Sunday, September 21, 2014

Seattle Schools This Week

Update: so the 2.5 hour Executive Committee meeting of the Whole on Wednesday from 4:30-7:00 pm now has an agenda.

The first 2 hours will be devoted to discussing the Superintendent evaluation, Board Committee Structure and Calendar and Board evaluation.

The last half-hour is a closed session on the "performance of a public employee."

end of update

Update: a great conference is happening this week at the University of Puget Sound.  It's the 2014 Race and Pedagogy Conference.  Speakers include Henry Louis Gates and Angela Davis.

The theme for the 2014 Race & Pedagogy National Conference is “What NOW is the Work of Education and Justice?: Mapping a New Critical Conscience.” In asking “What Now?” the conference challenges us to align concepts of education and justice in ways that call for conscience, critique, and change.

end of update.

I'm going to add in some events about public education as well this week.

This week is, once again, Banned Books Week.  How many have you read?

Tuesday, September 23rd
Mayor Murray will be releasing his budget for the our city.  It might be interesting to see how much money he is allocating for the new department of Early Learning and Education.

There also appears to be a meeting - not a district one but one requested by parents - about the condition of Eckstein's building at 6pm at Eckstein.  I believe this is thru the group that calls itself "the Voice of NE Seattle schools." ( I find that charmingly funny as this blog doesn't even claim itself to be the voice of any school or group.)


The parents have a laundry list of building complaints which I'm sure are absolutely valid.  Their main question is when will the district get to some real issues that they confront every day.  They ask if they will be on the BEX V list (which the district has no way of answering at this point) and even if they are, that may be nearly a decade out.

They also say that they don't have equitable access to a decent building.  Many other schools could claim that as well.  It's not like most other middle schools are not in overcrowded, aging building.

Again, this district does not spend the money it should - in any real way - on maintenance.  So it's not just our older buildings but those brand-new ones we just invested in?  Same treatment.  That $2.6M that the district transferred from rental/lease building revenue into the General Fund?  I doubt that any of it will go into Maintenance (which is part of the General Fund).

And we can see the coming storm that is the high school capacity issue. Will that leave Eckstein, Washington and Whitman out in the cold for BEX V?  (Of course, if the district gets to start putting new buildings/major renovation on BTA IV, well, then you'll get two outcomes.  More capacity issues can be addressed BUT that maintenance needing to be done on the majority of buildings?  It will just fall further and further behind.

Wednesday, September 24th
The Board is to have an Executive Session - for 2.5 hours - on evaluation of the performance of an employee.  Well, it's not the Superintendent so who can they be evaluating?  I'm wondering if this is over the former Sped director.

This is also the date for the Seattle Channel/CityClub event on the two preschool measures.  I don't know if they have filled up yet for the live audience but I believe you can watch online or on tv.  It starts at 7 pm on cable channel 21.

Thursday, September 25th
Not on the district calendar but apparently there is a meeting 7 PM in the JAMS Cafeteria where traffic safety issues will be discussed with district officials.

Saturday, September 27th
Two community meetings with Board directors:
Director Patu from 10:00 am to 11:30 am at Cafe Vita.
Director Martin-Morris from 11am to noon at Montlake Library (he mentioned at the Board meeting he had to leave early so it's a short meeting).




38 comments:

Anonymous said...

"The Board is to have an Executive Session - for 2.5 hours - on evaluation of the performance of an employee. Well, it's not the Superintendent so who can they be evaluating? I'm wondering if this is over the former Sped director."

Only other option that would come to mind right now as being worth that amount of time would be Ron English.

-IMHO

mosfet said...

I love that some organizations try to ban books and then other people use those bans as book recommendations. Counterproductive, maybe?

Anonymous said...

I've posted this here before (to crickets) and I'll post it again.

Eckstein may be in rough shape, but its not as if the rest of the district's middle schools are a whole lot better.

I went to Whitman nearly twenty years ago and there were 12 instructional portables, plus a double portable for PE because the gym couldn't handle all the kids at once.

Whitman has more portables now than it did then, and other than getting flourescent lighting throughout, has not seen any meaningful capital upgrades in decades (ever?).

When I was at Whitman the back hallway (with the stairs to the shop and the door to the exterior stairs to the portables) was so crowded they had to post a security guard there during passing periods to prevent fist fights. It can't be any better these days with more students.

Where's the outrage? I'm with Melissa; Eckstein might need help but they are far from the only overcrowded, under-maintained building in the district.

northwesterner

Anonymous said...

Eye roll at Eckstein. Same parents who simply could not have their children in a too crowded facility, nevermind that other schools had it much worse for much longer. Having evicted the population it didn't really want in the building in the first place, they now want a top notch facility.

