Monday, February 03, 2014

When/Should the City Step In? You Tell Me

Here are the new Transportation Service "Standards" for 2014-2015.  I can't even read it because it has been hacked up so much.  (I note that elsewhere parents have attempted to figure out what it means.)

In my opinion, it is messy and a hack job that the Board should reject simply on principle. 

(The principle being that parents were pretty much left out of the process, it has been done and redone and JUST submitted, in full, late this afternoon.  Sorry but submitting something less than 48 hours before a Board meeting, something that probably affects - what, 75% of SPS kids - is unacceptable.)

And naturally, the Board will approve it.

Did I mention that there was a Statement of Legislative Intent that the City Council adopted late last year?  It would take the Department of Education and Early Learning out of the Department of Neighborhoods and elevate it to its own department (this put forth by Burgess, no surprise there).  It was proposed and adopted last fall when most of us did not notice (me included). 

But it certainly sets the pace for the City and/or Mayor to have community conversations about the role of the City - excuse me, an increased role for the City - in the operations of our district.

What is that about reaping what you sow?

Maybe it just might be a good idea considering how well the district - logistically - operates. 

I know - be careful what you wish for - but this district is not getting its act together in any coherent or rational manner.   There is no one who can say that this district - in matters of logistics and facilities - is running in any understandable way.  At least not to me and I've been watching a long time.


Karen said...

Be careful what you wish for, yes, that's true. However, every day now pretty much feels like the last straw. It's such hypocrisy. At this point, I wish anyone would take over SPS - even Sarah Palin or Glenn Beck.

Susan said...

How much are the raises and new positions for central admin? Who pays for central admin's 100% paid retiree healthcare? A one-time savings of $3m is a rounding error compared to that. It's a waste of great and keyboard strokes to even suggest the Board vote this down. I hope SPS is taken over and the central admin and Board are dismissed.

Susan said...

I meant a waste of breath.

Anonymous said...

No. My elementary students would get home at 4:45 under this proposal. We are not at the end of the bus line, or even in the second half of it. This is insane.

I realize this might just be screaming into the wind (and I did write the board when I first saw this this afternoon), but this is dangerous and a terrible idea, and won't actually help the adolescents who need it get more sleep.

At the Peaslee meeting she said Bellevue had all option schools on a later tier, and had buses come to hubs to pick up students for them. If they are so desperate to have three tiers, put the k-8's and options schools on tier 3, but the neighborhood schools on tier 2, the reasonable tier, (my kids would be on tier 3, but at least fewer elementary students would be on that dangerous and too late for them tier, and their middle school students would see a great benefit).


Lori said...

I'm not seeing anything new or different in the Transportation attachments yet. The 4th bullet item, the impact of moving all schools 10 minutes later, still goes to the version that was to be voted on on 1/22, which has third tier schools starting at 950AM AND shortens the elementary school day by 10 minutes to facilitate a 4PM bus departure time.

Where are the new documents?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

The action item has a link named "Updated proposed arrival/departure times 2014-2015 (added Feb 3)"

2014-15 bus arrival/departure

It's marked "Draft." What appears to be different is that they have incorporated the 10 min. shift as part of the vote, rather than as a separate amendment.

These times are rotten for the third tier. I can't believe the Board or staff would even put this proposal forward.

-continually dumbfounded

Lori said...

Weird. *Now* the new attachments are there but they weren't when I looked at 929PM! Thanks for the responses.

Anonymous said...

What is needed NOW is a board member to propose an amendment to push the proposal back the 10 minutes that were added. At the budget work session the board was pretty much split with 1/2 at +10, which is the proposal that is being put forth, and 1/2 who believed that the original tiers were okay (7:35,8:25 and 9:15 drop offs). The staff can only propose one option and they picked the +10, but I believe that if there was an amendment to move back to the original tier time proposal, there would be board votes to pass the amendment. This amendment couldn't/wouldn't address which schools were in which tier but would at least deal with the +10 arrival and departure times for tier 3 schools.

~ was there

Anonymous said...

Seriously? Half the board members think this 10 minute shift is okay? It's a big deal to all those third tier schools.

Write your letters now or forever hold your peace.

