Wednesday, June 03, 2015

Meet Seattle Schools' Newest Partner - the City of Seattle

It's been a long day so I can only be brief here (but I'll write more another day). 

Two fairly interesting things happened at the School Board meeting tonight.

One, there is considerable support for the Middle College High School program, both from community and some Board members.  Speaker after speaker rose to support the program and ask that the Middle College High School at the High Point Neighborhood Center not be closed.  Especially moving was testimony from a former student, Paul Campiche, who said that these were not "throwaway" students and "people who are the most disenfranchised need the most help."  He had been thru the Middle College program, then went to Evergreen and is now in the Master's program at Antioch for counseling. 

Peaslee, Peters and Patu (the Peter, Paul and Mary of the Board), in their Board comments, all said they want a second look at this decision (or at least more discussion).   The other Board members were fairly silent on this issue.  Oh wait, Director McLaren couldn't say enough about how good the program is but then said that she had been part of many discussions and it seemed like two different conversations but "that's all I can say."  Very helpful.

One last oddity to this story is that it was noted that the Middle College program in West Seattle was no longer on the South Seattle CC campus and the program was started to align with community college.  And yet, the Middle College at Northgate is in the Northgate Mall, not on the campus of North Seattle CC.  Hmm.

Two, the Board voted, 5-1-1 (with Peters a "no" and Patu abstaining) to approve the agreement with the City of School for their preschool program.  

Again, I'll go into more detail because the vote was baffling given what was said by nearly every single director about this agreement (namely, either just a "broad outline" or "too vague"). 

When this Board meeting is online, I urge you to go and listen.  It was truly bizarre what was said and yet the majority of the Board said yes.

 (Or not said, given that not a single Board member, despite misgivings, asked Legal counsel John Cerqui about the agreement).  I checked with him before I left - the agreement, once agreed to by the Board and signed by the Superintendent, is a legally binding document.

The juxtaposition of the reality and need for a program like Middle College that saves lives today versus the City/District's unclear road forward for its preschool program was jarring.


mirmac1 said...

The agreement lacks many things like: a data-sharing agreement; a dispute resolution process; a termination for convenience clause. Guess Cerqui got off easy.

Anonymous said...

Great! We're how many classrooms short for kids and we agree to give the city what? That's it! No more levies! I need the money to quit my job and home school. This is bull hooey!
West parent

Historian said...

"Director McLaren couldn't say enough about how good the program is but then said that she had been part of many discussions and it seemed like two different conversations but "that's all I can say."

It is not unusual for Martha McLaren to talk out of both sides of her mouth. When push comes to shove, McLaren will rubber stamp and vote in lock step with the district.

McLaren's campaign web page is from 2011 and endorsements no longer apply.

I'm looking forward to a board meeting report

Melissa Westbrook said...

You know Historian, I was going to say that you were wrong because McLaren updated her home page. But there I am listed as an endorsement and I do not endorse her this time.

Very, very bad form.

Pre-K said...

The Executive Committee will meet tomorrow. The city wants to give SPS $500K to control two preschools. One preschool is at Bailey Gatzert (set-up by Gates grant) and the other is at Van Asselt. According to the document, Seattle Public Schools has 66 prek classrooms and serves 1600 prek students. The district promised multiple agreements. Where are they?

I read the prek MOU. It is important to note- all that was missing. I look forward to watching the board meeting. Judging from Melissa's comments, I can only say that I'm glad Director Peters and Patu are independent thinkers.

Nyland, Carr, Peaslee, Martin Morris and hopefully McLaren won't be around to clean-up the prek mess.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, Pre-K, it was quite droll of one of directors to say that SPS has 66 and this is only 2.

Also, when I pointed out that it was Carr, at the last Ex Ctm meeting, who said that she didn't want something that would leave new directors in a less-than-favorable position and didn't want to leave something someone could get "creative with" she claimed that I got it wrong and that she was talking about within SPS and not with the City.

Prek said...

The city gave Sandpoint $318K from the Family and Education Levy, and pulled all but 30% of the funds because the principal is moving. The prek MOU indicates that prek costs will be "negotiated". Hard to believe that a single director signed onto this agreement.

Language related to prek-third grade alignment. It is not clear if the city will insert themselves into K-3. There is NO reason for the city to insert themselves into K-3; SPS has plenty of staff.