Again, there are many needs greater. Please take a number and sit down. Sympathy is in very short supply for this parent population.

North of 85th

Anonymous said...

Looking at enrollment projections Whitman is at about 920 this year. About the same as Eckstein now, with Jane Addams open-Eckstein was projected to be 948 this year, not sure where it ended up. I agree about needing to step back in line for facilities maintenance, especially now that the most crumbling portables are gone, but it was incredibly crowded. If Wedgwood had gone to JAMS the schools would not be nearly so disparate economically, but it was wedgwood's advocacy that created that problem, not Eckstein trying to ask for some cloistered school. All Eckstein was advocating for was less crowding. Which it needed- it's now only slightly more crowded than the school you are saying is outrageous.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

Regarding Eckstein...

More power to this group that is trying to do something about a perceived problem.

Kim said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Lynn said...

Crowding is a function of the number of students and the building capacity. District staff calculated the "right-sized" capacity for each building, including a dedicated teaching space for each PCP teacher (elementary), a dedicated computer lab, and portables limited to 15% of the total classroom count.

Those capacity numbers are 1093 for Eckstein and 832 for Whitman. If sleeper's estimates above are correct, Eckstein isn't overcrowded at all.

I wonder if the group at Eckstein calling for improvements would like to take a tour of every other middle school in the district.

Anonymous said...

Hey, I would love to see those numbers, Lynn. I have been looking everywhere, and only see that portables are included, not how a school is right sized. I used to be able to find the square footage of sps buildings (that is what I was looking for to compare Whitman and Eckstein;it's a pretty helpful, hard number, unlike "capacity" which seems to be so easily fudged), but that seems to be gone now too.

-sleeper

Lynn said...

sleeper - here you go!

Capacity Three Ways (From the ITCM BAR on the 11/6/13 Board Meeting Agenda)

ITCM Data from June 2011 (This includes square footage)

2006 and 2009 Facilities Condition Reports

Anonymous said...

I thought BTAIII funds for improvements at Eckstein were approved by the school board last Spring?

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I haven't been inside many schools in the district, but toured Wedgwood Elementary last year and was frankly appalled at the condition of the building. What a start to school for the kindergarters down a narrow, dingy stairway into a crumbly basement annex...and the rest of the building doesn't look good either. I was really surprised that it doesn't appear to be on any upcoming list of buildings in desperate need of improvement.

I can't comment specifically on Eckstein vs any other SPS middle school, but am assuming it is parents raising the charge. And they should - if it is in deplorable condition, it should be maintained and improved. Not necessarily to the lazy river/super fancy new college type stuff going in, but improved to a decent, non-crumbly, no more windows broken on the outside, safe and clean on the inside condition. As should any other school in the district in need of significant repair.

I don't really understand the view that even if it is disrepair, well, other schools are/are worse too. Personally, I am going to complain first about the schools my kids attend. That doesn't mean I don't support fixing the other schools as well.

NE mom

Anonymous said...

Thanks Lynn!

I think something is muddy in their right sizing information, then, because the total capacity without portables is very similar- 921 and 963, leading me to believe they are both about at capacity but not overfull (for this year- the wave has just started to hit middle schools, and I know Eckstein is supposed to pop right back up to overfull over the next 3 years).

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't believe these parents are necessarily arguing their enrollment is too large - they are saying their building has multiple issues that are affected their population, both students and staff.

As well, they agree with Sleeper's point that their population is liable to climb in the next few years.

My point is not to single anyone out but to say the need is great and the district is not doing (again) a basic operational task which is to maintain buildings.

Lynn said...

NE mom,

I'm not saying the condition of the buildings isn't important. I've rejected two schools now because I just couldn't imagine sending my young child to spend their early school days in such depressing surroundings.

What bothers me about the parents at Eckstein is that they're so oblivious to the financial challenges facing the district. There is no extra money in the budget. What do they propose we should cut to spend more money on maintenance? We could:

Increase class sizes and cut a few teachers
Cut school counselors or librarians
Stop providing free half day K to families who qualify for FRL
Cut busing for elementary students who live less than two miles from their school
Provide only the state-funded five periods per day for high school students

Which of those would be worth doing to catch up on the maintenance at Eckstein?

Anonymous said...

RE: preschool.... I saw an ad in the paper yesterday for this event.

They have a facebook page too
https://www.facebook.com/seattletimes.livewire/timeline

http://livewire.seattletimes.com/

The Case for Early Learning
October 15, 2014

Join brain scientists and political leaders for an important discussion about the benefits of early childhood education. How do preschoolers learn? Should Washington offer free preschool for all? How can our limited tax resources best serve our most precious local resource — our community’s children?

