Thursday, July 03, 2014

Seattle School Board Meeting Updates

Shockingly, I neither attended nor watched the School Board meeting.  But I did hear about it from other sources so here is some of what went on (plus some input from a careful reading of agenda items on the docket).   Apparently it was a love fest for Banda and some tension on the Board.  Here's the information I received from the organizing group for later starts where the tension comes in.
  • Later start times analysis passed, 6-1, with Director Blanford the sole no.  Apparently, though, both Carr and Martin-Morris claimed they felt staff was  "bullied" by others on the Board.  I'm suspecting they mean President Peaslee who can be quite strong-willed.  Is she a bully?  I have never seen evidence of it but I'm not sitting with her behind closed doors.  From the Later Start group e-mail message:
We WON!  Bell time analysis was passed 6-1 with only Blanford voting against. Cautions were made about not overworking staff, particularly by Carr and Martin-Morris.  They say the board will take some other work away from staff since they have now voted for them to do later start time analysis and community engagement work.

 Interestingly, Rainier Beach will now have a later start as the board voted yes on a Student Improvement Grant (SIG) that required the district to foot the bill for four SPED buses at 56,000 each.  This will put RBHS on tier 2 with an 8:40 (or so) start time.

To note:
- staff has said this will cost $250K so that money has been approved to be spent
- this does not mean bell times will change.  The staff could do the analysis, find that it's not feasible and the Board could agree.
- So with Rainier Beach going to a later start time, there are now at least three high schools - Hale, Center and RB - that will have later start times.  That may help the Board see what outcomes look like from a later start.
- Staff is worried this will impact their work.  Well, it is the Board who sets the priorities so they have the right to rearrange them (paying heed to not upending the work).  This happens all the time in business.  That Priorities list presented at the Board retreat was very bloated and frankly, I think there's a lot that could be drawn back.  But there seems to be this idea by staff that they will set the pace and I'm not sure the Board is buying it. 

There are the issues of time and dollars being spent on projects that have no direct impact (or won't for years) to the classroom and have no mandate in K-12 (Pre-K for all, I'm looking at you).  The Board has to make getting the best academic outcomes to be Job #1 and finding ways that have the most impact. 

- So tension on the Board.  There's always some degree of tension because sometimes the Board will agree and sometimes disagree.  Just like the last Board, they tend to vote in unison the majority of the time and have a harder time on big issues.  Just like the Legislature, the City Council and Congress.  I will say that it's important for Board leadership to make discussion as open as possible and as professional (and not personal) as possible.

I wish that Board members would not so openly show this tension at Board meetings; I don't think it's helpful. 
  • Here's the resolution about bidding for the downtown Federal Reserve building which I am going to assume passed.  I say that with confidence because this is basically a placemarker and commits the district to nothing. 
  • Looking at the presentation for the 2014-2015 budget, I see some interesting figures. The final figure is $639.3.
-  Staff projects that the bell times study will cost $571K (but we see from last night's vote, they approved $250K).  Page 8

- Page 16 shows budget gaps from April to today.  They estimate that the CBA will cost nearly $1.5M more than they estimated.  They estimate that Sped expenditures will go up from $4.1M to $4.7M. 

Then there is this whopper - Superintendent 's Service Based Initiatives from zero to $4.6M.  What's this about?  I don't know.  Meanwhile Resource and expenditure items went from $2.5M to .5M.  Again, don't know what this is about but it's all very vague.  I hate vague.

- Page 21- General Fund Expenditure Summary.  Highest change for this budget from last year?  Teaching Supports; I'll have to ask for the precise definition of this one.  It's going up from $52.9 to $62.7, up 18.5%.  What comes in second up nearly 17%?  Central Administration.

The sister slide to this one is Slide 30 where we see this dramatic highlighting that seems to show that total Teaching and Learning has gone up by 4.6% from 2009-2010, that Central Administration has gone down 3.5%.  They claim that CA is now 5.5% of the budget.

I don't believe that figure on Central Administration simply because the level (and salaries) of hiring at Central have gone up.  What I do believe happened (and I should be able to find this out) is WHO is considered "central" and WHO got reclassified into some other district administration pool (thus enabling staff to make it look like fewer dollars are spent centrally).  

- They continue to say that enrollment is going up but NOT at the rate they originally thought.  Enrollment numbers for grade levels on Slide 29. 
  • Another item that stood out to me on the agenda was the 2013-18 Strategic Plan Metrics & Targets (District Scorecard).  It's a lengthy notation about input from the Board at the May 28th Work Session where it is noted that staff made one change to the Scorecard by adding a new metric for the percent of families responding to the annual family survey.  The issue seems to be that School Messenger - which is how staff takes the survey - has "limitations."  They seem worried they can't get adequate responses from families who have more than one child in SPS.  Meaning, "Although this does not impact the reliability of the percentage of positive survey responses that we record, it does impact the reliability of measuring "the percentage of families" that responded to the survey.  Staff believes a solution exists and has begun to investigate how best to refine the response methodology."    I wonder if this issue came from a query from a Board member.  


ben said...

The Seattle times reported about the The Fed building vote:

I don't know if their information is accurate but the cost stated there is now 51-53 million rather than the previous 40 million.

Anonymous said...

I believe "teaching supports" refers to stuff like counselors, educational technology etc. If the new testing systems require better tech, then that huge jump kinda makes sense...kinda.

