matter should have been handled by the superintendent by herself without any board involvement. The Board got involved because the contract obligates them to support the conditional certification of every TfA hire. Again, that was a bad idea. First, it was unnecessary because the Board has never failed to support a conditional certificate. Second, it's stupid to agree to endorse people before you know who they are. Teach for America and the superintendent should have just moved forward with the deal without the guarantee that the Board would endorse the conditional certificates for the corps members. The Board would have endorsed them anyway (because they have delegated hiring decisions to the superintendent) and there would have been a lot less drama.
I applaud and support the Board's efforts to define the Board's governance role and to focus their work in that role, but the proposed Board Procedure 1620BP is not without its faults.
The Board has strong agreement that policy is a critical tool of governance. For the board to retain the governance role, the board must retain the authority to enforce policy. As I have said countless times before, they can write policy, but if they do not enforce policy, then they have not made policy.
While there is much to like about the proposed board procedure 1620BP, it is critically flawed by this sentence: "The Board is charged with setting district policy and the Superintendent is charged with carrying out and enforcing that policy." When the board delegates the authority to enforce policy to the superintendent, the board surrenders policy as a governance tool.
Moreover, it is both bad governance and bad management for the person most regulated by policy, the superintendent, to also be the person charged with enforcing policy. This puts the superintendent in the impossible position of self-policing. It makes the superintendent un-accountable. It is a horribly flawed structure.
The solution is simple. All we need is for a board director - any board director - to make an amendment to delete the two words, "and enforcing", from the proposed board procedure. I can't imagine any of them arguing or voting against such an amendment?
I think it is worth noting that the corresponding policy at the Highline School District specifically states that enforcing policy is the Board's duty, not the superintendent's. The Bellevue school board also retains responsibility for policy compliance.
The Board will approve a transportation contract. They will have to, we only got one bid. I guess that takes a lot of the discussion out of the process. Remember when we used to talk about community meetings about transportation and making transportation plans and getting transportation reports? All that has sunk into the background, hasn't it?
This week we will see introduction of a revised policy 3421 on the reporting of child abuse. With this action the Board will adopt a model policy that includes all of the requirements of state law. It is good to see some progress here. We have really needed some clarification of the direction to staff around these situations.
I think this direction is pretty clear: "All professional school personnel who have reasonable cause to believe that a child has experienced abuse, neglect, or exploitation shall report such incident to law enforcement or the Children’s Protective Services Staff at the first opportunity and in no case longer than forty-eight (48) hours after the finding of possible abuse or neglect." I like this part, too: "All employees shall receive training regarding their reporting obligations under state law in their orientation training when hired and every three years thereafter." I hope this clears up any questions about what people are supposed to do and when they are supposed to do it and keeps it cleared up.
The motion regarding the restrictions on the proceeds of the sale of community schools is feel-good nonsense. It doesn't change anything.
The rest is more property management and of only limited interest except for this item: the modernization of science labs at Rainier Beach and Roosevelt High Schools. I'm thinking: "Waitaminute. Isn't Roosevelt High School practically brand new? What modernization could the science labs need already?" It turns out that they don't. The project at Roosevelt is to convert an existing office suite into a science classroom.
Don't get too excited about the work they're going to do at John Marshall. It's just a $1.1 million roof replacement. On the other hand, maybe we should get excited. What kind of roof costs $1.1 million dollars? You couldn't see it, but I wrote that with a Dr. Evil voice and put my pinkie finger to my mouth.
So with eight consent items, six action items, and twelve introduction items to push through and make a gesture of interest at each one (even the boring ones), it's a good thing that the Board isn't pissing away an extra twenty minutes listening to members of the public. Let's hope they can get out of there before midnight.