Sunday, June 08, 2014

Seattle Schools Happenings - More than Math Adoption

There were some other key, important things said at both the School Board meeting last Wednesday and the Board retreat yesterday.  I'll just group information under headings but note by M (for meeting) or R (for retreat) where I heard it.

Principals (M)
To note, both of the Washington State Principals of the Year, for high school and K-8, came from Seattle Schools.  Keven Wynkoop, principal at Ballard, and Keisha Scarlett, principal at South Shore, were the winners.  Mr. Wynkoop is one of several of our high school principals who actually attended the high school he now leads. 

Native American students (M)
President Peaslee noted that she wished that the Indian Heritage program would be revitalized especially in high school. 

This came in conjunction with the large contingent of Native American parents, students and community members who were part of public testimony.  They said they wanted a program for high school and hoped it could be at Chief Sealth where the largest numbers of their children are students.

Special Education (R)
Michael Tolley said that this is a high priority for staff in his department.

Advanced Learning (R)
It was reported that the work is wrapping up and that the two taskforces are joining together to present a joint report of recommendations to the Board.  He said that should be delivered to the Board by fall.  (I note that this allows yet ANOTHER year to go by before anything is changed.  On the other hand, it may give the Board time to write an actual policy before they do anything.)

Capital Building/Facilities
Director Carr said she recently went on a tour of John Marshall and that it is looking great especially as an old building being refurbished.(M)

Director Carr seemed surprised that the costs at Wilson-Pacific had gone up - it's now at $116M.  (M)

There was a lot of discussion, with legal counsel, about Wilson-Pacific possibly being landmarked by the City of Seattle.   Legal counsel, Ron English, explained that the building could be torn down even if landmarked if the parts under question can be removed and then put back.  He seemed to think that only the Native American murals are part of the landmarking but I noticed that not all in the audience were in agreement.  He said he wasn't an expert on landmarking but that the district has the "best lawyer" in the city working on it.  (How much is this costing for the district to fight this landmarking?)

Director Blanford asked about costs escalation because of a change in schedule if this landmarking comes through.  This answer was yes, it could be a factor in costs.  This will come up before the City on July 2nd.

(R) Flip Herndon said that he was looking at the SPS joint agreement with Parks.  I think this is a serious signal that the district really wants to rethink how its facilities are used by other entities/groups.  

Bell Times (R)
A very intensive plan was laid out for how to approach this topic.

What staff referenced was a method used in Montgomery County in Rockville, Maryland called Neighbor to Neighbor (N2N).   The goal is to get a greater number of people participating than in just traditional district meetings.  Groups (or a facilitator) can use a district "toolkit" and set up meetings on their own.  (Yes, this does set off bells for me as who is documenting what is said?)

Here's a link to Montgomery County district's Bell Times page (with a 6-minute video on the issue).

It was an interesting presentation from Pegi McEvoy and Bernardo Ruiz.  Ms McEvoy noted that Sec'y Duncan supports this idea.  She then talked about getting input from other people than local "sleep experts."  She said they could ask other communities with "different needs."  She mentioned church groups and others.

Director Blanford said that it would be good to use groups other than PTAs because PTAs could be "biased one way or another."  I would think it would be possible to any group to have a bias, one way or another. 

Mr. Ruiz emphasized asking questions to a larger group like "how would your entire family be impacted by this change?" and "what activities will be negatively impacted?"

Director Carr seemed a little taken aback by the presentation as she thought it would have the entire plan laid out (and not just a framework). 

They also said there may be unanticipated issues like child care providers, Special ed impacts, and labor negotiations.  They also stated that "key known impacts" would be "decreased support for level 1 schools and decreased direct support for principals and executive directors."  They said there would be outsourcing work needed that would require a project manager (15 months at about $280k) plus polling and analysis staff. 

Staff also piled on saying it would impact 15 Strategic Plan initiatives, net workload for analysis for next 9 months at 6 full-time dedicated staff, 8 out of 9 departments expect an impact to their baseline operational work.

Staff also seems disappointed that they may not be able to hire someone to look for grant money outside of the region/state.  If money is the issue - as it always is in our district - finding money would seem to be a good investment.

Enrollment (R) 
Charles Wright also mentioned enrollment issues for parents and that the bell times issue would make it difficult to address those.  

