Saturday, June 28, 2014

Seattle School Board Meeting on Wednesday

This meeting could be interesting for a number of reasons.

One, it is likely the last one where we will see Superintendent Banda up there on the dais with the Board.  (The Sacramento School Board is scheduled to vote July 17th and this Seattle School Board meeting is the last until August 20th.)  It may be awkward (to say the least) as the Superintendent is now the lamest of lame ducks.  Does the Board say farewell publicly or throw him a quick party after he makes the final announcement on his departure?

Two, as usual, the agenda has got some items that stand out. 

The Disciplinary Appeal Council item stands out precisely because it seems like a very low-key group given what it does (hears student discipline appeals).  It's 15 volunteers that serve 3-year terms and are appointed by the the Board.  Oddly, I don't recall ever hearing for requests for volunteers nor who is actually on this council.  It's made up of one-third principals, one-third community members (with the citation "including school board members") and one-third teachers. 

The staff reviewed this policy but it still seems rather vague.  How does this Council operate?  When does the Board solicit for volunteers?

The action item on Student Fees has been updated to reflect that Food Service Charges are to remain "constant." 

The item on the SIG grant for Rainier Beach High School shows the same amount in the grant - $4.3M - but it also now contains this language:


Upon review of the impact of an extended school day at Rainier Beach High School on our recently adopted transportation standards to be implemented in 201415, we anticipate the need for $224,000 from district funds for the 2014 2015 school year to cover an additional four (4) special education buses. By moving to a 7-hour, extended student day as part of the SIG grant, Rainier Beach High School will shift school departure into Transportation Tier 2, requiring the four additional buses. Each bus is budgeted at $56,000 for the school year. 

That $224K is coming from the General Fund.  Where will this money come from?  As well, "recently adopted transportation standards?"  Those were adopted months ago.

The item for Athletic Trainer Support Services should, in my opinion, be summarily rejected.  Why?  Because it is an Intro/Action item that is not an emergency.  I am baffled why it got to the Operations Ctm. so late and now needs this rush.  The Board should not be allowing this kind of action, particularly without explanation (and there is none in the BAR).

Then there is the Race to the Top BAR for the Seattle Teacher Residency.  I finally read thru the agreement and see some troubling language in there.

The training sites for STR are:

Hawthorne
John Muir
Leschi
Madrona
Olympic Hills
 
What I find troubling is that the district (and the UW College of Education) say that "traditional teacher training" "is not adequate to address the problem of low student achievement in Seattle's high need schools."  So if UW isn't doing it right now, how does the district know they will get it right thru this agreement?  The document praises UW but says:
 
“A need still exists to create district-specific and deeply embedded models of teacher preparation. "

Reading on:

As a result, many teachers enter the classroom unprepared to work with high-need students and may not have the knowledge of community and culturally relevant pedagogy that will enable them to teach effectively in these schools.  

There are concerns expressed over the low retention of teachers at high-need schools, teacher isolation and the demographics of the student population not reflected in the teaching corps.  But isn't that about the culture of a school and the numbers of people who go into teaching?  

What this agreement seems to be is development of a program only for our district and only for high-needs schools.  I had honestly thought this was a program to attract different kinds of candidates into teaching.  To be in the program, you have to commit to six years in high-need schools (and no others).  

The district will be comparing these STR teachers with other teachers in high-need schools to see who does better.  The STR teachers will be matched with a mentor teacher (all mentor teachers get $300 a month for this work).  Plus, the mentors will have one full day each month for professional learning. 

The candidates are 60% of color (15) -  four are Asian/Pacific Islander, six are African-American, one is Latino, four are multi-racial and 10 are white.  There are no Native American candidates.

There is this language which seems to imply a lot of work by many people:

Creating a new pipeline of teaching talent specifically trained and committed to improving student achievement requires numerous actions by a multitude of teams and individuals. 

Hires include a program director, recruiting and admissions coordinator, field director, curriculum coordinator.

They call what they want to do for students "personalized" learning but it sounds a lot like differentiation.  

So far most of SPS' financial commitment is HR "in-kind" services but we will see that explode up to $1M in about three years. 
 
Hey and look what made it to an action item - Bell Times Analysis.
 
