Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Seattle Education News

There is an issue going on with Sand Point Elementary and the sudden pulling of a grant from the Families & Education levy because SP's principal is leaving.  The school planned staff around that grant and are now scrambling because of the rescinding of the grant.  The school is looking for answers and so far no one - from the City or the District - has any to give them.

This could mean dire things for other schools who may get F&E grants and then see them taken back should they lose their principal. I have never seen any documentation mentioning this nor did the Department of Early Childhood and Education staff at a recent Board Work Session on the levy mention this possibility.

 I'll have full details after I get some answers to queries I have put to various stakeholders.

Today I will be attending an odd sort of panel discussion on charter schools at UW via the Evans Schools of Public Affairs.  It's called Charter Schools: Problems and Possibilities.  Professor Richard Zerbe  from the Evans School organized it because "it's an interesting topic I wanted to learn more about." 

The panel includes two people from the Center on Reinventing Public Education which is all about charters and their promotion.  Then they have the head of a religious private school and a recent Master's grad who works for Summit charter schools.  

Director Peters has been invited to sit on the panel but she is about the only person who is likely to raise issues against charters as she seems to be the only person they could find.  In all the Puget Sound region, they couldn't find a single person.  (The panel had also included a guy from the Washington Policy Center - also a big charter supporter - but he's not going to be there.)

I asked Professor Zerbe why the panel seems skewed.  He has no idea who Brittany Alvarez is.  He says he invited both Robin Lake and Paul Hill "because I know them and their work."  He "thinks" the guy from the private school is against charters.  He said he really tried to get other people - he called the City Council and either WEA/SEA.  He said no one replied to his query.  (Why he thought someone on the City Council would know anything about charters is a mystery to me.)

Lastly, I pointed out that this event was not on either the CRPE home page nor UW events calendar.  He doesn't know why.  I suspect that this is a set-up to have some "UW" videotape on charters.  I don't think it's about having some broader discussion.

Danny Westneat of the Times has a good column on his own experience in Seattle Schools with testing.  He estimates that his two students have taken 72 standardized tests (and one is in 7th and one is in 9th grade).  He's a good dad and he tried the SBAC.  He makes a pretty good point about how several legislators called out the teachers for walking off over funding.  He says:
"Hey state senators: how about holding a hearing on something that actually is cutting into students' class time?  Your standardized testing regiment.
He also said:
The issue is that this is probably the most heavily tested generation in U.S. history.  To what end?
I wrote a lengthy comment but here's how I ended it:

All that time, all that money and again, Danny's question:  "To what end?"

The Times is also reporting that Rainier Beach High School has 91 students sitting for the IB exams this year as opposed to just seven last year.  That's big news.  The growth seems to have come because of RBHS's making all junior/senior LA classes into IB classes.  It is also reported that three star basketball players are among those taking the test.  Twenty-five students took 3+ tests and seven students did all the work in order to receive a full IB diploma.

In addition, 10 sophomores are going to Barcelona for an IB World conference (lucky kids - Barcelona is a great city). 

Today the Board has a busy Work Session.  First up - Exit Conference for Financial and Single Federal & Accountability Audit.  This is usually a dry affair but you can never know what an audit might turn up.  I would assume it would include Title IX.

Then the staff will give a Budget presentation. As Mirmac1 reported, the 2015-2016 budget - in the early pages - says a goal is to put back cuts at Central.  Really, see page 4.

I would have a number of questions myself like where most of the cuts to schools restored?  I don't think so.  Has the district hiring at Central ceased over the last three years?  No.  And, what are these "eroding systems" spoken of on this page because I thought we had Charles Wright on the job to fix all these.  (Oh wait, he wanted $1M for a consultant to figure out how to equitably allocate funding to schools.  That was his ask at the last Executive Committee meeting.)

They want to drive $6M more into Central Office.  (And again, Central Office and Central Administration are NOT the same thing. So when you see that "below 6% of the budget" figure they like to give for Central Office, keep that in mind.)

But they are also reporting about a $10M gap in the budget.  But oddly, they then say they have $8.5M in "current year savings."

They do mention the McCleary dollars but don't quite explain what they would do with those dollars. (I'm thinking - given page 4 - not drive most of those dollars to schools.)

Interestingly, they project there WILL be a second session for the Legislature and that it will be done by June 29th.  I think they are beyond right on this point.

There's a revised enrollment projection on page 18.  Tell me what you think.

After the Budget presentation, there is the Superintendent Evaluation "Check-In."  Take a look at page 5.  Very funny for a presentation - a row of angry-looking boxes.  

I'll be honest - the Superintendent's responses are written for the Board.  They are brief and use a lot of jargon the average person would not know.  While I understand it is the Board's job to oversee the Superintendent, it would seem any voter should be able to read and understand the Superintendent's documentation of his work.