The city's prek program is a research project and an Investigational Review Board will be needed to protect humans from psychological harm. The MOU was not clear whether or not the research team will insert themselves into the K-12 system.

Shocking that this agreement was approved. Peaslee, Carr, Martin Morris and McLaren can't be removed from office soon enough.

enough already said...

MacLaren is a double talker. She cannot take a stand. I'm sorry but she needs to move on.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Pre-K, I am not surprised how quickly the City and their minions (that would be Wright and Toner) are moving.

Again, with this partnership agreement, the District is now locked in until 2019. They can only negotiate some items in it but if I were a newly elected Board member, I'd make sure to defang it as much as possible. (Or just say "no" a lot.)

As for McLaren, it appears she does have a new campaign website but couldn't be bothered to take down the old one that has many more endorsements including mine (with a quote from me).

I have asked her to take it down immediately as I am not endorsing her this time.

PreK said...

Has the city contracted with Head Start and the state program? If so, the city will inherit some of the district's 1600 prek students. We're NOT talking about TWO prek classrooms. It is important to remember that the Gates grant will allow for a total of 3 prek classrooms; Bailey Gatzert and 2 others.

Saying that the district is contracting, with the city, for TWO prek classrooms is false.

Anonymous said...

Is the preK program simply increased poaching of the poor? I can't help but think it expands the recipient pool so now 4 year olds can receive a sub-par education as well. I am curious if it is it expected to be a good thing?

Prek said...

The city's prek program intends of having both students from high and low income families.

I watched part of the board meeting. Blanford makes a good point:

A. The district does NOT offer a timeline for agreements/ contracts etc. Toner and Wright state that there needs to be multiple agreements. These agreements are non-existent and the district does not have a timeline for getting this information to the board. Language regarding contracts/agreements are missing from Partnership Agreement. I find this interesting because the prek program has had a timeline and the timeline began several years ago.

B. Wright tells Blanford that he meets with the Executive Committee once a month. Yet, an agreement with the city will have an enormous impact on facilities, operations and finances. These issues need to be discussed in the Audit and Finance, and Operations Committee.

The board should not enter into any agreement until costs have been determined.

An Institutional Review Board will be used to protect humans, participating in research, from psychological harm. Is it the intention of the city to extend their research project into K-12 system? The evaluation component is being developed, and the district will "inform" the board. We're talking about children being used for research. At a minimum, the board needs an agreement with terms fully explained.

Third Sector Intelligence will develop prek evaluation strategy. 3SI works with the BMGF.

Peaslee asks if the district will have an opportunity to exit the contract. Wright tells Peaslee the contract is good for 2 years. The Partnership Agreement is from 2015-2019.

At best, this project is sloppy and poorly thought out. The board would be smart to refrain from involving administration and insisting on a 2-3 year implementation plan.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, it's an agreement, not a contract but still legally binding.

No, there is no exit to this thing, only renegotiation of terms.

I think four years is too long for this thing but they said yes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Oh yeah, one last thing.

I went to the BTA IV levy meeting which was sparsely attended. I asked about the money in BTA III to build four new preschool classes. Only one was done at Gatzert because there is no room at the three other sites. Herndon said the money is just sitting there until they find the room "because that's what voters wanted."

First of all, that money can technically be used for any purpose.

Second, that room is not going to crop up anytime soon and SO many buildings have capital needs.

I wish they would not wait and just use it.

Middle College said...

Student testimony from Middle College was impressive. Students were in touch with their feelings and were very articulate. Kudos to Betty Patu. Her comments regarding the closure of Middle College were right on. She called the closure "appalling". She went on to say- and I'm paraphrasing- "We're not here to save money, we're here to save lives."

W. Seattle blog quotes Martha McLaren as saying " I couldn’t make a strong case against the impending decision to close the site. Staff knows that I am adamant that SPS needs to find a way to serve the kinds of students who have thrived at MCHP."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Adamant? I don't know if I would call her comments that (even if she says so). She waffled about knowing there were "two conversations" but would not elaborate. I'm sorry but why don't students, parents and taxpayers get to know why the decisions are being made?

Promises Promises said...

Toner is a former elementary school principal. While her intentions are good, I highly doubt she has the skills to write MOUs that will deal with millions of dollars. She has no business leading this effort. Mirimac is correct. The MOU between SPS and the district does not contain a dispute resolution.