Here are some talking points:

- Benefits of later starts have not been evaluated for elementary students. It would seem prime morning learning hours are being wasted.
- Third tier elementary students will have more days of afternoon drop-offs in the dark and in higher traffic times.
- Current third tier already gets home significantly later than other elementary students, impacting afterschool opportunities.
-Impacts to working families do not seem to have been considered. An even later start might require more families to arrange morning child care.
- A 10 min shift is likely to be even more for afternoon pick ups as traffic will make it harder for busses to stay on schedule.


Anonymous said...

Also when Peaslee asked for a 10 minute shift that was cost neutral, what she got was 10 minutes to the first tier, and up to 40 minutes later for the third. That's the "mistake" the staff made. Because it is impossible to just shift the start times equally in a cost neutral way because of traffic. To just move them all 10 minutes needs more buses. So we would be spending money for this. Spending money! If we are spending more money, elementary kids need to be starting school before 9:30 in the morning. Reeeeeediculous.

Or we are just accepting that the third tier will absolutely never run on time. But because it's a sort of random collection of elementary schools, not as organized as other groups, they just have to bear this.


Anonymous said...


The changes made to the Transportation Service Standards (exceptions, flipping K-8s from Tier 1 to Tier 2, etc...) were definitely not cost neutral. The "savings" over this year went from $3.4M in the original proposal to $2.9M in the Feb 5th version.

- JAMS-bound

Enough said...

The documents attached to the board agenda does not include the dollar amount for administrative raises.

We are in our SIXTH year of cuts to classrooms. It is time to say NO to classroom cuts and administrative raises.

Patrick said...

Yes, sleeper. I'd still like dependable cost numbers for how much more it would cost to have two tiers instead of three. Are we actually saving any money? How much? With two tiers, both can be at a reasonable time. With three tiers, we have one tier at a reasonable time and two at bad times.

Anonymous said...

I actually find 7:50 to be a perfectly reasonable time too start school, unless you are talking about adolescents. But that's who gets put there.


biliruben said...

I agree that 7:50 isn't terrible for K-5 neighborhood schools, where you are less than 15 minutes from the school.

The option schools are more far-flung, and often have up to a 45 minute bus ride however.

Then you see 5 year olds out an hour before dawn, 6:30am in some cases, on sidewalk-less arterials. These kids need between 11-12 hours sleep, so they need to go to bed at 6:30 to make that work. That's absurd, if you have 2 working parents. You now have no time for dinner or homework.

Anonymous said...

Repost from my putting on wrong thread:

Do parents realize how many kids will now be arriving at home AFTER 5 P.M.? There has been NO NOTICE to this community.

This is about as bad communication as I have seen out of SPS. And I have seen BAD in the past years. Dismal. Abysmal. Unexcusable.

Aside from the communication the 3tier plan is an unworkable mess. And joke. No notice of where savings are happening. No admission that buses in the 3rd tier will NEVER be on time in afternoon traffic. Nor should little kids in Tier One be on buses long before dawn. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.

And that's all before switching high school times later in the next year or two. That will upend everything again. Dumb. Dumb. Dumb.


Anonymous said...

This plan does not affect me that much one way or the other. Our family can make it work no matter what they throw at us. But it's a bad plan. No elementary school kid should be getting off a bus at 5 p.m. No elementary school kid should be standing at a dark bus stop at 6:30 a.m. I worry that the bad communication was intentional. They hope to pass this through on whoever doesn't know about it yet before they can find out. And why do this now and then study the High School issue? That's crazy! How do you save money by doing things piecemeal rather than looking at the big picture? For a one time savings you need to get the most bang for your buck! In order to avoid the "this time is bad for my kid, give it to someone else" phenomena is there a way we can organize ALL the school communities to reject this 3 tier plan and push for them to wait until High School is looked at to redo the transportation plan?

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

I have a child at APP- the longest bus rides in the city. I am very well aware of when they would have to get on the bus. I don't find a bus route starting at 6:30 unconscionable, nor do I find it nearly as likely or common as coming home after 5 would be for the tier 3 students. I hear you that it could be difficult for a couple kids, but the current schedule is not just difficult but dangerous for many, many, many more. Traffic is almost nonexistent at that early hour, so not only is it much, much safer for kids to be out on the curb- probably safer than at 9 am, even if it is lighter- the buses run very fast. A thirty minute route at that hour will take ninety minutes between 4 and 5:30 in the afternoon.

Plus with a 7:50 start time, many if not most parents could actually drop their kids off at school, unlike a 4 pm end time, which is still during working hours, so more kids have to ride the bus. I would love for my APP or option school child to start school at 7:50, seriously. I signed a petition asking for it. As did something like 25% of the TC parents on 2 days notice. I bet if you had to deal with tier 3 for a while, tier 1 would suddenly seem a lot more palatable.


