I am asking you - as a Board - to put forth clarification on this issue of the City's PreK for All and Seattle Public Schools.
I spent the afternoon reviewing what the City has at their website and I found a lot of it deeply troubling.
Of course, like many things, pre-K for all IS a good idea. (I will quibble whether Pre-K is the same as preschool as the former seems more school-like and the latter seems more play-based learning with a shorter day.) But the devil is in the details. And there are many details that are troubling with this plan but I'll just address the issues for SPS.
1) First and foremost, is there a partnership that the Superintendent has signed off on with the City? Because the City's webpage is vague on this point, in one place it sounds like it and in another place, it sounds like it is pending.
I will tell you what I told the entire City Council; it would be a VERY bad idea if the Superintendent signed off on anything about this issue as he is walking out the door (and into the sunset to Sacramento). I myself would think it VERY bad form and I urge you to let him know not to do this.
2) The proposal is quite specific in that SPS would be a main partner but less so on what the district would have to do. Give up classroom space? A specific amount? Over what timeline?
Whether there are dollars attached, classroom space is at a premium right now and the district should be reimbursed for any space and not give it up for any goodwill purpose.
3) Costs that will come directly from the F&E levy. My understanding is that Graham Hill cannot have a preschool unless they agree to the City plan and will lose their F&E dollars for that preschool. Is the City somehow blackmailing the district, using F&E dollars in order to get space?
4) Their study notes that preschool teachers in Boston make $70k a year. That's great but our own SPS teachers, starting teachers, don't make that much. I'm confused how the district could support a plan that pays preschool teachers more than some K-12 teachers.
5) Apparently, the City had SPS kindergarten teachers do a survey of parents at the end of parent-teacher conferences in the fall/winter of 2013. Did you know this? Did it take time away from the parent-teacher conference?
6) Councilwoman Bagshaw has her own report based on the trip by 40(!) people to Boston, NJ and Washington, D.C. (This included Flip Herndon, Keisha Scarlett, Cashel Toner and Laurie Morrison and Director Blanford.) She repeatedly uses the word "district" rather than City which is disturbing considering the City is the lead on this project.
7) Also, she says "principals" should be including on the training furthering the premise that most of these preschools will be in SPS. Also, is this the best use of principal time?
8) I am deeply worried about privacy and FERPA issues and none of that is addressed in any report/study/plan.
9) Again, on page 8 of the Action Plan says there is a "partnership agreement with Seattle Schools." Is that true? But page 11 says the City "anticipates" partnering. Which is it?
10) The City will also give preference to those preschools that can provide dual language. Is Karen Kodama working on this effort?
11) Dr. Herndon, in a report dated March 17th says that SPS already has Pre-K in 31 buildings. That's a lot of buildings out of about 97 buildings.
He goes on to say,
"With appropriate support and funding, SPS can take on the role, as in Boston and Jersey City, of leading and coordinating the professional development alignment of curriculum."
What? A new math adoption AND Common Core standards implementation and yet Teaching and Learning has time to do this?
12) He also says:
"In addition, while classroom capacity is a very daunting challenge currently, there are possibilities." He mentions "regional pre-K centers" at Decatur or Schmitz Park or Van Asselt. I thought SPS expects more growth so why turn any space over at this time?
I will say what I have said before - your state-funded mission is K-12. Between the under-funding by the state and the challenges already before SPS, how can figuring out pre-K center placement or space for more pre-Ks or developing curriculum for pre-K possibly be on the plate for SPS staff? I remind you - they are paid salaries for K-12 work. Upper-level staff publicly berated you at the Board retreat for sending too many e-mails and yet, they seem perfectly willing to do this work in addition to trying to get all that other "priority" work done.
I ask/plead/beg of you to explain to staff, to parents, to the public - what ARE the priorities for SPS? Because it is very unclear to me (as someone who does pay attention) what they are, given what is being said in some venues and done in others.
I am not finished with my research but I am fairly sure I will come out against the City's proposal. I will use whatever small amount of notice I get from my fairly tiny bully pulpit to warn SPS parents what the district is doing with staff time and resources. I doubt they will warm to the idea of time and resources going to students not part of SPS if only because the effort needs to be put forth for the students who are in SPS.
I ask you for clarification - public clarification - on your position on this issue. Staff should not be taking the lead and telling you what the district will do on this issue.
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