But what the heck IS "Superintendent's Service Based Initiatives" - just tried an advanced goog search that phrase on the SPS website and zero hits....hmmm...


mirmac1 said...

Yes, the Times article mentioned something that wasn't part of the discussion last night: that the downtown school house a City "Early-Learning Center". I'm so surprised.

One thing I didn't understand was how the building that has to get fixed up now will be paid with "future revenues". Huh? Do we gotta borrow money and then pay it with "future revenues"?

Sam said...

Perhaps Carr and Martin Morris can explain the difference between advocacy and "bullying". The group advocating for later start times had a petition with 4,000 signatures. How does this petition fit into Carr's and Martin Morris's position?

Blanford's wife is part of SPS's administration. Can we count on him to be impartial?

Just Saying said...

Teaching was given additional supports, but the percentage of supports lag behind other districts.

The district benchmarked this number early in the budget process.

I would like to know more about the $4M given to the superintendent.

The city seems to have a habit of keeping the board in the dark. I'm speaking specifically about the sale of the Fed. Bld and Pre_K initiative. Both of these are enormous expenditures and projects; I'd expect the superintendent to keep the board informed about these projects, but he doesn't

Sam said...

I would also like to state that there was compelling testimony and medically backed facts to promote changing bell times for high school students. Other boards have been unable to get the district to do this work. Kudos to the directors that are moving this initiative forward.

Po3 said...

Any insight into Blanford's no vote? He's seems to be posturing himself as an oppositionist.

Downtown Charter? said...

Mirimac is correct. All information related to a downtown school is slated to be a pre-K-5 school. I wouldn't have a problem with this, but the city will decide the pre-school that will go into this building.

Does Burgess (the guy that never took a position on I 1240) decide to put a charter school into this space? It would be very easy to put a charter pre-K into the downtown school' we'd have a steady source of parents that might want to convert the downtown school, via conversion, into a charter school.

mirmac1 said...

Yes, a $50M charter school that we will pay for. That's what happens when you let Gates get a toehold: charters -> Universal Pre-K -> downtown school = Gates model school in a free building. Now all it needs is a Starbucks and billboard painted on the side.

Po3 said...

I do not understand why the RBHS busses can not be paid for out of the SIG grant?

Also, if it is so easy to change a HS start time at RBHS, then why can't we change all the start times. Why do we have to spend all this money on studying start times?

$50M Charter? said...

"Yes, a $50M charter school that we will pay for"

My thoughts-exactly.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sam, I believe that Carr and Martin-Morris may have been referring to other Board members, not the advocacy group. That said, I have never seen so many experts come forth to testify.

Burgess has NO power to create any charter school. That said, I see that pre-school as an issue. If we need a downtown school for SPS, that's K-12. So if they press on about the pre-K, I'm out.

And all this historic preservation fighting? Maybe it's going to be too much to support after all.

What's interesting about the article is that it says the K-5 could have about 600+ students and 50 pre-K but then goes on to say that the district has told the city they can't take on pre-K responsibilities.

I will try to get something up on this issue of Pre-K because as others have pointed out, there are issues around charters as well as capacity and resources in SPS.

I am unwilling to see any school not get the help it needs in order to facilitate pre-K.

Anonymous said...

I was troubled by that article. We need high school seats. Not k-5 seats. Definitely not pre-k seats. High school. We don't need to use this building for more elementary seats. Lowell is right there and less than half full. It should be an option high school, with set aside sped seats if that has previously been a problem. With a life sciences or social justice focus(think about all he social justice nonprofits right there they could partner with). Or civics.

I am, as my moniker suggests, thrilled about the start time vote. The staff still seems to be stalling, and at this point it seems like it's as much about a power struggle between the board and staff as it is actual work flow, which is disappointing. I think it should have switched this year, and next year would have been a compromise. The science is so sound.


Slow Down! said...

Stop the press!

WHO decided a downtown school should be allocated for Pre-K-5?(!)

-sleeper is absolutely correct. We all know that Magnolia and Queen Anne don't have a high school, and this has caused problems...including Ballard students moving to Ingraham.

KPLU article indicates that 160 (!) students live within 1/2 mile of the downtown location:

Check-out the Seattle Times comment section. There are individuals that work downtown and want to bring their children to the preschool. If this is allowed, should Seattle voters and Seattle PUblic Schools be paying for pre-school students that come from out-of the city??

Lastly, it appears the building should have been offered to those that serve homeless individuals. Why was Compass turned away?

Slow down! said...

I will also agree with sleeper..the court house is so close...maybe that space should be considered for an optional high school.

How close is the Federal Bld to the jail? I did have concerns about elementary school students being in such close proximity to the court house and jail.

Again, WHO decided to allocate this building for Pre-K- 5???

Rufus X said...

RE: Fed Reserve Building Uses - Couple of questions:

First - Where are the district's archives currently being housed - At JSCEE or offsite? If it's the latter, is the storage facility one that the district owns or leases? Would the vaults at the Federal Reserve Building be suitable for archive storage, if they're fire-proof and temperature controlled to archival standards?

Second - What is the cost of leasing space at Seattle Center for Center School, and what is the current lease agreement's duration?

Not looking to create a solution for a problem that doesn't exist - just spitballing various potential uses for the building.

StringCheese said...