I do like this part:
 
Revenue Source: TBD The potential impact on other priorities may be mitigated if third party resources are acquired to support the analysis (see Staff Analysis section). If not, funds may need to be shifted from other priorities.
 
One last item of note: the action on submitting an application for the Federal Reserve building.


The U.S. Department of Education has established requirements for submittal of an application, which include that the school district adopt a resolution naming an individual who is authorized to negotiate and execute documents to acquire the property. They have advised that without a resolution to that effect, the District’s application will be rejected. Additionally, the city of Seattle was originally going to be the applicant for this building. However, after conversation with staff between the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools, it was determined that Seattle Public Schools should be the applicant, which was deemed acceptable by U.S. Department of Education. These changes did not lend themselves to meeting the typical timeline for Board agenda submission as a July 3, 2014 deadline for application submission was not allowed to be extended. 

The application also requires specific provisions that will mean the substantial long term commitments by the District: 

The District will promptly commence construction to convert the building to a school. To do so will require that funds be dedicated from either the BTA IV levy plan or legislative action, to pay the costs. While legislative action could happen sooner, the BTA levy is expected to be voted on by the voters in February 2016. 

The application also requires a commitment to continue use of the site for the intended purpose (a school) for 30 years, or it can be reacquired by the federal government. Funding for these activities will need to be included in the annual operating budgets for that period. 

Oddly, that last paragraph does NOT include the notation that after a 30-year use period that the district owns the building and the property outright.  Might have been a key fact to state.

13 comments:

Anonymous said...

Re Policy 3201 Discipline Appeals Committee (DAC).

This committee does not serve students with disabilities fairly. We need 3201 to be revised so that whenever an appeal involves a student with a disability, a member of the SPED Department is automatically involved as a resource person for the DAC AND with all inputs documented. This is necessary for 2 reasons:

First, the typical constellation of the DAC has nobody to interpret IEPs, Behavioral Plans, and good practices associated with these. These are technical matters that require the ability to parse what constitutes proper implementation and management. The typical DAC member is not versed in these technicalities. The consequence is that DAC processes do not allow the student with the disability or the family access to an appeals process that operates with full information and objectivity. This is a deep deep injustice. Without access to even a resource person who can interpret SPED information in IEPs and BIPs for non-SPED professionals, the DAC process IMO has zero integrity.

Second, esp given the federal investigation of discipline disproportionality of students with color and the even higher rates of discipline disproportionality for students with special needs, why shouldn't we expect the District to put even a minimum safeguard into the DAC appeals process??? 3201 needs to be amended so that when the appeal involves a student with a disability, the DAC isn't inadvertently adding patterns of
disproportionality that are endemic in our system at this time. As we have said many times, the disproportionality in discipline rates for students with disabilities means that IEPs and
Behavioral Plans are not being managed and implemented properly in the first place - it is a very big red flag.

Ultimately in my experience the building admins and staff are so condescending to special educator knowledge and expertise when it comes to "behavior" that even when SPED Dept staff participate in a DAC hearing their presence is treated with impatience and outright rudeness. There isn't even a requirement to document their inputs and state why the DAC agreed/disagreed - a simple check and balance that would provide a modicum of transparency and integrity to a process that
could not be more broken otherwise. Instead, the District cites "workplace privilege," so closing the door on any basic transparency.

We need 3201 to be amended to ensure that students with disabilities have access to an appeals process where standards of practice for IEP and BIP implementation are more than just about the opinions of the building administrator.

AnneS.

Anonymous said...

Where's the analysis for the NEED for facility space there, downtown, VS. the district facilities' triaged PRIORITIES???

Show me that FIRST BEFORE you ask/demand the board rubber stamp this with zero due diligence. File the 'papers' and that leads the mentality of the glass palace folks to think of it as a done deal, a matter of course. Nobody ever questions how did they get here from there, let alone WHY they are doing what they are doing. Truly idiotic. Not "management by objects", more like "management by random momentum".

How can the board possibly be asked to vote on this so piecemeal? So capriciously? Zero runway to consider it? All while the district is now essentially a headless horseman? This truly is a new low. And you know staff will dance around and make the facts fit the conclusion all while saying "we don't know we will get back to you" while speaking out of the other side of their mouths how they've done extensive analysis and this was in the BEX IV plan (yeah, a $5M placeholder that was completely amorphosis-- $5M doesn't get you or buy you a building or land and doesn't even renovate a building -- at most - it's a rent payment to Vulcan for a couple of floors in a high rise for several years).

