I will note that Councilman Tim Burgess announced this week to an elementary school group that there WILL be 14 classrooms in SPS with the City's preschool plan. Not "may" or "hopefully" but "will." He did NOT mention the vote tonight by the Board nor did Director Marty McLaren. In fact, McLaren said nothing about his statement in her own remarks.
Done deal much?
You will also recall that the Action Item on tonight's agenda has some Exhibits attached and that I had stated that there was no Exhibit "C." Well, there is but it is not attached. It's mentioned here in Exhibit B:
Section 100. Performance Targets and Scope of Work
Throughout the term of this Agreement, the Agency shall support the City’s Seattle Preschool Program Levy Goals included in Exhibit A and achieve the Performance Targets described in Exhibit C to this Agreement as an Agency provider of SPP by providing the Scope of Work (“Work”) implementing a Program consistent with the description set forth in Exhibit B to this contract.
Additionally, assistant Legal Counsel, Ronald Boy, in an recent e-mail to a parent said this (bold mine):
I think it is important that you have a little bit more information regarding your questions about Cashel’s (Toner) statement at the Executive Committee meeting. As you know, the city of Seattle is working to implement a preschool program on an extremely short timeline. As partners in this project, we have been working with them to get everything put together and we were negotiating changes to the service agreement for most of the day of the committee meeting. A couple hours before the meeting, we made the decision, with the city’s approval, to make changes to the structure of the agreement which I finished with little time before the meeting began. The Board is getting all documents that are part of the service agreement and at this point I don’t expect any substantive changes will be made to them.
1) why is the City's "extremely short timeline" the district's issue? Isn't lunch/recess time, SBAC scores, capacity management, start of a new school year, etc. the district's MAIN focus right now? I would think so.
2) To the "all documents" point - where's Exhibit C and why is is missing? We are just hours away from the Board meeting (and to the staff, it is now TOO late to insert it and there is no excuse that will allow this to happen without suspicion).
August 12, 2015
Dear Mayor Murray,
As a School Board Director, Seattle Public Schools parent and longtime public education advocate, I strongly support public efforts to help all children succeed academically.
I write to you today because I have some questions about the scope and promise of the City’s Seattle Preschool Program (SPP), and partnership with the District, and request some clarifications and modifications, which I hope you will be able to address. Specifically:
1. Will SPP create 2,000 additional seats – or absorb existing seats?
Your “Preschool for All” initiative (1B on the Nov. 2014 ballot) spoke of providing 2,000 preschool seats in the next four years. As a voter, I assumed that meant the City’s program would establish 2,000 additional seats to what already exists. But upon learning in early July (via the Seattle Times: First sites, providers announced for city’s subsidized preschool program) more details of the City’s SPP plan, which consists of converting existing preschools located within the School District to the City’s program, and in recent conversations with staff members from your Department of Education and Early Learning (DEEL) and SPS who have requested two more classrooms in SPS join the city’s program (Bailey Gatzert and Van Asselt elementaries), it appears that the City’s plan largely consists of converting existing seats, rather than creating new ones.
Is that a correct understanding of the direction if not intent of the Seattle Preschool Program?
(When I asked Interim Director of DEEL, Holly Miller, at the last School Board meeting on July 2 what was to be gained by the District redirecting an existing preschool classroom to the City’s program, she indicated that the City’s focus was on quality rather than quantity.)
2. Why does the City insist upon a 25 percent “holdback” of reimbursement to the District?
Can you also please explain the city’s requirement of a 25 percent (“performance based”) “holdback” of reimbursement to the School District for its services, should it become a preschool provider within the City’s program?
(See: Board Action Report http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/School%20Boar d/14-15agendas/070115agenda
This stipulation was not divulged to the School Board during the discussions preceding the June 17 vote on the City’s and District’s agreement concerning SPP. In fact, the lack of specificity about the costs and commitments of the SPP plan to be incurred by the School District is one of the reasons I was not able to support the agreement as written, and was compelled to vote against it.
