Sunday, November 16, 2014

The Garfield Enrollment Puzzler

Part Two from Kellie LaRue and Meg Diaz.   There will be an update at the end by me provided by Garfield staff and PTSA.

Garfield High School

Garfield High School is still slated to lose a teacher. District administration says Garfield’s enrollment is under projections, and the building is overstaffed. As of Curriculum Night, the Garfield community was under the impression that they were comfortably over projections.

There are a lot of conflicting and confusing numbers. Since this is a long post, I’m going to tell you my conclusions right away. I think district administration made a mistake. It’s likely they made more than one mistake. I came to this conclusion after examining the (sparse) enrollment data available on the SPS and OSPI websites. I thought that if the district’s other enrollment data was consistent and normal, the counting difference was probably a mistake on Garfield’s part.

SPS enrollment data is riddled with anomalies, conflicts and inconsistencies, leading me to conclude that district administration made an error with Garfield’s count – and possibly in other enrollment calculations, as well. 

Garfield Timeline 

Spring 2014. The district creates enrollment projections for all schools. High school staffing is usually based on this projection; high schools often create student schedules for the following year before the current year ends. Projection for Garfield (available on the district website): 1,612, budgeted for 61.2 teachers.

Summer 2014. Budget approved by board. Later in the summer, district administration allegedly revises projections (revised projections not available to the public). Garfield’s new, undisclosed-until-October projection: 1,653. Unknown if additional staffing was budgeted.

September: waitlists! Students can move around until the end of September if there’s space available at the school they wish to attend. Garfield always has a high wait list, with 117 general education students hoping to get in this fall (9th: 71, 10th: 24, 11th: 14, 12th: 8).

End of September: the Garfield building is too full for the waitlist to move much.

October 2nd: Curriculum night at Garfield. Long-time building leadership states that building enrollment is 1,688.

Mid-late October: District administration announces that Garfield is under-enrolled and should plan on losing or ransoming a faculty member (for about $90K). District calculation of Garfield
enrollment: 1,586. Teaching staff to be reduced from 60 to 59 teachers (somehow less staff than they were budgeted for at 1,611 students.

Mid-late October: Garfield revises enrollment, likely according to “new” guidelines from JSCEE, estimating building enrollment at 1,622.

Late October: District administration insists 1,586 is correct enrollment, and that Garfield will lose a teacher. Administrators seem to feel pulling a teacher from a core class will have less of an impact on students if they do it at the end of the semester, apparently failing to realize that the overwhelming majority of core classes are full year. 

There are a lot numbers that don’t really correspond. How does one make sense of it? 

The oddities: 

* Garfield’s enrollment is usually over 1,600 students. The district’s 2014-15 count for Garfield is unusually low, but not completely improbable.

* Staffing appears to have never reached the level projected for 1,611 students and is being reduced further.

* The school was too full in September to move the wait list, but so under-enrolled in October a teacher needs to be pulled.

This is all strange, but not quite enough to conclude that district administration made a mistake.

Would it help to look at what happened at other schools? 

* Gatewood was projected for 429 and came in at 405. They ransomed their teacher for around $90,000.

* Stevens was projected for 401 (in the spring), came in at 405 and still lost a teacher (uh, what?). They were given an opportunity to ransom their teacher.

* Hazel Wolf K-8 was projected for 763, came in at 711, and… JSCEE agreed that it wouldn’t work well for their program to have a teacher removed. But, those are conflicting numbers.

District administrators were in possession of enrollment numbers in September (because the district is required to file enrollment numbers with the state every month of the school year), and would have been able to provide early warning to schools in danger of losing staff due to under-enrollment. 

Despite failing to do this, the district is asking us all to trust that staffing changes are simply based on reconciling projections with actual enrollment. But the numbers the decisions are supposedly based on are not available to the public. Spring projections can be found on the district website. But the summer projections that informed the decision to pull teachers are unavailable.

Detailed enrollment data is unavailable to the public without persistent public records requests, and even then, not all requests are filled.

There's no explanation of why schools within projections have to pay a ransom or lose a teacher, while a school 52 students under projections keeps a teacher.

The rationale for decisions is utterly opaque. From the outside, decisions about whether to pull a teacher or not could as easily be made by a game of drunk darts, horoscope consultation or checking with the octopus at the Seattle Aquarium as it is by data.

So, to recap: Garfield and district administration don’t agree as to how many students are in the Garfield building. District administration decided not to fill the school with students from the waitlist, then decided to pull a teacher.

Maybe Garfield’s building miscounted and district administrators caught a mistake. It’s possible.

Garfield leadership has been in place for many years, and is experienced with the ins and outs of counting high school students, but that doesn’t make them infallible. But Tracy Libros, who as long-time enrollment director spent many years looking over the enrollment data, retired in June, so it’s possible that the district administrators working on calculating enrollment are taking on the full responsibility for the first time, and also may not be infallible.

End of Part Two.

Press release from Garfield Staff and PTSA, November 6, 2014

Garfield High School staff, students, and parents are still facing the loss of a full time teacher, even after a walkout and protest by students, staff, and parents.  The district has only delayed the action until the end of the semester.  Since the vast majority of high school courses are year-long rather than one semester, the effects of the cut may still be devastating to the 150 students whose schedules will be altered.  Popular Latin teacher, Wayne Miller, learned that he has been named as the teacher to be cut through a district announcement before he, the Building Leadership Team, or the rest of the Garfield High School community were notified.

