Thursday, November 29, 2012

Seattle School Board Meeting Last Night

I couldn't stay long (darn cold) but I did make some remarks and heard other interesting remarks.

First up was Wayne Barnett of the City Ethics department who gave a concise and lively wrap-up of what has been happening with this joint ethics venture between the City and the district.  This is a mid-term report as they are in the middle of the 3-year process.

He said that everyone at JSCEE had been given the ethics training as had all the principals.

In terms of advice, as of now about 80% of the contacts had been via phone or e-mail.  He said they have slightly less active than at the City level but that is to be expected (given the relative sizes of each).

Investigations.  He stated they received their 100th call this week.  He said about a quarter of all calls had launched investigations.  He said about 60% of those calls did not fall under their jurisdiction but that the City had been pleased to act as a liaison between the district and the callers to get the callers to the right people.  He said that Ethics had been acting as a squeaky wheel (of sorts) in order to get answers for many of these people that they could not get on their own.

He said that the issue of worries over retaliation to whistleblowers continues (indeed, he stated that nationally it was 1 in 5 and this has risen since 2007).

Ron English of Legal has a request for the public.  The Board did vote to send the resolutions on the two levies to King County Elections.  However, the district is obliged to find people to write both the Pro and Con sides for each.  He has a Pro and Con for BEX IV and a Pro for the Operations levy but no Con.

If anyone would like to write a Con side for the voters guide, please contact his office at 206-252-0110.


I will point out that in the past, district staff had been good about limiting their presentations, but for some reason, almost the entire presentation on assessments was given.  And it was long.  (The Superintendent needs to not allow these 15-20 presentations which then shorten the length of questioning by Board members. They just had a Work Session on this so I was confused at why this lengthy presentation was necessary.)

During the Assessment presentation it was also noted that they want "stakeholder input".  I'll say.  Folks, there are an awful lot of pilots (three by my count)  going on out there at 28 schools for grades 1 and 2, 6 and 7 and 9.  It would seem to me that this needs to be clearly explained to parents.

(I had to laugh at the number of things the magical MAP does according to this report - screener for Advanced Learning, interventions, regrouping in class, placement for math, diagnostic and student growth.  Boy, are we getting our money's worth off this thing.)

Director Peaslee asked the most questions but most of them apparently can't be answered at this point.

Speakers
Two Ballard students (in dress shirt and tie) asked for consideration for a later start time.  They brought along good evidence (especially on how great Ballard is doing).

Chris Jackins brought up an interesting issue I was not aware of which is that the district appears to have received payment from its insurance company over Silas Potter but may have then had to pay out most of that money to a different issue.  I need to get details on this one.

A parent from JSIS spoke about keeping sibs together.  I appreciate the difficulty and challenge for these parents.  But I can only gently say that the district cannot continue to try to keep all sibs together for the assignment plan to work.  There has to be a line somewhere.  This parent wants the district to guarantee sibs together at JSIS until 2017 (I don't know how he picked that year).  

Two Wedgwood residents spoke about the issue of another elementary at Thorton Creek (and I do have other info on that - the City is not going to do much).  They showed how they have been trying to ask the district to talk with them to little avail.

There was another great speech from a Nova student.  (They must have a speech class at Nova because these students are remarkably well-spoken.)  She was asking, as had been asked in the past, about the funding for Nova and the other "non-traditional" schools.  I do think it wrong that any high school does not have a full-time librarian.  The Nova students have continued to ask, "Why aren't we funded at the rate of a less-than-800 student high school level (a la RBHS)" and yet they get no real reply.

I spoke as well and here are my remarks:

 I wanted to speak to Policy 1400 on the agenda tonight. I was hoping it might say that the Board was going to change either the length or the time for public comment. Again, 5 pm is too early for most people - whether parents or community members. I put in my plea for a later time, at least at 5:30 p.m. 

Speaking of community and access to the Board, there was a release of e-mails recently from SPS via public disclosure that indicate that some community groups and members believe they deserve or more worthy of your attention than others. 

