Well, that was interesting. I'm sorry there were so few people there (but my experience is that many people never go to SCPTSA meetings anyway, choosing to go to their school PTA meeting).
As usual, they had food (so no one goes hungry) and welcoming faces. I note that the Board is a multi-racial one. (SCPTSA President Katherine Schomer later mentioned that they have been unable to find a rep from either the NW or NE. So much for that theory that the NE runs SCPTSA.)
Much of the entire senior staff was in attendance including Superintendent Banda.
President Schomer started the meeting by acknowledging their contact list has problems and they have been struggling with it since fall. Apparently the state PTA has had issues of sending SCPTSA updated information on what PTAs are members and who their contacts are.
As well, the SCPTSA is working on a new website.
They did talk about the state PTA convention coming up from April 25-27th over in Bellevue. SCPTSA has money set aside to help PTAs pay to send a member from their school's PTA to the convention. SCPTSA will have its own suite so that members can come and meet other Seattle schools' PTA members. (You can also volunteer a couple of hours and go for free.)
The leg reps - Eden and Heidi - mentioned the issue of high school students being able to only have one science class per year (except for the Biotech program at Ballard). That does seem silly but I don't know why that is happening.
They also said that Seattle PTA had sent in over 4,000 postcards to the Legislature for Focus Day.
Superintendent Banda gave a welcome to the parents that was fairly perfunctory.
Ken Gotsch, the new CFO, gave an great overview of the budget. I really liked that he did not editorialize at all but was really just the facts, Jack, about his presentation.
(His presentation did reference yet another new group, Network for Excellence in Washington Schools - NEWS. It's a statewide coalition group of 420 community groups, districts and education associations working for full funding of K-12 public education. I checked and it's a very reasonable group that does NOT include the usual suspects like the Alliance, TFA, LEV or Teachers United.)
Gotsch said that the new gains on funding did not replace the accumulated reductions of the last six years which "damaged infrastructure and core staffing needs."
He said there has been a 30% reduction at Central (and I'd have to see that data) from about $47M to $34M. He also said Transportation had saved $2.9M. He said the additional state funding would be about $8.3M.
He credited the SEA for a "marvelous" study about planned and underplanned SPS spending that he said helped alert the district to possible solutions.
He also said the enrollment was up nearly 1300 students.
He said any RIFs will be communicated on May 9th. There will be a final Work Session on the 2014-2015 budget on May 28th, with a public hearing in late June and Board intro on June 18th with the final vote on July 2nd.
He then asked for questions. One question seemed to strike a chord/nerve - why were school PTA officers being asked to sign off on their school's budget thru their BLTs with an "assurance" that parents had been "actively engaged" in the budget.
The parent who asked that question said that it does not seem consistent from school to school which parents, if any, are engaged in the school budget.
Michael Tolley gave a usual "this is typical BLT work and that it varies from school to school." Very helpful.
Sharon Rogers, who was a former SCPTSA president, said that she said that she didn't sign it because it had language that says the PTA president and the parent rep on BLT have to sign "guaranteeing authentic parent engagement." She said it was a very short timeframe between the request for a signature and the date it was needed and that there wasn't time for parent involvement. President Schomer said she had heard about this and many parents were uneasy having a form they had not seen put in front of them to sign.
(My recollection is that BLTs are supposed to have parent reps but that some school staffs don't want to have a parent on the BLT.)
It was stated that Ballard DID have a good process and that Madison's BLT meets every week.
Another issue raised was by the president of the Ballard PTA (and I'm sorry, I missed his name). He said that the budget process was demoralizing to teachers and, at Ballard, had pitted departments against each other. He said that, over the last few years, good teachers at Ballard had been told they might be RIFed only to see it pulled back a week or so later. He said it made for a very uncomfortable time at their school.
Gotsch said that Sue Peters had asked about this issue and the district would talk about measures that might alleviate this issue.
Then they had staff go to separate tables and parents went to whomever they wanted to talk with that evening. (To note, I really wish the SCPTSA Board members had made their remarks shorter because it would have been great to have more time to circulate. Most people didn't and I think they might have if there would have been more time.)
But what a golden opportunity. I took the opportunity to speak with the new tech director, Carmen Rahm, to see if after the Work Session on data sharing, the district was going to change any of their processes or if the Board had talked about the policy. He said no, the district goes beyond FERPA and there had been no requests from the Board. I told him I had checked the district's policies against what DOE is recommending for best practices and found the district lacking. (I'll have a complete explanation of this soon.)
I then sat with Flip Herndon and another parent. He mentioned:
- Yes, the Facilities Master Plan is outdated.
- That they put in a permit request from the City for portable use but don't always follow thru if it's not needed but that it is easier to put it in and then pull back, than to realize the need and then get the permit. (This was in response to a question about Stevens.)
- He said high school capacity is going to be an issue soon. He said that the growth is not just at K but all levels so that adjustments have to happen everywhere.
- Speaking of adjustments, he did say that, in the fall, there would be "minor tweaks" to the boundaries, "not a total look at everything", just a couple of blocks here or there (so do keep it - it might be your block).
- They are in their final interviews for a demographer.
- There was a question of Advanced Learning changes and what that means to capacity. Herndon explained four issues to capacity.
One, regular enrollment growth.
Two, AL programs.
Three, Special Education. He mentioned something about trying to access more of the specialty Sped rooms throughout the district as they are not used as often and perhaps could be configured for more uses.
Four, class size reduction requirements coming from the State. He mentioned that the ideal implementation would be 2018 when full funding is supposed to be enacted.
- He said that impact fees on new construction would really help schools.
We did briefly discuss BEX and BTA measures. I told him that I think the academic "creep" into BTA needs to stop because of the backlog of maintenance and now, the capacity needs. I suspect the next BTA may look very different from the current one.
I noticed that the one person who had the fewest people talking to him (after Mr. Rahm) was the Superintendent. I went and spoke with him. I mentioned the auditorium at Wilson-Pacific and he wondered why this had come up. I was a bit startled as my experience is that most building planning for a middle or high school would include an auditorium. He said that he wasn't sure how much it would cost or where they would find the money.
I also asked him about a district announcement about emergency procedures such as for an earthquake. He said it was important for parents to know the district did have plans in place. (He also mentioned that in his last district, at the beginnning of the school year, they had parents send in a bottle of water and some kind of snack bar.)
I also asked about the issue of the use of portables at Boren for Arbor Heights. He seemed surprised and said I should check with Dr. Herndon. I did and he said that most of Arbor Heights would be in Boren and that the portables were already there before. I am truly puzzled as Boren is a large building. K-5 STEM can't be that big and Arbor Heights certainly isn't a big school. (This issue about Arbor Heights at Boren came up at the last Board meeting when a PTA Board member told the Board about the issue.)
I also mentioned the emergency procedures issue to Pegi McEvoy who said she was going to a meeting out-of-town on this very issue soon as the DOE was making some changes. She said the district would try to get something out to parents soon on this issue. I was surprised to learn that PTAs were being asked to fund food set-asides for this effort.
Again, all that staff in one room, there to talk about anything. I am sorry more parents were able to attend.