The Garfield faculty and the PTSA are requesting an opportunity to discuss the budget shortfall and possible solutions in a meeting with the superintendent. The faculty and PTSA are seeking a less disruptive solution to the budget shortfall.  The letter points out that the Seattle School District has the most lopsided distribution of funds in the region, with $306 million of the
$689 million budget spent at the district office, and only $386 going directly to schools.   

The letter also asks the superintendent to explain how the decision to cut Garfield’s budget in the middle of the term was determined.   Garfield appears to have met all enrollment projections, and has a waiting list of over 100 students, which the district has refused to allow to be enrolled. 

Letter to Superintendent Nyland attached to press release dated Nov. 4, 2014

Dr. Nyland:

The staff and parents at Garfield High School appreciate your letter, sent to us on October 27, responding to our concerns.  We realize that you have many pressing issues in need of your attention and we respect the fact that as a new superintendent there must be great pressure on your time.  However, we have found your reply leaves many questions unanswered and concerns unaddressed.  We ask that sometime in the near future you meet with representatives of the Garfield community so that we can clear up any misunderstandings and collectively determine how to offer the greatest support to our students.

Here are some of the concerns we hope to discuss with you. 

When the Seattle School District originally notified Garfield we would be losing a teacher, we were told this teacher would be from a core subject class (math, language arts, history, or science) and that the displacement would happen by October 27. This would have left 150 of our students without a core class, some nine weeks into the school year, and would have had the potential to threaten the graduation of many students. The original timeline of the loss of a teacher was untenable and was not in the best interest of students. In the second letter you sent, the timeline was adjusted to three months later with no explanation about the change. Given that there is no means of open communication about this very serious decision, the stress level of teachers and students was and remains very high. Students had first worried that they would enter the building the next week with no teacher. While that worry was alleviated, another replaced it – will they lose a teacher after working with them all semester? And, if so, who?

Further adding to the mistrust and stress is the apparent lack of understanding of the reality of high-school student class schedules.  Communications from the district, and comments you made at the community meeting, imply that there will be very little disruption to student schedules now since the proposed teacher loss will not happen until semester two.  This ignores the reality that most core classes, including all AP classes, are full-year rather than single semester classes.  It was frustrating to learn that perhaps the district administrators do not understand this basic fact of high-school schedules.

Students have the right to feel safe that their educational choices will be honored, and that their district won’t eliminate a class when they have already committed time and energy. Our students had this trust and now it is gone. We have had many questions from our students but can offer them no assurances, as we are as much in the dark as they are about future decisions.

Additionally, communication regarding budget decisions made at the district level has been shrouded in secrecy and confusion. As near as we can tell, a change was made to the method whereby students are counted in the enrollment numbers; these changes were not made clear and are still not clear. As employees of a publicly funded school district, we have the obligation to make sure that monetary decisions are transparent, readily available, clearly communicated, and made with input from the correct people. In this case, the Building Leadership Team (BLT) was not consulted as is called for in the Collective Bargaining Agreement. While the district asserts that the enrollment numbers are too low to support 60 FTE, we also wonder why the approximately 100 students who were on the Garfield waiting list in September were unable to be accommodated at that time.

Furthermore, a disconcerting intimation exists: that the PTSA could fund the position if concern for the loss of the position was extreme enough. This solution is unacceptable and it sets a bad precedent for the future; it is the job of SPS to fund teachers, not the job of hard-working PTSA members. This option, which was offered to schools, reinforces economic inequality and sidesteps responsibility for the primary task of the district – hiring and maintaining excellent teachers to staff stable schools. Some PTSAs will be able to raise the funds, and some will not; success or failure to keep a teacher becomes dependent on the amount of money readily available to those families living in the enrollment area – not a fair basis for school funding.

We also believe that the school district has an obligation to make every effort possible to keep staffing displacements or layoffs as far from the classroom and direct services to students as possible.  Here we have a few ideas.  The 2014-2015 proposed budget for Seattle Schools is $689 million.  The central district offices consume $306 million with the schools receiving the balance of $386 million. These figures reinforce the reality that administrative costs in the district are inordinately high compared with comparable districts (Tacoma, Spokane). Additionally, Garfield students receive less per pupil funding than any other high school in the district and the cost of funding a teacher through the school year would be .003% of the district’s budget allocation; surely a better use of funding than more administrative costs which may or may not directly benefit students.  Moreover, the district has a “rainy day” fund totaling in the many millions of dollars, and often ends the fiscal year with a surplus budget in the many tens of millions of dollars. We realize that it can be difficult to run a school district when the state legislature breaks the law with regard to school funding—and we hope that the district will join with the Garfield community in raising our voices for the funds we deserve during the upcoming legislative session.  However, the undeniable truth is the district has the funds to stop this massive disruption of student learning at Garfield High School. 

Finally, it is completely unacceptable that a teacher was publicly identified at a community forum by District officials as the one slated for displacement at Garfield without any consultation from the BLT. At a District sponsored public meeting at the Yesler Community Center on Monday, October 24, 2014, it was made known that the Latin program—and therefore the one Latin teacher, Mr. Wayne Miller—would be displaced from Garfield.  This announcement was made before staff, students, or even Mr. Miller himself, had been notified of the decision. Personnel decisions are a private matter protected by the union contract. This Latin teacher, an excellent teacher dedicated to his students, heard it “through the grapevine,” the morning following the public announcement that he was losing his job at Garfield. Not only does this violate the contract, it is emblematic of a lack of caring, concern, or courtesy - all qualities that should characterize our dealings with one another.

The quick back-pedaling from this announcement was also concerning. Students were naturally talking the next day about the announcement and the naming of Mr. Miller.  Some were chastised for “spreading rumors” and “speculating.” These students and/or their parents had attended the community meeting and heard first-hand from you the name of the teacher to be cut, yet were made to feel they did not have any basis for repeating information provided at the meeting.

