Monday, September 14, 2015

The District Has No Money: What Should Go to Support Classrooms?

I ask you - if there is "no money" and yet all the issues under discussion for the teachers contract have not been addressed (and it's not just teacher pay), what should we cut?

To open the discussion, here's what was said in another thread:
I believe most of our teachers care about students, but not SEA. SEA is shamelessly using our kids as pawns. I don't think SPS should give in at this point. I also think their needs to be a drastic reduction in staff at the district's headquarters. This strike is showing the worst of both sides with our kids stuck in the middle.

Insanity wins

Melissa Westbrook said...

Is it "give in" or settle or find compromise and consensus? I wonder.
Insanity says, both sides are digging in for their points, not doing what is best for kids (and stop me, Insanity, if I have it wrong).
When you have been having an extended argument, don't you sometimes just throw your hands up and it's "alright already, fine, your way" just to make it stop? That can end the argument but lead to hard feelings.

Are we getting to the point where we all want it over so much that we don't do the best thing?  "Sped ratios (or OT) ratios? We'll figure that out later."

But to my question, what would you cut to find the money that is needed?  At this point, I'm not even sure of a figure (thanks SPS and SEA for your clear and accurate accounting of the issues).

What example of a cut might be NOT buying assessments and gasp! the district creating its own.  They didn't buy Amplify (you did know that right - the Board actually did say no to staff on something) but part of this discussion about the teachers contract is testing beyond the SBAC.  I don't know if it's over how many assessments in a year or the type but I have to think it may be both.

I said to someone, if your family cannot afford store-bought, make your own.  And that's what teachers and districts did for years.  Or buy cheap - ITBS was a good test, why not use that?

Naturally, my mind goes to the high salaries at JSCEE.  The district is silent on that issue but we have all seen the data that it is true.  You cannot undo salary hikes but you sure can put a hold on them.

What would you do or say to the teams negotiating this contract to help them find a united way forward?

93 comments:

Anonymous said...

Is there a breakdown of where the $34 million from the state is going. The district has been pretty clear in saying there is only $9 million available for teachers, but no mention of where the rest of it is going.


Wondering Parent

Amplify? said...

Is it true that the School Board did NOT buy Amplify? That is news for me and our building scheduled Amplify tests for this coming year. Please let me know that this is accurate.

Thanks.

I would cut Regional Directors. All of them. For the life of me, I can't figure out what they do.

Anonymous said...

Here are my ideas.
1. Cut in half the number of sped staff downtown. Put all that money into sped contract issues, only sped. This money could pay for the Access program, more IAs, etc. I even think the district would save money from lawsuits if they have more people providing direct services.
2. Only pay the teachers who really need to do the extended day. As far as I can tell, the only place where having an extended day is really warranted is high school. High school needs it because they need more credit hours. Why extend everyone's day? Just extend high school teachers' days and pay them accordingly.
3. I agree cut regional directors. Cut the new person that was just hired to supervise all the ed directors.
4. Cut any standardized testing that is not required by the state. We might even be able to get an extra 20 min of instructional time without needing to pay for it just by cutting all the testing and test prep time.
5. Cut the excessive nursing staff downtown. Use that money to pay for nurses in the schools.
Just starting!

Anonymous said...

They suck up to Tolley is what they do. Look at Pritchett.

Last I checked Amplify was getting put in play. Of course the procurement came in at 249,999 dollars so the board got a "courtesy" notification. But who can track the shell games at JSCEE

Worthless

Anonymous said...

Cut the five Executive Directors. Savings: $821,453.

David Edelman

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, a breakdown of the $34M from the State as well as the money they moved over from the Capital budget would be good to see.

I thought they had said no to Amplify; I'll have to look into this. There's a huge cost right there.

I have to say that getting rid of Ex Directors is the one thing that comes back again and again.

Anonymous said...

