Sunday, March 09, 2014

Board Meeting/Retreat Wrap-up

I reported previously on the discussion of the issue of NW Center and Cascade as discussed at the Board meeting on Wednesday, March 5th.  That, along with later start time advocates, was the bulk of public testimony.  I note that it seems that a call seems to have gone out that at every Board meeting, there needs to be two non-profit groups working with Seattle schools that come and tell the Board how much they need student data and how careful they are with it.  They also come with an "example."  There were two people at the Board meeting that night.

I think I mentioned previously how one of these providers came to a meeting and practically outed a middle school student (with a lot of personal description about the student).  

Coincidentally, the district is having a Work Session on how they take care of student data just this coming Wednesday but I'll write separately on that.  I'll just say this the district does NOT have everything in place that they should, they are being disingenuous about what they are telling the Board and I, for one, am not waiting for the district to get this right. 

It was mentioned that at least one Director and three staff attended a meeting in D.C. with Secretary Duncan.  Did that many people have to go?  I always wonder about these things when the district says there is no money.

The Board easily passed the raise for the non-contracted staff at JSCEE.  I think it quite droll of Director Martin-Morris to say a 1.5% raise is a help in "retention" while schools are being asked to make cuts in their staffing.

There was quite the interesting back and forth between Eric Becker (BEX) and Director Carr over an increase in payment to the Wilson-Pacific architect contract for nearly $500K.  I had pointed out in my testimony that it was not clear at all in the Board Action Report why this was happening.  If you want to watch this tortured conversation with Becker and Carr, it's probably around the hour and a half point into the Board meeting.

I won't write up the whole thing but:
- Carr asked Herndon, Becker AND Pegi McEvoy about this issue and guess what?  Carr, a high-level manager at Boeing for many years, was unable to get a clear answer from one of them.  Being unclear isn't Carr's way so you have wonder why these three people could not answer her questions.
- What was odd is that no one on the Board questioned the escalation of the costs of this budget which, in turn, triggered the increase request from the architects. 
- Carr asked, repeatedly, if this was a one-time incident or could it happen again.  Becker said it was fair to say this was an "odd event." 
- She then asked, again and again, why there was no escalation built into the budget for the architect contract.  Becker then pulled out the most useful answer that all new SPS people use - "I wasn't here when that happened."  But really, that was not a question specific to this budget - she was asking him - as a capital professional - why that was.  He seemed to miss that.

After a few minutes of this, Carr stated that she could not get a clear explanation and would not be voting yes for this item.  When she said she worried over this happening again, she asked how they could prevent it.  There was quite a long pause from Mr. Becker.  She said the district needed to be "crisp and clear" about when something is "an unacceptable overrun" versus an unanticipated cost. 

She asked the Board to table this item (and given there were two Board members missing, not a bad idea).  The Board agreed to this.

I find it astonishing that the Board has not been given some kind of "crisp and clear" playbook on capital building.  But again, the district plays fast and loose with the capital dollars and explanations about the spending so this does not surprise me.

Board Retreat

This was the first non-Alliance retreat in a long time.  I was there for the morning and I have to say that the room was large and comfortable.  The district saved money by everyone bringing their own lunches (there was coffee and HR director, Paul Apostle, brought donuts).   All the directors were in attendance but several staff filled in for staff that was absent (Communications, Teaching & Learning, Technology).  Here is the presentation.


Deputy Superintendent Charles Wright started by asking the table to go around and say what their expectation was for the retreat.  Director Martin-Morris, clearly unhappy, laid it out there.  He said it looked like an extended Work Session, not a retreat and that he didn't appreciate coming here on a Saturday.  He said, "I have no expectations."  I don't know exactly why he said that, given the agenda.  Maybe he was unhappy the retreat was not directed by the Alliance.  But it certainly was not a particularly helpful or collegial tone.  (Carr also said it seemed more like a Work Session but in much better language.)