The District’s actions and communications have left the staff, the students, and the parents of the Garfield community confused, disheartened, and lacking answers to the basic questions raised by recent events.

In order to work toward a mutually agreeable solution we ask that you meet with representatives from the Garfield staff, the Seattle Education Association, the Garfield Associated Student Government (ASG), and the PTSA. Our goal in such a meeting would be to clarify the funding mechanisms whereby displacement decisions have been made and will be made in the future, to elucidate protocols for acceptable ways to deal with urgent personnel decisions, and to establish a model of communication that honors students, staff, and parents. Please contact Kit McCormick, Garfield SEA Union Representative, at to find a time that would be mutually agreeable for all. Thank you.


The Staff of Garfield High School and the Garfield High School PTSA


blanford is worthless... said...

What is Blandford doing. Nothing again? The man needs to lead the charge. Time and time I see other SBDs get involved with their districts. What is that man doing!?!!?!??! I would say not even close to what i anticipated when I voted for him.... Never again.

Another fat head that needs to go...
Oh and for you other "productive SBDs" this will ripple into your districts as your enrollment is out of control because those APP kids decide they will stay north/west or east for HS because AP at GHS is not worth the commute. Move people now!!!!

I also would love to know what is going on with the iep leaks as these are mostly medical in nature ... Why aren't they considered a HIPAA violation?

I forget Melissa who did you recomend for blandfords seat? Were you fooled too?

Getting wiser

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I was not fooled but he did not get any real challenge. There were certainly some who endorsed him who I think may regret it now.

Blandford is worthless said...

Wow. You are good. I didn't look too much into the race... And yeah not much you can do when there is no real challenge. Oh well. Thanks for the response and of course for the great work that you and your team do.

getting wiser

GHS parent said...

If the district insists that a teacher be transferred, who truly makes the final decision on which teacher that would be: Principal Howard, BLT, someone from the district? Who "named" Mr Miller (Latin teacher) at the Yesler meeting? As a current Garfield parent with a student in Latin who absolutely loves the program, we are very concerned but feedback from the PTA and admin regarding decision process on which teacher would be transferred seems vague. Isn't it based on subject taught, # of students enrolled in class, seniority, and whether selected teacher could be transferred to another school? Apparently there is no other Latin program Mr Miller could teach at (only RHS which already has a Latin teacher), and he's been at GHS for 5 years, so I'm confused about why the one teacher for this amazing Latin program, which is so popular that they had to add another full section this year, is the one "named" to be let go from GHS. Appreciate any feedback, thank you!

GHS parent said...

And one more question on this (sorry if I'm being redundant): what happens to all the kids with 1/2 yr of Latin in second semester - can they get into another language or other class? Do they lose all credit for taking a language this year? Most 9th graders in Latin were taking Spanish or Japanese in MS, and would've been in Level 2 if they continued this yr. They dropped that path to start Latin. Now how would they fill that missing period 2nd semester? Isn't there a less subscribed-to class that would not impact 150 students; or a class that only runs one semester? I know everyone is frustrated with the district, but I feel like GHS PTA/admin is not giving parents a clear picture of how we got from the "District says GHS must lose 1 teacher" to "the selected teacher is Mr Miller (Latin)". Huh?

Anonymous said...

In high school, foreign language is a core class. They couldn't just drop a math teacher mid year without ensuring those students could finish out the year in their current course, so how can they do it for a foreign language? Will Roosevelt's Latin program be on the chopping block next?

complete craziness

Anonymous said...

On another note, we attended this year's open house for Bishop Blanchet High School and guess what language they've added to their choices? Latin!

complete craziness

Anonymous said...

In SPS, foreign language is not a graduation requirement. It is considered an elective, not a core class. So they can eliminate a foreign language class without disrupting the path to graduation. College, that's another matter. The cynic in me thinks that targeting the Latin teacher will bring out the checkbooks of the parents of the Latin students to pay the ransom. This is the demographic at GHS that has money and could raise the funds. And the district knows it.


Anonymous said...

Mandarin was added to Hazel Wolf's middle school offerings when they bumped up enrollment last year (doubling the number of 6th graders the school would normally take). They already offered Spanish. A big chunk of those 6th graders left to become 7th graders at JAMS.

Mandarin is a progressive choice of language electives, but it doesn't tie into what is currently offered at local high schools (so, a student who takes two years of Mandarin in middle school wouldn't be eligible for Mandarin II in high school, because there isn't such a class offered).

If Hazel Wolf has 52-fewer students than what they were budgeted for, why do they get to keep their Mandarin teacher (or any other teacher), but Garfield and other schools had to pull a teacher? It seems a Latin teacher at Garfield, where kids have enrolled for graduation credit and to meet college entrance requirements would be considered a more vital expense than a Mandarin instructor at Hazel Wolf K-8?

Are K-8s required to have a choice of more than one language elective for middle school kids?

I guess a more basic question would be why was Hazel Wolf K-8 budgeted so high (higher than last year's enrollment) when SPS enrollment planners knew that they were being moved several miles away to an interim site AND JAMS was opening?

I'm not trying to pit one school against another, which seems to be the way SPS operates, but it just doesn't make sense.


Anonymous said...

This all just reflects so badly on the district.

Superintendent Nyland, Principal Ted Howard, if you are listening, please consider how decisions you are making in order to save some $ will cause bigger, far more damaging long term consequences down the line. Current and future families who are looking at Garfield or other SPS schools DO hear about this kind of thing, decide that SPS is untrustworthy and unstable, and DO make different (i.e. private) decisions for HS rather than send their children to their neighborhood schools. This has HUGE implications for enrollment and funding, way way beyond the few dollars saved from axing a (by all accounts) well liked and respected teacher and program at GHS.


Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Another GHS parent here. It's not only college admissions at stake for Latin students. My child is enrolled in Latin 3, which is eligible for UW credit. What does the UW transcript look like when the class is dropped by the school mid-year? Any chance the district will refund the fee we paid for the credit?

Another Parent

cmj said...

Garfield had a semester-long Spanish class for 3 students in Spring 2011 (see Seattle Times article). At least one of the students, Tony Wroten, Jr., was an athlete getting recruited by UW. The boy was "regarded as one of the top prospects in the country since his freshman year at Garfield." UW requires two years of foreign language for admission and Wroten hadn't done well enough in first year Spanish to progress to second year Spanish. No clue about the other two students and why they were in the class.

I agree that GHS might have targeted the Latin class because they thought the parents might be more likely to cough up the money ($90k/150 students = $600/student). I don't think that the Seattle community colleges offer Latin, so the kids wouldn't be able to take it through Running Start if the class were ended (unlike Spanish, French, or Japanese students). The Latin student's only other option would be the UW. 3 credits at the UW would cost one of those kids $1300.

If the Latin teacher indeed has five years of tenure, then I doubt that he would be the least senior teacher teaching "electives."

I will also add that at least one SPS high school considers anything not required for graduation to be an elective, including any core classes beyond graduation requirements, such as a 4th year English class (not my family, but another family, found that out the hard way).

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

Has anyone has reached out to the Classics Department at the UW about the threat to Garfield's Latin program? I think they might be very surprised and very displeased to hear that future incoming freshmen from Garfield will not have learned any Latin, as this also threatens the vitality and health of their department at the UW. I think the UW people might also be interested in expressing their thoughts on this matter to the district.

Latin lover

Garfield parent said...

FYI it is not just about taking Latinas a course. Latin at GHS is a community: there's a Latin club and Mr Miller is very involved with the kids, they go to competitions and conferences as well. They all got together to make Latin sweatshirts (which kids managed and payed for themselves) and you see the kids wearing these purple sweatshirts with Latin words all the time. I don't think the kids currently in Latin 1, at least, would be so motivated to continue Latin at UW or through some other means. It's the whole program at Garfield, and the charismatic and caring Mr. Miller that makes the program so much fun. I still haven't gotten a clear answer as to WHO (district, principal, BLT?) makes the decision on which teacher would be let go, and WHO identified Mr Miller as the chosen teacher. Seems like these would be verifiable facts, if anyone knows please share!

Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree. Latin students find a welcoming community at Garfield as freshman. Older students tutor them during lunch and Junior Classical League is a low-stress club to join.

Mr. Miller cares about his students. He's been the first staff member to contact us when there is something to celebrate or something that concerns him about our child. Studying Latin at Garfield (like studying drama or music) provides the opportunity to create a relationship with one teacher over four years. Those relationships are the basis for success in school for many students.

Another Parent

fat brains be gone said...


They are just playing us.

I can think of 7 reasons.

Most is poor field trip supervision - last is walkout on MAP. Yeah there are 5 others between rape and civil disobedience. You all can come up with your own list.

So he is new. Why so angry? Get over it. fire someone for the SPED leaks. fix the GHS latin teacher and you might have a 6 yr career at the best damn district in the country.Damn even those APP folks are chilin'

Charlie Mas said...

I don't see how the District can simultaneously say that Garfield is under-enrolled and that there is no room in the school for those on the waitlist.

Who has answered that question?

Anonymous said...

Melissa--Can you explain what is so hard about counting the number of kids who attend a school? If my child is 3 minutes late to class I get a phone call, but they don't have an accurate list of who attends? Doesn't make any sense.

And, by the way, Confused, HW does not have a Mandarin teacher, only Spanish. They proposed a change last year but ended up going just with Spanish. And can we try not attacking one school while trying to defend another?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kensington, if Meg and Kellie, who are analysts by trade cannot explain it, I can't.

As Charlie says, how can the district say two different things at the same time.

Again, I sent this onto the Board, telling them that what Meg and Kellie have found (and cannot reconcile) may lead them to be the canaries in the coal mine.

Let's see if they ask questions.

As the Latin issue, most of the comments ring true. Roosevelt has had Latin since it opened its doors in 1922 and, like Garfield, has a club and they participate in competitions. It's a pretty great thing.

Maureen said...

I don't know the specific situation at Hazel Wolf, but from long experience at another K-8: If enrollment has been underestimated by, say 30, K-8 students, it is generally much more difficult to remove a single teacher from the school. Chances are that each grade is missing 2-3 kids, not that they are all concentrated in, say, 4th and 5th so you can't do a split or something. K-8s don't have departments devoted to electives. At our K-8. the 6th grade LA teacher taught French too, but on a very part time basis. K-8s are just structurally very different from K-5s and MSs and HSs, even if they are the same size.

Eric B said...

Blanford's challenger in the race was instantly disqualified by a number of factors. Chief among them was writing to Cheryl Chow (who came out of the closet as she was dying) and telling Chow in roughly so many words that she was going to hell. The problem was that Kay Smith-Blum was expected to run for re-election, so the credible candidates didn't show up. When KSB decided not to run at the last minute, we were left with Blanford.

Lynn said...

The district is actually saying that Garfield is both over-staffed and over capacity. Those statements don't conflict with each other. The school's head count is higher than the building capacity and they hired teachers based on an even higher projected enrollment.