Anonymous said...

I think tier 3 is bad. I am OK with whatever they give me. My kids are not tiny. My work is somewhat flexible. I can make it work. If I have to drive them myself, I will. My concern is that the whole idea is bad and affects way too many kids (not mine, no matter what they do, mine will be OK). Leave things alone and make changes only after looking at the whole big picture, including the High School piece.

Gen Ed Mom

Lynn said...

I gathered some information from the district's financial statements and budgets (found here.)

2010-11 Costs $32.366M Revenue $18.045M
2011-12 Costs $31.409M Revenue $18.593M
2012-13 Costs $31.602M Revenue $19.265M

Current Year Budget: Costs $32.432 Revenue $23.743

The district expects that eventually (under McCleary) the state will cover 90% of these costs. Over the last few years, we haven't cut costs, but have prevented cost increases while enrollment and revenue rise.

I too would like to see the cost of moving to a two-tier system. Won't moving all the high schools to the same sports league make this easier?

I think one thing they're trying to do with the schedule is improve the on-time performance. Is it possible that the third tier 4:00 departures reflect the time the buses generally arrive now? (I hear they're often late.)

Joe Wolf said...

From the post:

"There is no one who can say that this district - in matters of logistics and facilities - is running in any understandable way."

Really, Melissa? Well about 73% of the folks who voted to approve BEX IV might have a different opinion on the facilties part.

Joe Wolf said...

From the post:

"There is no one who can say that this district - in matters of logistics and facilities - is running in any understandable way."

Really, Melissa? Well about 73% of the folks who voted to approve BEX IV might have a different opinion on the facilties part.

Robyn said...

Joe Wolf,

I don't think the levy passing gives the support for the district that you claim it does. I voted for the levy since my kids are already feeling enough pain in this pathetically run district. So, count me as 1 and my husband as 2 who voted for the levy, but agree with Melissa's comment 110%.

They don't act on parents' wishes saying they owe it to the community to get feedback for *years*. Then, they don't act on that feedback. They don't listen to ANYTHING said by the committees they form. Who on earth would sign up for one given what happened with the November board meeting? The entire FACMAC was ignored and crazy things were shoved through last minute. Now, a day before a vote, they are putting out another crazy set of transportation recommendations without community input.

You are flat out wrong about the levy equally support for the way the district is run

Anonymous said...

I meant equaling support not equally. Doh.

Anonymous said...

Joe Wolf,

My kids used to go to Private School and I always voted for Education Levies on principal. The BEX IV was passed the first year my kids were in SPS and I voted for it with grave reservations about whether the money would be spent wisely after all the years of mismanagement of public funds. People in Seattle support public education but we also need to see our money being spent in a cost effective manner and the kids put first.

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

Sorry, GeM, was talking to bilirubin. I only want to make the point hat tier 2 is worse than tier 1 because the district is considering improving tier 1 start times and making tier 3 worse, and I think they have their priorities wrong.

Another point- tier 1 option schools often have up to a 45 minute bus ride (putting the kids out there at 6:50, not 6:30). Tier 3 option schools often have up to an hour and 15 minute bus ride. Every afternoon. My early part of the bus route, centrally located child, has a 45 minute bus ride every single day. Most of that is spent in traffic. The scheduled bus arrival time is just 31 minutes after schools gets out, but it has not even one time come within 10 minutes of that time. This is true of most of the buses I know about at that school. The later these times are, the more ridiculous this gets.


Dora said...

Burgess is looking to usurp the school board and supe by going behind the scenes to have mayoral/city control over Seattle public schools.

It's much easier to get charter schools into our city that way and anything else they/Gates so desire.

That's how it happened in Los Angeles with now two LA mayors and Eli Broad. Broad basically runs the LAUSD by way of political contributions.

You do not want to have that.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Joe, I think you may have mistaken that vote.

Most people know the sad condition of our school buildings. If you live near one you see it, if you don't, your hear about it. The district does a very good job in portraying that to voters.

That does NOT necessarily translate to voters believing that the facilities are being built with savings in mind nor are being maintained. We all know they are not being maintained and haven been for decades.

Also, I used the word "understandable." That's a key to what I'm stating. There is not coherency in what is being done and if I and others like Kellie LaRue and Gail Herman (those two REALLY keep up) don't get it, them most other people won't either.