I agree with Po3.

We don't need a feasibility study on start times! We need a study on best practices for implementation.


I can't believe that this wasn't addressed. What a ridiculous waste of money.

Spend the time and money on figuring out how to do it. The "should" question has already been asked and answered.

mirmac1 said...

That's fine Rufus X, but do these possible workarounds work for, say, 30 years? Let the City find a space for us, not vice versa. Oh, yeah wait, they don't think that is they're function.

I think I'm more frustrated by the expectation that SPS can and should react reflexively with, yet again, piss-poor analysis and little forethought. That is what happened in 2009. $100M later we are suffering and still do not have enough space for the next 5-8 years. Yet we are ready to create yet another class of students/families who expect to be served in an area without an established and budgeted school. Okay, let's just whip out the check book.

Anonymous said...

Carr & Co. had their rubber stamp heyday, the voters - citizens have frequently rejected the well funded lackeys of the big bosses of microsoft and amazon, and ... boo-hoo, now Sheri is a well deserved minority!

Looks like it is time for the DeBell playbook - whine to all the sell out media in town that ... they're being bullied! ha ha, what


Melissa Westbrook said...

Compass was turned away - they did have first dibs - because their funding package to renovate wasn't solid.

I would agree that the district needs a high school more than a pre-K-5.

I agree about the number of people who say they don't live here but would love to drop their kids off downtown. Not what SPS should be worrying about.

Rufus, you mean district records or archives? The archives are at JSCEE.

Center School, last I heard, was about $70K a year (I'd have to go check but something close to that). I don't the duration of the lease. Given that once Seattle Center is redone (and they indicate they want Center School to be there), it is likely to be a far higher cost.

Anonymous said...

Could the federal building become an interim site at least at first, which could free up John Marshall to relieve near-term capacity problems in the north end? JM could become a permanent home for elementary APP in 2017 instead of using Wilson Pacific, perhaps? I know JM is to be occupied by another elementary in 2017 and beyond - can't remember who so obviously I'm not considering what sort of burden an interim downtown location might be.

I hate the idea of passing up a building, but at the same time, we don't really need it for a permanent elementary at that location. There must be some sort of way to move the chess pieces around to get a win:win for everyone.

--wild ideas

Rufus X said...

Thank you, Melissa. Re: Archives - I was wondering about storage of historical archives/records, such as ephemera & physical objects that require fire-proof & temp/humidity controlled storage. Stuff the district has an interest in storing for 100+ years. If there is sufficient space and suitable conditions for this material at JSCEE, then there may not be an argument to be made that storage at the Fed Reserve building (should the district acquire the building) would be cost-effective/neutral.

Re: Center School question - there have been suggestions about potentially moving/housing current school/programs at the Fed Reserve building. My questions about the Center School lease terms & cost were to gauge the cost of where the school is at vs. where it could be. Conceivably, the "Center" in Center School could mean the Center of Seattle, not Seattle Center.

@Mirmac1 - "SPS can and should react reflexively with, yet again, piss-poor analysis and little forethought." I'm asking these questions in an attempt to think outside the box and avoid piss-poor analysis. Perhaps I should have made it clear that I'm asking the questions with the intent of looking at current AND future needs - not a blank check for a downtown preK-5 school up and running in the next 3 years. The building is there and I'm curious about possible uses with minimal renovations required or, if they are required, renovations that would be cost-neutral over several years.

Anonymous said...

I have said this before but why not consolidate the 440 "supposed" enrolled students at the varying Interagency sites to one location to better have accountability and close to the services and resources that often serve same student population.. such as drug court, probation, parole, etc.

--Big Fan

mirmac1 said...

Rufus, I know what you asked. My response was rhetorical.

Big fan. Don't care for your suggestion. Supposed? Proximity to their " criminal justice" needs.

pro-sleep mom said...

A couple of comments on the Board meeting, which I attended, as well as having attended the Board retreat:

I don't remember anything I would call bullying at the Board retreat. There were some sharp comments after Charles Wright brought up his statistical analysis of how many emails he gets from the Board this year compared to last year. There was also some critical comments on the priority list (rightly so, in my mind)- but none of this would rise to the level of bullying. Melissa, you were there too- what do you think?

Secondly, Blanford brought up Montgomery Co MD's bell time process and noted that the super had reversed his position and was no longer supporting the change. This is true, but the reason is that the plan they had devised would cost $21.5 million annually (lots of extra busses, as well as a longer elem day so higher costs for that). The Board immediately sent a letter directing staff to develop a plan for better bell times within a budget that they dictated. We have been advocating for a cost neutral change with our current three tiers; going to two would be wonderful if we can find the money, but I'm not holding my breath for that.

I am thrilled that we are moving forward on bell times that support learning and health. We have support of so many key groups, and Seattle Children's has just announced that they are developing a media toolkit (short and medium videos, etc) to educate people on the value of sleep. Their timing is perfect, as educating everyone on this issue is the biggest part of the process.

Anonymous said...

Re: bell times

Staff is making this WAAAAAY harder than it has to be.

WAY harder.

Study it for $500,000 plus??


That is the definition of waste. We already know it is good for kids, all kids. So, how about instead of spending money to think about it, they actually spend that money to DO it, and, call it a 'pilot'.