The event is free but space is limited; registration is recommended.

And it lists the speakers.

-katydid

Anonymous said...

Typical reason for deferred maintenance is "no money" in the budget.

I have always wondered how much deferred maintenance is due to "no money" and how much is due to lack of organization, prioritization, and a general ability to get things done.

Decades ago (like, the 50s) each school had a maintenance team assigned to handle day to day concerns. Now, there is a head custodian, who can't do much but call downtown. And downtown may or may not send someone who may or may not do anything.

A quick walk through most schools shows that many of these "concerns" are issues that started small, weren't addressed (why? not enough stuff? no one cares?), and became big problems later (when there truly isn't any money in the budget.

northwesterner

Lynn said...

I should not have said the parents at Eckstein when I meant this particular group of people.

ben said...

Its very hard for me to separate the VNESS folks from their prior actions. However, they have proved to basically be the same very small set of people and not really interested in broadening their base. On top of that they're on a losing streak since the misguided (IMHO) anti-BEX IV campaign.

So:

1. They're not representative of even Eckstein at large.
2. They're not effective.
3. I'm sure the district staff remembers them as clearly as I do and I imagine they don't get much of an ear there.

Ben

Anonymous said...

Lynn,

Your provocative question assumes that the district is currently spending every penny it gets in the best possible way. You have been around long enough to know that's not true.

I never like certain politicians who always say that no public entity should get more money until they spend the money they have perfectly, but Seattle schools has a long-term issues with not spending money in the ways that will best benefit kids. Wasteful ways the district has spend money: too many managers in the district, Garfield was allowed to run huge over-runs, MAP testing expenses, etc. They have also had massive errors like the extremely sickeningly expensive school closures of 2006.

While Eckstein is no more worthy than any other crumbling building in the district, it's ridiculous to suggest that the ONLY place to get money is firing teachers. The fact does remain that school all over the country are falling apart. We are not voting for a government that prioritizes infrastructure.

-freezer

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ben, you said,

3. I'm sure the district staff remembers them as clearly as I do and I imagine they don't get much of an ear there.

Actually the head of Capital Projects and the head of Facilities will be there so somehow this group go their ear (or it was the PTA who asked for the meeting). But you're right; their record on advocacy is not good.

I'm with Freezer; there's money being spent that doesn't go to the classroom so to suggest that taking care of buildings can be postponed in order to save teachers isn't true.

Anonymous said...

On the KUOW interview just now Nyland said, in a very politically careful way, that he'd like to be SPS permanent super.

Posting here because on the agenda this week or next for SPS really needs to be public acknowledgement of SPS perm super search process. It has to start in the fall to get someone committed by early 2105.

So what's the deal? Is the board going to do a search or not? If not, why? It would be unacceptable to "slip" Nyland in after a few months, claiming there is no time/money for a search at that point. That would be what we call a "staff" tactic. And this board better not think about pulling it, IMHO.
DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

So, I'm still relatively new "here" and as always appreciate the wealth of information that gets posted on this blog.

I've also since just last January stepped up to voluntarily serve the SCPTSA in the role of the legislative chair, and I'll tell you, it is a much bigger job than I ever imagined. I'm not complaining, but as I've dedicated (as others have as well) a large portion of my time to trying to make things better for our kids, I find it a bit frustrating when people complain about other people's advocacy, instead of getting organized and advocating themselves. Or reaching out to collaborate. Or at least something.

What I keep hearing from PTAs and parents and schools all over the district is that we are over crowded and underfunded. We know the underfunded part: The legislature is in contempt!

But, will this change? I don't think it will unless we get unified in telling the legislature to fund education for all of our kids.

And, until we are actually funded for basic ed, there will continue to be internal fighting for limited resources.

And, of course parents are going to organize to fight for their own schools. That is what every single PTA or site council/PTO is focused on primarily. Their school and their kids. It is only natural. We work on what we think we can accomplish, and what is close to home.

I don't know all of the history and politics of the years before, or even exactly what happened specifically in the development and campaigning for BEXIV, but I do know that Flip and others have already acknowledged that it isn't enough to meet the facility and building needs of our growing district and the McCleary decision.

I'm glad that the VNESS folks have called this meeting, and I hope that it also calls to the district's, City's and state's attention that we have a serious and systemic facilities and capacity crisis. No, BEXIV does not even come close to solving it, and no it really isn't ok to continue spreading portables like candy at a parade. And split shifts are a CRAZY solution to float!

We need some authentic facilities and capacity planning.

It isn't just Eckstein suffering, and it isn't just the NE. It is all over the district.