President Peaslee said she that she would welcome input on the next retreats.  She also laid out the need to talk about later start times.  She, along with Peters and Patu, mentioned the later start issue and the volume of public push they had received.

Mr. Wright said that it was a struggle to know where to start with priorities given the volume of work to be done.  He said that he wanted the Board to know that what was being presented was NOT all the work being done but a summary list.  He said a number of staff were "exhausted" and people were either leaving or "saying uncle."  He basically was saying they could do a lot of things but not all at once.

It seems that a consulting group did some work for the district on part of the presentation around Operations and Planning.  (More on this later.) 

One issue - that just seemed silly but was a bother the whole time - was that the presentation was projected on the wall but it washed out and you could not see the color.  The hard-copy presentation was not in color and the issue was that different work in the graphs got a notation of where the work was by color.  Red for not far enough ahead, yellow for getting there, green for good to go.  

I was just mystified by how this little detail got by staff for the presentation. Why not use symbols instead of colors?  I note there were many more yellows than greens.

Director Peters wanted to make sure that she understood that some work might have a yellow dot because it was start-up work but once it was fully launched, then it would go to green and "the complexity goes down."  Staff agreed with that.

Mr. Wright said they were very behind on the Strategic Plan. 

City and community partnerships were mentioned and it said that many of those in that category said there were challenges working with SPS.  This is not new news.

Mr. Tolley said for the Project Management Rollout that the district was talking to UW and Boeing about pro bono work to help improve this process. 

Martin-Morris asked that if something is red, that his next question is "Where is your 'go to green plan'?"

There was also an item for the Powerschool implementation which is the student information system the district uses.  A bell rang in my head when I heard that name and now I remember why.  North Carolina is having terrible problems with this system created by edu-giant, Pearson.

A new state computer system for keeping track of student information has so many problems that the accuracy of transcripts, athletic eligibility and the number of students enrolled in schools is uncertain.

State education officials and Pearson Inc., the company that owns the PowerSchool system, say they’re working hard to resolve the running list of software problems that have affected schools across North Carolina. Both groups say the system is improving, but schools say they are still experiencing problems such as the inability to tell students their current grade-point average or their current class rank.

Hope that doesn't happen here.

I'm going to stop here and say that when I looked at this presentation and all the work, I wondered, "This is really the most important things to be doing in a district that does not even functionally run well?"  One is example is something I reported on a long time ago as a possibility and sure enough, it's now part of SPS.  It's the Urban Schools Human Capital Academy.   I honestly get that HR is important and being able to find and retain the best employees is key but how many of these initiatives is SPS signing up for?  Where is the stopping point for new initiatives (and how much are they costing the district in time and resources)?

Given that the district says cuts must now come to our schools, I really wonder about how all the money is being spent.

Clover Codd reported that the district received about $1M in RTTT money and should be getting that for five years.  Part of the money is for free SAT tests for high school students (I don't know how many students that means).

She said that with the Seattle Teacher Residency program, the district is expected by its partners to ramp up by years 4-5 to 50%.  She said something I didn't understand which was "several political people who made this come to be" have been working on it for some time.  She said they have to find the resources to fund it. 

The district signed off on a program that they will be responsible for 50% of its costs and have no idea how to fund those costs.

It was reported that the district would likely be getting a new (sigh) Chief Technology person but still can't find a demographer.  They have also hired a new manager for Family Support.

I did find it interesting that a couple of Board members had to ask Finance head, Ken Gotsch, about how he could know about the flow of money and costs five years out.  He explained about forecasting and how widely it is used....everywhere.  Betty Patu asked about if they were building in money to support the costs of IB and STEM programs.  (Betty, SPS doesn't do that.  They create new programs and never back them up with district dollars.)  Mr. Gotsch said he hadn't thought about that but "it could be."