Can you say, fail BTA, fail? Doing "facilities planning" this hapharazdly may tip people over the " I've had have enough line".

It's $40 million. This is not triaged.


Facilities priorities

mirmac1 said...

See how quickly "free" turns into $Million$, General Fund dollars, 30 year obligations and, yep, no commitment from the City or the Greater Seattle Chamber of Commerce, Vulcan, or BMGF and Bezos to give more than moral support?

Looking more and more like the glass palace to me.

mirmac1 said...

But hey we can always spend $40M and then give it away to some group with political connections or some wealthy private school!

Unacceptable said...

"However, after conversation with staff between the City of Seattle and Seattle Public Schools, it was determined that Seattle Public Schools should be the applicant"

First, the city has a conversation with SPS staff regarding pre-K and neglects to brief the board.

Now we learn that staff and the city have been in conversation regarding a major purchase, but neglects briefing the school board.

It is time for the city to get a grip.

Unacceptable said...

From Strategic Plan funding:

"The District will identify current funding sources and potential gaps for implementation costs. As we develop and implement this plan, we will need to do two things to address any funding gaps:
1. Reallocate existing funds against these priorities; and
2. Seek outside assistance through philanthropic and other grants where possible
This may include the difficult decision to postpone, stop or slow the growth of popular yet expensive programs if they are not aligned to the Strategic Plan."

This is unacceptable. The district needs to be specific.

#Getoffyourhands said...

Isn't Blanford the liason to the city? If so, was Blanford involved in discussions that surrounded the purchase of the downtown building?

mirmac1 said...

If so then it is Definitely the wrong thing to do...

Melissa Westbrook said...

I did not include any comments in my thread on this policy as I didn't feel qualified to speak out on it but I know its importance and knew readers would chime in. Thanks.

FP, I don't ask that the Board EVER rubber-stamp anything. I've given my reasons why I think this makes sense (and we have to see what the partnership with the City brings).

Also, it is only a resolution. The district, if it cannot sufficiently find the dollars (did the homeless group did not), will not get the building.

I will have a separate thread on the City and Pre-K as it is becoming increasing problematic (to me and others).

But this business of the district doing things that involving reordering of priorities and $$$ and THEN announcing them after the fact does not work.

Maybe that's how Burgess does things at City Hall but it should not fly in SPS.

mirmac1 said...

Melissa,

They will find the dollars...by scabbing off other-actual education-things, and robbing other critical projects.

So we would have to maintain a school for 30 years, whether one is warranted or not - or else lose our $40M plus. For all we know, all learning may be online by that time. Or Mayor Burgess VII may decide the building is better used as a charter - with free rent.

This is a very costly and risky distraction. The smart thing to do is rent (for cheap, thx Vulcan) until you see what does and does not work. How a downtown school suddenly leapfrogs to the head of the line is beyond me. Everyone thought JSCEE was a no-brainer, right?

dan dempsey said...

Seattle Teacher Residency program:

So we are to believe that the UW gurus who apparently haven't done teacher prep correctly will now with STR do it right.

To improve a system requires the intelligent application of relevant data.

So what changes will UW Education Gurus be making and on what data are these instructional preparation changes based?

Looks like there is very little basis for the STR program. STR changes seem based on more UW Education Theories of "What we would like to have work". ... and spending lots more $$$.

I have difficulty following the logic here:
UW has done an inadequate job in a particular area so we must believe that they will do much better in the future. So lets have UW Education gurus direct a spendy new program based on hope for a better result. --- Its the Seattle Education way (again).

{{ It doesn't need to make any sense because its the politics of education.}}

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dan, exactly. I don't get it.

mirmac1 said...

The STR has been in the works since before 2010, even before our little dalliance with TFA. SPS and their bosses at A4E looked at the Urban Teacher Residency United model and said "we want one of those shiny things!" It was hardly a stretch to swap TFA for STR in a pinch. Thanks Enfield.

Now we're at the point where it's costing real money.

This is all the more reason to not let any of these half-baked ideas get footing. The usual cadre of movers and shakers will ram it down our throats and the board will just let it happen. Data or no data.