If we think of SPS as a family or small business with money problems, we would think, "Simplify." What is absolutely necessary? So many levels of bureaucracy are a waste of money at SPS central office. They should save money there. Plus, they should save money on their next superintendent by not paying him so much.
NEmom

Melissa Westbrook said...

I forgot to say one thing that I know from personal experience to be true; when this is all over none of us on the outside will ever know the truth about what was said and done (or not done).

We will be left with the stories we are told. Even the teachers won't really know what their team did or said and the district will, of course, keep their own collective truth.

Anonymous said...

We have three Assistant Superintendents. Why? Cost: $610,453.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

How about a round of upper management lay-offs at John Stanford?

Just starting ... what nurses work downtown?

North by NW

Anonymous said...

Worse than that. We have a deputy superintendent (whatever the heck that is); two Associate superintendents (guess they didn't like to be perceived as under the deputy's thumb; at least three assistant superintendents. That has consumed Nyland's year in his position. Moving the deck chairs to keep the egos in check.

Worthless

Anonymous said...

I think a good portion (most?) of the new money from the state is earmarked for lowering K-3 class size. We may have to forego some of it since we don't have the extra classroom space needed to implement .

HF

Anonymous said...

Eliminate all professional development held at the JSCEE. From now on, professional development should be offered by practicing teachers in their buildings. For example, this summer I attended the absolutely superb Since Time Immemorial training at Broadview-Thomson.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

keep in mind that a great percentage of the district tech personnel are consumed by computer issues related to testing. I've waited weeks, even months, to get my computer fixed during testing periods. I'm serious. Testing is the priority.
Cutting standardized testing means freeing up tech support for better uses and/or reduced tech costs for the district related to testing.

RedForEd

Anonymous said...

I agree with David Edelman about the PD. The district fails to recognize and utilize the expertise within the buildings. They'd rather pay big buck consultants from UW and such. Colleagues would actually do a better job on more meaningful topics, in my opinion. It could save a bunch of money.

Get rid of the ed directors.
heck, get rid of the superintendent.
Get rid of the whole lot and the district will save money and function better, I'm sure.

RedForEd

Anonymous said...

Axe the STAR mentoring program. Mentors should come from within the buildings. Mentoring shouldn't be a program run out of the JSCEE.

David Edelman

Anonymous said...

how about making some money for the district...
gather the amazing piles of clothing in the lost and found (that remain after 100 warnings to pick them up).
open a thrift shop and sell them at a good price.
win-win.

NotRobot

Anonymous said...

@David Edelman

I have no idea what you teach or if you're effective at your job but I'd like to know how much you make so I can take a WAG at whether you're a good investment for our tax dollars.

One of your brethren/acolytes made the comment above that they haven't the slightest idea what the Regional Directors do but, like you, has no reservation about getting rid of them.

Most of the folks you want fired came up through the same ranks as you. Union teachers fighting for the rights of teachers. If they're now expendable simply because their job title and responsibilities have changed, regardless of their value to keeping the system working, then so are you.

You're all fighting for improving the system. No one deserves to be characterized as a leach or expendable.

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Dear Concerned Parent,
The point of the comments is that too much money is being spent for administration. Is it being spent effectively? Is the money being spent actually helping the outcomes of students?
NEmom

Anonymous said...