Pegi McEvoy talked about the district's work around disproportionality and discipline as well as emergency management.  Director Martin-Morris said SPD was working on use of force and couldn't the district piggyback off SPD's work.  Ms. McEvoy said that SPD was using a different kind of training than the one SPD uses.

About Transportation, McEvoy was filling in for them. Director Carr asked why there was green dot for Transportation with so many issues.  McEvoy said no, everything was not in place but "Bob has a plan and it is proceeding."  Carr pressed on and said that her sense was that when the district did the NSAP, they started with a blank sheet and wished they could do that with Transportation so they could see all the complexities. 

It was funny to hear the exchange between Carr and HR's Apostle.  She asked why are teachers leaving the district and he said he was directing staff to ask.  (Just like Enrollment never asks why students are leaving the district.)

Facilities head Flip Herndon continues to be on-point by noting that they need to analyze the supply and demand for space in the district, coming class size reduction requirements by the State and the impacts of need for Pre-K space. (For some reason, some on the City Council do not believe/understand that SPS is packed and will not have hardly any space for the Pre-K initiative that is Councilman Burgess' marquee event.  That will make for some interesting discussions.)

Herndon said we need to plan BEX projects and "not create additional maintenance backlog."  They don't want to keep modifying buildings because of program placement changes.

Peters said that they needed to think further out because, for example, McClure will be full and Queen Anne Elementary would like to be a K-8.  (My reply?  No more K-8s for now.)  Carr said she kept hearing from the Seattle legislative delegation that they need more forecasting into 2018-2023.

Herndon said, "We will need space beyond what we currently own."

Then there was another interesting thing said by Mr. Wright.  He said the staff had been looking at the volume of e-mails they get from the Board and the principals.  He said the Board had 140 e-mails over the last six months, with 140 easy questions and 60 with more involved questions.

He said the principals had sent 5,000 e-mails.  He said that it was a difficult issue to handle.  He also said they had a culture where it was "not safe to say it's red."  I assume that means that work is way behind.  He said that they are developing a principal customer satisfaction feedback loop.

My question would be, if the Executive Directors were really that helpful to principals and/or there was information available online or in district info sent to the principals, why are there so many e-mails? 

Analysis:

The Good:
This is one of the most cohesive groups of top staff I have seen in a long time.  They genuinely seem to like and respect each other.  I think the Superintendent deserves credit for pulling them all together.

The staff is acknowledging that they are overwhelmed by the volume of work.  It's good to say that out loud.

While I do not think I like the direction the district is going, I do believe that the Superintendent and Charles Wright are making a good faith effort to gather the reins and get this wagon train in line.  I believe Mr. Wright sees the issues very clearly and, that he is actually communicating this, is a good thing.  He is being realistic and that's also a good thing.
 
The Bad
We have a headquarters that does not run well functionally.  I fear people are siloing themselves again.

The volume of work and, in some place, a tsunami of work, is beyond what can be handled well. 

We have many, many people in top positions new to the district and, just like most jobs, there's a learning curve.

I think much of what is specifically wrong is being hidden from the Board and the public.

I believe that some of the work is ed reform work that got pushed behind the scenes and is not really that valid in a district that has so many functional problems.  We need to strip down to the real basics and necessities of education.  I fear that will not happen.

The Ugly
While I hear about work on Special Ed and disproportionate discipline, I really wonder how far it has gotten.

I do not believe the district or the Board is really taking student data privacy concerns seriously (and you may be hearing more about this in the coming days).  

Conclusion:
If I had my way, the district (or the Alliance) would pay for the consultant who did the pro bono planning work to create a plan of action for the JSCEE staff.  I think they are overwhelmed with the day-to-day AND all the initiatives that are rolling out.  I think there is uncertainty in being able to keep up with the work or even how to order/schedule work.

I think it would be money well spent. 

Read more here: http://www.newsobserver.com/2014/02/20/3640370/schools-dealing-with-problem-plagued.html#story

40 comments:

Brian said...

