Thursday, March 19, 2015

School Board Meeting Notes

I didn't attend the Board meeting last night but watched the first hour or so on tv.  (President Carr wasn't there so Director Peaslee filled in but I never heard why Carr was not there.)

Highlights (updated and complete):
- Superintendent Nyland certainly does give a long superintendent's report.  It can be helpful because it is a gauge of what he thinks is important to talk about.  Take the case of the NCLB waiver.  He was explaining how some money went directly to parent-requested tutoring services (which is a proper use of the funds) which is "good" but that then the money didn't go to Title One schools.  Well, the only people who can ask for the tutoring are likely to be parents at Title One schools.

He then went on to say something curious.  He applauded the Senate's passage of the bill to include teacher evaluations that would include using test scores (which is the basis of why the wavier was taken away - not using test scores. )  He named Senators Frockt, Pedersen and Kohl-Welles by name.

I found this odd because of two factors.  SPS already DOES use test scores but not the rest of the state.  But SPS couldn't get the wavier back for just itself so he clearly wants this for the rest of the state.  Second, isn't that kind of waving a red flag for upcoming CBA negotiations with the union?  Nothing like showing your hand early.

- the projected increase in enrollment for SPS is 1200 students (to 53,200).  He said this increase was "broken down by school" and schools were planning accordingly.  (However, this issue of enrollment came up elsewhere in the meeting and is a sore point for some.)  He mentioned the issue of Cleveland, Franklin and RBHS seemingly competing for students.  (I did get confused at one point because he was making it sound like they are all the same but Cleveland is an Option school.)

- then came the topic of textbooks for the IB programs.  He cleverly said that each IB school gets $50K per year for its first five years.  Yes, but every one of those schools needs to spend that money - a lot of it - on a coordinator.  So, as he said, it is not "sufficient" for textbooks.   He rambled on about how "we're not doing our job as a district as we should," blah, blah, recession, and "so yeah."  He said there was a "hole" as at other schools for "needed curriculum."

- He said that Interagency at Queen Anne had opened this week and was going well.  He said there is a security plan in place.

- He referenced the killing of a Cleveland student on Sunday and expressed sympathy to the family as well as the Cleveland community.

- He updated his "100-day Plan"
Jan 15 - call list is done
Feb. 15 - Providing customer service/training
March 15 - looking how SPS responds to issues that come up in community (not sure what this means)
April 15 - process of "listening throughout the district" and funding for the coming year

- He also mentioned the upcoming BTA IV meetings (I'll put the schedule up in a separate post but they start next week).

Speakers
- well look who came to speak?  None other then City Councilman Bruce Harrell (and his wife, Joanne).  Both of them spoke on the lack of full enrollment at Cleveland, with Ms. Harrell calling it an "artificial cap."  She says that families in the SE do not have an option to "opt-in" to Cleveland.  I'm not sure if she understands that Cleveland - as the high school STEM - is an Option school, not a neighborhood school.

- Wyking Garrett of the Africatown Center also spoke (as the MOU for their Learning Center was on the agenda for action).  He made an interesting remark about how they were just a learning center, not a school and didn't have a PTA and don't have the funding power of north end schools.  I was confused on this remark until later on when the Africatown learning center MOU came up for discussion.

- Jonathan Knapp, SEA president, spoke about the shortage of substitute nurses and how the district is paying a lot of money to agencies to fill these spots.

Board Comments

- Still not getting the wide-eyed Director McLaren even as she is two years into the job as she said she wanted school communities to "tell me about your lunch/recess."  That every school appears to be doing it differently should tell her something.

- Director Peters carefully mentioned the NCLB waier and suggested that perhaps using test scores for teacher evaluation wasn't the best choice.  She also said the SBAC test issue would be discussed at the next Curriculum&Instruction Committee meeting on April 6th.

- Director Patu thanked everyone in our school community for their support during her difficult time of losing her husband, Von Paul.

Then, they came to the Africatown MOU and it got very interesting. 

Africatown MOU

When we last left this issue, the district had  the MOU rolled into a settlement agreement with Africatown because each side disagreed over how much rent Africatown owed the district.

Apparently, no matter to ANYONE that they, once again, are using district facilities and not paying for them in a timely manner.

Unbelievable.

Now, Africatown wanted to have the settlement separate from the MOU (which, on paper, makes sense).  Except they wanted it so that they could show investors the MOU and wouldn't have the glaring settlement right there.  

Director Peters asked a lot of good questions.

Her best question was around how the amount for the rent on the lease form was blank.  The answer was that Facilities had not yet set a value for the rent.  WHAT!?  The Board is to vote on a lease with no cost on it?

Neither John Cerqui (Legal) nor Flip Herndon (Facilities) could answer this question.

Peters also noted that in the lease it seemed like Africatown would be able to separate from the district  more easily than the district from Africatown.  I suspect this will be a problem someday.

Cerqui also says there is no "gift of public funds" over the settlement because both parties agreed to it.   As I have already sent in a complaint to the State Auditor,  let's see what that office says.

Then there some fairly strained statements made.