Tomorrow the Board has another Work Session on a Resolution about Assessments.  I'm hoping the Board is taking the lay of the land across the country as well as how many parents opted out of the SBAC and realizing now may be the time to take a stand.


FOIA said said...

"There is an issue going on with Sand Point Elementary and the sudden pulling of a grant from the Families & Education levy because SP's principal is leaving. The school planned staff around that grant and are now scrambling because of the rescinding of the grant. The school is looking for answers and so far no one - from the City or the District - has any to give them."

The Family and Education folks want certain things from schools. The Family and Education Levy has become a mechanism for an unelected committee to control our schools.

mirmac1 said...

FEL is the stick with which the City manipulates SPS and, yes, micromanages where it doesn't belong.

Charter news said...

I'm not surprised that the pro-charter Center for Reinventing Education will be involved with a charter forum. Here is an article about this organization. One might call "creep" or "creepy".

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, I saw that article. I don't know that I would call them "creepy" but they are not unbiased and frankly, are just a charter school think-tank. I find it annoying that they are connected with UW. It seems like for that kind of association, CRPE's work should be more broad-based.

Eric B said...

This may be an ignorant question, but why would changing principals change F&EL grants? It seems like the only thing that would change the grants is if the covered program was discontinued by the new principal. Of course, that would be a stupid move if the school's budget depended on the grant.

Anonymous said...

What happened to the principal at Sand Point? Where is he going?


Anonymous said...

To Reader:

Dan's wife is taking a new, awesome job in D.C.


Anonymous said...

Agree with mirmac1...the City is trying to control SPS.

mirmac1 said...

SPS spreads misinformation. I highly doubt they know what anything costs down there at JSCEE:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Eric, I'm trying to track down that question. More on this to come

Anonymous said...

There's a post with some explanation on the Sand Point PTA site
Urgent Advocacy Alert! Funding At Stake


Anonymous said...

It sounds like SPS staff is getting nervous about community support for changing bell times. Interesting that King5 didn't name their district source.

-HS Parent

Calling BS said...

Thanks for the link, reader47.

Does this mean that the city wants have a say whether or not a principal leaves a school?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Calling BS, what it means is that the City seems to be trying - via the Families & Ed and the "partnership" with Pre-K - to insinuate and manipulate themselves more and more into district functions.

Because their clause about principals staying for 2 years from the start of the grant is NOT something a principal or the district can promise. Or, even if the district could promise that, what district makes a hiring decision just for a grant?

Very troubling.

Greenwoody said...

Holly Miller sees herself as a Seattle version of Arne Duncan, and Ed Murray and Tim Burgess are both enabling her to do so. It is appalling and indefensible that the city would hurt an elementary school like this merely because a principal leaves. It is not appropriate for the City to be involved in SPS personnel matters like this. Voters approved the Families and Education Levy to provide programs for students - not to create a slush fund for Holly Miller to try and run the district herself.

kellie said...

I took a look at the updated enrollment projections.

The update is primarily a big reduction for K. This make a lot of sense as they have been over-estimated K enrollment for three years now. The fairly hefty price tag that goes along with full day K is a major dis-incentive for families to enroll and the last time I saw a break down of the over/under for the school-by-school K enrollment, the under-enrollment was primarily in middle class neighborhoods. (aka the schools that neither qualify for free all-day-K, nor have large annual parent fundraising)

However, high school enrollment has been under-estimated for a few years now as well and they are estimating a nice drop for 10th grade. That does not make any sense.

The cuts at the high school level were very deep. While some of the elementary funding has returned in the form of counselors, very little of the high school cuts have been restored. .

mirmac1 said...

Interesting that, for once, Carr was questioning staff's prerogative and sad if K keeps dropping that, um, maybe we should refocus capital funding to MS and HS. Ya think?

Calling BS said...

I'm glad the Sand Point/ Family and Education Levy incident occurred before the board signs a prek MOU with the city. Perhaps, it will give board members a moment of pause.

Calling BS said...

Yes, the city has inserted themselves with principal hiring practices via the Family and Education Levy:

"The new hire committee has worked thoughtfully and proactively to include members of the levy oversight council into the interview committee for our new principal, and crafted an interview question to determine how principal candidates would uphold and move forward the work supported by the levy funds."

It is time to get the city out of SPS.

mirmac1 said...

Voters need to ask City Council candidates how they feel about an unelected body can be permitted to decide how our tax monies for education and enrichment are spent.

Every legislative district should make this a mandatory question in their endorsement process.

Anonymous said...


Interesting point about how the cost of all-day K could negatively-affect kindergarten enrollment.

