I also learned via public disclosure documents that at least one director feels the need to pass on many of my e-mails to the Board to senior staff. To note, there are about 13 people who get the e-mails you send via "firstname.lastname@example.org." These include the Board, Legal, the Superintendent, Communications, a couple of cabinet people and a person in the Board office.
So now, if I'm writing to the entire Board, I'll just send it to the main e-mail address because it seems my e-mails get forwarded on anyway. I don't really like it this way because I think if I write to the Board, that's who should see my e-mail (unless they forward it on to an appropriate person depending on the topic).
On the issue of the various input votes on Nyland, the principals' one was an odd one because 52% voted yes, 34% said no and the rest were undecided. This did not represent all the principals, nearly one-fourth didn't vote. The vote total also included 11 people in Central (and it would seem if you are working at Central, you are not a principal but perhaps these are more in the legion of "coaches" in this district).
So let's take a count here:
- 5 Directors said yes to the installment of Nyland
- SEA said yes but it was either just the SEA President and/or Board (that has never been clear)
- PASS (the principals' association) -an unsteady 52%
- Seattle Council PTSA - Entire Board voted no to the Board not having a full search (they never said anything against Nyland)
I'm not sure if any of our other labor groups like 609 weighed in or were asked.
Interesting discussion about the vote on Nyland on KUOW's Friday morning news panel a couple of weeks ago. Knute Berger of Crosscut ventured that "there is political safety in a unanimous vote to 'keep trust'" so that this not-so-unified vote means the school board members who voted for Nyland now "own" this vote.
Again, there is something up with the Alliance and their MOU with the district. They have pushed off the MOU negotiations until Feb. (The Board voted in an extension of the current MOU until then.)
I can only think that it may have something to do with the coming CBA negotiations. As you may recall, their faux "Our Schools" coalition had desperately wanted to not only give input on the negotiations, they wanted to be at the table.
Naturally, this is nonsense because if EVER there were a personnel matter that the district needed to conduct in the strictest fashion, it's the teachers' union contract.
Speaking of the Allliance, guess where a quite a bit of money for their share of responsibility for the Seattle Teacher Residency is coming from? You'd be close if you said, "Gates Foundation" but no, it's the Allen Foundation. I did put in several queries at the Allen Foundation but received no response.
And that Seattle Teacher Residency? Why so quiet? This would seem to be quite the big deal that SPS is producing teachers for their teacher corps.
What about Teach for America? Clearly on the rocks locally and nationally. I mean, there has been no big wave of hiring in the Puget Sound region. I'd have to check but if they even have 25 enrolled at UW's College of Education, I'd be surprised. I know they are just crossing their fingers for these charter schools but that might not pan out either. Nationally, the Washington Post is reporting that TFA may miss their recruitment mark by at least 25% (the shine is off the gilded lily). Hilariously, TFA says that teaching has become "polarized" and teaching is not seen as a "stable, fulfilling profession."
Having experienced the national recession through much of their adolescence, college graduates today are placing a greater premium on what they see as financially sustainable professions.
Pittsburgh ended its TFA program last year and this year the governor of Minnesota vetoed a line item that would have given TFA about $1.5M over two years. Chalkbeat says that TFA is closing its NYC training site.
Operations Committee meeting, Friday, Dec. 17th Agenda
- didn't have the BEX Oversight Semi-Annual report as the Chair was ill. This was postponed until Jan. (Director Peaslee encouraged Director Blanford that if he stayed on Operations, he really should try to go to these meetings as there was good information. He said he'd have to check his schedule.
- they pulled the item for Loyal Heights Elementary: Capacity flexibility funding. Ever hear that last phrase before? Me, neither. Director Peaslee was also puzzled and asked for a discussion.
Several things to note:
- Peaslee is always careful to ask if something is state obligated. In this case, the district has made up this terms and, I suspect, for their own needs.
- The policy cited by staff to do this comes from Policy 6,000, number D which they misquoted/miswrote. It states, "Funds may be transferred from one budget classification to another subject to such restrictions as may be improved by the Board." Actually, that italicized word is imposed. My reading is that the Board may allow the staff to do this WITH restrictions the Board may impose.
Then there is this very official wording:
Under the Building Excellence IV Program, the Capacity Flexibility Funding was established to provide individual projects with additional funding when increases to capacity needs are realized.
Staff knew that Loyal Heights' original building needed renovation BUT they also want to put on an addition to increase seats. But somehow the budget was only written for the renovations, not the addition.
So this new "capacity flexibility" means they figured out how to add more seats at one place but that means someone else's budget is likely to suffer. Because I don't care how many pots of capital dollars are out there - the money is finite.
I find it quite disingenuious for staff to NOT say where the transfer of funds would come from. And no, not a single Board member asked. (But again, this item was bumped to next month.)
- the monthly Capital financial report was quite interesting as Melissa Coan from Budget pointed out the huge amount that has come in from the BEX IV levy. (She says the largest amounts come into the account in October and April.)
The current balance fund for ALL revenues ( BEX II, BTA II, BEX III, BTA III, CEP, Grant, BEX IV, and BTA 1 is about $154.3M.
(To note, BEX II has about $600lk, BTA II has about $6.7M, BEX III has about $6.9M, BTA III has about $53.4M, CEP has $17M, there are no Grant dollars, BEX IV has $69.7M and there is nothing from BTA I.)
So I know your question - how is it that there is so much money floating around from these old funds? I have received various answers thru the years and frankly, I'm not sure I do truly know. (I've been told "carry-over funds", "underspend", "close-out funds," etc.
- BTA III - John Marshall building is on track but they had 10% in change orders. It's a historic building so that's not surprising.