How about they put the Jane Addams Middle School bell at an appropriate time, for 1 year, and spend that 'study' money on the 4 "extra" buses they said it would cost? 4 x $56 = $224K. That is without doing any other thing to any other school. Then they could compare student outcomes and absenteeism after the year, plus, run polls of the students and teachers and families of JAMS and the other comprehensive middle schools to see the affects of a better bell time.

The staff/board found the money to switch the Jane Addams/ESTEM/Hazel Wolf K8 from the first tier to the second tier for 2 years PLUS add buses for students from the Eckstein Middle School service area - being a K8 - that is predominantly an elementary school - which does better with an earlier bell time. That proves it: if there is a will, there is a way. If the Board can do that, and did do that, then they should be able to make a couple of secondary schools, one middle and one high, have a tier 2 or 3 bell time, and, eat the costs of buses for a year. Better than studying it is DOING it.

Don't loose sight about what bell times are really about: this is about student achievement.

Either they are serious about closing the achievement gap or they are not.

Either they really, really want to make a difference in the lives of children with the promise of education, or, they don't.

There is nothing else so simple to do to deal directly with student achievement and the opportunity gaps than flip the tiers.

Bob Westguard said he could do it, he just needs to be told to DO IT.

They have money for 'change management', ed reform testing, etc. How about money for two schools to have a bell time that works with the biorhythms of children, to help them learn?

Can't we do any better than this? Or, does staff secretly, deep down, just think that teens are lazy, and need to get out of bed?

It is galling that staff is being this obtuse about something that is so important for the well being, success, and prosperity of students.

When will Wright go and get himself recruited away to the next gig, with more money and a higher profile? Sooner rather than later, hopefully. Our kids will still be here, in this system, when he has moved on.

When the evidence is this clear, this compelling, and, the impact is this critical for students, and, the staff STILL won't budge, there is a problem. And, the problem is staff.


Anonymous said...

Dr. Blanford votes no to merely studying later bell times for teens?

Is that because he wants to just DO later bell times?

He cake-walked onto the Board, although that did not stop him from bragging about his 'landslide' mandate... and this is what he does once on the Board?

Not Good

Anonymous said...

Hey Slow Down, I was the poster on the Seattle Times article. We don't live downtown, but we do live in Seattle. The overcrowded North End in fact. My daughter already attends preschool across the street from the Federal Reserve building. I would love for her to attend a public school downtown. I fully understand that enrollment is based on where you live not where you work, but we also allow parents to choose schools if there is space available. I'm not saying that commuting parents should be a priority, I'm just saying that if there was a downtown elementary school there could be additional demand above and beyond the kids who live downtown.

Carol Simmons said...

There were so many important issues on this Agenda.
The Later Bell times should have been passed rather than analyzed to death. When "staff" is mentioned as resisting later bell times due to work overload...who are those staff members, what are their responsibilities? If their work loads are impossible, this needs to be recognized and if true remedied by adjustments in work loads. It is essential that we pass later bell times for Secondary students. We have the research and experience which supports how necessary this is to do.
It is unbelievable that any Board member would "bully" anyone. They have opinions that they would share but would not bully anyone. Good grief.
Special Education policies are moving toward positive interventions but have a long way to go.
We still have policies which exclude students from school related activities, these must be changed.
Congratulations to Rainier Beach for their Grant.

Yuck said...

I didn't attend the board mtg, but bell times are an issue that has enormous community backing and support from professional individuals.

It is a shame Blanford chooses to use a public forum to create division amongst board members. I expected more from him.

Blanford would have done better to discuss pros and cons of bell times and refrain from hurling nasty comments about board members "bullying".

Anonymous said...

As the parent of a 13 year old who has a hard time getting up in the morning, I am all for later high school start times. But, as I'm also the parent of elementary students, I am also concerned about the implications of the bell time change for elementary students and their families if we continue to use a three tier bus system. Pro-Sleep Mom said, "We have been advocating for a cost neutral change with our current three tiers; going to two would be wonderful if we can find the money, but I'm not holding my breath for that."

There are other ways to save transportation dollars than the three tier system, but district staff resists even considering them, for unknown reasons. For example,several years ago, at my kids' school, a group of us advocated moving our school buses to community stops or hub stops. The idea was to reduce the number of bus stops each bus makes to 4 or 5 stops per route (maximum), have more kids at each stop, and locate the stops on arterials as much as possible so the bus would not have to travel on slow, neighborhood streets. While the downside for families is that many families now have a longer distance between their home and their bus stop, the vast majority of families at our school have found that the benefits outweigh the downsides. What are the benefits? Shorter bus rides for kids. More families at the stop to help if a parent is running late to pick up a child. Having more families at each stop has meant the building of community for those families.

I have kids at two different elementary schools and anecdotally, I can report that at the school with community stops, the buses appear to run more on time and they also run full -- at the other school I see big school buses pull up with only a few kids on the bus.

I also believe that at the school that is using community bus stops, we have been able to reduce the number of buses serving the school and run those buses more efficiently.

For years, we have asked the District for data to verify these impressions. And, even though the Transportation standards adopted by the Board when the pilot project was implemented called for a report with data to the Board, no such report has ever been provided. I have submitted pubic records requests so I know that staff have never done any work to look at the data and determine whether the community bus stop system does in fact save money.