I'd like to know who made the decisions about staffing adjustments in October. Using the WSS, 76 schools should have had an adjustment, with a net pull of 61 FTE. 25.5 FTE were retained through mitigation requests. (Examples: International and language immersion schools, small K-8s and JAMS which received an extra 3.2 teachers in order to meet the math and world language needs of students transferred from Eckstein and HIMS.) Staff recommended instead pulling 12 FTE and adding 7.5 for a net pull of 4.5. The final decision was to pull 8 and add 7.

Here's an example of the choices made. Based on the WSS, Madrona should have lost 3 teachers. They kept 2 because (unwritten rule) a K-8 must have two sections per middle school grade - and split grade classes aren't possible. Madrona's enrollment this year is 22 (6th), 34 (7th) and 36 (8th.)

Off topic but related is the fact that those students require 6 teachers at Madrona - but would need only 4 (3.68 actually) if they attended Washington. That school needs to become a K-5 next year. If it doesn't, we're going to spend an extra $90,000 (again!) so that 22 students can be split into two classrooms.

Even more off-topic, Madrona has 290 students this year, with a capacity of 376. I think I can guess where some of the city's preschool classes will end up. Though maybe not - if they've got 11 students per class, they might not have any empty rooms.

These might all be great reasons to over-staff schools, but shouldn't someone have realized that cutting a high school teacher mid-year is going to create big problems? Where was Sarah Pritchard in all of this?

Anonymous said...

SPS posted a list of schools that they determined were to lose a teacher, after already narrowing down the list from something like 12 to 8 schools (based upon demographics?). A few of these schools were able to raise the ransom to save a teacher, others had to lose that teacher.

When SPS then backs away from their decision to cut a teacher for a school that is under-enrolled by over 50 students, it is perplexing, to say the least.

From what I've heard, Hazel Wolf lost a lot of middle school kids to JAMS. So many that JAMS was one of the schools designated to add a teacher.

Do other K-8s have to be over-staffed in order to be "viable?" If so, then K-8s must be a very inefficient and expensive educational delivery model.

If my kid's elementary school was under-enrolled by over 50 kids, then I bet we would have to lose TWO teachers, and deal with all the reshuffling and split classes that would transpire. I'm pretty sure that would be the case for most schools, including K-8s.

Maybe there is a very good explanation why Hazel Wolf must be so over-staffed in order to function, but don't blame other school communities for wondering why Hazel Wolf is such an exception to the rule. If SPS handled these matters in a consistent or even logical way, there would be no need for speculation.

- reality check

Anonymous said...

Way to throw K8s under the bus Reality Check. Way to to attack another school instead of JSCEE where every inch of this blame lies.

K8s are alternative schools for a reason. They don't fit the cookiecutter mold that peanut pushers in accounting, enrollment and curriculum at JSCEE want to shove every other elementary and middle school into.

Alt Mama

Anonymous said...

Our children have been in middle school classes as high as 34, and I see no reason why the upper levels of a K8 wouldn't just deal with it (pay the overload compensation) in the short term, as opposed to cutting a teacher for 150 students elsewhere. There is nothing in the teacher contract about K8 class sizes, specifically. Ratios are based on grade. And splitting a class of 22? What?

Whatever the philosophy of a K8, the district still needs to show some fiscal responsibility and keep the cuts out of the classrooms as much as possible.

Anonymous said...

@Alt Mama

Did you not read the last paragraph of my post? I DO blame SPS for this. Their actions are inconsistent and illogical.

K-8s already have a different weighted staffing formula than elementary and middle schools. The teacher:student staffing ratio (FTE) is funded separately from administration and support staffing.

Are you saying that alternative schools and/or option schools deserve more teaching staff than attendance-area schools? Why would that be? Why would it be OK to have large class sizes at what you are calling "cookie cutter" attendance-area elementary or middle schools, but inappropriate to do so for an option school?

In Lynn's example, above, I suppose it makes sense why a K-8 with extremely low enrollment, like Madrona, is allocated extra teachers, so that they can have at least 2 middle school sections, but I don't think that is the case for Hazel Wolf. I'm pretty sure they have at least 2 sections for grades 6-8.

I can also understand why it would be appropriate to have lower class sizes for schools with high ELL and FRL populations. I haven't seen the list of schools that SPS decided would not receive FTE cuts, but I would imagine demographics played a role in their decision.

Option schools already have the benefit of enrollment caps, and enrollment only during the open enrollment period. They don't have to accept every kid from the attendance area who shows up after open enrollment, and the resulting increase in class sizes throughout the year.

Oh, and not all K-8s are "alternative" schools. Hazel Wolf has, from what I understand, a fairly traditional (not alternative) approach, but with an emphasis on environmental science. Some K-8s are actually assignment schools for K-5 (Broadview-Thomson, Blaine, and Madrona).

This is a PUBLIC school system. There are private K-8s, like Evergreen, for those who can afford to pay for small class sizes. I don't see why taxpayers should be expected to foot the bill for small class sizes at select schools within a public school system. Of course, in a perfect world, all our kids would benefit from smaller class sizes.

-reality check

Anonymous said...

Demographics don't even make sense for this one. Garfield is 40% FRL. Hazel wolf was 30% FRL last year, and I am sure is even lower this year. What gives? There has to be a reason of some kind, right?

-ms parent

Maureen said...

Is it literally true that Madrona has two homerooms per grade level with those Middle School numbers? That does seem unconsciousnable. My comment was in reference to a K-8 school of 500ish that loses kids spread over 9 grades.

Anonymous said...