Of course, when you see on the Priorities list under Operations these items listed at "low," you have to wonder:
- filling vacancy of Manager of Enrollment Planning
- filling vacancy of Demographer (I heard this was filled but this was what was presented just yesterday)
- filling vacancy of Director of Capital

Director Martin-Morris recently attended a presentation of work by students at Thornton Creek.  He said it quite impressive and wished that other students would be able to share their knowledge this way.  (M)

Martin-Morris and Director Blanford, in announcing their next community meetings, said theirs had been low attendance as of late. (M)

In something of an ironic statement, the facilitator at the Board retreat said that all around the table should be thinking of "benevolent intent."  (R)

(R) Charles Wright, deputy superintendent, said at the meeting that he had lost sleep over the priorities.  He said that the cabinet needed "clarity" and that the new staff had "inherited" these things and that Board members with more than one term might be able to give historical context.

He also said that there was no implementation plan for the Strategic Plan but stressed that yes, working was happening.  (Yes, quite the disconnect because that means that staff is just going off their best judgment of how to implement it without a clear vision.  Again, too much to get done means the whole thing should be streamlined and scaled back.)

He also mentioned a "Socio-Emotional Supports plan" that I have never heard of before.  

He also mentioned an "organizational culture survey" but I don't know if it would be districtwide for staff or JSCEE.


Anonymous said...

"Advanced Learning (R)
It was reported that the work is wrapping up and that the two taskforces are joining together to present a joint report of recommendations to the Board. He said that should be delivered to the Board by fall. (I note that this allows yet ANOTHER year to go by before anything is changed. On the other hand, it may give the Board time to write an actual policy before they do anything.)"

Actually, there are changes to Advanced learning, it is just they are implementing various things before the ALTFs have even made recommendations. And, at the APP-AC meeting last week it seemed pretty clear that folks that are on those ALTFs and the APP-AC might not agree with these changes, but they are happening.

--There are will be no more self-contained spectrum classroom next year (?)
--Fairmont park and JAMS are expected to "blend" Spectrum and APP students.
--Garfield APP freshman have been blocked from taking some AP classes (english?).
--middle school LA/SS curriculum is getting aligned with general ed and apparently dropping much of the content and integrated humanities focus that it used to have.
--something about having work groups that don't include any APP teachers or parents that are working on the APP scope and sequence?
--APP teachers at HIMS are being switched to general ed, and new teachers (with or without advanced learning experience/expertise?) are being assigned to APP.

Changes are being made, they just aren't necessarily what the ALTFs will or have recommended.

--AL observer

Lynn said...

So no news on how they'll meet the requirements of the new law? The board has to approve the annual plan this month and report to the OSPI by July 1st. The plan has to include identification method and services available to high school students. Whatever is given to the C&I Committee tomorrow, it will have been written by Shauna Heath with no input from the AL task force.

I would be surprised to see the guaranteed assignment to Garfield continued for the 2014-15 school year. The APP cohort in the north end is just too big to fit.

dw said...

It hardly seems to matter what the ALTF recommends if principals are shifting experienced APP teachers into genEd classes and teachers with no AL experience to APP classes.

The meat of APP is and always has been two things:

1) the cohort
2) the teachers

The cohort is being split all over the city and now teachers are being "punished" for who-knows-what reasons, without regard for how this negatively affects the kids. I'm pissed.

Tell the principals at HIMS and JAMS that parents do not support these kinds of "adult issues" games. Let personality issues and other crap take a back seat to what's best for kids! AL experience (and desire) is critical to teaching APP kids.

Charlie Mas said...

Another year of delay... (sigh).

And during that year Spectrum is dismantled further, ALOs become vaguer, and APP gets split again.

The Board must set a policy. Didn't we hear from senior staff at the Retreat that they want MORE Board guidance? Here is where it should come.

mirmac1 said...

Very interesting article linking Gates, the Common Core and our very own Frank Greer of GMMB

How Bill Gates pulled off the swift Common Core revolution

Anonymous said...

Regarding Principals: Yes, Keisha Scarlett won Principal of the Year. So what does the district then do? Promote her right out of the school to make her a leader-coach-muckety-muck. The district is bloated with senior management as it is. It would be nice to keep some of the effective people in the schools where they are needed. South Shore is a huge school with a lot of challenges and complexity. It needs a firm hand at the helm. Will they be able to find someone strong for that school? And how will this new person affect the culture of the school?

South Shore Parent

Anonymous said...

I don't really understand the 'next steps' on what happens when board and staff disagree on priorities.

Specifically for bell times, it seems staff is indicating they don't like the initiative being prioritized and in any case they need far more time than the board wants them to have to take up the issue.

So now what? When does the public see whether board or staff budges as well as what happens to other priorities given one side budging? For the Native American issue I've been reading about this weekend, the same thing applies. When does the public get a look at how the chairs on the deck are being rearranged or not?