"She said that with the Seattle Teacher Residency program, the district is expected by its partners to ramp up by years 4-5 to 50%. She said something I didn't understand which was "several political people who made this come to be" have been working on it for some time. She said they have to find the resources to fund it."

It is time for the district to fund McCleary items. There are plenty of organizations, philanthropic organizations that promote initiatives and don't provide the funding.

Philanthropic organizations can fund this endeavor.

Time to nix this project.

Ethics Violation? said...

SEA has researched the district's budget. SPS has $20M more than the district reported.

Meanwhile, the district asked WSS committee to eliminate $4M from our schools.

It appears we have an administration that is more than willing to hide information from the board.



Madeline said...

School workers decided to attend the Board Retreat to and protest cuts to WSS.

madeline said...

Typo:

School workers decided to greet Banda and board to protest cuts to WSS.

Anonymous said...

I want to know why the special education C-CAP is yellow. Is that really on track?

Parent

mirmac1 said...

I have on mulitple occasions asked board directors why they would "green light" a costly new shiny thing like Seattle Teacher Residency despite: a) staff misrepresenting or failing to answer board questions regarding cost; b) policy says these grant programs require board approval; and c) no surplus funds to kick in the outrageous 50% contribution.

I heard from one director that, well, the idea was good and somebody said that some rich dude out there would contribute funds.

This one is a no-brainer for the board. You don't have th emoney. Then tell staff that it is a no-go.

Code Red said...

I'm having a really hard time with two things. Make that three.

1. Special Education. I guess if the district feels this is only yellow, that would explain why there is no sense of urgency in fixing this. I was under the mistake impression that the district was having its federal funds withheld, but that was not the case. The application for federal funds was due in September but was not completed until February. The funds were released the last week of February, because the district was finally able to come up with all the numbers to fill in their blanks. Happy Dance Time All Around! Why isn't OSPI fulfilling its duty to withhold funds if the district can not fix its problems? This bring us to

2. Data. One of the reasons the district is lacking in funds and special education compliance is because they can't even figure out how many students receive special education services. Every year. They have to go through all the files to find them. 800 kids short this past October. When they can't find the kids, they can't get paid for them. The current director of special education spent several weeks methodically going through all the kids again to make sure that the service model level description was accurate because Power Schools wasn't accurately capturing that data. Is that a good use of her time? No.

3. Special Education Again Special Education is being required to hire a national consultant to comply with the CCAP. Per Mary Griffin, current SpEd PTSA president, this is costing $150,000. The model the national consultant, called TIERS (Teams Intervening Early to Reach All Students) is recommending a model heavily based on monthly data reports. As if Special Ed could even get an annual report that was accurate! I am skeptical that this approach will be successful as I don't believe the consultant has any idea just how bad the lack of infrastructure is. They are starting here Tuesday. Do we know if they are going to interview parents? No one has heard.

4. Data again. None. No discipline data for the past year. Not available and don't know when it will be. And there's a federal investigation going on. It's been going on for two years. Two years, and it rates a green. And they have no data. No data I guess means everything must be good. Because no news is good news? That's progress for you.

Jet City mom said...

I'm only going to comment on a very small part re: the money earmarked for college board SAT tests.

At a time when high schools are pushing AP courses, why not subsidize those tests instead.
For many families including my own, who did not qualify for FRL and so were paying full price for the required tests , found that to be a burden.
Especially at a time when the ACT is so much more popular, that the college board is rewriting SAT to be more like it.

Anonymous said...

Code Red

Thank you for the illuminating information about special education. Readers have to remember that not having the ability to find these students, means that these students cannot very well get served according to their needs. If you don't count them, they don't count. But there are other things creating problems for students. Not planning in coordination with school principals for the coming year is, a really big one.

another code red

Melissa Westbrook said...

Code Red, as I said in my thread, Powerschools seems to be having issues in other states - this may be a flaw in our system.

