Tuesday, April 17, 2012

Oh No! Not Program Placement Again!

Yes. I'm going to harp on program placement again.



The District has a perfectly good program placement policy. It doesn't put one toe across the line between governance and management. It doesn't dictate to the superintendent nor does it constrain the superintendent in her decisions or even her process. It just sets three requirements.

First, she has to have a procedure. This is a basic requirement of transparency. She says that she doesn't, but then how did she make all of these program placement decisions if she doesn't have a process? Pegi McEvoy says that they were all discussed by the cabinet, but Cathy Thompson, who is a member of the cabinet says that she had no knowledge of them.

Second, she has to distribute the process and make it publicly available. This is the other basic requirement of transparency. The superintendent has specifically refused to do this and the board won't ask her to. We all remember transparency and how much the superintendent and the Board claim to value it and be committed to it, right? Well their refusal to support it here shows the true depth of that support and commitment to transparency. It is veneer thin.

Third, she has to produce a performance report on program placement decisions. Again, we all know how much the superintendent and the board love data and performance reports, right? Not in this case. The superintendent has refused to provide the report and the board won't request it.

So what difference does it make whether the program placement policy is followed or not? The superintendent would still make the same decisions that she made anyway, wouldn't she? Even if she had to disclose her process and report out the results, she would still make the same choices, wouldn't she?

No. I don't think she would.

Right now the District is placing programs based almost exclusively on space available. That's horrible. It is a recipe for disaster. The only buildings with space available are schools that are in trouble - schools where the attendance area community are not choosing the school. The addition of the new program will either hurt or help the school's popularity. They are not neutral. If they further damage the school's popularity, then the District is pushing the school into a downward spiral. If they improve the school's popularity then the latent demand for the school is re-awakened and we get a capacity crisis. Space available program placement is a recipe for trouble.

Look at the ass-backwards planning of BEX IV. The District is committing to construction, capacity, and configurations without any thought to who will go into these buildings or where or what kind of capacity the District needs. Any rational process would begin with program placement planning - academic considerations - before facilities planning - operational considerations. But we can't do that because we don't have a program placement process. And we don't have a process because the superintendent specifically decided to disobey the policy that requires her to have one. And because the board specifically refused to enforce the requirement. Now we're going to plan the spending of hundreds of millions of dollars without the fundamental bases for the plans. Nice.

Look around. There's no place for our programs because the superintendent has not set a procedure. Now, instead, we have a variety of citizens advisory groups groping around in the dark for solutions with no idea of what they are supposed to do or how they are supposed to do it. We get all of the thinking and the real needs of the District set aside in a sweep by city planners (a polite euphemism for Paul Allen) who dictate the creation of a completely un-needed elementary school in South Lake Union. Do we need any further evidence that lack of transparency breeds corruption?

Why won't the superintendent follow this policy?

Why won't the board enforce this policy?

8 comments:

Anonymous said...

Superintendent candidates are to be announced next week, yes? Will program placement stay as is for next school year, and any changes be put forth by the new Superintendent? What is the timeline and how do BEX, program placement, and the hiring of a new Superintendent overlap?

curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

Holy cow, Curious, that's a lot of questions. Are you from Brooklyn? (That's NY Times joke, just kidding.)

Well, the final BEX list isn't until late August/September and program placement should be done by the end of the school year (but can't because of BEX) so sure, the new Super could attend to it. However, he/she has a lot to come up to speed on and may defer to Curriculum & Instruction and the heads under that.

I don't think that's a good idea but maybe a full-court press pressure from parents for the new Super to attend to these issues first might be in order. There isn't a lot more important to get settled than capacity management, program placement, and building condition/safety so that the district can move onto just academics.

Charlie Mas said...

There are even more moving pieces than that.

The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee is supposed to work on a revision of the Program Placement policy on April 26.

The superintendent - and you simply won't believe this when I tell you - has committed to delivering her administrative process for program placement in the Fall of 2012. Yes, that's right. She said that she would deliver it six months after she stops working here and six months after a new superintendent is hired. And, believe it or not, the Board agreed to that timetable. It's all in the minutes of the board retreat from the fall.

Everything is up in the air.

How will program placement be done? Can't say.

How has it been done?
Can't say.

How will the new superintendent change it?
Can't say.

Will the new superintendent make changes?
Can't say.

Will the board change the policy?
Can't say.

Will the board enforce the policy?
No. They won't.

Will the board enforce any policy?
No. They won't.

Isn't that their job?
Yes. It is.

Could the new superintendent disagree with the decisions made by the current superintendent on program placement that are coming out of the FACMAC and the ALPTF?
Yes. Most definitely.

Could the new superintendent completely reverse all of the decisions built on FACMAC and ALPTF recommendations and even disband those committees?
Yes. Most definitely.

Have a lot of work and effort, time and resources been totally wasted?
Probably.

mirmac1 said...

I think Charlie's from Brooklyn.

Anonymous said...

Charlie,

This is the superintendent (Enfield) whom you endorsed so wholeheartedly.

What was that all about?

--enough already

Charlie Mas said...

Just because I like some things that a person says and does is not any reason to presume that I like everything that person says or does.

I can decide that, on balance, someone is doing a good job - or a good enough job - without having to believe that they do a perfect job.

Do I really have to explain this? Why create these false dichotomies?

I think I explained, pretty clearly, why I would have been satisfied for the Board to offer Dr. Enfield a contract. It did not include any suggestion that I was 100% delighted with every aspect of her work. So let's not pretend that it did.

What makes anyone think that another superintendent selected from the available pool by this board would, on balance, be better?

Anonymous said...

I'm just hoping that the new superintendent will be honest.

Also, since teachers would be put on PIPs for much less egregious shortcomings than the ones you just posted, I would hope that the new superintendent would institute some systemic fairness.

I know that I am setting a high bar, but I'm just funny that way.

--enough already

Jan said...

enough already -- Systematic fairness? Bless you! Spot on! I keep thinking about the comments I heard about Martin Floe's "evaluation/pip" last year -- how there was a huge list of stuff (20 to 30 things) that he was supposed to just have immediately corrected. And comments from Lowell and other teachers about totally bogus and unworkable PIPs. If these claims are true -- the District has a HUGE silent liability waiting out there the first time some teacher with a trust fund or another reliable income source takes them to the mat. The Exec Directors who do this to principals should be fired. The principals who do this to teachers should be re-educated immediately -- and fired if they don't change their ways. And since the buck stops at the top, any superintendent who takes action to fire a principal based on one of these should not be the superintendent any longer. While I found Dr. E's reversal of the Floe decision credible (in part because the initial decision had seemed so NOT credible that the reversal could not have helped making a great deal of sense) I will go to my grave wondering whether part of the reason for the change was an evaluation of whether the District's actions could withstand Floe's legal challenge. If the performance plan was as flawed as some have suggested, I think it would not have.