Sunday, February 02, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week (and News)

Tuesday, Feb 4th
Special Education Advisory and Advocacy Council Meeting starting at 6:30 p.m., JSCEE, room 2700

Wednesday, Feb. 5th
Parade for the Super Bowl Champion Seahawks 11 am (I put this in because if you are going to the district headquarters that morning, you might be aware of this because of the traffic.  The parade is to end at Century Link Field which is only about a mile north of JSCEE.)

School Board Meeting, starting at 4:15 p.m.  Agenda.  There are some major issues in this agenda and many of them have to do with what really irritates me - when staff leaves out information the Board should have (both informational and in order to take a vote). 

I'm going to go over the Agenda at the bottom of the page for those who are interested (allowing anyone else to see the rest of this thread more easily.)

Saturday, Feb. 8th
Community Meeting with Director Carr at 8:30 am to 10:00 am at Bethany Community Church (enter off playground)

SPS News
Seattle Schools is now on Facebook.  This might be an interesting place to ask questions and see what answers you get. 

Open Enrollment starts Feb. 24th and goes thru March 7. 2014.  That's a fairly short window, coming right on the heels of the week of Mid-Winter Break.  So if you are enrolling your children you basically have this week and next week to get your ducks in a row and be ready starting on the 24th.

The District is looking for volunteers for the next Highly Capable Taskforce for Delivery Model.

From SPS:

Seattle Public Schools is convening this task force to examine how academic services are delivered to highly capable students in kindergarten through 12th grade, including the program description, goals, instructional program and professional development for educators. 


The task force is charged with making recommendations regarding the organization and service delivery model of the Accelerated Progress Program, which serves Seattle Public Schools’ academically highly capable students. 

The task force will include a representation of individuals and experts, ideally not to exceed 23, with significant direct experience and connection to the Accelerated Progress Program and gifted education. This will include parents of currently enrolled APP students, APP dedicated staff, District representatives, and experts in the field of gifted education.

For more information on the task force and for nomination forms, visit: www.seattleschools.org/advlearning.

Nominations are due by Feb. 7, 2014.


Board Agenda


Let's start with the Program Placement Annual Report from the Superintendent to the Board.  It's dated Jan. 13th when it was presented to the C&I Committee but that Committee is not the entire Board. 

It also hilariously states that "We are in a transition period of applying the (new) definitions in the superintendent procedures.  Therefore there may be inconsistencies in the language in this report."  Okay, then why wasn't the report updated?

The Skills Center section (CTE) is fairly incomprehensible.  You don't see a chart of what is available where (so you could quickly see where programs are located and where the gaps are.  You know, analysis.)

They talk about the Cascade Parent Partner Program but fail to mention they still don't know where that program is going to be moved.  You would have no idea that this is a big issue for continued existence of the program. 

Lots of talk about Special Education but no indication that parents were consulted at all.

There's a notation about Kimball Elementary having "ALO quality-teaching" in their classroom.  That is a nonsensical statement because there is no definition anywhere in this district.  ALO is a free-for-all so to say they "have" something mean almost nothing.  I note that at Kimball, parents were apparently on this ALO committee.

And yet, right below that is a notation about the Indian Heritage Middle College and their movement but you don't see any talk about parents being allowed to be in on those decisions.

It's a sadly lacking document.

This is also the time of year when Board members and senior staff make disclosures about financial or other conflicts of interest.  

I note that Director Blanford does not make note that he worked  - for four years - for the Alliance for Education.  The Alliance has very deep ties to the district and I'm not sure that even all the Board members know this.  He might have mentioned it in his statement.

Then there are the Action items starting with School Board Policy #4260, Use of School Facilities.
Where to start?

 First, the action references a Superintendent Policy that does not appear in the procedures listed at the SPS website (I could find no SP 5251 which is listed on page 14 of the Superintendent policy 4260.)  You can find it elsewhere at the SPS website but frankly, if it's not on the Superintendent's own procedures page, I'm not sure of what real use it is.

But what is most galling about this Action Report is its sheer disingenuousness.  

On the one hand, it comes off as "look, at SPS, the good guys not charging rent."  But then they leave out the part - except in the attachments - that it has now brought into the policy that for any group using a district property "the organization conducting the activity shall be responsible ...for providing appropriate services and accommodations, and, if necessary, paying the costs of providing services or accommodations for youth who require such assistance to participate." "The District reserves the right to decline requests when the use is inconsistent with District use guidelines."

I predict this will get missed by many PTAs and groups that provide after-school activities and come as a rude shock.  If one parent wants their child to participate and the group does not provide the adequate services needed for that child, the whole thing can get shut down by the District." 

On the item for RTTT and the Road Map project, there are a couple of puzzlers.

One, if I read this correctly, some schools in the project may be responsible for licensing fees after the first year.  (The item states those fees "may" be covered by Title One but that's no guarantee.) Are these schools aware of this coming cost? 

Two, the times when staff want to provide "research and data sources/benchmarks" in agenda items just comes and go.  The Board never questions why sometimes there is information to back up what staff are saying and sometimes there isn't. 

Then, they use an article written by Tom Vander Ark.  Mr. Vander Ark has a business background and was the first head of the education wing of the Gates Foundation (naturally, not an educator).  But ever the hucker-type, Vander Ark took that work and has built himself up as some kind of ed consultant.  That the district is using his work to back up anything in the classroom is startling.  The article quoted is from his own education web business. 

