Monday, March 02, 2015

Seattle Schools This Week

The last of the "Technology Vision Town Halls" will be tonight, starting at 6 pm at West Seattle High School.  Has anyone attended one?  Any thoughts?  Was student data privacy mentioned?

Also to note, Friday, March 6th is the LAST day of Open Enrollment.  So hop to it if you haven't enrolled your student yet. 

There is also an Operations Ctm meeting on Tuesday, the 3rd.  Agenda here.  It is likely to be a truncated meeting as Director Patu, the chair, is not available due to the death of her husband.  The agenda appears to be just capital matters.

Then, Wednesday, there's Board meeting.  Agenda available here.

One Action item (total) and that's the 2015 Board Code of Conduct.  Here's the redlined one and there are changes both good and puzzling.
- they lower the bar on what kind of education SPS students get.  Instead of "receive the best education available anywhere in the United States of America," they went to "receive the best education possible."  

- #2 - they took out "and will not use my Board membership for personal gain or publicity."  I have to say that I don't recall the last time I thought a Board member was using his/her membership for personal gain.

But the part about publicity is less accurate than I might like.  I don't think most Board members are trying to gain publicity for themselves but rather, for their POV.  I think there is a distinction there.

- then, #11 talks about the relationship with the Superintendent and staff and a change got made. Instead of "respecting the Superintendent's authority to advise the Board, implement Board policy, and administer the district," they changed it to "respecting the Superintendent's role to implement Board policy, and administer the district." That's quite the change because the former assumes that the Superintendent has some kind of authority in advising the Board (which implies power over the Board) and the Board has shaken off that wording.


- Under #13, they weakly state what their duties are but shout out to Charlie, there is "providing oversight" and "holding the district and Superintendent accountable" but no wording about how and what happens if Board policy is ignored or not followed.  

Then there are the Intro items, all of which are capital projects.

One is that a Pinehurst project with a change order of $300K+ because they found money(?) to install geothermal wells to "reduce long term operating costs."  I say "found money" because here's how they explain this:

"After reviewing the final 95% Construction Documents & Estimate for the Pinehurst Phase 2 project, it became clear that project funds were available to upgrade the building's mechanical system to reduce long term operating costs."

I'm thinking in layman's terms that it means they did not clearly understand how much things would cost in Phase 1 - or rearranged things - and voila! money.

All I know is that change orders cost money so is this all money saved from Phase 1?

Which brings me to a sore subject for me which is the district pouring millions upon millions into old buildings to keep them going.  Someday, I'm going to create a chart that will show how much money has been put into aging buildings and I think you'd be shocked.  Because it's not a roof here and paint there - it's a lot of money.

Now, of course, I am aware of the capacity issues and the number of aging buildings so obviously, the district has to do things to keep those buildings going.

Eckstein is a good example of an aging building that the district truly does need to keep going.  It's large and has hundreds of students.  The district is spending - this time around - nearly $4M in fire safety, water lines, etc.  But, they can't do the fire suppression system schoolwide in one summer so it's only certain areas.

They are also doing a huge project at Jane Addams for seismic work, a Teen Health clinic, lockers rooms, and science and music classrooms.  Pretty important stuff.

Then we come to McGilvra Elementary.  McGilvra, like Montlake, are small buildings on small areas and don't really have all that much room to grow (and, I believe, are packed to the gills).  But I know from my past capital research that the district has, over at least a decade, poured significant amounts into these two buildings (which are from the 1920's).  In fact, I'd be willing to bet that between the two schools, over the last decade+, the district has probably spent about $15M.

For the McGilvra project this time, they are spending nearly $9M.  This is for a lunchroom addition, seismic/boiler upgrades, sprinkler system, etc. 

So capacity management - along with the long history of deferred maintenance - has put this district in a trap of never-ending capital needs.  It's putting money into buildings that may not be worth saving but the district has no choice. 

Again, when people ask what policies the Board needs to enforce, it's ones like maintaining buildings and not deferring maintenance.  It costs us more in the end.

Thursday sees an Executive Committee meeting but the agenda is not yet available.

Saturday is the Board Retreat but there are no details available for that either.

10 comments:

Anonymous said...