Jet City Mom, I have talked about this issue for a long time. I advocated at my younger son's high school for scholarship money (so to speak) to cover those very high costs. But yes, if we believe that AP works, then why not help all families. I wonder how Highline makes sure they all take the test? And Roosevelt has a required class for sophomores - not sure what they do?

I thank all my readers for putting forth information that I could never gather by myself. This is a big help to other parents and, of course, to shine a light on what is happening (or not) in our district.

Anonymous said...

Where can we find the video of the meetings?

-Interested

Eric M said...

Wait a minute. In the budget "process" taking place in buildings, we're cutting staff (again). For example, high school attendance personnel are being told to figure how to do their very complex and crucial work at 50 % time.

While at the same time the board is voting pay raises to upper management??????????????

Eric M said...

Wait a minute. In the budget "process" taking place in buildings, we're cutting staff (again). For example, high school attendance personnel are being told to figure how to do their very complex and crucial work at 50 % time.

While at the same time the board is voting pay raises to upper management??????????????

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, just to be clear. The raises are for the NON-contracted staff. They haven't received raises or COLAs in years.

BUT, the contracted staff? We have documented here -several times -that many of them have received raises in the last 4-5 years. The district wants to act like that hasn't happened and it has.

Again, what is this district really spending its money on that we have to take cuts at schools?

Anonymous said...

Melissa re your response to Code Red and PowerSchools problems. The point is that it is being used to excuse the system's inertia, especially the inertia in general education, for special education. They just simply lack for good management at JSCEE these days.

My take

mirmac1 said...

Discipline data is in CEDARS, just no one will release even de-identified data. Guess I'll wait to read about it in the Times...

Anonymous said...

Mellissa,

I have to say that as a newbie to SPS I am very grateful for the enormous amount of time to you put in. Just sitting in these meetings is a huge time suck, so THANK YOU.

I attended the BOD retreat. The only thing I’d add about the morning is that presentation titled “Priorities Discussion Document” seemed like more of a work project status update than a priorities discussion. There was no discussion about weighting any of these initiatives against each other. And, I too was confused by the status colors. It seems like everything in the district is basically on track, according to this document.

My ears really perked up with Flip’s presentation of Capital, Facilities and Enrollment planning (page 15 showed.) How is “ID& Analyze supply and demand space needs” under Capital Facilities and Enrollment planning considered a “medium to low” stakeholder and work complexity and in the green for status?

Moreover, why isn’t “updating the facilities plan” an initiative or priority? The facility plan has not been updated since 2010, and what happening now is VERY different than what they planned then. Shouldn’t updating the plan be a priority since it is sort of fundamental to planning?
http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=9c8362036e3502acf8f45f9f1796470c&pageid=223516&sessionid=9c8362036e3502acf8f45f9f1796470c

The afternoon 1/2 was also interesting, though I'm a terrible notes/minute taker so forgive me for simply sharing some key points that folks may be interested in:

**Agenda Item "Governance Priorities Discussion; How do the priorities align with the Strategic Plan? "

I was deeply confused by what happened during this time. The discussion was only about whether or not to prioritize bell times. There was no discussion about ANY of the other work items, if they are "aligned with the strategic plan." What came out of that hour discussion was a plan for a BOD resolution to be written up to prioritize the Bell times flip analysis and community engagement plan so that the flip could happen in fall of 2016. There were statements made around the danger of "governing by resolution" and “where were other items like closing the achievement gap on the priority list” and “what had to fall off the list if Bell times are prioritized?” was left unanswered.

(Out of curiosity, when do the Board and staff take a comprehensive look at all of the projects and work and set the priorities? I thought that was what this retreat was supposed to be about.)

**Agenda item "Phase II Policies": Staff handed out a spread sheet of all of the Policies (40+ policies) that will be written or re-written and approved in the coming year. The list isn’t currently posted (though I’ve asked if it will be posted). Of interest:

--3130 Student Assignment will be introduced on 3/19
--2190 Advanced Learning will be introduced on 11/5/14
--2195 Academic acceleration (new policy) Intro TBD
--3246 Use of reasonable Force and 3247 restraint & Isolation of students with IEP intro 4/23

Eden

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Eden - it can be more interesting once you know the players and the subtext.