But when the district keeps saying that BEXIV's process will manage everything, and their facilities master plan is sorely outdated and incorrect even though it is only 2 years old, we are getting no where and fast.

There is no clear picture of how bad the facilities problem really is, which means it is impossible to start to work for solutions.

We just have various groups that manage to voice their concerns and get some air play-- Downtown, Eckstein... But what about all of the schools that don't have families with the time and energy to organize and advocate?

It is time for the district to work on updating the facilities master plan, and work the process of community engagement.

I'm game to help work for solutions for the entire district, and help organize voices into effective advocacy. If you are as well, consider becoming the legislative chair for your PTA.

Regardless, anyone should feel free to reach out to me at legchair@scptsa.org

Thanks,

Eden


Anonymous said...

PS. I'm hosting a meeting for all of the Seattle area PTA legislative chairs tomorrow night, so if your PTA didn't get the invite, please e-mail me at legchair@SCPTSA.org

Eden

Melissa Westbrook said...

District Watcher, I am behind on my threads. The entire Board (save Carr) met last week to talk about the superintendent search. As well, my first question to Nyland when he was appointed was "Would you consider staying on?" He said, "Too early to tell." I was quite surprised but it might be a good thing.

They are going to do a search so if he wants the job, he'll have to apply.

Eden, I think that people should understand a couple of key facts.

1) Both BEX and BTA suffer from mission creep and the Board has allowed it. There should not be academics in BEX - it's about buildings.

Now they want to use BTA for "capacity management" but now want to include new buildings. That's crazy talk to me and a couple of projects (like a new high school at $100M and Federal Reserve bldg at $53M) would eat up more than half of the last BTA.

2) The district has sent mixed signals to the State about needing capital dollars. Initially, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was pushing for dollars for a Skills Center (for career/technical training). Speaker Chopp came up with a nice chunk of change and she got cold feet. If someone offers you money and you don't take it, they won't offer again.

3) Charlie has said (and I agree), this is one area that the City really could help with. I have no idea if the district has ever asked for that help.

4) The district took $2.6M from rental/sales revenues and drove it into the General Fund. Did it/will it go for maintenance needs? I doubt it (and I've asked but no one will answer the question). That staff did this and THEN got the Board's permission, well, this is the Board we have now. No wonder they fear no one and nothing.

The Board, to use that money, had to pass a resolution and in it is this wording:


"WHEREAS, Capital Projects funds are sufficient to meet the demands for new construction and improvements, and..."

Well, parents in SPS all know a tall tale when they see one.

But has that PTSA spoken out about this? Not that I've heard. I wish the SCPTSA and all school PTAs would express to the Board how they feel as their schools take it on the chin (on maintenance and improvement).

I don't even know how the district could take take those revenue dollars and use them and yet be coming to voters in 2016 for BTA dollars.

But my read is PTA wants to be liked by the district and Board. So issues get raised but the real muscle the PTAs have - just like the Board's - never gets flexed.

Anonymous said...

@ Melissa. Thank you for sharing the super search update.

Of course, as usual, we don't get the information from SPS itself, even though the board's most central job is to hire and manage a superintendent.

It's always the same. Different board faces. Same communication and process fog.

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

Melissa-

Thanks for the history and perspective. And thanks for sharing that information about the resolution that the board passed. This kind of statement is very confusing when they already know that it isn't enough.

But please don't think that SCPTSA hasn't been advocating on these issues. I've personally been testifying and going to meetings and talking about these issues with just about everyone who will listen, and some of those people are in positions of power that if they wanted to do something, they could. I think they just might not be hearing from enough people, and the old and false narratives run deep.

Just a few years ago the district was closing and selling schools. Folks still really don't realize that there is a problem. They seem to really believe that BEXIV will solve all our capacity problems. And honestly I don't think the district is doing a good job of educating people on the reality. Especially when they pass resolutions like that...

You know what is even more confounding to me? No one realizes that all of this new development that is going up around town and putting stress on our schools isn't helping to pay for schools. There are no developer impact fees like exist in virtually every other city around us. Why not? I'm really not sure, but it would be awesome if people might write to their City Council member and ask for the City to consider levying impact fees for schools. It is one very reasonable way to help pay for our school facilities that isn't even being discussed seriously yet. Oh, except that Rassmussen hosted an Impact Fee 101 last week in the city Council Transportation Committee, so maybe the conversation is starting? You can watch it all here:

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=2131465

But to your point about PTAs taking stands on issues... You have to remember that PTAs are completely volunteer run. And that in Seattle, our PTAs are forced to literally fund basic education needs. I think it is wrong to think that PTAs and SCPTSA are simply trying to be liked by everybody. I know that they are seriously overworked just trying to take care of the basics, like make sure there are play ground supervisors so our kids are kept safe, and raise funds for to have PE and ARTS and librarians, and make sure that teachers can get the classroom supplies they need and literally on and on.