No one is throwing anyone under the bus! Questioning the logic of SPS is valid as they are not transparent in how these decisions are made. The commenter did not make disparaging comments about hazel wolf. They and I want to know what makes their situation different than the schools who lost or ransomed their teachers. If I paid for a teacher that another school got for free I'd want to know how so I could save myself the $ next time. Hazel Wolf leadership could garner themselves a whole lot of community good will by divulging the argument they had success with. Without that they make themselves look very selfish. They bring the negativity on themselves.


Melissa Westbrook said...

So this raises the issue - as Charlie has done - about some very shrinking schools and their existence.

The district is building a whole area for Licton Springs. I have defended them for years b/c of the constant threat to their program but I question the wisdom of what is happening.

Madrona has been shrinking as well. Efforts to include more of the community got rebuffed. At the very least, those efforts would have grown the school. It's a big building that should be used. Better to make it into a K-5.

Center School - good little high school but costing a lot of money.

The district needs to think about all of this in terms of capacity and dollars.

NW parent said...

The person called Reality Check has jumped at every chance to disparage Hazel Wolf for the last year. They have some sort of weird vendetta/fascination with that school. It's noticeable and gross, honestly.

Please read Maureen's post. K-8s have different structures. I do not fault the HW principal for fighting for retaining their staff in the least. I would hope every principal would do the same. It is up to the district to divulge why they said yes to them, not the school.

This whole Garfield staffing snafu is totally outrageous. SPS needs to keep the Garfield staff intact and instead think about letting go one of the Directors of Directors.

Anonymous said...

I don't fault the principal either, she has a great reputation and apparently deservedly so. But the favorable treatment of the school by the district makes it stand out and thus HW has become a target for those wanting to highlight the inequitable allocations by district staff. All I'm saying ius that if you are going to take the benefit of the inequity, you are going to have to take the fire for it too. Unless of course you share the knowledge for the benefit of everyone, which doesn't seem to be the way it is.

Anonymous said...

2boysclub above

Anonymous said...

Didn't KSB broker some deal that enlarged the draw area of Madrona to take up some of the TT Minor kids in K5? I think I remember that from the last capacity go round. Still raging that KSB jumped ship when going got politically tough AND recommended Blanford on the way out. He seems a dud of an addition to the board.

Last I looked - awhile ago- Madrona K8 was underenrolled in middle bands because TOPS is in the same draw area and seems to capture more families who want a K8.

Bottom line is no one should look at Madrona as an example of how K8 schools are or are not funded. The school has been an anomaly in its makeup curriculum and enrollment for at least a decade maybe longer.

As for Hazel Wolf, put any odd funding there to the district's desperation to appease the entire NE quadrant for its pisspoor enrollment planning, especially those kicked out of Eckstein by the aggressive efforts of south of 85th families. SPS clearly wanted families to move quickly to the new JAMS with HW as catch basin for families forced into enrollment there. With HW also kicked out of its previous home earlier than was optimal, Central probably's going overboard not to rock that boat.

Bottom line: You know 'lies, lies and damn statistics'? For SPS it's 'Lies, lies and damn staffing spreadsheets'.

Anonymous said...

I think just about the only thing the rest of the NE quadrant can agree on is that they resent HW's special treatment, so I don't think it's some kind of appeasement plan. I'm not sure how moving the entire district's start tines around a school while moving 12 months early to a thoroughly rehabbed space during a capacity crisis garners HW extra staff this year when other schools deal with much worse and get nothing. I also think if it is true that the district had to choose between staff at a 40% FRL high school and a 25% frl(estimate) option k-8 that has already received special treatment recently, choosing the k-8 seems manifestly wrong. So I want to know why.

Ms parent

Greg said...

I'm not directly impacted by this, but I just want to say thank you to Meg Diaz, Kellie LaRue, Melissa Westbrook, Charlie Mas, and the Garfield community for staying on top of this issue, investigating thoroughly, and fighting the good fight. This is not easy, I know, and I, and I'm sure many others, appreciate the work that is being done here to make sure that mistakes get corrected and the right thing happens eventually. Thanks again, all of of you, for pushing hard on this.

cmj said...

Personally, I'd rather have 35 person class sizes in middle or high school than lose a teacher part-way through the year. However, I'm not a teacher grading papers for 175 students. Anyway, the union would forbid such a teacher: student ratio.

I found the SPS union contract for 2010-2013, which states that SPS will "Maintain an average SPS ratio of students to full-time equivalent teachers at no more than 26:1 for grades K-3, 28:1 for grades 4-5, and 150:1 for grades 6-12 (when grade 6 is conducted using a secondary model), exclusive of Special Education and Bilingual" (pg 81, bold mine). The classroom ratio requirement probably hasn't changed much since Aug 2013, when the agreement I found expired.

Anonymous said...

Current collective bargaining agreement:

SPS will maintain an average SPS building ratio of students to FTE teachers at no more than 26:1 for grades K-3, 28:1 for grades 4-5, and 150:1 for grades 6-12

"an average SPS building ratio" means an average - individual classrooms can exceed those numbers.

They are to take actions to limit class size to 32 students for core classes in grades 6-12...Core is defined as including English/Language Arts; World Languages; Math; Science; and Social Studies.

"Take action to limit" means that individual classes can still exceed the specified maximum ratios. The staff and administration are to negotiate if class sizes cannot be reduced. And World Language is a core class according to the CBA.


Anonymous said...

I think it would be more beneficial for Garfield's community to focus on solving the discrepancy between SPS' count and school admin's count than to accuse SPS of favoritism towards other schools. Also, this focus on protesting the possible removal of the Latin teacher is not good because 1) it is not known for sure that this is not a rumor (right?), or has the teacher been told officially he is losing his job? and 2) If you can't convince the district their count is wrong, SOMEONE has to go, so you'd be saving your kids' teacher at the expense of another group of Garfield kids.