Anonymous said...

Tier 2= tier 3 in that first sentence there. Gah.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Dora, that leaves us between a rock and hard place.

I am tired of waiting and watching (and supporting) Board after Board and superintendent after superintendent and seeing the needle on operations barely move.

We will NEVER move ahead as a district academically if things continue this way.

Anonymous said...

So, what does it take to get the city to oversee or take over SPS? For the last (?) decade it seems the district has proven itself ill-equipped for the task. The constant changes and crises, lack of any sort of coherent strategic planning, the wasted efforts of the countless community meetings and task forces, the lack of oversight and fraudulent activity. Think of the time and tax dollars and human cost of all of this. Our kids in the classrooms are the one suffering because of the seemingly infinite ineptitude of SPS. How can they even take a petition that reasonably advocates for a later start time for MS and HS student and turn out a transportation plan that results in unreasonably early or late starts for ELEMENTARY kids and does nothing meaningful to address the MS/HS times. Why do the bus times and routes and stops have to change every single year!!!
This is the largest school district in the region and it seems to be run by folks who would struggle to manage the one-room school house in Little House on the Prairie.
Seriously though, in what circumstances would a city-takeover happen? Can the community petition the city to step in? Arewe stuck with the status quo? What would the implications of that be (pros and cons). Could it be any worse? Or are we stuck with the status quo?


Anonymous said...

Ultimately, the issue with bussing for SPS comes down to having only a single carrier. The district, in a "cost savings" move got rid of the 2nd carrier (Durham). Now, there is just no way the remaining carrier can have enough drivers/buses to cover all the regular AND special transports (after school activities, sports etc).

Do you think buses (and competent drivers) grow on trees? Nope costs $$$$$$ - so if the district wants to balance it's budget on the backs of transporting your kids, then this is what you get- 3 unworkable tiers. BTW there are many transportation line staffers who tried to unsuccessfully convince management that 3 tiers was always unworkable. They all know that it can't be done to the satisfaction of families. But management dances to a different drum major.

Also - did anyone else happen to see the KIRO piece that the bus company is considering a STRIKE?? if you think 3 tiers is bad - wait till there are "replacement drivers" from out of state - whoooeeee


Anonymous said...

The Kiro story

Possible school bus strike could disrupt thousands


biliruben said...

You may be right, Sleeper. Tier 3 might be worse. I haven't had to deal with that, and could see it being a nightmare in some congested parts of the city.

It is, however, light out at 4:30-5pm except for a few weeks, mostly over break.

It's is pitch black before 7 from late September until nearly April. 6 months out of 9.

And unfortunately we don't stand "curbside" up here. You need sidewalks for that. We stand in a puddle next to 40 mph traffic zipping by a few feet away. It's terror-inducing thinking about the semi-conscious drivers who are speeding to work who can't even see us to avoid us, even if they were awake or aware.

I won't even go into the quarter-mile walk along narrow, semi-lit sidewalk-less roads to get to the bus stop.

So it all sucks. I really don't see how anyone would request Tier 1. Grass is always greener, I guess.

Personally,I think we should fire 25% of the almost 200 staff that are making more 100K, and problem solved. The focus should be and "management" who are responsible for this fiasco.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mutiny, good questions.

It would take an act of the legislature but yes, they could do it just for Seattle (and we know how the Legislature loves Seattle).

Both McGinn and Murray stated to me almost identical replies about more involvement by the City over the district.

Each said that HE personally had no plan but that he would welcome a community conversation to see what parents and voters thought about the direction of our school district and whether the City could help and/or do it better.

As Dora point out, there are those in other cities who had their districts taken over by mayors who then try to act as dictators (trying to select School Board directors, etc.). I do NOT support that.

But operations? That I could support. Let the district do the academics and the Board oversee them with a Board selected superintendent (heck, I don't even care if the mayor would get a vote). We need district-specific elected oversight.

BUT it really feel for parents with this kind of piecemeal, unclear and late to the party kind of work from district staff.

That this goes on for years and years is troubling.

Anonymous said...