My "ask" to the group that is advocating for later high school bell times is this: Don't forget that a 7:30 am start time for elementary students is not necessarily a good thing for elementary students, either. We need to look creatively at the three tier bus system, which is dictating school start times, and using data, consider if there are other ways to reduce transportation costs and have school start at a reasonable time for all students.

Mom of 3

pro-sleep mom said...

regarding staff overwork:
admin budget is increasing by $5.5 million- 17.3% compared to money for teachers, which is going up 6.6%.

If most of that admin budget is going to staff, it seems like they should be able to get this done, along with all the other stuff that has less direct impact on kids and learning. (Note, at the Board meeting before this one, we saw a bit of political theater from the staff. Normally when a topic is introduced, pertinent staff go the the front row to be available for questions. When bell times was brought up, the ENTIRE staff got up and went to the front row. Who organized that??) And at the staff retreat, it bordered on ridiculous- when IT was asked how bell times would impact their work, all they could say was that they would have to change the times on the website!! They have got to be kidding...

Except, maybe that is a big deal. They currently have several high schools listed (I presume) incorrectly on their website. Ingraham and Garfield show 8:50 start times, in conflict with the letter I got this week informing me of the new 7:50 bell time. I mentioned this to staff on Wednesday, but it's still wrong.

pro-sleep mom said...

Mom of 3- your points are well taken. I have seen a Board push for more community stops, which may save money and, as important, save time. Local advocates support these ideas as well. Some community stops have had complaints from neighbors (noise, trampled gardens, litter); we would need to address those concerns with parent supervisors, or even paid people, similar to the crossing guards.

With the change to the student assignment plan, and the reduction in busing to options schools, elementary kids are generally much closer to their schools and bus ride times should be falling. That might help us shrink the time between tiers, and help us go to two tiers at some point.

The current Tier 3 elementary times (9:30 bell) is a real hardship on many working families, as well has some homeless kids, who are booted out of shelters at 8 am. This late time also misses a prime learning window for the children who get up early, and are more ready for a break when class starts that to focus and learn.

I totally agree that working to shrink the tiers, and questioning all the assumptions, and balancing needs of all kids (with priority placed on learning, safety and health) will get us to a much better system than the one we have now.

#Unprofessional said...

Blanford's comments are at minute 110. His comments are unprofessional-at best.

Anonymous said...

I'm not excited about the prospect of flipping start times. Was this part of the discussion when we were on a 2-tier bus schedule (which meant saner starts for both tiers)? What is the cost of returning to a 2-tier bus schedule?

While there is a vocal group supporting later start times, is there really widespread support from parents?

So far, it's all about the need of adolescents, but what about what's good for elementary students? Are we just shifting the problem to another group of students, as suggested by this recent study:

The study also has some interesting findings about effects related to FRL status.

-early riser

Anonymous said...


Watched the comments Dr. Blanford spoke at the meeting per your suggestion. Maybe he needs a media coach? (joking)


New hashtag, most unfortunately;



Wow said...

I watched the Blanford video and I was very uncomfortable with Blanford's public attack, hostility and remarks.

mirmac1 said...

Yeah, I think he sees himself as the new Michael DeBelle. Like we need that.

Sherry Carr was a little over the top as well; crying crocodile tears over Charles Wright. The latter has got to go. I don't think he gets that he's supposed to follow the board's priorities, not that ridiculous list of projects only the Alliance and BMGF could love. He is channeling MGJ.

mirmac1 said...

Besides, I don't recall Carr getting upset with DeBell's very public bullying of her colleague's Peaslee and KSB.

Anonymous said...

re: the above comment. Smith-Blum seemed to give it out as much as she took it. The board is a more functional place with the egos of both DeBell and Smith-Blum gone. Don't agree with the current majority voting bloc all the time but at least they seem thoughtful and the board as a whole seems more functional. Agree that Blanford seems a weak link but that shouldn't mess up the board as a whole. Martin-Morris has been a weak link through 2 terms and still the board carries on.
If only board and staff had a better relationship. That is the current problem and it appears to be a significant one. I for one definitely believe the staff-board tension was a big factor in Banda taking the CA job. Who wants to work in that no-win pressure cooker?

North of 85th

Andy said...

I think Banda realizes the control that Seattle's business groups, LEV etc. put on the district and that is why he is leaving.

mirmac1 said...

North of 85th, then you must have seen different public records emails than I did. KSB showed incredible restraint given the abuse dished out by Frank Greer, the Times, and Debell's friends. Of the board presidents I knew from that era (DeBell, Sundquist, and KSB) she was the most considerate and most responsive to parent concerns.

n said...

I, too, appreciated the patience of KSB who was almost humiliated at times.

I watched the school board meeting today while doing other things and I was actually shocked at Blanford and Carr. Betty said it best: she was offended. Blanford and Carr (esp. Carr who tries to hide behind such "civility") were name-calling pure and simple. They called out their colleagues in public as bullies. Good for Patu for putting it out there. She is elected to advocate for her electors and kids and she darn well will do it. I think it was really brazen of Carr and Blanford to deal with their equals in such an offensive way. Honestly. Who do they think they are? And Peaslee was right - she didn't notice any bullying. Unbelievable. McLaren was PC as usual and I'm not complaining about that. Good for Betty! She has courage.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Carr is simply following DeBell's path of minority bitterness. I will ask her what steps she took to curtail DeBell's bullying but will not hold my breath for a reply.

