Thursday, May 28, 2015

Sand Point Elementary's Families&Ed Dollars Pulled When Principal Leaves

Josh Kerns at KIRO Radio does an excellent job in covering this story.  (I have several questions into the City on this issue and I will update as I receive answers.) 

Basically, Sand Point Elementary, a fairly diverse elementary school in NE Seattle, had applied for a grant from the Families&Education levy.  The work on this grant had been done by all stakeholders at the school including the principal, staff, and PTA.  They were awarded a grant of over $300K to hire hire a counselor and enact other initiatives to support students and their families.

But, when the City learned that Principal Warren was leaving (to move to Washington, D.C. with his family), they pulled the grant.  Why?

I found this in the most recent RFI presentation doc I could find at the F&E levy page.  It says:

Applying principal and/or assistant principal is still at school during the 2015-16 and 2016-17 school year.

Now, of course, their money, their rules.  But...

We know the principal knew this rule but, at the time the school worked to get the grant, Principal Warren didn't know he was moving.  As well, from the KIRO report, he says that the implementation of the grant is not dependent on his presence at the school, that it was a group effort and that the new principal is on-board with the work.  (Honestly, what new principal at a school wouldn't like to hear "oh, we have a $300K+ grant for more staff for student support?")

Part of the grant has now been reinstated but naturally, if you worked out a whole plan based on X dollars, reducing the amount throws a huge monkeywrench into it.  (There is dispute over if the City is giving 30% or 51% of the grant - I'm trying to get clarity on this from the City.)

I applaud Principal Warren and PTA president Chandra Hampson for their tireless efforts in defense of this issue. 

I know that Ex Director, Kim Whitworth, has gone to bat for the school.  I know that Director Martin-Morris (Sand Point is in his region) knows about this.  I have not hear any public statement from the district.

I will note a few things that make this troubling:

- at the most recent Work Session on the F&E levy, City staff said that leadership turnover does sometimes cause issues for schools with grants.  BUT, they did not tell the Board, either out loud or in their presentation, that grants could be pulled or reduced if the principal left.  

That's a pretty key piece of information that Board directors should know and since the City brought up the issue, why didn't the City tell the Board?

- also, things happen.  A principal could have to leave a school because of an injury or illness.  Is that truly the district or the school's fault?  No, it's not.  But again, it is not clear if that kind of departure would trigger a pullback on grant funding.

-  the district has a very bad habit of pulling principals out of one school and putting them in another.  From my viewpoint, this particular clause almost forces the district to not make its own HR decisions.  What if the school didn't want to give up the principal because of issues including an F&E levy grant but the district said they needed to make the move - would the City pull the grant?

I do not believe the district should allow ANY size/type of grant to dictate its placement of principals.  

I don't think this policy serves either side well and probably should be adjusted. From a public policy POV, this story does not serve the Department of Early Education and Learning well. 

And, you have to wonder what the district's stance is. 

Who will they back up?  Their school or the City?  The answer might just tell you a lot about what is happening behind the scenes between the City and the District.

31 comments:

Anonymous said...

I am not convinced the no moving principal rule was an actual rule when SP applied for this grant. They applied early and were granted early, and then I think the rule changed. It's possible they were informed of the rule change after they received the grant, but it is entirely inappropriate for the city to then pull funds either way. If for no other reason than as you mention- schools and principals themselves have no control over whether the principal stays. SPS moves them around constantly.

-sleeper

Anonymous said...

I posted this in the other thread, from the March F&E levy committee minutes-

"approximately two years ago (almost from the beginning) we recognized that we had some really good applicants that we pre-awarded for the next year in the queue so they would not have to re-apply and go through the process again, e.g. Emerson and Sand Point."

The application period during which they originally applied and were (pre) awarded did not have a principal continuity requirement.

-sleeper

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting, Sleeper, because I saw an e-mail from the F&E levy director saying that clause HAD been in there.

Anonymous said...

Sleeper beat me to it but that is a H.Miller quote. Those March minutes are very telling. The continuity of principal requirement was never mentioned. In fact a staff member was asked about principal changes "churn" and she reported that grant awarded schools with new principals are given support by levy staff. Sometime between the March meeting and when S.P. was told their grant was reduced the rules were changed.

http://www.seattle.gov/education/about-us/levy-oversight

My letter has been sent to the Mayor, the Superintendent, and Board.

Longtime Lurker

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, there you have it. So at one meeting, it's not great but okay with DEEL and now it's not. (Plus they didn't tell the Board about it when they had the chance.)

Anonymous said...