I'll have to look for that spreadsheet of policies.

Anonymous said...

I'm confused. However did the OCR/Discipline Disproportionality situation merit a "green light"? That is just absurd. The positive discipline committee that Sanders leads ("leads") does not even have the discipline data to review. Do we even have a confirmation that ANYBODY is eyes on this year's data? What about last year's data? Did nobody notice and question this?

Really

mirmac1 said...

I've only just now slogged through the retreat "presentation". It looked like a list yet more projects and distractions that have little to do with providing quality education and opportunity. Almost like staff is trying to tell the board see all this stuff we're doing!! Like the Red Queen saying "Now, HERE, you see, it takes all the running YOU can do, to keep in the same place. If you want to get somewhere else, you must run at twice as fast as that!" I think staff takes the board's "priorities" and filters it through their lens. Like Design/implement principal balanced scorecard or Filling Director of Project Mgt and Finding Funding & Filling Director Process Improvement really are board governance priorities?! More like Alliance or CCER or Gates' priorities. To what extent does the board really know what's behind all this BS?

nice WV: clueYou teach

Miss Waterow said...

So, can someone make one of those cool “you balance the budget” widgets for SPS? Does one exist? I just read the comments on the SPS budget topic over on the petition thread (3/5) and was going to comment, but it’s so old, though interesting. The comments, as here, expressed a lot of anger about SPS mis- and over-spending and lack of competence or simple disregard or even disdain for parents.

I want to reiterate that I’m not disagreeing with anyone, I’m just trying to get more clarity as this issue continues to confuse me.

I hear on the one hand anger at JSCEE for giving raises or cutting in-school dollars instead of themselves, but then I also so much anger about poor response times, inadequate training, delays in rollouts, etc. So, where is the fat in the JSCEE budget that could be cut without further hampering the quality of services they provide?

Re the raises, if the employees at central are just crap (as some say), don’t we want to pay reasonable retention wages to the good ones? My primary focus has always been class size reduction requiring the hiring of many more teachers. But, over time, I’ve seen how connected the JSCEE budget is to what actually goes on in the schools. If my kids are in a large inclusion class, I want well-trained, special ed specialists and assistants to help out (I’m totally pro-inclusion - we attended one of the best inclusion schools in the dist.) Real class-size reduction $ in the form of teacher salaries has to come from the state, so I feel I should support JSCEE mitigation efforts, which is all they can really afford.

We know about FDA, SEC, HHS, IRS, FEC and other federal agencies that do not have nearly enough staff to do their jobs and how citizens and politicians get angry about bad service (like a tax return that comes late, or an e-coli breakout, or an overlooked abused child - in MD social workers oversee about 1,000 cases each), but still accuse them of being bloated and call for more cuts.

Can someone do that SPS widget, or the verbal equivalent so I can understand, please!

Miss Waterlow said...

Btw, I don’t think this is just perseveration. Clarity would help me better focus my advocacy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Miss Waterlow, it's not so much that I believe there are too many people at JSCEE.

I think the work that is going on is NOT what should be done and means they need more people to manage that work (as opposed to be in schools helping kids).

We are spending too much on the Seattle Teacher Residency, all the dollars going to CC, the evaluation programs, the student information system, implementing the Strategic Plan, project management, you name it.

That the Alliance AND the district are spending time on principal development means someone could be using those dollars elsewhere.

Again, I need to write a complete thread on this.

Anonymous said...

