Sunday, September 01, 2013

Seattle Schools This Week

Wednesday, Sept 4th
It's the start of a brand-new year.  Welcome back, kids.

School Board Meeting, 4:15 pm.  Agenda.

Several items got held over from the last Board meeting.

  • the new teacher contract, if ratified on Tuesday by the SEA, will be Intro'ed and voted on tonight.  
  • our first look at the budget for the new Seattle Teacher Residency program, a joint program with SPS, UW and SEA with the Alliance as bystanders.   Here are the numbers:
- for 2013-2014, the total budget is $1,094,569.  SPS will give 5% for this effort and that will be paid in full by the RIF grant. 
- for 2014-2015, SPS's anticipated contribution will rise to 25% which would put it just under $250k which is the cut-off for when the district has to go to the Board for permission to spend the money.
- by year five, "it is expected that SPS will cover 50% of the overall budget.  A combination of philanthropic and public funds will be used to cover the cost of the STR moving forward."

To note:
- as Duggan Harman told the Board, the district's cost will steadily rise and indeed, they do
- what is the budget for 2014-2015?  It is not noted but if goes up over $250k, the Board will have to, again, consider this issue.
- they cut from year two to year five and with no budget estimate.  I'll bet that number will grown and look who is on the hook for the majority of the money.  Not SEA, not the Alliance and not UW.  That money will come from someplace.  Even if the budget didn't grow much, that would be $500k coming from? Sure, you can cross your fingers and hope someone else will pony up but I suspect that means the district chasing philantropic/public funds just like everyone else.

Again, if they are spending this much effort and money on home-grown teachers, dump TFA.

One other key item here is that the Board has to agree - as part of this understanding - that any candidate who completes the program will be given a contract to teach.  The district wants advance approval on this point. 

There are other points in the Action report that are key like if the MOU can be terminated if the district doesn't have the funding for a second cohort of teachers.  Each resident gets $16k (note: the MOU says $16.5k)  and tuition reductions/reimbursements from UW.   The Alliance is funding the first cohort (which I believe is about 25 people).

There are additional costs - substitutes for the mentor teachers -  and it is unclear on who is paying for these.

As well "The MOU is NOT clear what party is responsible for the program costs for the second and subsequent cohorts.  Thus, in order to avoid the risk that the District could be responsible for such costs, a funding source should be identified prior to selecting the second cohort or the MOU should be terminated."

No kidding.  The district should NEVER vote for a program without clear funding  which appears to be operating on fumes and crossed fingers.
  • Intro of item for Wilson-Pacific rebuild.  Challenges cited:
- Very significant scale of direct construction costs at close to $70M

- Ambitious schedule with opening date tied to fixed academic school calendar, complicated by public/community processes, unpredictable permitting processes for environmental elements and historic landmark status;

- Two major projects on a single site;

- Significant level of community interest in the project;

- Challenging geotechnical conditions;

- Potential interest in day lighting of creek/waterway across a portion of the site;

- Potentially very complex solutions to the mural artworks that may involve protection, structural improvements to art walls, and/or delicate demolition of attached structures;

- Site logistics;

- Potential cost and escalation pressure in the current marketplace

Can you say cost overrruns?  This list may be accurate and prudent but it almost seems like an excuse list waiting to happen especially the last one which was used a lot in BEX II. 

 Also, some members of the Board continue to push for a third "core" building and there seems to be some dispute over that. 

The BEX IV levy package clearly indicated that the Wilson-Pacific site would house both an elementary school and a middle school to meet the District's growing enrollment. 

That is still the plan.  The Wilson Pacific site is almost 17 acres in size-one of the largest school
sites owned by the District. This site size allows for many options to build both separate
buildings, as well as consider some shared core facilities, such as a gymnasium or library complex. However, there will be further study of any sharing of core facilities and there will be opportunities for community engagement on the design.

  • MOU between the district and the Danna K. Johnston Foundation and Self Enhancement, Inc.
As you may recall this is for services to RBHS.  To whit:

To provide a continuum of comprehensive in-school, after school,summer-school and family engagement programs that focus on academics,enrichment, family engagement and change to a college-going culture.

All program youth will participate in program activities throughout the year(including summer)
to assure program effectiveness.

The program is estimated to cost about $400k annually.  The Gates Foundation has committed to $50k for the first year.  SEI North has received "indications" of interest and is looking elsewhere.  They claim that the remaining funds will come from donors to The Danna K. Johnson Foundation.  

It is stated that RBHS principal, Dwane Chappelle has met with principals at schools with this program.  That is the sole source of "research and data sources."  Not impressive.

The MOU indicates no money will pass between SEI North and SPS or DKJ Foundation and SPS. 

So the worst that can happen here is that the Foundation doesn't get the funding and the plug is pulled on this program.  That's fine as long as SPS isn't on the hook for any costs (and it appears that that is the case).   I don't particularly think it's a good idea to start an initiative that does not have full funding for even its first year but that's up to the Board.  

Thursday, September 5th
Community Meeting with Director Peaslee from 6-7:45 pm at the Lake City Public Library.

Saturday, September 7th
Board Retreat from 10:30 am - 5 pm at the Beacon Hill Library.  No agenda yet available. 


joanna said...

I worry that the Mann issue is left to fester, not get better.

Anonymous said...

What are the Wilson Pacific Attachments? Is that approval of a final design, since the dollar value is so specific? ALL the designs presented at the public meeting were unacceptable to the majority of the audience - maybe the whole audience (one shared driveway for 2 schools totaling about 1800 kids, for instance, is a traffic nightmare for the area) and about 30 parking spaces TOTAL for the project - every design at the public meeting showed teachers having to park OFF SITE wherever in the neighborhood - Not acceptable. So is this approval a tacit design approval?
-- WP Watcher

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yeah, Joanna, between the teachers contract and school starting, what's happening? Where's this "taskforce?" I'll ask.

No, I don't think this is final design just a preliminary contract for two buildings.

Anonymous said...


I've been concerned about that too. I found the following in the Friday Memos to the Board - it looks good to me.

Horace Mann Building


Charlie Mas said...

Sorry, Lynn, but those notes in the Friday memo look very, very bad to me.

The superintendent puts together a task force in violation of the policy that's supposed to govern their creation. He puts this task force together so fast and so secretly that no one knows about the task force until just before their last meeting.

The superintendent can form this task force in five days but he can't form the promised task forces for advanced learning in five months. Not cool.

These people have no legitimate claim to the Mann building. None. If they want to rent school space after hours they are free to do so. NOVA has been in that building since 1979 and was moved out briefly due to a horrible decision made for no legitimate reason by a horrible superintendent and Board. We are now fixing that mistake and these people need to get out of the way.

Anonymous said...


I'm on your side on this. The only thing NPARC wants is the Mann building. The task force memo states that there can be no change to the BEX schedule. It seemed clear to me that the Superintendent isn't giving it to them. That's the part I found reassuring.

And yes - it is infuriating that a group can issue vaguely threatening letters and get his time and attention while the AL task force is in limbo.

On a totally related note, how much do you think it would cost to rent the Schmitz Park building from the district once the Genessee school is open? I'm thinking of running some summer and after school programs there for girls who are advanced learners. And how many months would I have to pay that rent before I claim the building as rightfully mine? Because sexism.

I hope the district has a security plan for the buildings under construction to keep squatters out. I did drive by Mann on Friday and see a man walking quite purposefully into the parking lot wearing a hiking backpack and pulling a wheeled suitcase. I half hoped the task force was set up to pull them out of the building so it can be locked up.