There is also the Transportation Service Standards for school year 2014-2015 which are STILL to be update through tomorrow.  I'm sorry but this item has been worked on for months and to still be massaging it at the last minute leaves parents with little time to read and digest it. 

I'm sure the Board will say yes but it is a very sorry mess that they say yes to.

There is a document in the item labelled "Analysis of the impact of moving all school arrival times 10 minutes later as requested by the Board."  I can only kindly say this really is not much of an analysis document but more of a list. 

I also note the Intro item for "Approval of Compensation Bulletin for Management Staff."  What is compelling here is that with no negotiations involved all this staff will receive a 1.5% salary increase in 2014.  (Part of it starts in April with a larger amount in Sept.) 

The rationale here is that they have had no COLA since 2008-2009 (teachers also didn't get COLAs for many years either).  The management staff had salary reductions via furloughs for two years.  Teachers and principals both negotiated salary increases for themselves and so did Local 609.  They also state that "the management staff salary schedule has not increased since the 2008-2009 school year."

This is all true BUT let's go for totally accuracy.  The "schedule" may have not been increased but does that mean that none of this staff got any raises since 2008-2009?  Of course not.  There are documented increases for many management staff for a variety of reasons but is that mentioned or notated here?

It is not. 

This is the kind of agenda that always makes me shake my head and wonder if any of this registers with the Board. 

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

Program Placement Annual Report - is there a copy available for the public?

reader

RED FLAGS! said...


Do you mean this Tom Vander Ark?? The same guy that spends $1.5m investor dollars and walks away??

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/07/15/nyregion/tom-vander-arks-new-york-area-charter-schools-falter.html?pagewanted=all

Do you mean the same Tom Vander Ark that spends his time in Olympia lobbying legislators to buy his goods??

Why would the district put Vander Ark into their proposal????

David said...

Reader, the Program Placement Annual Report is here.

It really is an amazing document. It is a tremendous example of a minimal attempt to comply to the letter rather than the spirit of the policy.

The intent of the policy is that the annual report show how program placement decisions make sense. In particular, it is supposed to describe how program placement decisions made over the last year were efficient, cost-effective, addressed parent and student needs, and yielded better educational outcomes. There is none of that in this document. It isn't even trying to address the spirit of the policy.

It surprises me that the Board lets the Superintendent get away with things like this. At the very minimum, the financial impact of each program change should be listed. At the very minimum.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader, sorry I did not make that link clearer (if you hover over the word Report, the link is there but thanks to David for his).

Yes, Red Flags, that Vander Ark.

The Program Placement Annual Report seems about average to me for staff reports.

You can never tell for certain whether it is written so poorly/minimally as to do as little as possible or ignore the board.

Again, I would not let this go if I were on the Board. Vote this kind of nonsense down a couple of times and you might get better reports.

Jon said...

District administrators want a raise.

The attached document shows district administrators collecting a handsome benefit package, which includes paid snow days, 10 paid holidays, dental insurance etc.

The same individuals recommend that the board cut $3M-$9M from our classrooms.

It is time for six figured administrators to stop drinking from the public trough. Our classrooms are starving and we can not afford any more cuts.

Jon said...


Administrators also want an underfunded educational system to pay 100% medical retiree subsidy. This is just too much to ask. We need dollars for our schools.

http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/school%20board/13-14%20agendas/020514agenda/20140205_CompensationBulletin.pdf

Patrick said...

Just the other day, I was saying to myself what the District really needs is its own Facebook page!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Patrick, very droll and very funny.

Anonymous said...

From the Monday post of the Transportation Service Standards BAR:

Arrival and departure times are moved 10 minutes later for all Tiers.

Four K-8s (JA K-8, Salmon Bay, TOPS and Pathfinder) have been moved from Tier 1 to Tier 2.

OTHER EXCEPTIONS:

1. Jane Addams K-8 students that were enrolled during the 2013-14 school years that reside in the
Jane Addams MS and Eckstein MS Attendance Areas and outside of the John Marshall walk area receive district provided transportation for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

2. Pinehurst K-8 students that were enrolled during the 2013-14 school year that reside in the Jane
Addams MS and Eckstein MS Attendance Areas and outside of the Lincoln walk area receive
district provided transportation for the 2014-15 and 2015-16 school years.

3. TOPS K-8 students that were enrolled during the 2013-14 school year that reside in the Beacon
Hill and Kimball Elementary Attendance Areas will receive district provided transportation for the
2014-15 school year only only.

4. TOPS K-8 will have one (1) express shuttle route in the Hamilton/Whitman MS Attendance Area for students that were enrolled during the 2013-14 school year. This service will be
provided for the 2014-15 school year only.

5. Thornton Creek will have one (1) express shuttle route in the Jane Addams MS Attendance Area
for students that were enrolled during the 2013-14 school year. This service will be provided for
the 2014-15 school year only.


Also, JAMS is still in Tier 1, with Hale in Tier 2.

- North-end Mom

NWCKids Parent said...

Regarding Cascade Parent Partner Program: It has been decided and acted upon that they will be moving to North Queen Anne School, unless the school district (does the right thing and) extends the lease for Northwest Center Kids.

Melissa Westbrook said...

But NWCKids, is that in the report? It is not. That a program placement report doesn't say where the program actually is seems wrong.

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