- Arbor Heights had an item about state matching grant which is great. But, there was a discussion of what it was being spend on and from there we heard terms about the "interdisciplinary coordination between the architect and engineering," "coordination between owner and provisions owner,"etc. Sounds like a fancy way of saying people working together to coordinate the project.
- Then there was an odd discussion with Richard Best in Facilities about adding additional capacity to buildings like Genesee Heights, Wilson-Pacific, Thorton Creek but that they hadn't really sought Board approval. Ron English wasn't there but Best stated that English had some kind of handwritten document on this issue.
Director Peaslee said she is in favor of additional capacity for future needs.
There then was a discussion of how large they want elementaries to be. Flip Herndon said ed specs were for 490-660. He said they had been talking with "the team" about revising ed specs for the "second wave" of building for BEX IV. He said 1351 got passed and that had to be taken into account. He said this review of ed specs would happen in early 2015.
He said that for 1351, there wouldn't be a whole lot of difference for K-3 because McCleary already had that built-in and SPS had been doing this for low-performing elementaries.
Director Blanford said that Governor Inslee had said on KUOW on Thursday that he would not enforce 1351. I can't find that on KUOW but in other media outlets he has stated that he supports smaller class sizes for K-4 and also stated that he did not support an effort to repeal it.
According to Herndon, Joe Wolf took a look at what 1351 would mean if enacted in SPS and it would be about 80 classrooms for grades 4-12 and about 350 for K-3. He said for a 660 sized elementary, it would be essentially adding 4-5 classrooms for K-3 and for 4-6, maybe 1.
- Best also said that they had received a letter from the state about how energy efficient the new Pinehurst building was turning out (13% better than the WA state energy code). He said energy efficient buildings were a big focus for the BEX Oversight Committee (a legacy of Director Kay Smith-Blum as well as the efforts of Director Peaslee).
- Then they had a SEPA discussion which was pretty much about the irritation over a few people (namely, Chris Jackins, a long-time district watcher) who file a SEPA on nearly every single building built or renovated in the district.
- About the Federal Reserve Building, the discussion was a review of what I've already published. The bidding has opened, there are no bids, the opening bid must be $5M and there is a required $100K deposit to bid.
But then came something I don't agree with (and was not challenged by the members of the committee) - the district is seeking Board permission to bid up to 10% above the appraised value of the building. But the district is NOT going to use whatever the appraisal number is from the feds - they are going out to pay for one of their own. I'm suspecting that's because if they, as a public entity, said they were using the feds' appraisal plus 10%, then anyone else bidding would know how high the district would go.
But I'm not sure paying yet more money for yet another building review is worth it. They already had architects go thru the building. I had to smile when they discussed paying for the building (should they prevail in the bidding) because Herndon stated it would be the $5M in BEX IV (which is probably down a couple of hundred thousand with all this reviewing) and "unallocated capital reserves."
What? There's money - in Capital - that has not been slated for a building use or is not being held for emergency use? With so many buildings in poor condition? How much is in this reserve?
So basically, the Board, if they okay this, will be saying that a downtown school is more important than on-going needs in current buildings.
-There was an excellent discussion of anaphylaxis medications, meaning an epi-pen versus an epi-kit. (I regret I did not hear the name of the district medical official giving the information but she was great.) Epi-pens are ones that anyone can use BUT they expire and the district ends up with hundreds they never use and then throw away. Epi-kits can only be given by a nurse but don't expire.
Director Peaslee then asked an odd question about how schools handle these emergencies. She asked if there were a certain amount in a middle school region and if a school didn't have one, did they just call someone nearby to bring one to a school with an affected student? A bit of a stunned silence as we all pondered how long it would take to call a nearby school, ascertain they had an epi-pen and get someone to drive it over.
What the district nurse ended up saying was that for SPS, as an urban district, it might be better to have epi-kits with more staff trained to use them and using the savings to hire another district nurse. Or call a medic to come and administer the kit (she was asked if the response would be fast enough and she said yes).
She said the most important thing is to fully education staff, parents and students about the seriousness of the issue and prevent episodes from happening.
- Then, there is the strange tale of the health clinic at Rainier Beach High School. First, they had Gretchen DeDecker who is the long-time head of self-help projects at SPS come forward to explain. She said that this project was a self-help project as the funding didn't come from district or facilities dollars. She said that the clinic was one of the first in SPS (from the early '80s) and that it has been operated by King County. KC found grants to support the renovations to the clinic.
Great so far.
But then there was "but this project was just under $250K" so they didn't have to come to the Board. The project got started in early summer and is due to be done in the next two weeks.
But guess what? The project went over budget to about $300K but miraculously, King County found more grant money to finish the project.
So DeDecker asked Legal about what to do if a project that WAS under the $250K Board approval amount, now was OVER it. So Legal said they didn't need Board permission to continue but it would be good to tell the Board.
DeDecker first said the overages were for "embellishments" like a sink in the nurse's office (which they didn't have). Another stunned silence - no sink in a nurse's office. Director Blanford said that he didn't think that was an embellishment and she backpedaled and said it was a "bare bones" project and she would have to get an accounting from KC.
Blanford said there had been issues about the number of projects just coming in under $250K and so if they did bring it to the Board for notice, they should bring verifying documents. He said it might look suspicious otherwise.
Lastly, there was a discussion about the bell times update by Pegi McEvoy.
- they just held the second meeting and the minutes from the first meeting are available.
- it's a larger taskforce than the Title IX taskforce
- they are still looking for SEA elementary representation
- the taskforce is doing a survey (not sure of whom) but will take info from other places as well
- there will be two meetings each in Jan and Feb.
- Director Blanford asked about the understanding by the committee that they are only there for an advisory role and that the Board makes the final call. McEvoy said she made sure every single taskforce understood that issue.
- McEvoy also referenced a second survey but again, nothing specific.