Tuesday, May 05, 2015

Superintendent Nyland's Letter to Parents over School Closure Day

 In what I believe to be a nuanced letter to school communities about the May 19th walkout by teachers, Superintendent Nyland says this in closing:
It is important for families to know that this SEA action is not directed at Seattle Public School families or community, but is a statement to the state legislature about the current lack of adequate state funding for basic education.
I note that SEA president, Jonanthan Knapp, speaking on KUOW about two hours ago was also careful to say that the district agrees that McCleary must be enacted and on that point, the SEA and the district are in agreement.

Yes, schools will be closed on May 19th and yes, there will be one day added to the end of the school year.

Below is the complete letter parents will be receiving but I think the frustration is real, the concern over how well the Legislature fulfills the McCleary ruling is real and that some in the Legislature just don't get it.

 Dear Seattle Public School Families,

The Seattle Education Association (SEA) voted to join in a statewide action against the legislature to protest the lack of education funding in our state.  The SEA is the organization of professionals and union that represents teachers in our district. This protest involves a one-day walkout. 

SEA has selected May 19 as the day for their one-day walkout. Therefore, there will be no school for students on May 19 as teachers will not be at work on that day. SEA chose the day to provide the district two weeks of notice to work on arrangements in an effort to minimize disruption for students and parents to the greatest extent possible. 

The district has been working to determine how to handle activities and events scheduled for May 19 that would be difficult to reschedule. For example, tests scheduled for that day will be rescheduled. However, previously scheduled interscholastic competitions will take place on May 19, after regular school hours.
While there is no school for students on May 19, the school day will have to be made up, just as we would make up a snow day or other unforeseen calendar change. The make-up day will be added to the end of the school year. This means Tuesday, June 15 will become a full school day and our last day of school will now be June 16. A revised school year calendar will be shared with families.

It is important for families to know that this SEA action is not directed at Seattle Public School families or community, but is a statement to the state legislature about the current lack of adequate state funding for basic education.
Sincerely,
https://asp.schoolmessenger.com/seattle/viewimage.php?id=28042
Dr. Larry Nyland
Superintendent 

53 comments:

Anonymous said...

That is a "fantastic" news about the end day of the school year. Many people I know have plans already after the original school ending date, isn't it a little late to add one more day for June in May? I can imagine how many students will be there for the last day...
- mom

Anonymous said...

"This means Tuesday, June 15 will become a full school day and our last day of school will now be June 16."

June 15th (the previous last day of school) is actually a Monday, not a Tuesday.

- North-end Mom

Po3 said...

I noticed that also North-end Mom, sad they can't even get the last day of school right before sending out massive communications.

Anonymous said...

I am not clear why the walk out is happening during IB exams. Those exams can not be rescheduled. Is that deliberate? What are students suppose to do? It is not just one exam. For diploma students, missing one exam blows the whole program.

I am a union supporter but this makes it look like the union doesn't care about students. I can't imagine that the IB teachers are too happy about it either.

-IB Parent

mirmac1 said...

I'm glad that the tone is not "punitive" as in the evil union empire!

I'm confused.

Anonymous said...

Don't matter. Never planned on going on that Monday anyway. What a stupid date to end the school year on in the first place, a Monday!

-westseattledad

Anonymous said...

They've essentially taken a day of instruction from our students. How is this action helpful to students? That's on top of the weeks of lost instruction due to SBAC testing.

argh

Josh Hayes said...

I gather that both students and IB test proctors are expected to show up on the 19th; teachers testing will be given a "pass" to indicate that they're not really crossing the line. These test dates are set internationally and cannot be moved. I feel terrible for the teachers and students caught up in this; my own opinion is that this walkout will have no positive return but will irritate the non-teaching public -- the worst kind of gesture: useless, and engendering hostility from the very people we teachers want to be our allies.

Anonymous said...