Miss Waterow, one area that I see as a complete waste is executive directors. They keep principals from talking to who they need to talk to (the superintendent), do not have the answers, in some cases really should be back as principals, and in others should not be working for sps. I also think here are a could departments that should be put back together (so only one department head). I am alarmed that the new WSS is adding so many assistant principals, when I believe not too many schools need them (and those that do already have them) and is shutting clerical and counseling staff. I know that's not quite the same, but it's the general problem - too many higher level administrators, not enough line worker staff.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

@sleeper

When the principals job get turned into 80% teacher evaluation work, there is more work than one person can do. My good friend who is a principal in another district has recently had his job change dramatically because of increased focus on teacher evaluations. He's having a hard time with the required shift in focus. He doesn't have time to do all the rest of his job, and it was hard to do it all before. If that is what is going on here too, these principals will need assistance just to maintain. And if the total budget doesn't increase then somewhere else take the hit.

Maybe any initiative, however worthy, needs to be thought through on how it will be implemented and how much staffing time and resources it will take before it is adopted?

-idealist

Anonymous said...

I don't believe the principals at smaller schools want this change, though, even with whatever workload shift has occurred over the last 12 months. I don't hear reports that it is that dramatic- and certainly not that they'd prefer an assistant principal to clerical staff. The clerical staff is more critical, and cheaper.

I'm also predictably irritated that the bus time switch is being pushed out to 2015. Seriously? It's cost neutral! It has got to be the only cost neutral change we can make that not only improves outcomes, but improves them most for disadvantaged students. Leaving bus times the way they are harms kids, and harms poor kids most. We shouldn't do this any longer than we absolutely have to.

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

Idealist, to your point about thinking about initiatives BEFORE enacting them, my notes from the retreat reflect this about the Seattle Teacher Residency:

Clover Codd said "we have to find resources to fund programs and are they sustainable and can we take it to scale?"

NOW, they ask these questions?

It's also things like sending four people to a conference in D.C. (Peaslee and 3 others). Why did four people need to go?

It's also that the Superintendent's evaluation seems to grow and grow. Why should this be so complicated

Joe Wolf said...

Re: Wilson-Pacific

The short answer is that the additional $$ requested are related to adding scope/program/design work to support the Board's decision to place Pinehurst/Indian Heritage at Wilson-Pacific as a permanent home.

If you need more detail it's best to get from Eric or Flip but hope this helps.

mirmac1 said...

Thank you Joe.

It is clear from the retreat "honey do" list that, with all the &*$#@! ed reform corporate improvements in the works, there just is no money for SpEd best practice, or later start times for HS, or positive behavioral support. Miss Waterlow, if the high-priced staff (have you seen the number of people in the Executive "Cabinet"?) are just interested in pushing the retreat initiatives, then I think they can all go on extended leave and no one in the buildings would notice. Period.

Anonymous said...

@Joe Wolf

This is from the background info from the Wilson-Pacific BAR that was tabled at last week's School Board meeting.

"In February 2013, the original architectural/engineering contract (including the Itemized Task
Items, Additional Services Items and reimbursable costs) was issued at the total amount of
$6,117,753. This contract also included Basic Services amount of $3,965,650, which was based
on the Maximum Allowable Construction Contract (MACC) number of $62,520,000. This
contract was negotiated using the Washington Administrative Code (WAC) 392-343-070 as
guidelines for determining the fees for basic services. The adjusted MACC is $74,016,880, to
include the escalation on the construction cost, consistent with the project budget.

Utilizing the WAC guidelines again, 6% allowed for the basic services fee on the Total
Construction Cost (TCC) is $4,441,013, compared to the original Basic Services amount of
$3,965,650. The difference is $475,363. The architect has submitted a proposal to cover the
increase in the basic services fee which was reviewed by District staff and Shiels Obletz Johnsen,
Inc., and a negotiated settlement amount of $456,670 was reached."

I'm having a hard time following the specifics of the background info, and I looked through the BAR and didn't see any mention of additional costs due to adding AS-1/Indian Heritage.