Staff included on the analysis they did at Peaslee's request sunrise and sunset time charts for Seatte. 8 and 4 are the latest and earliest. They are there for equal amounts of time during the year, and dawn and twilight one hour earlier and later. So that hardship, amount of darkness, is identical. The difference is in the afternoon there is also rush hour traffic, and many many more children will be later than 5(more dangerous than before 7 pick up), than would be picked up before 7, both in theoretical schedule and in practice, because traffic does not just affect a few parts of the city. All buses at all schools use arterials, and 99.99% of streets see more traffic during rush hour.

I went to work at 6:45 am for years. It's much safer to be out there than at 5 pm, and is not darker. I do have sidewalks, but I am also concerned about the number of street crossings little kids are going to make with the new mile walk to bus stops, especially now that they will be making them in the dark, in heavy rush hour traffic. I volunteer in the south end and am aware that street lighting is a big problem for some of those areas. This is NOT safe for them. Those kids already have to put up with enough crap from the district.

I would be very happy to see some of central admin cut, though, especially the layers of bosses between principals and superintendent. And frankly this attempt at cost savings seems ridiculous to me- it is a one time thing, and means we will have less money available next year, therefore costing us that money in 2015. Our district has grown, especially in the younger grades, who need more transportation. It is perfectly appropriate to be spending more on buses.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Sleeper, that was analysis? There's one work for it.

And yes, the City should be doing more for student safety like sidewalks and street lighting.

Mark Ahlness said...

I'm with Dora on mayoral/city control - no thanks. Look at LA, Emanuel in Chicago, Bloomberg in NYC, Cami Anderson in Newark.... the list could go on. Anybody really want to take a long shot chance at one individual fixing it all?

Every time we give up even a little piece of our democracy, - as in an elected school board - we lose.

I know it's frustrating, waiting for democracy to work, but it does, and it will.

The face of our school board has changed significantly in the past few years, in a good direction, as far as I'm concerned.

Changing the SPS machine will take longer. I worked for it for 29 years, and I understand its entrenched bureaucracy pretty well.

So I say let the new Board get their legs under them, keep up the strong public voices here and elsewhere, and trust in a system where decisions are made by a group more closely responsive and responsible to its constituents.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

I think they mean for most parents at tier 3 schools. Most parents don't read school board meeting agendas. The schools district is supposed to provide other forms of notice besides attachments to school board agendas for changes coming with such big effects on families.

Have you ever read the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy? That argument reminds me a little of the opening scene.


Charlie Mas said...

Joe Wolf is pretty new to the District, but let's talk about what the BEX IV vote meant about the public's confidence in the District's facility management.

BEX IV pays to completely reverse a number of decisions made by the District.

The decision to close Meany as a middle school.
The decision to close Mann and move NOVA to Meany
The decison to move The World School to Meany
The decision to put a K-8 in the Jane Addams building.
The decision to close Fairmount Park
The decision to close Genesee Hill

The approval of BEX IV was a public statement that all of these facilities decisions by the district were bad decisions that needed to be reversed.

Charlie Mas said...

Joe Wolf is pretty new to the District, but let's talk about what the BEX IV vote meant about the public's confidence in the District's facility management.

BEX IV pays to completely reverse a number of decisions made by the District.

The decision to close Meany as a middle school.
The decision to close Mann and move NOVA to Meany
The decison to move The World School to Meany
The decision to put a K-8 in the Jane Addams building.
The decision to close Fairmount Park
The decision to close Genesee Hill

The approval of BEX IV was a public statement that all of these facilities decisions by the district were bad decisions that needed to be reversed.

biliruben said...

Sleeper - That makes no sense.

Can you link to the analysis?

Unless I'm missing something, it's simple subtraction, not analysis.

And when you subtract, it's very clearly going to be darker for tier 1 in the am then tier 3 at night.

Just step outside this afternoon and tomorrow morning. But that's not analysis either.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Mark, I have not worked for the district but I have seen superintendents come and go and Boards and tried to elect people who I believed would bring change.

I'm almost done with that thought. So unless someone rights this leaning tanker, I'm good with a community discussion about the role of the City in running the district.

Anonymous said...

I think you're not comparing apples to apples, biliruben, which is why the analysis doesn't make sense to you. 4:30 is 1/2 hour after buses leave under the proposed plan. 1/2 hour before buses arrive at tier one schools (proposed) is 7:20. Bus ride times in the afternoon are also significantly longer, so many more kids are affected by being in the dark(and let me reiterate that the dark is not a significant problem compared to kids walking in rush hour traffic in that same dark). The 6:30 child in your example is a huge outlier. 5:15 in mine will be pretty typical.


Jan said...