Dear parents & community members, please know that the SEA leadership does not speak for all of us (teachers). This was orchestrated in conjunction (collusion?) with SPS, i.e., this is an "approved" action, and as with many SEA decisions, the rank-and-file members have had very little say in this process. Many of us strongly disagree with this action, as it inconveniences & alienates the one group that we absolutely must have on our side: the parents. Additionally, whether it's high school students taking necessary exams or kinders getting a proper breakfast & lunch, we wish there was a way to draw attention to the challenges that we face that didn't unintentionally punish the younger members of our community, those to whom we have dedicated our lives, by denying them a day of learning. This ad hoc, reactionary response to a complex issue is the exact opposite of what we need: rational, public discourse that allows ALL voices to be heard. Action without empathy is doomed to failure.
-Mr. G

Anonymous said...

Just caught this. Too bad SPS and SEA didn't ask parents for which day to walk out. Why not do it on a half day or last day of school? Then we can join you.

ugh

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ugh, there's a thought but yes, too late.

Anonymous said...

Help, I'm confused about the issues here. Is this strike about cost of living increase, class sizes, or standardized tests?
ElemMom

n said...

Josh and Mr. G., I voted no as well but Jonathan said the vote was 85% yes. Do you think he's fibbing? I can't believe he would say that unless it were true.

For me, what does one day do? I love the idea of a last day strike with parents and teachers walking the line together.

Now a quarter of the school will take two days off instead of just one. That's funny to me.

Patrick said...

I assume it's not on the last day of school because in order to influence the Legislature, it needs to be held while they are still in session. Likewise, we don't seem to have an early dismissal coming up until June, and the Leg may be gone by then.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Elem Mom, I can't speak for teachers but I believe it's really about fully-funding McCleary.

The Legislature KNEW, going into the regular session, that McCleary was job #1. The Supreme Court had very publicly warned them about this.

They managed to do other stuff (a little good but mostly busy work/posturing) and now we, the taxpayers, are paying for a special session to get it done.

Embedded in McCleary is a COLA for something like the first time in seven years for teachers. I'm not sure I could begrudge them that. As well, no 1351 or not, class size is also embedded in McCleary.

The Legislature is going to have some explaining to do if they don't get this done in time. And, to Patrick's point, it could go into June if that happens.

Anonymous said...

What a bizarre thing to do. Like the legislature is going to notice or care? This union could make a 100 more effective actions to inspire and mobilize parents to get out there and put the pressure on our legislators. Instead, they take the day off. Huh.

Not inspired.

Anonymous said...
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seattle citizen said...

Not Inspired - I'm curious about the "100 more effective actions to inspire and mobilize parents to get out there and put the pressure on our legislators" you believe teachers could do.
Could you name some?

Anonymous said...
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Anonymous said...

This is sounding more and more like the Seattle Times comments section. There is a rolling statewide walkout that SEA is late to the table for (again). There is a make up day at the end of the year for all of you who are lamenting lost class time. Unions have zero to no power left in this country, and walkouts and strikes are about all that's left.

A one day walkout may not have much of an effect since we are living in a Koch brothers and Scott Walker type of reality now. Seattle teachers shot themselves in the foot during the last bargain because they were convinced that parents and the public wouldn't support a strike. Guess what? I teach your children but you don't get to control my contract. You are a partner at the table, but you are not a controlling partner. I'm not afraid that you may not like me anymore because I respect my profession and myself enough to draw a line in the sand when it comes to the educational climate in this state and the increasingly poor working conditions and wage stagnation.

At least teachers in WA are letting the public and legislators know that they are not afraid and are completely fed up. Playing nice sure hasn't had any effect.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

I support the teachers in this statement, having watched the foot-dragging in Olympia, even now with a court mandate on its hands, as well as witnessing first hand the impact on lack of money at the classroom level. I plan on bringing my students to march alongside the teachers if and when they let us know what the plan is. I imagine it will be tricky to get that information out because it would not be acceptable to distribute it through SPS. Perhaps SEA will get it together enough to pass a press release on to interested parties (such as this blog hint hint).

If there is a misstep here I think it is that SEA did not take a leading stand. Districts throughout the state are doing this walkout. It seems that SEA leadership wanted to watch the reaction to the smaller districts before stepping forward, which is not the strong stance I'd expected from the largest collection of teachers in the state. I attribute this perhaps to the SEA's leadership. "Me too" walkouts simply aren't as strong a statement.