Last day of open enrollment: if your child is in the Whitman middle school service area and is going into APP/HCC 6th grade - do consider filling out an option form to be routed to the JAMS HCC site instead of the Hamilton HCC site. Both programs are good, it is just that Hamilton is out of space, and so you may start there next year, but, you won't be finishing there. By starting at JAMS, you will be guaranteed a continuing placement, and, your student will not be 'geo split' out into a interim site and then a 3rd site by eighth grade.

If your student is a roll with it type of child, then HIMS will be fine.

But, I am thinking of the students in HIMS who have no choice, eg, the student in Spectrum from BF Day, or, the students from JSIS, who must go to HIMS. By having some would-be HIMS students instead head to JAMS right now, and hopefully more of then the next year too, HIMS can be 'saved' and stay not more than 1100 students, so an emergency mitigation won't have to happen, that will affect every kid in the building.

The District is already having conversations about an annex of Hamilton in the south wing of Lincoln, depending on how bad the enrollment numbers are this September for Hamilton.

It is what it is, this District seems not to make decisions to manage the student experience in the long run, they just manage year to year, and our students are the ones who pay a needless price by being destabilized. Middle school is tough enough without this kind of added uncertainty.

--looking ahead

Anonymous said...

Are you sure that students will be allowed to stay at JAMS for all 3 years though?

I had a friend whose child is currently in 6th grade who looked into this last year. They wanted to opt in to APP@JAMS to have 3 years in one place. Enrollment would not guarantee or put into writing that that would happen.

That is, when it comes time to open APP@Wil-Pac (possibly at an interim site in 2016, right?), they may assign kids based on address, not on where they currently attend. So a JAMS kid could, in theory, get pulled to help start up Wil-Pac.

Has anyone confirmed with the district that out of area kids could stay at JAMS all 3 years if they do get a spot there next year?

-anonymous today

Anonymous said...

The district already says it will take kids midway through Washington and boot them to Meany when it opens. Would-will the district do the same at WiPac? Gotta believe yes.

Seen It

Lynn said...

looking ahead,

Do you have children headed to HIMS or JAMS? Are you offering to provide transportation for kids living in Magnolia or Ballard to JAMS?

Kids at BF Day and JSIS don't have to go to HIMS. If there are seats available at JAMS, they can also request them during open enrollment.

Anonymous said...

SEA submitted a 2015/2016 calendar to the district in early Nov. The contract says the district has until Jan. 31st to respond and it is March 2nd and.....crickets. I'm hearing rumors of a push to start the Wed. before Labor Day this year b/c Labor Day is so late. I'm fine either way, but we need to know ASAP. Summer camp registration has begun and many families are waiting on a calendar to purchase plane tickets for summer travel- why are they dragging their feet on this?
TS

Anonymous said...

I would rather go longer in June than start before Labor Day. Weather is better plus it has always been that way and is easier to plan around.

HP

Anonymous said...

How long are guaranteed seats in APP middle school going to continue? Other districts have most gifted learners clustered at regular middle schools, with a magnet school for self-contained and no transportation to the magnets and limited seats.
Frequentlty we hear how HCC is a blessing capacity-wise, but as currently structured it's an expensive and disruptive program. Parents have until after the start of school to decide to use free yelow bus service to to an HCC site; or they can go to their assigned school.
Planning is more complicated.

Charlie

Charlie Mas said...

Notice that ALL of the introduction items are property related.

The biggest part of the Board's work is focused on managing the real estate.

Charlie Mas said...

I will make a point of reminding the Board of Code of Conduct item #13 in future correspondence.

Anonymous said...

@looking ahead, or @plan ahead, whatever your moniker, this drumbeat of "get your kid out of HIMS, so there's more room for the rest of us," is pretty disturbing. The capacity issues need to be solved at the district level, not by small bands of parents trying to save their own.

Yeah, it's frustrating that there doesn't seem to be a solid plan in sight. It's frustrating that kids get shuffled from school to school, multiple times. It's frustrating that parents really don't know what's going to happen from one year to the next.

Are you willing to make the shift you are suggesting other parents make? Would you opt in to a school not in your neighborhood or pathway, with no transportation and no guarantee of continued placement?

aghast