PTAs work hard for our schools, and it is really easy to burn out because the need is so great.

I hope to help us be a bit more effective at leveraging the power of our combined voices to advocate for the change we all want to see.

With 82 PTAs in Seattle, our combined voice can have an impact if we want it to. We just need to get a little more organized and focused, and be very careful not to get pitted against each other fighting for resources.

Trust me, SCPTSA board members and all of our PTAs are working hard with the limited capacity we've got, and again, we welcome all the help we can get. For anyone who wants to make a difference, Join your PTA, and get involved.

Eden

Mary Griffin said...

Talk to Gerry Pollett about developer impact fees.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eden, I was in PTA and I know the issues well. You are not telling me anything new.

You say that the PTAs should be organized and focused and that's exactly what would be great.

PTA is the largest parent group in the country. They have a huge bully pulpit. I have rarely seen the SCPTSA rise up and say, "We aren't taking this anymore." If you had every single PTA in SPS put a vote on their agenda of what is most concerning to parents and then told the Board/senior leadership - this is what matters to us, I think it would be very good.

It truly sounds that between capacity and building condition that many parents are very unhappy.

I'm not asking anyone to do more; just put the emphasis on togetherness and flexing that PTA muscle.

mirmac1 said...

I want to echo Eden's remarks.

I was one of those guilty of slamming the SCPTSA as focused on self-interest and unrepresentative of "the great unwashed" (of which I count myself a part of). I am gratified to hear that the SCPTSA board has embraced a broad, inclusive vision that has not, by any stretch, set off my BS detector.

I'll say Dr. Nyland has not tingled my senses. He has, to date, been a cipher. Seems the "listening tour" is on again. How many freakin' years must one be a superintendent before you know what works and WTH doesn't? I guess parents and PTAs get the one representative, while the City and its friends have tables at work sesions and wine bars.

Anonymous said...

Eden,

It's a bit disingenuous and twee for you to continue prefacing all your comments with "I'm new". You've been pretty deeply involved for a couple of years now. You've been to a lot of meetings. You have a strong voice that asks good questions. Own it and make people listen!

open ears

John S said...

VNESS? Aren't they the same people who stupidly campaigned against BEX IV when everything didn't go exactly their way with JAMS?

Anonymous said...

Open Ears- Thanks for the confidence, and I am still relatively new here actually. It feels like a bunch of years already, but I actually just got involved last fall during the growth boundaries. And, since I know that so many other folks have been working on these issues for many years, I feel that I need to clarify that I don't think I have all of the answers, and that I'm still learning.

But thank you.

And Melissa, I know I'm not telling you anything new. I just think that people some times forget that PTA isn't staffed like other non-profits and that they actually put the vast majority of the money they raise directly into schools and school support.

These volunteers really don't get enough credit for all that they do to make our schools run in Seattle.

Eden

mirmac1 said...

open ears,

I think I can say I'm new to SCPTSA biz. And I've been pleasantly surprised by the inclusive mission I've heard from the SCPTSA board (as the new SpEd Area Director).

Let's try to make this work because I have a sense that, from Banda on, these Supts-in-passing think that PTSAs are the be-all, end-all of parental engagement.

If so, then let's show them what to expect....

Anonymous said...


Here is the scariest report you'll see. Most schools seem to be out of compliance on something called " the overall strength of the building during an earthquake".
An earthquake that is 100% inevitable and decades overdue. Look up your school and start praying.

http://district.seattleschools.org/modules/cms/pages.phtml?sessionid=a72e8ea986fc18ffc797c3bc44391bcc&sessionid=a72e8ea986fc18ffc797c3bc44391bcc&sessionid=9d4bfad026b9b8ac385971e8ee977f37&pageid=223515&sessionid=a72e8ea986fc18ffc797c3bc44391bcc

Shaky

Melissa Westbrook said...

Shaky, again, that's been the case for a long time. Some seismic work gets done but not enough. BTA IV should be about these issues, not building new schools.

Ragweed said...

Mirmac1 - can you shoot an email to LictonSpringSiteCouncil at gmail.com

We are looking for some ideas for community/parent education around autism inclusion, to insure that we as a community are supporting the students at the program here. I would welcome your suggestions.

Thanks!

Lynn said...

Wednesday's agenda says Superintendent Evaluation 2013-14. Are they going to let Banda know how he did?