I think it's almost time for the union to vote again on its next local president? It will be interesting to see whether the teachers are more activist than 2 years ago and whether they go for a firebrand or a conciliator. The tone will set the stage for bargaining of their contract which is coming soon. Having watched SEA for a while, I still have regrets that they didn't vote in Eric Muhs, a very strong teacher at Ballard and someone who was ahead of the curve in how funding, education reform and other issues would - and are - impacting Seattle.

EdVoter

Anonymous said...

There is a make up day at the end of the year for all of you who are lamenting lost class time.

As if that last day will be used for actual instruction...it is a lost day. It "counts" for the state, but it's a loss for students.

argh

Anonymous said...

The "last day" of school is always like that.

A one day walkout doesn't convert into two "last day."



--enough already

Anonymous said...
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Melissa Westbrook said...

Enough Already, you know better than to name-call here.

Ed Voter, I always wonder why the SEA/WEA never send me press releases but they don't.

And yes, the SEA should have voted in Eric Muhs.

And anonymous people - we don't take anonymous comments. Give yourself a name.

Anonymous said...

Whatever you're chiding "Enough Already" for writing wasn't written by me. My last comment is the response about the last day of school.

Sounds like we are now in the realm of the absurd--further confirming the Seattle Times' aspect to these comments.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

The SEA is a horrible union.

Example: The union website states:
"The votes are in: nearly 85% of members voted last week to strike for one day to protest the state legislature’s failure to fund 1351"

Really?

85% of union members have never voted for anything, not union elections, not strike votes, not contracts; nothing.

What was the response, I wonder. Maybe 100 members bothered to vote and "nearly" 85% of those activist union members voted.

The teachers have a crap union and they have no one to blame but their own selves.

I'd rather they get their students radicalized and have them write letters and sit-down strike at school to raise awareness and put pressure on the anti-tax right-wingers in Olympia.

Seattle is the big dog in the state, the biggest teachers union in a state that actually has some good unions. I think the SEA is filled with too many teachers who don't appreciate union struggles and don't even know the history of unionism in the NW. They want to be above such tawdry things as "job actions" and "strikes", if possible.

Well, teachers, dust off your John Dos Passos, and reread about the reasons we still have unions here. Teach your students something about class struggle, as it used to be called (now it's warfare, according to the foxes who guard the hen-house).

Do you even discuss Baltimore with your students? Or is it too "sensitive"?

Get a backbone, Seattle teachers. Your kids love you, but you need to at least explain what real militancy entails.

It's more than a day off.

Wobblie

Anonymous said...

I agree with many of Mr. G's points, except the Holier-Than-Thou Saving-My-Students! stuff.

The mess of your students lives are made better by the haphazard random supports those of us in the buildings provide - and those supports are a mess because legislators won't stand up to a few 100 or 1000 greed heads and STOP them pilfering the community so the greed heads can have another audi, another mansion, a bigger boat, cooler airplane rides...

I recommend you join the WEA facebook page, and you look at years of sappy pictures of legislators using us as photo ops - taken while they're taking a break from cowering to the greed heads.

1. Are there more effective actions to do than whatever SEA will concoct? 2. Could the voting process have been LESS onerous and invisible? 3. Could possible ideas about actions be further removed from us dues paying working stiffs? (answers 1. Yes. 2. Definitely, if you were more venal or incompetent. 3. See #2.)

The legislature does NOT care about messing up the home lives of our kids or us working stiffs, compared to the mansion dwellers, because we working stiffs aren't protesting (PEACEFULLY) in front of the homes of the legislators pulling this garbage. If the legislators cared about sappy little pictures on facebook with stern admonishments, or large assemblies in parks or in front of empty buildings (see WEA's protest in front of the Capital on 25 Apr.) we wouldn't be where we are.

I've heard through the grapevine that it was 70% of the school that voted. Of course, nothing on the voting numbers is posted for dues paying members to discuss, contemplate or consider, because we have a doublespeak version of "democracy" in SEA.

Join a different insider clique???

My building voted 83/93 yes to strike. We had 93/102

BallotsReturned.

Anonymous said...

@Wobblie said, I'd rather they get their students radicalized and have them write letters and sit-down strike at school to raise awareness and put pressure on the anti-tax right-wingers in Olympia.