When/Should the City step in? Never! Flat out never!

Why do we think that the mayor and the City Council (who are already busy with streets, crime, neighborhood vs. downtown issues, zoning), etc. have the time, expertise or inclination to run the schools well.

Want to see downtown get a school not because of where they are on a "need" list, but because it gets thrown in as a bargaining chip to get downtown developers to accept less height, or more zoning restrictions?

Want to see your kids' transportation problems folded in with any number of other transportation issues (potholes, bikes, port truck traffic)?

In a showdown with a big advertiser who is being told that they cannot have huge billboards where they wanted them, want to see advertising in schools tossed to them as a sop to forestall litigation on the billboard issue?

Want to see even LESS influence by people who are true educators -- and more by people who are only bureaucrats, or who are primarily politicians?

Am I wrong? Is there one single district out there with problems like ours (incompetent downtown school staff, a superintendent who either cannot see it or who is ineffectual to change it, and a board that won't hold his feet to the fire (since he is, as the ST reminds us, the only employee they directly control)) that has improved when the the mayor and the city council took it over? Does anyone know of one? I am not talking here about districts that are mired in financial disaster or corruption. Does anyone know of a district with our issues that solved them by giving up control to a more distant, less accountable body?

The board needs to refuse to accept reports, recommendations, etc. that do not conform to written and adopted policy. And then their employee, Mr. Banda, needs to go back to HIS employees, the staff, and demand that they redo the work to an acceptable standard, or they will be fired. Maybe some of them are incompetent. I would guess that others are probably capable of performing to acceptable standards. They just haven't had to for so long that they have forgotten how to bother to try.

Many of our problems today came from believing that somehow public education was in such a bad way that we needed President Bush (and NCLB) to step in and do what local schools were not. Fail! Flat out fail!! The solution to bad management at the school district level is to manage the da@$# thing better! Not to kick it upstairs to a bigger, less interested, and less accountable entity.

Anonymous said...


Thanks! You made me laugh!

A particular K8 lobbied to get bell times shifted down for all schools by ten minutes when they thought they were going to have tier 1 WHILE they were also lobbying to get their school moved to tier 2, because it was a more convenient tier for them (duh!).

Guess what, looks like they'll get tier 2. But, their first ask also is going to have traction.

What about the 51,000 other kids? Too bad.

If this board does this 10 minute shift (and no way is it really going to be 10 minutes when you are at the bottom tier -- hello rush hour traffic), then my belief in their ability to get any good thing done in a reasonable, rational way is totally shot. Seriously, how could these folks make any thoughtful policy decisions?

Is this one of their classic "bait and switch" deals? Like they just did with Eckstein/APP/Wedgwood??? Give the public last-minute ill-conceived plans and then pass something else?

The chaos will be exhausting. How will the 3rd tier start times affect the most vulnerable students, struggling students in Title 1 schools? Did anyone from Transportation, Operations, or the Board ask the principals from those schools to explain the impact on student learning and student achievement?



Melissa Westbrook said...

Jan, the City knows facilities and I can't believe they wouldn't do a better job.

Okay, then, how to get the Board to do the right thing? I'm open for suggestion.

One suggestion is to get everyone's attention. The best way?

Opt-out of testing. That will get attention to the concerns of parents like nothing else.

But the PTA doesn't care, clearly other parent groups don't care, LEV doesn't, so who will do it but parents?

Ah, but whenever you ask parents in this district to do something that will be even slightly aggressive, they back down.

And we continue with a passive Board that gets bogged down by a less-than-truthful senior staff.

What would you do? Because I've seen this go on now for more than a decade.

What would you do?

Anonymous said...

I I don't know. You tell us what to do. Should we organize a mass opt of of testing in protest if these recent poorly thought out decisions passed by the board? Should we demand they hold the administrative offices accountable for cutting costs in a place where it does not affect our kids and their learning (like maybe start with laying off staff in the administrative offices and taking pay cuts)? Can we get someone to write something up and figure out a way to take this to parents at a grassroots level? Would that get the board's attention?

Gen Ed Mom

Anonymous said...

protest of


Anonymous said...


Great post. It is so depressing that the Board can't seem to figure out that when they get hundreds of emails from one school's "call to action" that they should reach out to other affected schools first, before making their broad-sweeping "asks" to SPS Staff.

Future JAMS parents have lobbied hard for a bus schedule that will maximize the opportunity for collaboration between JAMS and Nathan Hale HS. It has been like we are up against a brick wall.

