Attending were Directors McLaren, Patu, Blanford, Peters, Peaselee and Martin-Morris. Director Carr, like at last week's Board meeting, was not in attendance. Staff included Superintendent Banda and the head of Capital/Facilities, Flip Herndon. Dr. Herndon gave the entire presentation.
There was a good laugh before the meeting when Director Blanford said that he had a lot of people asking him if he was Richard Sherman or Marshawn Lynch of the Seahawks (the only similarity is that they are all three black men with long hair - they don't look like each other at all.) I later asked Director Blanford if anyone asked him if he was Lawrence Fishburne - a joke based on an entertainment reporter who this week was interviewing Samuel L. Jackson and thought he was Lawrence Fishburne. Jackson's reaction was priceless.
Dr. Herndon did two good things. He did NOT read the presentation and he skipped parts that were widely understood (like BEX and BTA).
- he spoke about "diminishing" numbers of interim sites. He's right - pretty soon there will be none. There two issues around that. One, the district does not like to build on-site - they like to move the entire population out. Well, if you have no interim sites, it's not possible. Two, if you have a catastrophic event, there is nowhere to put a school population (example: a school being rebuilt in the '90s burned to the ground).
- here's an annoying part. He referenced the high amount of backlogged maintenance. He admitted it was about $500M. Director Patu asked if it had been higher and he said yes, they had made some inroads. Can I just say that's a little disingenuous to say? I say that because the district has spent huge amounts opening and reclosing buildings (as other buildings that needed work themselves continued to wait) and I'm sorry, but there is nothing good to be said about a $500M+ backlog. He said, "We can't get to it fast enough." Well, if we brought up the maintenance budget, there might be a way. Oh wait, I forgot - every non-contract employee at headquarters is getting a raise.
- he said that the district is going to run out of high school space. (All you that said this was coming - they now admit it.) He said Hale and Garfield are full and even with Lincoln brought back, it won't be enough. (One thought I had is to see how long the lease is at Oaktree. If you have an elementary and middle at Wilson-Pacific, going just down the road a couple of blocks to a high school at that site might be good.)
- he also said the district was having trouble finding a demographer
- he said they were talking with the City about a downtown school and the idea of universal preschool "a little bit."
- he said that the class size reduction taxing is already limiting space (more on this in the questions section)
He said that there are no dollars from OSPI for class size reduction. He said you could put another person in to reduce the ratio but that legislators seemed to want to see a classroom at 17-1, not 34-2.
He said he was asked at a legislative committee meeting this week about how many new classrooms SPS would need to get to K-3 classes of 17-1. He said they would need 350 classrooms districtwide (about 12-13 new elementaries). And, he said you couldn't do it through the use of portables.
Peters also said the downtown school was more of a challenge than, as it was listed, as an opportunity. She said the district is behind in space and where would be the room for the other wish - pre-K? She said she had talked to Councilman Burgess about if they went to voters for the money for Pre-K, that there would be challenges to find the room.
Herndon said he had put that in the Opportunities because SPS supports the idea. He said, though, that SPS does not have the space to take on that responsibility. Superintendent Banda agreed saying that SPS wants to help but the City cannot look to SPS for the space. Everyone around the table nodded and seemed in agreement on this point of lack of space for any pre-K services in SPS.
Dr. Herndon also went on to say that the cost of construction in Seattle is much more than other parts of the state. (Capital has said this for more than a decade and frankly, I didn't always believe them. However, given the volume of building now, I believe this to be true.)
Blanford pointed out that OPSI seems to think that SPS has more building footage than they need. But Dr. Herndon explained that OSPI applies their formula to EVERY building that the district owns including leased space. He said to call back many properties (and there aren't that many now) into use also has a cost because of the amount of time they have not been used as schools.
He also said something somewhat disturbing about the self-help policy #6807. He said that they try to make sure all district policies and procedures are followed but sometimes schools decide to do things on their own. That they say, "We have a plumber parent who will fix this for free." He did say that this can be problematic when later renovations come and the district does not know of changes made. (He also neglected to say that this is in violation of union contracts and that schools should NOT be bringing in any help that the district did not approve.)
Director Patu brought up the sensitive subject of the NW Center Kids and that they claim they did $250K on renovations in September and the district knew and did not say they would be claiming the building in January. He says that some work appeared to be volunteer and that NW Center Kids may have assigned more of a value to it than it was worth.*
He also said that they would likely keep the Wilson-Pacific name for that area and follow naming procedures.
Dr. Herndon made his way through to the end of the presentation with plenty of time for questions.
Director McLaren asked about routing slips for maintenance. He cited an example of a fence at North Beach that had not been fixed for - wait for it - 10 years. He claimed that there were some neighbor issues about height/look of the fence, blah, blah. Seriously? And yet, no one one on the Board challenged him.
Director Blanford asked about the Board seeing a list of maintenance issues and what the prioritization is. Dr. Herndon did hesitate and said they could print it out but he would like to sort them by impact, location and cost. I would love to see this list as well.
And then, 20 minutes early, it ended. I was quite surprised that no directors had any other questions.
* Here is what NW Center Kids is saying about the issue of their building (partial).
In October, NAIOP (the WA State chapter of the Commercial Real Estate Developers Association) made Northwest Center Kids beneficiaries of a significant donation and labor to refurbish the building; can NAIOP help us in this issue?
We are so honored by NAIOP’s donations. We believe they did not have knowledge of the School District’s immediate plans for this closure. Because they assessed and found Northwest Center Kids worthy of their work and generosity, we hope we could include them among our supporters in the community.
I’ve heard that Northwest Center has known about this potential move since last summer. Why weren’t parents informed sooner?
It is not true that we have known about this move since last summer. We were as blindsided by the six-month notice as every family and every child in this process. We have been diligent in checking in with Seattle Public Schools about the status of the facility. In June, for example, when we spoke with the Seattle Public Schools facilities group about the NAIOP project we were reminded that although they might need the building back at some point and that the lease calls for six months notice, there was no mention of any project in the works, no levy funding for North Queen Anne, and assurances that the site is too small to meet district requirements for an elementary school. Then in October when Northwest Center initiated a meeting with Seattle Public Schools to express interest in buying the North Queen Anne facility, we were told that there had been general conversation about possibly re-purposing North Queen Anne Elementary for stand-alone programs but that there was no specific project in the works and no funding available. We were also assured that Seattle Public Schools understands the critical importance of the work Northwest Center does, that our work supports and complements Seattle Public Schools, and that Seattle Public Schools values its 28 year relationship with Northwest Center.
Does the NAIOP donation have any impact on the School District decision?
In press accounts and public forums Seattle Public Schools has repeatedly denied knowledge of the NAIOP donation. But both Northwest Center and NAIOP contacted Seattle Public Schools repeatedly to discuss this project. We are working to put together detailed records of our correspondence with Seattle Public Schools. We believe they were well aware of the project.
If the NW Center Kids does have documented proof that they did correspond on a regular basis with the district on this issue, then that may change things. It is just unclear who knew what when and what it all means.