Teachers can engage students in discussions of current events and politics, but actually coercing students into political acts with a teacher biased viewpoint is a big no-no. Imagine if the teacher was a firm supporter of Creationism and encouraged students to write letters to Olympia about changing the science learning standards to reflect this viewpoint. Would you be okay with that?

Teach my kid about the political process, how laws are made, and how their state government functions, so they are empowered to be active citizens with their own viewpoints.

yikes

Anonymous said...

Anyone notice the front page of The Seattle Times? As a trial balloon, one Repub and one Dem threw out the idea of taking the lid off the limit of 1 percent annual property tax rates. Ross Hunter, from Medina, is the Dem who floated the idea. I don't think it will go far, but if doubling down on a regressive and unstable tax system is the best he has to offer, I have no idea how our schools will get funded this session.

SavvyVoter

Eric B said...

I think that adding a makeup day will actually increase the instructional value students receive. Having the last day on a Monday was crazy talk. That pushes the "last couple of days" stuff into the week before, where it can take over from Wednesday onwards. I'm sure a large number of students wouldn't show up for the last day. With two days, teachers are more likely to be able to hold the end of year administrative stuff in the last week.

I would be more in favor of property tax lid lifting that sales tax increases. At least you can't avoid the property tax by living online. I'd still prefer an income tax, though.

mirmac1 said...

EdVoter

Word.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for clearing that up, yikes. Following the state constitution and legitimate directives of the State Supreme Court are tantamount to advocating creationism.

Unfortunately, it's the state legislature that is currently in contempt, in other words, they are violating orders of the court. Pointing that out to students and asking them if they want to write a letter to folks in Olympia about complying with the law does not sound like a no-no to me.

Wasn't there a letter-writing campaign about the kidnapped girls in Nigeria?
I know kids routinely write to authors about all kinds of things, from sex to politics to evolution. I think that exercise is part of the curriculum, in fact.

Aren't kids allowed to write to their senators about issues like coal trains and oil drilling?

Of course, a teacher can't require students to advocate and I might have gotten carried away, but informing the students of the disregard for the Supreme Court's decision and the current contempt order, seems reasonable, and if the kids are given time to pen a letter, if they choose to, seems OK.

Let's face it, the kids are the ones losing here. They are getting robbed by the anti-taxers of a better education

W

Anonymous said...

Why is SEA striking? Is ONE BILLION DOLLARS A YEAR not enough to run SPS?

How much is, TWO BILLION, THREE?

One dollar for SPS, Two dollars for Silas. One dollar for SPS, two dollars for the superintendent's pension plan. One dollar for SPS ,five dollars missing. You get the point.

Speaking of stealing, did SPS receive IDEA funds for Stevens and then falsify documents stating they were providing services? What did SPS do with the $220,000 in federal funds earmarked for SPED at STEVENS?

Why should we trust SPS with any more funding.

Watch yourwallet

NW mom said...

Has anyone heard if this will also affect the senior class? Will they have to go one additional day as well? I believe right now their last day is the 5th.

Anonymous said...

Seniors get out earlier than everyone else???

HF

Anonymous said...

Watch yourwallet is you know who. Does he want more money for SPED? Less money for everyone? More deportations? No idea.

Eep

Po3 said...

Seniors get out earlier than everyone else???


Seniors graduate the week of June 8th this year and because graduations are set already, (staggered throughout the week), I doubt they will change.

Jamie said...

HF - Seniors always get out earlier than everyone else.

Anonymous said...
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n said...

If there is a misstep here I think it is that SEA did not take a leading stand.

SEA has the lowest participation rate of any union in the state according to Knapp at one of the union gatherings. I've often thought that was because Seattle is so big there is little real camaraderie. Elementary teachers are all spread out in relatively small buildings which have become fiefdoms for poorly trained, over-paid authoritarian principals - my current experience. Way too many principals who have little real teaching experience themselves.

Also, it occurred to me that if Jonathon is cooking the books, it may be that the 85% reflects high school and middle school voters. They are always more active because they have a greater mass of people in a building. They have power that your elementary teacher simply can't muster. We elementary teachers are pretty vulnerable to the whims and demands of our CEOs.