We have been told it couldn't be done, because it would require additional buses and is not "cost-neutral"...then they post the latest revised standards, with revisions that apparently total up to $500K.

I guess they think that they can just assign a bunch of kids to JAMS and the capacity problem is solved.

For our family, Kellogg Middle School, just across 145th in Shoreline, with a start time of 8:30 AM is starting to look like a good "option." We are so tired of being jerked around by SPS.

- JR Mom

Lori said...

It's not just future JAMS parents that lobbied. Both principals requested a better aligned time so that they can share resources, which is a completely reasonable request to ensure that JAMS get off to as good a start as possible.

I'm concerned at the message this sends to JAMS families. The district apparently said that aligning those schools' times to within 15 minutes or so is not cost-neutral and cannot be done. Yet, the latest proposal increases costs by about $500K relative to last month's proposal. So they are prioritizing starting a few K-8s at a later time over starting JAMS at a later time. OK then. They've made their priorities clear.

But this gives me pause about sending my child to JAMS next year because I've lost trust in the district. We keep hearing how important it is to start JAMS right, how there will be mitigation funds, how everyone will be looking to JAMS as the model for opening future middle schools. Planning for success means capitalizing on synergies such as being able to share staff with Nathan Hale if needed. Planning for success means drawing families in with an attractive start time and easing the burden on the kids who have to leave Eckstein and Hamilton, through no fault of their own, by at least giving them something desirable, like a little more sleep.

I'm really concerned all this talk that the resources are there for JAMS is hollow. Here's their first test of whether or not they intend to support the school, and they are failing. The district surely knowns that a lot of us have lost faith over the last many years given what we've been through with the capacity crisis and dire financial times. They are asking us to trust them to make JAMS work well, but every short-sighted decision like reinforces about my skepticism about whether or not they truly have sufficient resources to do right by our kids.

Anonymous said...

In response to the alignment of bell times:

I respectfully disagree that JAMS should get some special start time simply because they are a new school. Shouldn't the primary concern be that the academics are solid and they hire competent staff? I want dollars going to the classroom - texts, teachers, etc. - and not spent on transportation just because it would be "nice" to sleep later. Guess what? Most middle school students would probably like to sleep later, but having just one school with a different start really does have unintended consequences such as higher transportation costs, misalignment of afterschool activities, and perhaps resentment and perceptions of special treatment.

As far as alignment of Hale and JAMS - that could be done if Hale had a similar 7:50am start. If it's that important, then Hale would need to give up it's late start. It sounds as though Hale wants it both ways with a late start and alignment with JAMS, but the district can't do both without added cost.


Anonymous said...

Gah! Does anyone care about the big picture and not just about how this affects your kid?

Gen Ed Mom

Lori said...

2cents, the concern is about more than transportation. It *is* about staffing, as I understand it.

As a new school, JAMS might not have sufficient numbers to support all the teachers other schools have, so sharing teaching resources with Hale is one way to create some synergy. But as I understand it, you can't get both school's master schedules to work if they start nearly an hour apart.

I wouldn't have jumped on this bandwagon if the principals weren't in favor of it. So, no, it's not about people just looking out for their own kid. It's supporting something that 2 school's principals believe will allow them to be successful.

Anonymous said...


OF COURSE the primary concern for JAMS is that the academics are solid, and they hire the best possible instructors. We are fortunate to have a superb principal and she is working diligently to hire high-quality staff, and I am confident that under her leadership the academics will be extremely solid.

JAMS is uniquely challenged. Due to the way in which the Board voted to implement JAMS, the school is taking on students who are continuing in as many as four World Languages (Spanish, French, Japanese and Mandarin). Most comprehensive middle schools can only afford to support 2, and at most 3 World Languages. JAMS will also have to accommodate students requiring high school-level instruction in Math, as well as students continuing in advanced Music. These are big ticket items that will have to come out of an as yet unknown budget allocation (we've heard that first year enrollment will be anywhere from 600-900 students).

Aligning the bell times between JAMS and Hale will support the sharing of instructors between the two schools, so that a high quality of instruction can be achieved while saving precious budget allocations. It also allows for Hale students to mentor after-school activities at JAMS, such as robotics, yearbook, etc...

And yes, there is the convenience to local families of their high school students and middle school students being able to walk to and from school together, as is currently taking place for families who have students enrolled at both Jane Addams K-8 and Hale (the start times are 10 minutes apart).