First one was by Director Blanford who noted that the Audit and Finance committee acknowledged "sensitivity" because of the past relationship between Africatown and the district.  (That's one way of putting it.)  He said that this new relationship "warranted scrutiny and documentation" in response to public questions and concerns. 

Second statement was made by Director Patu who said she would want to see data on how well the Africatown learning center programs were working.  I wonder what data that might be given that the learning center may or may not be serving Seattle Public Schools students and the offerings are quite different from the other.  Just saying "we serve X number of kids" won't cut it (as it doesn't for the Families and Education Levy).

Third statement was by Director Peaslee who carefully posed her question.  "Is there any kind of religious orientation to the program?"  I don't know why she posed this question but she did.

All Bernardo Ruiz would say is, "Not that I'm aware of."  I don't find that a particularly finished answer because he's in charge of what is happening in that building.  He doesn't have a definitive answer like "No, because that would be illegal and SPS does not allow that kind of teaching in its buildings." 

Director Peaslee then said that the issue should be "addressed." 

They were all just about to vote when Mr. Cerqui came to the podium to announce that in the last hour, a change had been made to the MOU in the second "whereas."  He said the Board had been sent an e-mail in the last hour which is great except in the last hour they were all supposed to be at the Board meeting paying attention to the proceedings.  Not reading e-mail.

Really?  The Board hadn't seen this change and certainly not the public.

They all then voted 6-0 to approve the MOU.

Again, I suspect this will end badly and I hope each member of the Board as well as staff is ready for the fallout and repercussions. 

11 comments:

Odd said...

Linking student test scores to teacher evaluations is NOT statistically sound and costs the district millions of dollars.

I find Nyland's comment odd. Does he really think cheering-on senators for a misguided piece of legislation as a positive?

Clover Codd testified in favor of this bill. She said the district does not have a percentage of test scored tied to teacher evaluations.

It will be interesting to watch the upcoming CBA.

RosieReader said...

"He cleverly said that each IB school gets $50K per year for its first five years."

He forgot to add "And then, later, when the program costs a whole lot more, we give the school nothing."

Need Press said...

Someone from the local press, like the Seattle Times or KOMO, should get on this. The article practically writes itself.

Someone fails to pay rent. The landlord forgives the rent as bad debt, but then renews the lease? That just doesn't happen unless there is some kind of agenda behind it. This is an easy story for the press to write about.

Anonymous said...

Something stinks.
Who would sign off on this - especially after all the financial misappropriations and rips-offs in the past.

Anyway, why is SPS leasing any space to this group when schools are increasingly overcapacity and running out of room, Shouldn't the district be freeing up any buildings it owns for schools/classrooms.

It reminds me of how they sold the MLK school to the lowest bidder on the basis of all sorts of bogus community good claims. SPS could have used that space now, or at least put real profits back into the district if it had sold for a competitive price.

I dunno whether its just white guilt or something more dodgy. I can't believe these board members would be so naive in their real lives/jobs.

I wish an investigative journalist would take a deep dive into this. But of course the times just panders to the district half the time.

Stupid SPS

twicefool said...

Because if they kick Africantown out SPS will be accused of racism, of not supporting diverse populations, and generally not providing educational opportunities for Black students - SPS may not be doing a good job of educating minorities but the Africatown people are just taking advantage of the bad-PR adverse (at least on this topic) SPS.

Charlie Mas said...

We have seen this before. It's called Mau-Mauing the Flak Catchers. The school district does a crap job of educating African-American students, so Africatown can extort money from them regardless of the effectiveness of the program. This allows the District to claim that they are working with the "community" and that they are spending money (and therefore making an effort) to address the problem without actually doing either. The next time someone notices that African-American students under-perform, the District will hold up the MOU with Africatown as a shield against accusations of racism or inaction.

In short: when a government entity is in trouble for ill-serving a minority, they only have to write a check to the loudest and most threatening self-appointed representatives of that community to escape the trouble.

Anonymous said...

Africatown reminds me of squatters. What do they have that they can manipulate SPS like that? If the properties belonged to their grandmother, and they had fiduciary responsibility for their family, would they let non-paying people stay in the property? Also, with no evidence of the program details continuing how can they be so unprofessional?
SPSmom

Anonymous said...

Too many "theys" in my message above--sorry. I am pondering what does Africatown have to have so much power over SPS? And why doesn't SPS take their fiduciary responsibility seriously in their MOUs/leases?
SPSmom

Charlie Mas said...

I thought that we learned from the previous Board meeting that agenda items get rejected when they are proposed too close to the Board meeting time because the Board needs time to consider them. Why does the Africatown agenda item get to be altered after the Board meeting begins?

Lynn said...

I watched the board meeting online. It sounds like Cleveland lost two teachers this year due to lower than expected enrollment. One director (I think Peaslee) acknowledged that access to Cleveland was limited to force increased enrollment at Rainier Beach. In the past, more kids in the RBHS attendance area enrolled in Cleveland than in RBHS.

I didn't see that in the story in the Seattle Times.

I think it's great that IB classes have made such a difference at the school. I don't think kids should be forced into attending a particular school to incease it's budget.

Anonymous said...

Correction for Melissa - Marty McLaren is in her fourth year on the Board.

Updatey goodness