In addition, elementary is primarily female and becoming younger and younger. That's true at my school anyway. They have no institutional memory and they are also not very political. I guess elementary teaching attracts a nurturing, kind-of-anti-political type. Honestly, they just don't get it.

I campaigned for Eric M. at my school but most teachers went for the samo-samo. Much like our national elections go - change is hard I guess. Also, at my school, the union reps did get every person (almost) to vote.

I'm not sure anybody should feel sorry for teachers. At least not until they get some courage, some conviction and some understanding of the political process and its reliance on active participation.

Finally, all the testing goes on in May with which I disagree because I think May should be another teaching month. Test the beginning of June. Somebody will say that's too late but you can make it happen. Why does everything depend convenience? Give us the time to teach - esp. at a time of the year when many kids are a little more mature and finally ready to learn. The one more day in June is irrelevant compared to the bigger picture. Let it go. ( I just read above that seniors get out early in June - didn't know that. So, elementary testing can still be held later.)

As for "radicalizing" students, remember what happened to Jon Greenberg. And look how much support he had. "Nuf said.

And Ballots Returned, you have 103 votes? Our school has about 29. You're no elementary!

Anonymous said...

For those here who seem truly confused by why teachers would join in a walk-out; surely you are aware of the reason workers usually strike, walk out, rally, or what ever… is to let the Powers That Be know that we care… AND that we plan to help hold their feet to the fire! Believe me, if we do not find a way to let the legislators know we are watching, they take that as a signal that 'all is well'… And go on with business as usual (which is to adjourn the sessions, once again, without full funding of Washington's schools).For those here who seem truly confused by why teachers would join in a walk-out; surely you are aware of the reason workers usually strike, walk out, rally, or what ever… is to let the Powers That Be know that we care… AND that we plan to help hold their feet to the fire! Believe me, if we do not find a way to let the legislators know we are watching, they take that as a signal that 'all is well'… And go on with business as usual (which is to adjourn the sessions, once again, without full funding of Washington's schools).

Mr. G… you disparage this choice of the teacher's one-day walk out, and talk about preferring a "rational, public discourse that allows ALL voices to be heard." Believe me, we have been trying to do just that for years now. . If you have some better ideas (that we have not already tried) that will get their attention, please step up to the bat.

ARGH asks"how is this action helpful to our students?" Will....we are hoping that it will get the legislature to fully fund our schools. Is that not helpful enough? Do you have a better idea to get the legislatures to do that?

And 'enough already'...you are right...much of the comments today are "sounding more and more like the Seattle Times comments section."

-Look at the Big Picture



Mr. G… you disparage this choice of the teacher's one-day walk out, and talk about preferring a "rational, public discourse that allows ALL voices to be heard." Believe me, we have been trying to do just that for years now. . If you have some better ideas (that we have not already tried) that will get their attention, please step up to the bat.

ARGH asks"how is this action helpful to our students?" Will....we are hoping that it will get the legislature to fully fund our schools. Is that not helpful enough? Do you have a better idea to get the legislatures to do that?

And 'enough already'...you are right...much of the comments today are "sounding more and more like the Seattle Times comments section."

-Look at the Big Picture

JM said...

i think this walkout is incredibly disrespectful to a Seattle students and families, and Nyland's email is just as foolish. School days matter for all kids, parents work and plan around the school schedule and the SEA decides that tens of thousands of kids will get the day off on a random Tuesday. So we are pawns in the SEA's pointless protest. And the Supt tells us we should be thankful they gave us 2 weeks notice and says we shouldn't take it personally. I can't believe there isn't more pushback on this.

Pencup said...

"I think the SEA is filled with too many teachers who don't appreciate union struggles and don't even know the history of unionism in the NW."

Agreed. The walkout vote came from the rank and file in SEA, NOT the leadership. In fact, there is NO leadership in SEA.

This happened after the membership watched virtually every other urban district around us stage a one-day walkout to try to get some attention that the legislature is still not funding education and still screwing teachers for the sixth year in a row without even a COLA causing a 16% reduction in pay -- let alone an actual raise beyond the COLA.

And oooohhh the enormous tragedy that will be caused by a student getting the same amount of school days by having to go one extra day on a Tuesday.

