1) many parents were surprised to see no two-tier plan despite, as parent Eric B. pointed out, that the Taskforce's first pick WAS a two-tier bus system. The reason given for that by Pegi McEvoy, Assistant Superintendent of Operations, was that it was too expensive and that the Taskforce understood this.
Which, of course, begs one of the largest points about this district - we are repeatedly told how much things cost or how much money is saved and yet, no real data is presented. The district has repeatedly said that Transportation was being reviewed/overhauled and yet, where's that data after all these years? And, if we saved money from the LAST change-up, where did those dollars go? You can't just say "the General Fund" because a lot of people when through change and deserve to know EXACTLY where the money went.
But as one brave parent said, cheered on by many in the crowd of about 60, simply write at the top of the survey - TWO-TIER plan is my only choice. As Ms. McEvoy admitted, if that was what was written on the surveys, they would compile that info and present it to the Board and the Superintendent. (McEvoy said the two-tier plan would cost $20M more but again, without any backing data, hard to take that as true. She also seemed to imply it would take years to implement. The district spends $36M in Transportation now.)
Now, the Superintendent and staff could just shrug and tell the Board, "A two-tier system is too expensive so we must pick one of OUR options." What then? I would hope the Board would refuse to do anything without that absolute data on costs in their hands.
2) As I noted below, my first surprise was a second survey. It is similar to but NOT the same as the online one.
We were told that "Communications" had created one but not why them or who they created it for. Was it for the Superintendent? the Board? the Taskforce? All of them?
This hardcopy one was created by Neighbor2Neighbor in Maryland. (I would like to ask how much SPS is paying for these services as the meeting did not go smoothly. I also would like to ask how much the district paid for Enrique Cerna from KCTS to be the host on the video.)
Neither survey had a space for Comments but we were told to go ahead and write them on the back of the hardcopy one. Oh. And they would link the e-mail address for comments to the online survey.
We were also told there would be more meetings in September for parents and staff.
This issue of input from parents and staff kept the discussion lively as several parents kept looking for a direct answer to the question of its use.
That it is unclear who is gathering what information and who will see it and how it is weighted is troubling. But staff consistently seems to think if they have a couple of meetings and have an online survey that they did due diligence for community input.
I plan on writing to the Board and telling them what I saw and that this does not appear to be a coherent plan for input. I would also like to ask them if they have discussed how to weigh the evidence themselves.
- Michael Tolley, the Assistant Superintendent for Teaching and Learning, dry and quiet as usual in the video, said what I felt was the "ding, ding, ding" thing in his section of video. He said the district would be "considering all factors involved in the academic day of our students." That key phrase? "Academic day." I'll get back to this in a minute.
- One parent at my table who had attended a Town Hall presentation on sleep and adolescents said that one expert had said changing school times is one thing that could, across all socio-economic levels, help to close the achievement gap. I, too, have seen this said as well.
- It was noted that students would soon be taking the climate survey (from 3rd grade on) and would be asked about school start times.
- It was noted in the video that there is also an equity lens to look at school start times as some students may need jobs or have family responsibility for other siblings.
- Eric McCurdy, head of Athletics, said in the video that changing bell times could affect use of fields with the City and athletic schedules. That is true except that SPS did change to the Metro league so I don't think that is as big as issue as it would have been in the past.
- Parents were confused about why high school students use Metro but there is also school buses. The explanation is around transporting Sped students as well as APP students. But again, show us the data on these costs. One parent said why couldn't the yellow buses for those high school students be coordinated separately from all others (meaning dedicated buses for just those students).
- It was also stated in one handout that a change might mean more students using the breakfast service (which would be good for both students and district staff).
- The facilitator, from Neighbor2Neighbor, was a nice guy but started the meeting late saying "that's how it is" and naturally, knew nothing about the inner workings of the district.
- FYI, here is report from the Montgomery County district in Rockville, Maryland study on bell times from June 2014. This is a highly-thought of district and the source of the hard copy survey. They ended up not changing the bell times because of "mixed feedback" and I suspect that is what will happen in Seattle as well.
Yes, I know that sports and other activities engage and even keep some kids in school. Could it be harder to access those? Maybe.
Yes, I know that some students have family responsibilities. Could a change make that harder for some families. Maybe as well.
But the district's job - to both students and taxpayers - is to provide the best possible education for all students. And, the district is charged with doing that in an equitable manner, using the most up-to-date information on how to get the best academic outcomes.
One parent got up and said her teens get up early so they don't care about earlier start times and changing them would hurt their volunteer/swim activities.
I personally don't care if a parent wants to view the bell times issues from a one-family lens or school lens or even a districtwide lens. That's your choice as to how you want to give input.
But I was greatly pleased when not one but two different parents got up and said, change is hard. But we all adapted. In real life, bus schedules change all the time. We adapt. One woman, a mother of a 1st and 6th grader, said a 9:30 am elementary start would be hard for her but she, too, said she was thinking about how many kids would benefit from this change and everyone else can manage.
Whether or not you agree, it was great to hear a calm, thoughtful input about the issue and its effects.
end of update.
I thought I might summon the energy to pump this out tonight but alas, not there.
However, I will whet your appetite with one tease about tonight's Bell Times meeting -
they handed out a survey.
No, silly whim, not the one at the district website. It's a different one created by the Neighbor 2Neighbor folks...in Maryland.
Why two? Well, there's a mystery that no one, not even Pegi McEvoy, could explain. She said there were two because some parents could use online surveys and others liked to come to meetings and fill them out. But again, why two? No answer.
However, the online one was created by "Communications" which leads to another question which is...why? Why would "Communications" create a survey? Why not the Bell Times Taskforce?
And get this - NEITHER has a Comments section. I kid you not. When I asked, I was told that parents could send comments to the Bell Times e-mail (which would necessitate looking in a third place to give input).
Parents pressed again and again - who will see these? Allegedly both will be compiled and given to the Board and Superintendent (but do I really believe that? Maybe, but if so, then they will then be massaged into whatever shape staff wants.)
Pinky , are you pondering what I'm pondering?
Sure but we'll never get a monkey to use dental floss.
See you in the morning.