The error can't be because of the change in grade classification from credits to cohort, since it is the total number of all students at Garfield that determines WSS staffing. So the discrepancy has to come from one of these:
●Special Ed: how many Sped students and how many teachers are needed for the particular classrooms at Garfield, as different Sped programs have different staff requirements.
●ELL and BOC- also different staffing requirements than gen ed? I know it used to be but don't know if that has changed or not.
●Running Start- the district does not count kids in running start full time, is the school? How are the part-time running start kids i.e. kids taking one class, two classes, three classes etc. at CC counted?
●Kids doing homeschooling or online classes for part of the day. How are they counted?
●Kids doing internships for part of the day or part of the school year, how are they counted?
●Kids out on "educational vacations" with parents. Are they counted while not attending classes?
So in all these cases the person at Enrollment could be counting in a different way than Ms Libros did, and so is coming up with different numbers than Garfield's.

So I think Garfield parents need to ask how those counts are being done by Enrollment, and if kids are not being counted because they are taking a couple of classes at CC, online/homeschool/independent studies, or have internships, then you can demand that they be counted at the least for the time that they are at school. Or could be Enrollment is not allowing enough staff for the programs that have to have smaller classes. You need to show the Sup & the Board how Garfield's admin came up with their 1,600+ number, and ask them to tell staff to show you their list and look for the kids that are not on their list that ARE at the school. That is the only way to stop them from removing a teacher.
If Enrollment refuses to show how they are figuring out their number, then I think Garfield should have pics taken of all the students with each one holding up a number counting themselves; or do what my big bro's class did at college to get recycling bins on their campus: collect one empty pop can from every student (they can write their name on their can) and take all of them to the Sup's office. You can put the total number of cans on each clear plastic bag, maybe with 100 cans in each bag .I'm sure the Sup's secretary won't have any problem adding up to 16 and see how many students are actually at Garfield. And be sure to take a pic of the bags in the Sup's office to give to the Board, wouldn't want them to feel neglected.


Anonymous said...

I attempted to delve further into this, but I am now more confused than ever.

Of the schools identified for staffing reductions:

Gatewood: Budgeted for 429; Oct 1st enrollment 405; difference = -24 (1.0 FTE was to be pulled, ransom paid, teacher retained).

Stevens: Budgeted for 401; Oct 1st enrollment 365; difference = -36 (1.0 FTE was to be pulled, ransom paid, teacher retained).

B. F. Day: Budgeted for 335; Oct 1st enrollment 324; difference = -11 (1.0 FTE pulled).

Denny: Budgeted for 948; Oct 1st enrollment 912; difference = -36 (0.6 FTE pulled).

Madison: Budgeted for 799; Oct 1st enrollment 764; difference = -35 (1.0 FTE pulled).

Garfield: Budgeted for 1532; Oct 1st enrollment 1586; difference = +54 (1.0 FTE is to be pulled at end of 1st semester).

Hazel Wolf K-8: Budgeted for 763; Oct 1st enrollment 711; difference = -52 (1.0 FTE to be pulled, school leadership negotiated with SPS, no staffing reductions were made)

The sources I used were:

Budget Projection Headcounts: 2014-15 Budget (adopted by the School Board 7/2/14, updated 7/11/14). This doc is available on the SPS Budget page, and is the most current budget document I could find.

Enrollment Data: I was unable to find school by school enrollment data (Oct 1, 2014) posted anywhere on the SPS website. Enrollment data was posted on this blog a few weeks ago, so that is what I used. Those numbers could be total BS, but it seems to be all there is to work with.

In the 8/15/14 Friday Memo, there was an "August Staffing Adjustment" letter to principals. This doc did not give any particulars as to what adjustments were made in August on a per school basis. I tried searching the SPS website, but was unable to find a revised budget document dated later than the 7/11/14 update to the budget adopted 7/2/14.

From a comparison of Garfield's posted 2014-15 budget enrollment projection of 1532, to their apparent Oct 1st enrollment of 1586, it would appear that Garfield, with 54 students over the budget projection, should be gaining, not losing, a teacher.

Of course, it could be that the Garfield budget had been bumped up in August, and more staff was hired at that time, but this is difficult to determine without knowing the details of any August budget adjustment for Garfield. However, it would seem ridiculous to have a school bump up staffing in August, only to have that staffing pulled mid-year.

For Hazel Wolf, their original budget projection (3/20/14) was based upon 709 students (very close to the Oct 1st figure of 711). For some reason, the Hazel Wolf budget projection was increased to 763 in the budget adopted July 2nd.

Perhaps in the case of Hazel Wolf, someone at SPS realized the new projection was too high, and there was a staffing reduction done in August, so further reductions were deemed unnecessary for Hazel Wolf K-8??? This is total speculation on my part, since the August budget adjustments have not been disclosed (as far as I can tell).

After looking at the numbers, I was shocked that B. F. Day had to lose a teacher, at only 11 students under the adopted budget projections. Was their budget bumped up and a teacher added in August (only to be taken away in October)?

For me, the underlying issue is a lack of transparency and consistency in the process. If school budgets were adjusted in August, then why wasn't the Board-adopted budget document updated to reflect these revisions? Also, why is monthly, updated enrollment data no longer made public?

The inconsistencies in the budget allocation process, and lack of transparency instituted by Banda and continued now, under Dr. Nyland, do nothing but feed an atmosphere of distrust and the perception of favoritism towards certain schools.

