Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Dr. Nyland Visits with the City Council

I received a tweet on Monday from SPS, saying that Dr. Nyland was visiting with the City Council as part of their regular Monday morning briefing.  Here's the link.  It was worth listening to as I heard Dr. Nyland say, with some candor, various interesting things.

Summary

President Burgess welcomed him and then asked him why he would want to be superintendent in Seattle after he was semi-retired?
Nyland - My wife had been diagnosed with Stage Three breast cancer and came thru it, with treatment, with a clean bill of health.  My wife asked me why didn't I look into this opportunity at SPS.

He said SPS was the "poster child" for the education gap but that SPS was steadily closing that gap except for African-American male students and Native American students.  He said Seattle schools was at the "forefront" in trying to address these challenging issues.

CM Harrell - What is happening in the search process for the next superintendent?
Nyland - He noted he was here for a year and am being encouraged to apply if I want to and that the Board has had 2-3 work sessions on the process but that he was not party to those meetings.

CM Rasmussen - Asked about current work/goals
Nyland - Working on MTSS, building systems especially around Special Education, building accountability into systems ("do we do what we say we will do?" and bell times for high school students.
Rasmussen pressed him on more info on bell times.
Nyland - Don't know for certain but SPS has a "later" high school start time than some other districts around 8 am. 

CM Licata - All that sounds like a lot of work (note: I perceive the CM was talking about the goals and not just bell times).  He asked if "given these goals, do you have any room to initiate any activities" of your own that might help students' understanding of life and going out into the world?  (He noted that he had an idea of his own.  Sadly, he never followed up so I can't say what he was talking about.)
Nyland - He said his reach was limited as an interim.  He said, from reading up on SPS history and living in the area, that "Seattle started many, many, many things" and got to about 50-60% on them and then moved to something else.  He said Seattle had a history of an active public ed community and had "activist SB members and community members." 
He said he was going to try to accomplish the four things put before him and was not likely to push something new.

CM Gooden - Asked about supporting girls in learning about math and science.
Nyland - not sure but had been hearing about IGNITE.  He said the district got into a bit of Title IX trouble as they were not supposed to be segregating by gender groups. 

CM Bagshaw - She followed up on this subject and said the City would like to help and what could they do?
Nyland - He said that SPS seemed ahead on this issue and was working on the elementary science piece.

Bagshaw - Talked about portables and capacity issues.
Nyland - He said it was a good challenge to have. He said he lives downtown and knows there are about 1500 kids downtown and around the edges of downtown.  He said they had just finished the MENG report on building condition and the next work is around the next capital levy (BTA IV) in Feb. 2016.
Bagshaw - There was an Operations levy last year and did he have a report on what the district is doing with the money?  She said it would help the voters understand priorities.   (If I had been in the room I might have laughed outloud.  The district never wants people to truly know where all the dollars go.) 
Nyland - In what was a theme, he said that he has some info but "not in a good form."  He said it is "one of my struggles" where he gets a "big" report but not enough details on a smaller scale.  He said he did just get a report on earthquake safety and buildings.

CM Clark -  Said she had met with people about the capacity issues and shared the frustration with the district over people wanting to know where the growth will be but that the City, like the district, has a hard time knowing what people want and where.  She said she understood that the district would be needing a new high school soon. 
Nyland - Yes, the district will need a new high school and "sooner rather than later."  He said that typically districts he worked at looked at trendlines and other indicators.  He said he was "not sure how (SPS) has attempted to do that."
Burgess - I know the district is planning to use Lincoln as next high school.
Clark - Expressed confusion and wondered if it was just Lincoln or Lincoln plus another new high school.
Nyland - I don't know for sure but I think that is right.

CM Sawant - followed up on Bagshaw's point about math/science and girls and supporting them earlier.  She referenced the ill-formed remark from Microsoft's CEO about women using karma to get raises and she also referenced John Greenberg and his Race and Equity class. 
Nyland - the District is working on that and just this week, staff is being trained with the Race and Equity toolkit.  He said that schools like Rainier View Elementary and Mercer Middle School were closing the gaps faster and they needed to look at what those schools are doing.

CM Burgess - He mentioned the preschool initiative and early interventions.  He said it was important to identify successes and take those to scale.
CM Bagshaw - she asked about the Innovation Schools and how that project was going. 
Nyland - said he didn't know but was taking Thursdays to visit schools.

Takeaway

- Nyland has said, in this venue and others, about how Seattle is ahead of the curve on several fronts.  I'm not sure I believe he would talk up the district if he didn't believe it to be so.
- Nyland still has a learning curve but he seems to be asking the right questions but seemingly, not always getting the data he wants.  I wonder why that would be.
- Nyland has a way of being positive even when reporting less-than-favorable news.  It's a refreshing attitude.  It speaks to "look, this is not good, but here's what we can/will do."
- I wish he had come a bit more prepared.  The City Council clearly wants to help. There is no doubt about that and every single time that the Superintendent and/or Board members speak to the Council, they should have something in their back pocket about what they need.

7 comments:

mirmac1 said...

"He said that typically districts he worked at looked at trendlines and other indicators. He said he was "not sure how (SPS) has attempted to do that."

Then the Ops Comm of the Whole should provide this information.... One would think.

Bad Seattle said...

SPS was the "poster child" for the education gap

This surprised me, but I might just be ignorant. Does anyone know of data showing the achievement gap in major cities that shows Seattle to be exceptionally bad?

I thought Seattle's achievement gap was about average nationwide. That's not to say it's not a huge problem and one we should work hard to address (there are children being left behind here, let's do something already), but I thought the problem here in Seattle was the same problem every other major city is facing and not unusual or exceptional.

I know and agree that Seattle's achievement gap is unacceptable. But is it actually true that Seattle's achievement gap is unusually high compared to other major urban areas?

Charlie Mas said...

@Bad Seattle,
It appears to me that Dr. Nyland meant that Seattle is, in fact, doing very well with the achievement gap and that he misused the "poster child" idiom.

Anonymous said...

@BadSeattle: Nyland is from Marysville, and I believe he worked in Edmonds before that. So, he's probably comparing Seattle to other WA districts, not cities elsewhere. Which, in my opinion, is the correct and most useful apples to apples comparison, given how our funding is sourced.

WSDWG

Anonymous said...

The City Council, of course and as usual, wants to borrow templates from other cities that have *supposedly* had success in closing the gaps, etc., and impose them upon our kids, because why listen to teachers and parents, when we don't provide them with junkets to DC and Boston?

When I read about "erasure marks" on test booklets, I automatically think "MGJ, Charleston SC, and a little elementary called "Sanders-Clyde." Google it folks. It's what MGJ was beating feet away from when we hired her in SPS, while installing the rubber-stamping Gang-Of-Four board.

If it worked in Chicago, NY and New Orleans, why not here, right?

Trouble is, that it actually didn't work in NY, DC or New Orleans, but we copied the same plans anyways.

Our focus in Seattle is Seattle. Not DC. Not Boston. Not Harlem or NYC. It's here and now and we can do these things ourselves, with proper leaders and true respect for the professionals who make it happen everyday in our classrooms.

OK. Stepping off my soapbox.

WSDWG

Po3 said...

"Race and Equity toolkit."

I would like to know more about this. Anyway to find out?

Anonymous said...

Po3..contact Bernardo Ruiz at district.