Sunday, December 09, 2012

Seattle Schools Week of December 10-15

Very busy week.

Monday, December 10th
Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee Meeting from 4-6 p.m.  Agenda
Some interesting issues but there is not enough detail to know what they are specifically going to cover. 

Work Session on Weighted Staffing Standards from 6-7:30 p.m.  Agenda

Tuesday, December 11th 
Work Session on Creative Approach Schools from 5-6:30 p.m.  Agenda

Special Ed Advocacy & Advisory Council Meeting from 6:30-9:00 p.m., Room 2700 (2nd floor), JSCEE

Community Meeting on Capacity and BEX IV from 7-8:30 p.m. pm at JSCEE.

Wednesday, December 12th
Executive Committee Meeting from 8-10 am.  No agenda available.

School Board meeting at 4:30 p.m.  Agenda
Of note:
- Native American Education update
- election of new President, Vice-President and Member-at-Large for the Board (nominations to be posted on Monday).  I suspect the president will either be Smith-Blum, Martin-Morris, Carr or Patu as they have the longest experience on the Board.  I suspect that many might like to be president but the time constraints are great for those with a full-time job.
- The district is getting two infusions of money - one from a settlement over the carpet issue at South Shore for $900K and the other from the district's insurance company against claims over the Silas Potter issue for $275K     On the South Shore issue, the district does not indicate how much thye will truly get in the end as they hired experts to consult as well as outside counsel. 
- the district is buying software to track BEX projects (thru BEX III funds) at a cost of $989,288 over three years.  I can only say I hope this is worth it because it is a big capital expenditure at a time when we need every BEX dollar. 
- an expenditure of $2,579,430 for Metro cards.  Now the Action Report says 95% of this amount will come from the State (which is great).   But the background info is fairly convoluted.  I'm not sure I get exactly how much this is costing the district and how much it per student to the district.  These are basic facts that I think most parents and taxpayers would like to know and yet it's not in the Action Report. 

Thursday, December 13th
Audit& Finance Committee Meeting from 4-6 p.m.  Agenda

I find the agendas of the Committee meetings quite interesting.  C&I is always kind of folksy and uses just the first names of staff.  A&F tends to be a bit terse and this one is no exception.  There is one item that I would like to know what it means - "Sequestration - D. Harmon (Special Attention)"  Now is this like a jury sequestration or the seizure of property for creditors or the state (another possibility) or automatic spending cuts that are triggered (a la what the Feds do).  Interesting. 

Community Meeting with Director Peaslee from 6:30-8:00 p.m. at the Lake City Library.

17 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Regarding the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting:

I notice that the committee will not actually make any progress this month on the policies it is supposed to be reviewing and revising. Instead, they will hear about two superintendent procedures and get two progress reports.

Regarding the WSS work session this evening:

I sure hope they address the rationale for excluding four schools from the WSS. The Center School, the NOVA Project, South Lake, and the Seattle World School are not funded through the WSS and there is no explanation as to why not. These schools and these students are just as deserving of the administrative and operational support provided by the WSS. These students need nurses and librarians as much as students in any other school. Maybe more.

There is no rationale provided for why these schools are not funded through the WSS. There are no stated criteria for a "non-traditional" school. I find it strange that the District can short these schools seven FTE each without any explanation, but I bet they would want a lot of explanation before providing an additional seven FTE. Where is the transparency?

Anonymous said...

Melissa, will you go to the A&F meeting and explain what that item is via a blog update? It sounds rather ominous, and, it is not like the District will be explaining (or daylighting) this item anytime soon. Thanks
-wanting to know

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wanting to know, I had an update from someone who thinks it may be related to the fiscal cliff.

Meaning,

"There is talk of holding some bond payments back if congress allows us to fall over the fiscal cliff. It looks like the District has some Qualified School Construction Bonds outstanding. The federal government pays a portion (if not all) of the interest on those bonds and sequestering, or holding back, those payments is one of the things that may happen if congress doesn't get its act together. That means the District would be on the hook for the interest payments on those bonds, something they probably haven't budgeted for."

I'll try to go and find out.

Anonymous said...

Sequestration issue relates to federal fiscal cliff. From WAPO's education site:

http://www.washingtonpost.com/blogs/virginia-schools-insider/post/how-would-sequestration-affect-fairfax-schools/2012/11/26/208edadc-
3800-11e2-a263-f0ebffed2f15_blog.html

reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you Reader for that insight about what it looks like to other districts elsewhere. Even a couple of million could greatly affect SPS.

Funding choices said...

"I sure hope they address the rationale for excluding four schools from the WSS. The Center School, the NOVA Project, South Lake, and the Seattle World School are not funded through the WSS and there is no explanation as to why not."

I would also add Middle School to the above list. These schools were not included in the WSS because principals wanted greater flexability with district funds to meet the specific needs of these students. These schools receive 23%more in per pupil funding than other schools.

We will be seeing more on this issue.

Funding choices said...

I would also like to point out, in order to add funding to the mitigation fund, which would support schools like Nova, the district suggests increasing class sizes in secondary schools. Some of our high school teachers have 160 students. Many students in our middle schools live in poverty, and attend schools that do not receive Title 1 funds. How many students would fall through the cracks simply because of the high student: teacher ratio?

Principals are complaining that they desperately need elementary school counselors. How many students are falling through the cracks because the school lacks the ability to meet psychological needs?

The district must close a funding gap of $15M. There is a potential loss of funding from the Federal Government which will result in a greater gap.

Simply put, we are in a funding crisis. It is impossible to provide additional supports to some schools without putting other students at risk.

Charlie Mas said...