How much is it costing to add AS-1/Indian Heritage at the Wilson-Pacific site, and how is the K-8 program being accommodated at the Wilson-Pacific site? Are they budgeting $12M for more capacity (ie, would this fund an additional wing to the building to accommodate the K-8 programming?), or am I mis-interpreting the background info?

- North-end Mom

mirmac1 said...

Interesting North-End Mom. Seems the Architectural/Engineering firm's contract provides that they earn a certain percentage of the estimated Total Construction Cost. They are "incentivized" to design something that costs more. AE firms should be compensated for their level of effort and staff costs: NOT on 6% of the TCC.

Note that SPS is also paying a Construction Management firm AND a contractor acting as a General Contractor/Construction Manager. Talk about getting less for your buck.

Anonymous said...

There is nothing untoward about the 6 percent of total construction architect fee. This is common practice within both commercial and residential construction. To imply that these contractors or the district is being wasteful or unethical in this case is incorrect.

Industry Experience

mirmac1 said...

My thirty years experience in large public works projects, including GC/CM informs my opinion here. Shiels Obletz Johnsen is relatively new to SPS. They want to stick with GC/CM while the long-time CM Heery Construction and SPS capital projects staff finally saw the light. I'm sure this is Herndon's first GC/CM project.

W-P is a tear down/new build. Once the district realizes how ludicruous is it to keep CPPC there during construction, the "complexity" of the project just isn't there. The AE may be due more money for some valid reason, but not because the TCC went up (why?) and they get 6%.

The GC/CM will make a killing and still nickel and dime SPS.

Anonymous said...

As a taxpayer, of course you have the right to ask where money is going on a project. However, it is bad form to hint that a professional firm is bilking taxpayers when in fact they are in a standard contract.

Mirmac, are you on the BEX Oversight Committee? Or have you reviewed this contract in detail and followed up with a written query to the district of any abnormalities you believe you have found? Are you an ex-public school employee with inside baseball knowledge of how to structure these contracts and thus have insight to lend to SPS? Or are you a vociferous member of the public with a different axe to grind for every day of the week? Because after a bit of time, even those in a building in peril will block out a fire alarm that ceaselessly blares.

Industry Experience

enough already said...

Saving Pinehurst in this manner is proving to be quite costly. I can't help but wonder if there was a less expensive way to save the program. The renovations required at Lincoln this summer are going to be over $1M and the place will still be a miserable sardine can next year.

I love how the Board directs staff to save, say $3M, on transportation, but then they quickly spend that money on their pet projects. Thousands of kids will be negatively impacted by the bell time switches due to the requested transportation savings, but only a tiny number will be positively impacted by the serious amounts of money some of the Board's amendments require.

Charlie Mas said...

There does appear to be a dissonance between kvetching about the shoddy work that the central staff does and also complaining about how much they are paid or how much of the budget goes to central administration.

These two views may appear opposed, but the reconciliation can be found when we take a moment to define the mission of the central administration.

Much of the work that the central administration does is work that they shouldn't be doing in the first place.

mirmac1 said...

Industry Experience, actually I am both. If you take offense at my suggestion that Mahlum is incentivized, I'll qualify that as any firm whose compensation is based on the total cost, has no incentive to keep costs down. Frankly, there should be incentives to keep the TCC to the $62.5M in BEX (plus alternates).

BTW, I see no mention of 6% in their contract so my issue is with staff's lazy rationale in the SBAR.

I saw eye-to-eye on many GC/CM issues with Doug Nichols, the ESD 112 CSG expert that came in during the Stevens/Martin debacle. SPS is paying double for managing this project.

Anonymous said...

Again Mirmac you miss the point. The 6 percent is industry standard. Your fight may be with the industry, but in this case it should not be with SPS. Your viewpoint about the industry may not even be right, by the way. Plenty would argue against you. But I won't. It is a waste of time.

Industry Experience

mirmac1 said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
30 years GC said...

Clearly industry experience is just another architect trying to justify their wasteful fees.