Curiously, John Rogers is projected to have fewer kindergartners next year, as compared to this year, despite showing steady growth in kindergarten enrollment since the NSAP, even before the school qualified for free all-day kindergarten, which we now do.

-North-end Mom

Lynn said...

North-end Mom,

Could it be that kindergarten families don't have to enroll until school starts? Last year John Rogers was projected to have 63 Kindergarteners and ended up with 85. I think this is a problem for lots of schools.

Kinder Parent said...

We're supplementing full day K at a cost of $350/month.

Kinder Parent said...

See above. We are at Bagley Elementary.

Anonymous said...

Until the state defines the adequate funding for a special ed student, or an ELL student, there is not a level playing field for public schools beside the charter schools who selectively avoid those students by various nefarious ways and means.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Anyone can enroll at any time. But the earlier you do it, the more the district can get a handle on what's coming.

Kinder Parent, my understanding is that, at this point, there are about 25 elementaries that still have pay for K. Various state funding has winnowed down to that number. If we get McCleary, then no parent will pay.

Of course, those people who call themselves legislators are now going into a second Special Session so who knows?

kellie said...

There are 25 schools that charge for full day K and 44 that do not.

The 25 that charge break into an interesting mix of some of the most over-enrolled schools and a handful of schools that have stable enrollment.

The enrollment projections had been projecting about 5,000 K students, with a fairly steady grade-by-grade decline, each year for the last few year. K enrollment has fallen consistently short of that. But interestingly, enrollment for first grade has been very close to 5,000 students.

In other words, enrollment declines with each progressive grade, EXCEPT for first grade. There is an INCREASE from K to first grade each year. That strongly suggests that Pay for K has an impact. Particularly when you consider that this pattern only started when Pay for K was centralized.

Anonymous said...

I do think its rather disturbing that the city can "insert" itself into hiring practices via the Levy - as a voter, that's certainly not what I want to happen. How I wish the Board would wake up and smell the rotten egg that is city/mayorial involvement in SPS operations.... a girl can dream eh? ;)


Anonymous said...

A good 4 minute piece this morning on the Sandpoint F&E Levy grant being drastically reduced. The City has major egg on its face especially in light of the F&E Levy folks being included in the interview process for the new principal. And yes indeed the City and Mayor need to get out of the District's business.

You can listen here:

Longtime Lurker

Po3 said...

The KIRO piece makes it clear that the $$$ was conditional upon the principal staying at the school, so from that aspect the city is well within its rights to pull the $$$. That doesn't make it OK, but it was a condition of the grant. What the grant did not spell out is if the principal left, then the city would have a say in the replacement process so that is where the city is in trouble.

I think this is a good lesson going forward - read the fine print and negotiate anything that could leave the school high and dry. I do hope, however, that the city restores the funding to Sandpoint just to show it can be a good partner in the schools. But, personally I would hesitate taking any of this money as it does give the city a foothold in your school.

Anonymous said...

I read in another piece that the principal staying wasn't a condition when they first applied, though. I'm not sure about the city changing conditions after application and/or granting the money, and I am also not convinced this is an appropriate granting condition. They're not a nonprofit; it's not noblesse oblige. This is city money Sand Point earned fair and square. Here, this one-

So I actually don't think it was that clear. And I very much hope they give the money back. Sand Point is doing such great work, but the reality is as a diverse school (actually diverse, too), they need money to do it.


Anonymous said...

Do go and read the March minutes from the F&E levy committee. It is quite enlightening. There is mention of the process changing and a few issues with leadership changes in a couple of schools regarding grant awards but no motions or votes to change the rules. Additionally grants for Sandpoint and Emerson were pre-awarded a year ago based on the strength of their applications.

This is like pulling the rug out.

Longtime Lurker

Anonymous said...

Wow, that's ridiculous. And from the 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."

They were awarded based on an application from the time period during which there was not a principal continuity requirement. Which, again, I think is bunk even if they did know.


mirmac1 said...

Results of the SAO Audit. SAO determines that certificated SpEd teachers were once again wrongfully billing to SpEd for doing non-SpEd work. Too bad these audits are like the blind men and the elephant. They barely scratch the surface and can't seem to expose the widespread malfeasance in this district.

13-14 Exit Items

13-14 Federal Single audit

13-14 Accountability Audit

Anonymous said...

That's amazing Mirmac. You must feel pretty good to have all your hard work validated, even if momentum in inaction is still a problem. What would it take for someone to actually do something about special education? Short of somebody dying, pretty much everything is business as usual. OSPI needs to be fixed.

Sped Parent

mirmac1 said...

I feel immensely frustrated. These people audit for a living, yet seem so willing to be led by the nose.

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