 Others indicate that a few of our Board members are having meetings to discuss wide-ranging SPS topics like a downtown elementary, Memorial stadium and this very building with other elected officials. I'm sure the School Board President let the rest of you know about his meetings with Councilman Tim Burgess and their discussions. 

There is also an older e-mail where Frank Greer, a citizen who seems to want to be a puppetmaster here, tells our President that he, Mr. Greer, was the source of media leaks and oh by the way, had a nice chat with an editorial writer at the Times who will be writing a new one for him soon. ( I will also note that Communications did write to the Times and ask them to be more careful in their editorials as, according to SPS Communications, they have gotten some things wrong in the past.)

 In still another, Sara Morris of the Alliance, complains to Bob Boesche about Paul Apostle not getting her information she requested. I personally find this amusing because the rest of us Joe Citizens have to wait in line for information we request from the district. That Ms. Morris believes that Mr. Apostle's first duty is to honor her requests is troubling. 

Parents, through their donations and sweat equity, invest millions into this district every year and that number has grown as cuts have been made. 

You can put together all the money that the Alliance and any private donors have given to this district and put it in a Starbucks coffee cup. 

That is as compared to the REAL money given to this district by parents and taxpayers. By my rough count, since 1996, voters have given this district over $3B dollars. Those are your real constituents and deserve as much time and attention as any so-called community group.

10 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Yeah, Ballard does great partly because it diverts students' special education "excess cost" funding to pay for regular ed classes. That frees up budget for more counselors and programs. This is hardly the model for "equity of access" Banda likes to talk about.

Po3 said...

Loved your comments to the board. Would have liked to see the look on DeBells face when you called him out. It is sickening the access that these people seem to have when parents need to get off work early to attend a board meeting.

I also have to wonder what conversations are taking place over phone lines.

I also hope the funding tricks at Ballard are ending!

Anonymous said...

@PO3. Frequency of phone calls to and from public offices are also subject to disclosure. If someone happened to want to go that route on a particular subject. The wormholing of the Alliance into District affairs is but one place to start. The brighter we shine the sun, the faster we can disinfect. Because a lot still stinks downtown.

"FYI"

Inside.......as well said...

Two things:

Wayne's a nice guy but as long as Ron English is acting as "puppetmaster", there will be little fundimental change.

Second, THIS member of the public has a request of Mr. English, couldn't Fred or Maria find you a job elsewhere so that chances of a truly ethical tomorrow might actually take root? PLEASE?

mirmac1 said...

Now that you mention it, Ron English just looked the other way as three board members violated the Open Public Meetings Act while chit-chatting with the Alliance Board. Maybe like the SpEd TFA HQT issue, English will feign ignorance or "seek clarification".

Anonymous said...

Somebody needs to get a backbone and put an end to the sped funding misappropriations at Ballard HS. Who will step up and do this?

-parent

mirmac1 said...

Look to the PMP (post-menopausal posse, my pet name) that will lead the new board. Can they distinguish between good ole (Ballard) boy shenanigans, and do the right thing for SpEd students!? HUH!?

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Is this the same Wayne Barnett who at the request of Ron English looked into concerns about certain Board Directors whose campaigns were bankrolled by TFA advocates and to whether they should vote on TFA matters?. Carr is one such individual gaining thousands from Matt Griffin (her top donor) and he being part of the group paying for the TFA yearly costs. Would that be the same Wayne Barnett who based his analysis on two facts, donation limits and full disclosure?. Unfortunately the core issue is at the time there were no campaign limits and such donations lead to a clear conflict of interest. It is a great shame Wayne did not even do a superficial fact check or understand the issue at hand - the concern was precisely that there were no campaign limits!. Carr now promotes his decision as an indication that she has no conflict of interest even though Wayne only referred (in error) to his ethics policy and house bill 2210 clearly suggests otherwise.

Concerned teacher said...

By the way, anyone notice that the Levy campaign is being run out of the same office building (McKinstry) that Teach for America is in?

Thats where SEA dues go via contributions?

Hmmmm....

What???? said...

Hmmm,

Are you saying just because the Levy campaign is in the same building as TfA that there is a connection?

Yes, SEA contributes to the LEVY campaign. Is that a problem?