Anonymous said...

Have to concur with Mirmac and n on KSB. In my opinion, she took (especially after assuming the board presidency) several public hits from De Bell and his allies before she finally decided (rightfully in my opinion) that she had to start pushing back to some extent, lest she (and the board by implication) be called totally dysfunctional -- and their comments go without answer. At some point, you just can't let stuff pass and be taken seriously.

I deplore Director Carr's comments, but have found her to be selectively disingenuous for a long time. I am appalled at Director Blanford's positions on the Board to date. What an egotistical disaster! A huge comedown for his district -- to have him, rather than KSB, representing it.


Disgusted said...

Smith-Blum was an incredible advocate for parents, teachers, principals and support staff. She fought- endlessly- to provide teachers and principals with the supports they needed to do their jobs.

Does anyone remember the Great Recession? The state cut funding and the district was forced to close a funding gap of $125M. At the same time, Debell,Sundquist, Maier and Carr agreed to pour $12M dollars into administration while eliminating elementary school counselors, summer school, drug and alcohol counselors etc.

The district held back funding from schools despite predicted high rates of enrollment. Garfield had hundreds of students sitting in the cafeteria, trying to get schedules for a month because the district eliminated counselors. It was Smith-Blum that caused a stir to prevent these type of things from happening.

Smith-Blum didn't fall in line with Seattle's political and business class. DeBell and Smith-Blum wouldn't allowed to have their differences in private. DeBell used his political connections to smear both Patu and Smith-Blum in the newspapers.

I'd hoped these days were behind us. Hoping that Stephan DeBell gets his act together.

n said...

Those kinds of actions are what we call "privilege" - these people act as if they are privileged. I'm sorry but your "privilege" comes off as nothing more than bad manners.

Can you tell I'm upset? :)

Carol Simmons said...

Dear n, and everyone.
Yes, Betty Patu responded perfectly to Dr. Blanford's comments.
Director Betty Patu and her husband Von Paul Patu are being recognized for their work in the Community at the 20th Annual UWAA Multicultural Alumni Partnership Breakfast at the UW HUB ballroom on Oct 25th. They will be joint recipients of the Distinguished Alumni Award. This event is the largest Diversity event on campus with over 600 guests attending. It begins at 7:30 a.m. so SAVE THE DATE. Also 5 scholarships will be awarded to UW students. Many students who have received these scholarships in the past have been Seattle Public School Graduates. You will truly enjoy the event and it is a good chance to applaud Betty. EVERYONE IS INVITED. You may register by calling or emailing UWAA.
More info on this later but be sure to SAVE THE DATE OCT 25TH

Charlie Mas said...

Any time someone suggests that you have been a bully, you need to take that onboard and consider it longer than the Board Directors did. Even if you later deny it, you need to consider it. The person doing the action isn't the one who gets to decide if it is bullying or not.

I wasn't at the retreat, so I can't offer an opinion. I will say, however, that a person saying that they are intimidated from delivering an honest report is a very troubling statement and should be heeded.

I also heard a number of Board Directors suggest that they should be thoughtful about setting their priorities for staff because the staff does what they say. This is simply false. There is little evidence that the staff heeds Board priorities. That is a deeper problem than any bullying.

Po3 said...

The only bully on this board is Blanford.

He should be ashamed of his behaviour.

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I think you need to consider the source and the context here. Staff have been very frustrating on a number of issues, delivering insubstantial information or none at all and they have been called on it from this blog and from some board directors. The accusation of bullying and the claim of intimidation seem to me to be calculated distractions. I applaud Director Patu for standing up for her right and responsibility to keep going when questions are not adequately addressed. And good on Director Peters. Blanford's hearsay statements and Carr's follow up struck me as really aggressively not about better process but about shutting down critical opposition.


Charlie Mas said...

Here's a question: If a Board Director B is concerned by how Board Director A interacts with staff, what is the correct way for the Board Director B to raise that concern? Is it during the action part of a Board meeting?

Anonymous said...

Exactly, Charlie. Blandford's motives should really be in question and Carr should never have fallen in line.


Anonymous said...

Calling someone a bully, even though bullies certainly exist to a damaging degree, has unfortunately become a tool to shut down (or out) unwelcome information for some calculating adults (and children).

The person who calls another a bully does not have a free pass without question. That would be ludicrous.

Blaming the victim is not the issue here. The issue is an attempt to play victim instead of bothering to be prepared (Blanford) or frustration about being on the losing side (Blanford and Carr).

A politically correct lecture about bullying by Charlie flies in the face of the facts on this one.

--another reader

mirmac1 said...

Charlie, not when the person making that charge is someone who has a decidedly biased point of view. Wright is owned by the BMGF and their tools. That is the ONLY reason he is where he is. What other possible qualification does he have?

Just Saying said...

It was inappropriate for Blanford to create a public display during a board meeting and action vote. It was also inappropriate for Carr to join in grand-standing.

Can Wright really be afraid of Betty Patu? Bwa ha ha ha

Melissa Westbrook said...

I finally got around to listening to Board remarks around later bell times.

A couple of things:

1) there is NO way that staff can deny that they pick and choose what they want to do and then act aggrieved at things they don't like.

Case in point; the downtown school. Director Carr said she was "not particularly excited" about a downtown school but wants the ability to make choices (so hence a resolution that allows them to consider making an application). Is that in the Strategic Plan? No. Did this come from staff to do? Yes.