- North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

the Seattle School District has the most lopsided distribution of funds in the region, with $306 million of the
$689 million budget spent at the district office, and only $386 going directly to schools.

STOP THE PRESSES! RIGHT THERE, RIGHT NOW! JSCEE, by itself, is sucking away 44.4% of the entire budget? 44.4%?

That's the entire enchilada right there folks. As we know, money is power. So it's no wonder getting anything out of JSCEE is virtually impossible, when they have nearly 50% of our budget dollars to obfuscate, delay, fund pet projects, work for private organizations instead of us, etc., etc. JSCEE is awash in cash. OUR CASH! And we continue to feed and embolden the monster that it is.

As a community, we must stand up right now and demand cutbacks in JSCEE, which would solve every fiscal problem we have. Meanwhile, say NO to Gates, LEV, Alliance, etc. NO! They all wind up costing us money in the end, while siphoning off human resources and sucking off the public teet in the interim. NO to Gates. No to Murray. No to Burgess.

Cut the budget at JSCEE and we'll cut their power, influence, lack of accountability, and wasteful spending. I never thought I'd sound like a lock-step Republican, but this information just pushed me over the cliff. EPIC FAILURE of leadership and accountability at JSCEE. Utter insanity.

By way of example, SSI's administrative costs are approximately 6%. Medicare's are approximately 3%. JSCEE's costs, again, are a WHOPPING 44%!!!

There is no justifiable excuse for this amount of waste in SPS. What are they doing in JSCEE? Burning cash to heat the building? Might as well be.

If and when this figure hits the wider, general public, levies will start failing and support for the district, as we've known it, will collapse.

No one and no thing can justify such an obscene, colossal waste of money.


Meg said...

does central consume 44% of the budget?

I doubt it. But does it consume more than the 5.4% they claim? Probably.

Is it worth attacking the numbers, even with the 44%, to try and get answers? Yes, I think so.

Because there are some real oddities in numbers about administration.

The 12 attendance area/option high schools in SPS were budgeted for about $85M for 2014-15, an increase of $2.7M from the previous year.

Central Administration, on the other hand, got a $5.5M increase in their budget.

And weirdly, for the most recent year allowing one to compare actual spending vs budgeted spending (2012-13):

Teaching came in about $35M under what was budgeted (and in other years, came in by as much as $45M under budget).

Central administration? about $0.8M above what was budgeted. And in other years, went over what was budgeted by almost $5M.

Organizations show their priorities not in what they say, but in how they spend their money.

SPS dad said...

We need more staff to evaluate your supposition that we are paying too much for central staff, they said with a wry smile on their face. the board relented.

the shortest short story

Lynn said...


If you look at the 2014-15 Budget (beginning on page 77), you'll see some unexpected expenses included in the Central Budget including custodial and maintenance, transportation, special education and English language learners programs and running start.

We've seen many management positions added lately - so I'm sure there are costs to be cut - but it's not as bad as you might think.

Anonymous said...

Look: I'm sloganeering, no doubt. Soundbites & Talking Points & everything else we can't stand and hate about politics.

But I'm sick and tired of hearing about how "our schools are in crisis" or "failing our students" or behind the times, or whatever.


What's behind the times is having well-connected and well-paid bureaucrats working on city business while collecting a paycheck from the school district's treasury.

Our schools do amazing work despite most having shoe-string budgets, small PTA funds, and high FRL populations. Yet all The Times does is kick teachers in the teeth, bitch about their union and joyfully parade forth any and all stories that malign teachers and students, while praising the pols and their billionaire benefactors for doing so much good.

Bullshit again!

Our schools are overcrowded, our teachers are overworked, and our staffs are being reduced, while, meanwhile, JSCEE continues to increase it's share of the pie that is supposed to be spent on kids.

Let me be the first to stand in the foyer of JSCEE and scream, a la Nicholson's Joker: "This Building Needs An Enema!" Who disagrees?

The bottom line is that 44% is obscene, no matter how one couches it.


Anonymous said...

Meg: Isn't the huge gap and question of whether it's actually 5.4% or 44%, or somewhere in the 38% or so that exists between those numbers indicative enough of a massive, huge, colossal, blunder-filled accounting mechanism within JSCEE? "The JSCEE budget? It's about 5.4%, but I could be off by say, 1000% or so." Unreal.

It's money. Numbers. It can't be that hard without someone wanting it to be. Gee, there's a thought.


confused parent said...

I am still unclear on WHO makes the decision on which teacher would be transferred. In the case of GHS, someone "Named" the Latin teacher at a community meeting. This information made its way to Mr Miller (Latin teacher) and the Latin students and parents. After numerous attempts to contact the PTA, Mr Miller himself, and posting here, I am still in teh dark as to the protocol for determining which teacher would be let go from GHS, if that does become necessary per the district. Yes all GHS community would like to protest the reduction of any teacher at this point, but I have no idea if its Mr Howard, the GHS BLT, the PTSA, or someone at the district level who decides WHICH teacher would be selected. Can anyone shed light on this? Thank you.

Meg said...

WSDWD. yeah, pretty much.

Lynn - the numbers you refer to are costs in teaching support and other support, not central administration, although both are managed centrally.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Two things - the district reorganized things several years back after the realization they were spending far more in adm than surrounding districts.

They separated out Central spending from Central adm and yes, it's BS. If you look at the work costs for JSCEE, it's no 5.4%.

Lynn you said:

"some unexpected expenses included in the Central Budget including custodial and maintenance, transportation, special education and English language learners programs and running start."

Unexpected? Those sound like pretty central functions and they were off in ALL those areas?

Again, back to basics - why can't they get this stuff right?