I read the minutes of the Board Retreat. What a load of mush-mouthed crap.

Here was my favorite part. It comes near the end when the staff was complaining about how the Board actually takes action in support of constiuent concerns:

"Directors provided their initial thoughts on the responses provided, including themes of a need for clearer roles and responsibilities, stronger communication protocols and enforcement, and a move toward a clear policy governance model."

The problem, of course, is that Seattle Public Schools cannot have a policy governance model so long as policies are routinely violated without consequence. If the Board does not step up and enforce policy, then the District can never have a policy governance model.

Charlie Mas said...

Funding choices' comment reminds me of the question that Director DeBell asked me when I said that these schools should be fairly funded: "Where would the money come from?"

It would, of course, come from all of the money the District has saved by cheating these schools for thirty years.

No one asks where will the money come from to extend the WSS to all of the other schools. Why do they ask about where the money will come from to extend the WSS to these four schools?

Here's an idea: put the names of all the schools into a hat and then draw out four and grossly underfund those schools for a year. Then, next year, select another four schools at random to cheat.

Funding Choices said...

Charlie,

You're being a jerk. Many schools are underfunded. There are comprehensive high schools serving over 1600 students with FRL populations of less than 55% that don't receive adequate funding.

Signing off of this blog. I anticipated a real conversation.

The Revolution Will Not Be Televised said...

Charlie pretty much cornered the jerk market when he made his mean spirited comments about Cheryl Chow a few months ago.

He does, however, like to travel down his Stupidity Lane and comment on school board policy issues and legal matters.

The number commentators and quality of the comments on this blog has dropped exponentially over the past few years.

It's a real shame. They had something great once. Now they just sit back and grab comments out of board meeting minutes and take shots here and there.

The only reason I even read the blog anymore is to call them out out when they are just plain wrong rather than merely stupid or mean spirited.

Jan said...

Funding Choices -- I suspect you are gone. If not, here is how I read Charlie's response. Assume you have 10 kids, and not enough money to feed/clothe them. To seven, you give 3 rice balls and a small piece of fish every day. To the other three, only rice balls. They complain, wanting the same food their sibs get. Granted, that would make everyone else's piece of fish smaller, but how can the answer be "Where would I get any more fish so I could give YOU some?" When it is obvious -- if the fish had been fairly divided in the beginning, everyone would have had an equal share.

Now -- maybe there are other arguments, based on size of kids, another child's special need for protein to address an illness, etc. etc. But Charlie has argued -- there are NO differences between these schools that justify shorting the four. The only justifiable argument back, it seems to me, would be -- yes there are because of [add reasons a through z]. But how can DeBell's answer (not speaking to any arguable differences that might justify different funding levels, but simply saying that now that things are unfair and no one has enough, you just have to suck it up and continue to get the short end of the stick) be considered a reasonable response?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Revolution and Funding, we don't allow name-calling. I find it amusing you don't like "mean-spirited" remarks and yet here you are doling it out yourselves.

Disagree all you want but do not call names.

Sorry, Charlie IS right on those four schools and you clearly don't understand the issue. It's not about who is or is not fully-funded (under McCleary, no one is).

Funding Choices said...

Nova's funding is based upon the WSF model, not the WSS model. The principal decided to use the WSF model to have greater flexability. This is the reason you are not seeing the same allocation of funds as in the WSS model. In the end, this school receives 23% more in per pupil funding than schools using the WSS model. So, this school receives 23% more in per pupil allocations than schools using the WSS model.

Perhaps it is Melissa and Charlie that don't understand.



Charlie Mas said...

What is the source of the claim that NOVA, The Center School, South Lake, and Seattle World School are funded based on the WSF instead of the WSS and why doesn't the District know that?

Why would some schools be funded based on a different scheme that other schools? What justifies that?

I find it very hard to believe that NOVA, with 340 students and 16.0 FTE costs 23% more per student than Rainier Beach High School with 397 students and 20.6 FTE. That's without considering the funding for students with special needs.

Does Funding Choices have any data to support this contention?

When the District did their analysis of the non-teaching costs at every school in advance of the 2009 closures, NOVA was the least expensive - on a per student basis - of any high school.

It's an interesting claim. Is there any data to support it?

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to the District's budget chief, Joe Paperman, asking about the funding scheme for the "non-traditional" schools. He couldn't say why the schools were funded differently or how the funding for each of them was determined.

He's the budget chief and he had no knowledge of any rationale for how these schools were funded.

Perhaps it is the District that doesn't understand

Funding choices said...


"Why would some schools be funded based on a different scheme that other schools? What justifies that?"

Students at these schools have different needs than many students at comprehensive high schools. Principals thought it were best to use their funds to meet the needs of the students, not follow the WSS formula. For example, librarians are included in the WSS funding formula. By using the WSF, the principal might prefer to use the funds for direct student support. Perhaps offer different classes, I"m not sure.

You make a good point about Rainier Beach. You will be hearing more about funding formulas to meet the needs at Rainier Beach. Think about it, there are many many languages spoken at Rainier Beach. Perhaps it would be best for this school to use it's funding to provide direct student support and visual materials (just a rough example) than a secretary which is included in the WSS.

The district is aware of this information. You will be seeing data on this issue.

Regardless, you have to admit there are many students in comprehensive high schools that are falling through the cracks because they can't learn via a cookie cutter method. What ever happens, the district will rob from Peter to pay Paul. Which ever way dollars are shifted, students WILL be harmed because our entire system is underfunded- with more cuts on the way.

I appreciate your care, concern and advocacy. I am not trying to be mean spiritied or snarky. I am simply asking you to make sure you have your facts before creating anger within communities.