2) Blanford. He is such a mystery to me. I do not get his thought patterns at all.

One thing is that it all seems so personal to him. Every single time he gives Board comments, it's personal. He went with the SPS contingent to the Pride Parade and had to insert that he took a selfie with Macklemore. But then he mentions how glad he is that Banda acknowledged Tracy Libros' retirement and Janet Blanford's retirement (and yet did not acknowledge that the latter is his wife).

Then when they get to the bell times, he goes into overload. I missed the second half of the Retreat so I certainly must have missed the "bullying" by some Board members. What I did see was some soft-spoken yet real strong-arming off - by Charles Wright - on the ability of Board members to e-mail staff questions.

Blanford says the staff is overworked and yet, offers no solutions. And, on the so-called bullying, "I want it to stop."

Well, calling out your colleagues in an unprofessional manner like a teacher with a ruler is not the way to do it.

3) Thank goodness Martin- Morris DID have a solution - rework the SP list. Hooray! Yes, the Board should rework this vast list of "priorities" since the staff seems so overworked.

Getting rid of the pre-K work would probably lighten the load so they could start there.

4) Peters gently disagreed with Blanford, saying she had not witnessed this bullying. She said it was important for all to have a constructive tone.

5) And Betty. Again, forthright in her disappointment that she is being called out in her ability to act as the eyes, ears and mouth for the community. We didn't vote these people in to rubber-stamp. She said they have retreats and she thought it was to speak their minds. (Otherwise, why bother?)

6) Marty McLaren, the voice of calm measure, said that they were elected and they had to listen and carry out the will of the community.

The issue of bell times is a great example of the Board listening to the public but especially to parents. Are all parents in agreement? Probably not but they aren't on most issues. But to see sleep expert after expert take the time and come before them is something I haven't seen before. This is not some pie in the sky notion. Lack of sleep is a major health issue in this country.

Someone else said (and I agree); this shouldn't be some analysis, this should be a pilot.

(Also, for God's sake, will someone pull the plug on the use of the term "silver bullet" for education issues? Blanford used it and so did Carr.)

Josh Hayes said...

There are a number of online resources about moving start times in the context of adolescent biology; I ran across a nice accessible blog entry about this which may be useful to those wondering why people are promoting this as a good idea. Feel free to check it out yourself.

ObDisclosure: I worked last year as a student teacher intern with one of the prime movers on this initiative. I suppose this constitutes a possible bias.

n said...

You are off-base Charlie. The time to confront bullying is when it happens - at the retreat. You don't complain about it later in public. Unfair. Even cowardly. Bullying can be very subtle and I would proffer that the previous members of the board were pretty good at it.

Blanford all military: black and white and always right.

mirmac1 said...

Interesting how later start times is no "silver bullet" but the Seattle Teacher Residency is? I don't recall university researchers and physicians ever testifying on behalf of the Alliance's pet project...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, when staff wants to spend time and money, it's good.

When they don't, it's not.

Evidence be damned.

NW parent said...

Blanford is the Clarence Thomas of this board. Ignorant and obstinate at the same time. A very dangerous combination.

Anonymous said...

While I have seen several references to the benefits of later start times for teens, I have yet to hear what impact it may have for elementary students starting earlier.

Early Elementary school start times

Will the analysis look at the cost of returning to a 2-tier schedule, which had better start times than the 1st and 3rd tier schools have now?

Not all parents are supportive of flipping start times. When students need basic things like books and classrooms, it does make me question why this is a priority at this time. Flipping the start times is not going to improve the lousy math texts or weak science materials my children will be using the next few years.

not excited

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Reposting for anon above
"According to research cited in a start time analysis for Shorewood, "compared to adolescents starting at 7am, students starting 50 minutes later in the day showed a significant positive effect on student achievement." Hmm, that's what time SPS already starts...7:50."

As for myself, I agree that there is some merit in moving start times later. I will make my judgment on whether to support the move based on initial staff research and price tag. I see a number of potential cost and equity drawbacks that I think may negate the benefits.

Glad the staff has been made to do the analysis but not in a rush to implement soon if ever. I know others who feel the same. This is not the open-shut case the advocates on this issue wish it to be.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"When students need basic things like books and classrooms, it does make me question why this is a priority at this time."

Okay, well, the Board did pass a math adoption for better materials. That is happening.

As for priorities, I'm not sure I believe many - if not the majority - of items on the staff "priority" list are any more worthy than bell times. I don't think anyone is truly listening to parents on what should be the priorities in this district.

Anonymous said...

Link to start times report for Shorewood:

Impact of School Start Time by Hanover Research

As far as math books, we still have CMP (adopted in June 2006)...and the Discovering books.

not excited

Anonymous said...

As an elementary teacher I am very concerned about the possibility of a 7:30 am start time. Most of my students live in poverty and many have parents working multiple jobs. I often hear from both students and parents that sleep schedules are disrupted due to work schedules. Many of my students are up later than I think best for them in an ideal world, but it's often the only time they can see mom or dad who doesn't get home until 8, etc. Tardies and attendance are already iffy-- how will a super early elementary start time impact that? And with kids already coming to school tired, how will such an early start help learning? I think that kids and adults alike will feel like zombies until mid-morning. Is there any way to have the best of both worlds, so teens get their sleep but elementaries don't need to start before 8:30?