I got the link from longtime lurker in the previous thread; here's the churn quote(long)-

"Carmela Dellino added that there were nineteen schools that were eligible this year, seven of the schools had brand new principals and five had principals that were only in their second year. Principal landscape had a significant impact this year. K. Washington stated that part of what we wanted to do with the levy was to target funds and resources for schools that needed them most and to some degree we expected churn at the leadership level. He asked Carmela if she could tell him about the amount of churn she has seen in schools that have been awarded levy funding. Carmela replied that there has been a significant number of new principals in awarded schools and overall it has been successful and they are now adopting the work of the levy. However a couple of schools are experiencing more challenges involving other factors that have impacted the school. K. Washington asked if we need to be considering additional support/resources for schools experiencing leadership change that are already part of the levy process. Carmela replied that she believes it’s not just a matter of more resources but the guidance and support of how to utilize those resources."

So at this point, 2 months ago, it is in no way clear that levy funding can or will be pulled because principals move. They will get "guidance and support." Further up in the minutes, it talks about the need for a strong application to have community buy in- applications that are just about the principal or by the principal will be rejected. As always I never attribute to malice that which can be adequately explained by incompetence, so I bet what the director says is partly true. Maybe in some final award grant 3 weeks ago it stated the new rule. But those are not the conditions under which SPE applied, and this overly rigid departure from previous committee thinking (support for new principals, expect some churn, understanding that the schools most in need of these funds often have the most leadership churn! So this amounts to more punishment for being poor.) should certainly not affect SPE next year.

-sleeper

Disgusted said...

The City of Seattle has decided to insert themselves into district operations and influence policy, and they use Family and Education Dollars to do so. They have become a mini US Department of Education.

Melissa links to a document, and staff are expected to attend city retreats...like principals and staff don't have enough to do.

The city has the same people sitting on the Family and Education Levy Committee, and they tend to support corporate forms of education Time to get some new people on that committee.

Anonymous said...

It's crap like this that makes me regret my yes vote.

ugh

Gerry Pollet said...

Sand Point Elem has 30% ELL, and serves unique populations - which makes the FEL grant vitally important.
The rules say the City MAY rescind a grant if there is a change in principals, not that a grant is rescinded if there is a change. A reasonable response to change in leadership is to either ask for a plan or to be involved in transition planning discussions to ensure that the new leadership will succeed. As people have noted, applying an automatic rescission when a principal changes would prevent the district from making decisions at dozens of schools.
Gerry Pollet.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will have a new update tomorrow as I have received more information as well as answers to questions from the Families and Education levy team.

I am also hearing that they either rescinded/reduced Emerson's grant as well.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

I hope this serves as a wake-up call to those advocating more City involvement in education.

Anonymous said...

How very corporate to put paperwork before what works in the classroom.
Another exhibit of how Corporate Ed Reform falls on its face.
Let me guess: Excel and Powerpoint are the preferred methods of re-supplying the information to the grantors.

Snort.

DistrictWatcher

mirmac1 said...

The City is following the example of their partners the Alliance for Education, who have no compunction yanking dollars from (admittedly in A4E case lame) initiatives.

The Board has a policy that it will not accept grants that are not sustainable. Howzat goin'?

Watching said...

" As people have noted, applying an automatic rescission when a principal changes would prevent the district from making decisions at dozens of schools"

Exactly. The city has inserted themselves into principal hirings.

Seattle Public School board will be asked to sign a MOU between the City of Seattle and SPS regarding prek. I remember Cashel Toner, at a board meeting, talk about looping prek-teachers into K. This would allow the city to become involved in SPS hirings via PreK.

There is a lot of vague language in the MOU, but this hit my eye:

"Alignment, Educational Continuity, and Kindergarten Transitions
The City and the District will work cooperatively to develop effective structures,
procedures, and practices to promote positive preschool-to-kindergarten transitions for
all SPP students in order to improve academic results for children."

In addition to the city inserting themselves into principal hirings...will the city attempt to insert themselves into K-5 hiring?

The city has not acted in good faith and the board would be smart NOT to enter into a preK agreement with the city.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Watching, exactly right. The partnership ALSO has language that some District policies may need to be changed if the District hosts some of these pre-k classrooms. There were some eyebrows lifted at that.

I absolutely think if the District does sign, it should be year to year. I do not trust the City at all.

ConcernedSPSParent said...

Since Sherry Carr touted the pre-k as a success story for her terms on the Board she will rubber stamp whatever the city come up with. The good news is that rubber stamp for my district will be gone soon.

mirmac1 said...

Given the DOEs recent draft policy pressing district's towards inclusion of sped preschoolers with typical kids, the district may see its costs go up. oh snap! You mean SPS can't warehouse them at Old Van Asselt anymore? Better put some weasel words in that MOU.

Anonymous said...

According to OSPI (2013-14), Sand Point Elementary has:

43.4% FRL
15.0% SpEd
33.7% ELL

While it is horrifying that the City would pull grant funds to SPE because of a leadership change at the school, IMO, it is equally horrifying that a school serving such high numbers of FRL, SpEd, and ELL students had to apply for a FEL grant in order to pay for a counselor!

I don't know the details of the SPE WSS allocations, but I am assuming that, as a small K-5 school, they did not reach the magic number to qualify for a 0.5 Counselor, even with their FRL, ELL, and SpEd students "weighted."

