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.