Anonymous said...

Children's hospital is a big supporter of later start times for adolescents, also UW sleep medicine researchers, SPS school nurses, El Centro De La Raza, sleep medicine doctors who have all been testifying by the dozens at school board meetings.

I understand that SPS may only be concerned about how start times affect academic achievement. Districts that have moved to later start times, like ones in Minnesota, have seen significant academic improvements. But I am also concerned about testimony we have heard about traffic accident rates, health impacts, mental health impacts & crime rates.

It is not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems, but it would be a positive step for more kids than not. There are no studies that demonstrate that about many current SPS initiatives like the expensive move to common core.

-early riser

Anonymous said...

@early riser said, It is not a silver bullet that will solve all of our problems, but it would be a positive step for more kids than not.

While there is information to suggest later start times will benefit some students, any changes need to take into consideration all students. There is not enough information to conclude changing start times will help "more kids than not," as you suggest.

Keller's start times study in KY indicates that early elementary start times do negatively impact the performance of some students. She analyzed state assessment and attendance data from over 700 elementary schools in KY. There was also, surprisingly, an increased retention rate (does SPS even retain students?) for students at elementary schools that started later.

As far as CCSS, that is a WA state initiative, and not specific to SPS. Also, how many students actually drive to school? Is that a compelling argument for an urban district where many students walk or take public transit to school?

not excited

pro-sleep mom said...

Regarding bell times:
This is not a silver bullet, but designing a rational system to support basic physiological needs of students is long overdue.

The head of Children's Hospital Sleep Medicine met with Banda last fall and presented research regarding earlier starts for elementary. We were talking about first tier (7:50-8am). There is not a lot of research in this area, but what there is shows that younger children naturally wake up earlier and have their first prime learning period within an hour or two of waking. One study showed no harm to academic performance of elementary having an earlier start time (7:45 from 8:55).

Another thing to look at is the relative travel time for kids. High schools have the largest attendance areas and hence the longest commutes. They also have a sleep phase delay of two hours. Elementary students have the shortest distance to travel (many are in a walk zone within a mile of their school and can get there within 20 minutes. Both groups need about the same amount of sleep to function well- around 9 hours. Based on these facts, doesn't it make sense to have high schools start later than elementary schools?

The consensus from sleep researchers on best high school start times is 8:30 or later. I am open to looking at all options, from high school at 2nd tier, to an HS/ES flip, to costing out two tiers and maximizing community stops. We need to look at all options with kids learning and health as clear priorities.

Charlie Mas said...

It was inappropriate for Director Blanford to make those statements at a Board meeting. That is not the time nor the place for that discussion.

The error was compounded by each of the other Board Directors who spoke to the statement. They too were discussing it in an inappropriate venue. The correct action would have to say that a Board Legislative Meeting was not the right place for that conversation and to say that it would be addressed in the appropriate time and place. Mr. Blanford should have been admonished for his violation of the Board communication protocols and the matter should have been deferred until the next Board retreat, Executive Committee meeting, or Board evaluation work session. It could even be discussed among the Board via email since it was not about a motion nor would it lead to a vote.

If accused of bullying, it does not serve you well to immediately deny it. What serves you well is to keep your mouth shut and take some time before you respond. No immediate response made without consultation with other parties will be seen as a thoughtful or caring response.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know what we could do. Blanford is having the sole community meeting this Saturday. Maybe we should drop in and talk to him about these issues. He says no one is coming so I'm sure he would be glad for the company.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is a link to the Board of Directors Code of Conduct.

It includes these commitments:

"4. Refrain from publicly impugning the integrity or credibility of fellow School Board Directors, the Superintendent,
or staff.

"7. Encourage and respect the free expression of opinion by my fellow Board members and participate in Board
discussions in an open, honest, and respectful manner, honoring differences of opinion or perspective, including
dissenting or minority opinions.

"16. Hold myself and my colleagues accountable for abiding by this Code of Conduct, Board policy, and law; and
understand that a motion of Censure may be brought for an egregious violation.

And, while we're at it, Director Blanford is also in violation of this requirement from the Code of Conduct:

"9. Be sufficiently informed about, and prepared to act on, the specific issues before the Board; remain reasonably knowledgeable about local, state, national, and global education issues; and base my decisions on reliable facts
and data.

This is similar to Board Policy 1220, which states:

"Each Board member shall review the agenda and any study materials distributed prior to the meeting and be prepared to participate in the discussion and decision-making for each agenda item."

There is also this Board Procedure 1620 BP:
"5. Public Meetings: The School Board and Superintendent are committed to maintaining a climate of mutual respect and civility at all times. Disagreements on issues will be addressed respectfully and personal criticisms will be avoided."

and this:

"The Superintendent and the Board shall communicate in a thorough, honest and transparent fashion so that the Board is apprised of the district’s direction and progress. The Superintendent and the Board should first seek to clarify any questions or resolve misunderstandings between them through direct personal

Director Blanford's remarks were in violation of every Board communication rule. He should be censored.

Gads said...

Thanks for the policy, Charlie.

It certainly appears Blandford is in violation of policy and is deserving of censure.

I hope the board takes action on this issue. Banford's behavior can not be allowed to continue.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

And Carr too as she jumped on the bandwagon...

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