I'm not surprised at the teacher hatred here. There have always been teacher haters on this site.

But the Seattle teachers who won't even stand up when the legislature robs you of 16% of your pay and then wants to cut your family's health benefits make me sick.

There's a reason the legislature does this -- because you let them. Stand up May 19 and say "NO"!

Anonymous said...

Unless it has been behind closed doors, I can't see much of WEA or SEA holding legislators feet to the fire. I haven't seen much push via news media to lobby state legislators or galvanize the public. Sure Seattle sole daily paper, ST, may be hostile to union, but geez go after KPLU, the Stranger, TV media, Bellingham Herald, Tacoma News, or Spokane-Review.

Even the SBAC pushback has to rely on individual schools. Geez, if this test is so dreadful and contrary to meaningful education, then unions need to speak up loud and clear. Not wait for parents and students to opt out individually with SILENT encouragement.

What does all this anemic action seems to say? Educational unions are lazy! That's how it comes across. Won't walk until it becomes a vote for pay and small class size. THAT is what many in the public hear and see, even if they support you. Unions need to take charge of their own narrative. Honestly, shed this Maginot line of defense. If there are inefficiencies within school district, speak up. Ask for structural and system changes. That will make the more fiscally conservatives happy to hear because they hate waste! There are many plans on how to fund McCleary. Support the ones which make sense and be a part of that solution.

That's why this one day rolling strike seems a bit aimless and LATE! Everyone who works for a living understands the risk of speaking up for better pay or work condition. You have the unions. Make that work for you.
-reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

I will say that I generally love teachers but not so much on the union. I find their actions hard to follow and it's even harder to know when they will act.

It's a lot the same with schools - most people like their school but don't like the district.

Anonymous said...

Look folks. School is over. After months of SBACcing, does anybody think schools are still doing something? Does anybody think students will get back to the millstone after taking hours and hours, days and days of tests? Get real. Sure there are field days, tests and more tests, award ceremonies galore - but really. Not much is happening. So what if teachers strike? If they had any guts - they'd start a strike and keep going until the SBAC is dead, completely dead. That alone would restore funding and time to students.

Funny how Pearson's sees the testing market as $18B. But somehow SPS is hoodwinked into believing that it is $20/student (or something similar). Oh and, where are all those results? Should teachers have them by now?

Reader

Anonymous said...

Reposting on this thread:

We were informed today that the district has decided that seniors will make up the strike day on Saturday, May 30. I am not kidding.

There was much laughter today at my school about this.

By the way, the majority of staff at my school voted against the walk-out.

David Edelman

n said...

Thanks, David. You may have helped answer my thought that it was the high school teachers who voted to strike.

I believe in unions and activism and I'm thoroughly familiar with the history and importance of unions to the middle class. However, I'm no fool. A ripple when you need a tsunami is foolish.

When we have a real educated plurality dedicated to long-term marching and the willingness to really raise the ire of everyone, let me know. And things will have to get a lot worse before that will happen. Think Chicago and Wisconsin, the home of the labor movement. We're not there yet.

Rahm asking for 7% pay reduction from teachers. http://news.yahoo.com/chicago-asks-school-teachers-7-percent-pay-cut-022643493.html;_ylt=AwrTcczaLExVlMUAY84nnIlQ

When Reagan did what he did to Patco, I knew then what we were in store for. That was the first domino. Public employees did not support PATCO and now we are without support. I didn't stand for . . . and when they came for me, no one was left to stand up for me.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"We were informed today that the district has decided that seniors will make up the strike day on Saturday, May 30. I am not kidding."

What? And how do they proposed to make this happen?

Anonymous said...

The building will be open on that Saturday, and a skeleton crew of administrators will greet any seniors who come to school. They will be "required" to come to school for three hours.

No teachers will be required to be there, and it is expected that attendance won't be taken.

No, I'm not making this up.

David Edelman

Patrick said...

David Edelman, of course you're not making it up. A lie has to be plausible, unlike real life in SPS.

NW mom said...

Thanks David. I am flabbergasted by this decision. No teachers will be there, so what will they do for 3 hours? And attendance won't be taken? My senior will not be there that day. That's ridiculous.