There are currently about 270 students at Sand Point. The building is very small, so, even though the upper grades are under-enrolled (because the school re-opened only 4 years ago), they are using several portables (and I believe they are running out of room for more).

How over-enrolled does a school have to be in order to qualify for basic elementary school staffing?

The City is at fault for pulling the FEL grant.
SPS is at fault for not prioritizing basic school staffing.
The State is at fault for not fully-funding K-12 education.

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

Seriously, they are rescinding Emerson as well?

Where are they trying to put this money? This seems like an underhanded way to claw back money, which means to me they are hoping to put it somewhere else. Pre-k?

-sleeper

Duncan Style said...

A KIRO piece indicated that the new principal is on-board with the plan. What is the problem?

Sherry Carr commented that the district's prek agreement will be similar to the Family and Education agreement- it is not. The city is asking much more from the district. Nyland wants the district to become a charter school authorizer and he carries water for the Gates Foundation; he'll be gone and won't have to clean-up the prek administrative mess/ expense.

The city wants to further insert themselves into SPS operations. Don't expect any of these individuals to stop them.

Po3 said...

"This seems like an underhanded way to claw back money, which means to me they are hoping to put it somewhere else. Pre-k?"

That is what I think also.

mirmac1 said...

Let me guess who will be expect to pony up at least some of the missing $$. Yes, the PTA. I think parents should let the Mayor and Burgess know that we're onto their levy machinations and find it loathsome.

mirmac1 said...

I'm sorry. I did not mean to say anything to cause the SPE PTA to delete information posted. I believe our posts crossed in the ether.

Anonymous said...

The rescinding of the grant is loathsome and really makes you question why anyone voted for the levy in the first place. Idealists who never notice what actually happens maybe.

But the really troubling thing comes down to the way schools are funded. Why does Sandpoint need levy money to fund basic needs like a counselor when a school is high ELL, FRL and Special Ed? Why does any school need to find funding for a 0.5 counselor? Or a nurse? Why do kids with special education needs need to jump through hoops to get inclusion? Why do we have planned classes of 28!!!!! for Kindergarten, and of course 1st, 2nd, etc? We need to have a simplified, consistent way of funding these things that actually makes sense, supports all kids with reasonable class sizes and support and ensures that kids with ELL needs, special education needs and at greater risk because they are FRL have the additional support they need. Without going to PTAs, without going to levys, etc. Some schools will still use PTA funding for fancy computer labs, gorgeous libraries, etc, but ALL schools and all kids should have adequate supplies, much smaller class sizes and/or aides when needed.

NE Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, Charles Wright, deputy superintendent, told the Executive Ctm. that they "could not wrap their arms" around figuring out how to fund schools equitably w/o a $1M consultant.

Hmm.

mirmac1 said...

All those suits and they admit they can't do the job. Beyond sad.

Wondering said...

South Shore is loosing their principal. Will the city yank Family and Education dollars from this school? To what extent is the city involved in principal hiring?

Anonymous said...

Anything new about Sandpoint and Emerson's FEL grants? Harium Martin-Morris is the only one to respond to my concerns and questions about the partial rescinding of the grant awarded to Sandpoint. Will South Shore lose their FEL $$'s? If not why not?

"I have been in contact with Holly Miller on this issue. The funds are controlled by the city and they make the rules. That said, I did express my concern of the impact this decision will have on the students in need at Sand Point. I do not think the city will change their minds on this but I will continue to press for a different outcome.
Regards,

Harium Martin-Morris
School Board Director, District III"

Longtime Lurker

S. Shore said...

S. Shore's principal- Laura Morrison- was on Burgess's prek junket to Boston. I highly doubt the city would pull funding from this school/ principal.

Where is Morrison going?

It is also interesting to note that S. Shore's prek teacher won an award from Teach For America for is prek work. Are we sure the city isn't contracting with Teach for America, and wants to use SPS to mentor TfA via prek-5 alignment? This article indicates this individual was instrumental in expanding prek throughout Seattle.

https://www.teachforamerica.org/top-stories/2015-alumni-award-excellence-teaching-recipients-announced

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The funds are controlled by the city and they make the rules."

Director Martin-Morris is certainly correct on this point BUT the City is, more and more, pushing to get itself in a position to have an impact on policies (if not directly help write them). There is evidence of this both from the F&E Work Session and the last Executive Committee. Bald, clear evidence.

Director Martin-Morris should be keeping this in mind as they come to the vote on the partnership with the City on Pre-K at this week's Board meeting.

Everyone should realize that this powerplay action by the DEEL is NOT just about one school.

Watching said...

Voters awarded the city the largest Family and Education levy in the history of Seattle at $232M and the city's prek initiative is funded at $53M. In essence, the city is sitting on nearly $.03 billion dollars.

Shame on the city for failing to provide an extremely small portion of funds to Sand Point.