This “holdback” condition is highly problematic and let me explain why. This stipulation puts District resources at risk. It also does not represent a good-faith partnership.
The School Board has a fiduciary duty to safeguard the resources of the District and keep them focused on our primary mandate, which is K-12. For those reasons, I maintain it would be an abrogation of the School Board’s duties as stewards of finite SPS resources to enter into an agreement in which we would promise to offer complete services – and free valuable space – in exchange for an assured payment of only 75 percent of costs.
That this is how the City arranges payments under the Families and Education Levy is not fully relevant to this new phase in the City-District partnership and in fact does not instill confidence. For, as you know, the FEL stipulations recently came under public scrutiny when the City withheld funding from two schools, Sandpoint and Emerson Elementary, due to a change in principals. (Thank you for responding to the community and the District about that matter and appropriately restoring all the funding.)
3. Recognize that free classroom space for preschool is already a valuable contribution from the Seattle School District.
Also, as you likely know, current Board Policy allows reduced or free rent of SPS buildings to some organizations providing educational services. Consequently, that will mean many proposed SPP classrooms will be located in SPS buildings at no rental cost.
As I stated at the July 2, 2015 Board meeting, SPS is not just any preschool provider or partner, but the largest and most significant educational organization in the City and, as is becoming increasingly apparent, the chief provider of space and resources for the City’s plan. The mere fact that the vast majority of proposed SPP sites for 2015-16 will be in SPS buildings is a clear indication of this.
Therefore, if the district provides in good faith services as well as free space, why should the City withhold 25 percent of reimbursement to the District for these costs?
4. Therefore, I ask that the City remove the “holdback” contingency from its potential agreement with the School District and instead guarantee complete reimbursement for costs associated with becoming an SPP provider.
5. What does it mean to “play ball” with the City?
In a recent Seattle Times article, you referred to the district ‘playing ball’ with the City. What did you mean by that?
There is no question that the Seattle School District is committed to early learning. In fact, the District has a longstanding, demonstrated support of early learning, which predates the City’s preschool initiative by many years. The District already provides 66 classrooms serving over 1,600 preschoolchildren of various abilities and backgrounds across the District, and has been recognized for its Head Start program.
I cannot emphasize enough the severe capacity challenges the District is facing. With Amazon adding thousands of jobs, Expedia moving downtown in 2 years, as the many instances of traffic gridlock and development have demonstrated, Seattle is one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation and this growth is bringing many children to the doorsteps of our public schools. It is a positive problem to have and a testament to the hope and reputation of our School District. But it also means the District has legitimate concerns and challenges with space and how it is committed.
From the beginning of the conversation about the City’s preschool program last year, the School Board – and the greater community – has made it clear that we have a capacity crisis, and our primary mandate is K-12, which remains not fully funded (as established by the McCleary decision).
Therefore, any collaboration with the City regarding preschool must not commit space or resources that the District needs for our primary mandate. So it came as a surprise to learn from the Seattle Times, that the city plans to establish its preschool program in 7 more Seattle School buildings. The School Board was not informed of these plans until we read about it in the Times in early July.
In short, how can the District “play ball” when the City does not keep the District – which includes the School Board – fully informed and clearly tell us what ‘game’ we are playing? Moreover, by providing valuable free space, the District is already making a valuable contribution to the City’s preschool program.
Please understand, the School Board is mandated by policy, law and our Strategic Plan to be responsible stewards of the public resources, facilities and students that we oversee. I take that duty very seriously.
Transferring SPS space and resources to the City preschool program is not an insignificant matter. For this partnership to succeed, it must be conducted in a manner that is respectful, transparent, and acknowledges the realities of the School District as well as the goals of the city.
Thank you for your consideration of these points.
Seattle School Board Director, District IV
Audit and Finance Committee Member
Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee Member
Head Start Board Liaison
cc. Seattle City Council