Hale has fought hard for their late start. I personally feel that they have earned it and have shown that the late start benefits their student population. I wouldn't dream of advocating for aligned start times between JAMS and Hale if it meant Hale's was set earlier than it is currently.

There is such a great opportunity here...the momentum of a community coming together to help plan its new middle school, and two principals who are willing to work together to create a solid educationally-focused partnership. In my opinion, it would be absolutely foolish for SPS and the School Board to not support maximizing the opportunity for JAMS and Hale collaboration.

- North-end Mom

Jan said...

Melissa: ah, the "put your money where your mouth is" question. I am not sure I have a great answer, but here are my thoughts.

1. It is critical (for me, at least) to think very critically about what the issues are. There was a time when it seemed to me that we just had problems with entrenched bureaucrats (and a lack of competence, from peter principle advancement) downtown. That took me from Kendrick through Manhas. And then -- all hell broke loose.
A. We hit a recession which has been a disaster for public funding.
B. We hit the ed reform movement, which has been a disaster all around (wrong or misguided goals, leading to squandered money, time, and energy -- and a real sense of peril that pulled a lot of attention and effort out of governance, to a "man the barricades" effort to keep from losing public education altogether). It is not entirely over, but as you note in your charter article, some of the bad results of flawed thinking are starting to become glaringly obvious. Even Bill Gates now wants to "work with teachers" rather than just blame them for everything and fire them in favor of TFA. Most notably -- while many of us (not you, but certainly me, dozed -- assuming that elections were going on as usual), the ed reform monied crowd financed several successful elections here -- leaving us with either a terrible board (the one that voted for the MGJ closures) or a divided one (the ones that have followed.
C. The Board hired MJG, leading to a plethora of truly horrible decisions that will haunt us for decades (not only are we still paying to "undo" the school closing fiasco -- but all the things we COULD have done with that time and money -- but didn't -- are things that plague us now. And the same is true of math adoption in the MGJ era, course standardization, etc. In addition, there were governance policies that resulted in the loss of some tremendous teachers, -- well, I'll stop, as you know all this (in fact, your reporting is what outed much of it).
D. And finally, to cap it all, we have seen truly explosive growth in enrollment (particularly north end) -- growth that would have taxed even a good board, one that did not have to deal with the effects of a recession, cleanup from the MGJ era, and the need to maintain a constant vigilance against corporate education.


Jan said...

So while I agree with you -- I have been seeing bad decision-making for more than 10 years, I also think that the past 7 have been different. They need to be judged by different standards. What this district has seen, and this blog has chronicled, over the past 7 to 8 years is qualitatively different from the level of dysfunction (and its causes) in the 10 years or so before that.

I am happy to push test boycotts (though I think they are most effective when used for issues that are more related to testing -- use of MAP scores to evaluate teachers, requirements for MAP tests at all, etc.) But if that is the only weapon we have -- I am game.

It seems to me, though, that what we really need is more effort aimed at getting the board to be a better board. Maybe it is just a matter of getting a group of people, with a consistent governance message (as opposed to complaints about school-level issues) to go to the weekend meetings and try to get individual board members to talk about the kinds of issues that you and Charlie raise:
1. Willingness of the board to refuse to approve documents or reports from staff (or from Mr. Banda) that clearly do not meet policy requirements;
2. Failure by someone (the Board? Mr. Banda?) to plan ahead sufficiently so that drafts of things like transportation policies get circulated in time for an orderly process (so we stop doing the "oh well, it's bad but we are out of time -- so we will just have to go with it this year and try to fix it next year" thing.)
There was a time when it seemed to me that much of the Board was hopeless. At present, I only think that ONE remaining board member is truly unreachable and impossible to persuade.

Maybe we need to put together a group of 15 or 20 adults -- all on the same page as far as process, management-type issues, are concerned (irrespective of outcome), and see if we can't get a consistent conversation going with board members to push for better management.

Then -- the question becomes -- how can we reach Mr. Banda. I must say -- while I know a little about being on boards, I really don't have any experience in management (of the kind that Mr. Banda does). My inclination is to fire a whole bunch of people who come up with reports like the one that Charlie recently critiqued. But maybe that is vastly oversimplistic. But there has to be some way to publicly advocate for better analysis/decision-making by SSD staff (both in terms of substance, and in terms of process).