These are great suggestions for trimming the fat and JSCEE, but how can we actually get any of them implemented?
It is all very well us talking about what should or could be done to free up funds for where it is really needed and can do the most greatest good -ie classrooms, teacher support, support for ELL, SpEd students, nurses, counselors etc in schools ... but it seems we as parents, teachers, the community of taxpayers who actually fund this operation that exists to serve our students, are absolutely POWERLESS to change it what it has become. And we are, because for years (decades maybe), it doesn't matter who is voted on school board, or what the feedback from the endless community engagement exercises is, the JSCEE crowd gets what it wants and the taxpayers, families, teachers etc have to put up with it. The one thing recently that the board stood up - math adoption, even that, is now being undermined by the new district conceived scope/sequence, supplementary curriculum or whatever they call it (using Engage NY) - how many parents had even heard about that? It just makes my blood boil to think of those fat-cat giving themselves $20 000 salary increases from one year to the next (from an early post) while our elementary school teachers have to beg parents to send in PENCILs because they have run out! PENCILS! Other parents have told of having to provide cleaning supplies etc. Our schools, the actual schools, are stretched way overcapacity, they are understaffed, underequipped, probably unsafe in some cases, and certainly underperforming (this is Seattle, a high tech, highly educated, highly motivated city - our school system should so much better than what it is). Meanwhile in the fancy new headquarters those administrators are patting each other on the back, giving themselves healthy raises and new job titles, smoozing with the city political players, and doing everything they can to maintain the status quo and fend off the great unwashed masses (us) - "let them eat cake" and all that.
I am sick and tired of it being us against them every step of the way - from curriculum adoptions, to school closures, to bus routes, to school start times, the list goes on. And often they say it all comes down to money - and no wonder, when you see where it's going. They are not being handsomely rewarded for a job well done - this district is woefully mismanaged. No private corporation would be giving out raises and promotions and creating new, better paying positions for the staff that running their organization like SPS is. But I can't see how we can change it and make this district really work FOR us as it should.

Powerless in Seattle

SPS teacher parent said...


I second the Thrift Shop with lost and found coats idea.

SO, if we keep the principals, ax the regional directors, superintendent, all of the assistant sup.ts, the star mentor teachers who work in the district office (what do they do all day?), along with dumping Amplify, we are looking at, what, about 5 million?

N. End SPS teacher said...

Has anybody seen the West Seattle blog? Some real snarky, anti-teacher comments there. Glad I teach in the north end.

KG said...

First and foremost look at the F-195 reports from the OSPI for expenditures on the Central administration costs on a per pupil basis.Perennially this has been at least $150.00 to $300.00 more per student for Central Administration than any district in the state.
This has been costing the Seattle School children 7 million to 15 million dollars per year for most of the 25 years I have worked here. This money should go directly into the buildings. Last time I was down at the Stanford Palace for important Central Administrators (a place the District could not afford) I noticed as usual the parking lot was hard to find a place as I bet central admin. $ on a per pupil basis is at a record high. Looking at these reports will likely help, but impossible to address as this has been a known problem for years but accepted as many have spoken about this ridiculous rip-off for years, especially with the inept School Board we have and have had for years. I always thought they were to direct the Superintendent and School District policy but it seems like they never do this.

Second, learn to be disappointed in the School Board for they have never curbed this spending. They let Central Admin. destroy the District and never have any $ for the schools.

I agree with getting rid of the Directors like Tolley and Pritchett. Both ineffective. Tolley cannot concentrate as witnessed in meetings stuck on his phone texting instead of being serious about the meetings. Pritchett not addressing the administrative problem at Franklin High School. Both of these Director's are disrespectful to Staff in the buildings therefore disrespectful to the children and parents.Get rid of them. No one would care.

Third, Only spend on the average of what all Districts spend on a per pupil basis state wide on Central Admin. These Central administrators are not even average at what they do but well above average at being opposed to children by spending GOBS on a failing entity which is themselves.

Last, have an evaluation form sent to the schools for ALL employees to fill out each year regarding the performance of Central admin. This would help keep Central in check. They could add or cut based on these evaluations. We know what would happen here, that is why it is not done. Also have the school employees rate the School Board. Start cutting the Central Beast.

Anonymous said...

So many comments about cutting positions but the suggestions lack any specificity on why that position's job responsibilities are unnecessary or perhaps how those duties might be taken up by others.

Are these positions created void of need or merit? Are these people's job functions worthless? Nepotism? Graft?

Saying "cut" without detailing why ("they make too much" or "I don't know what they do" aren't compelling reasons) or how (who will cover the need) does not suffice for a reasoned argument.

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

From Kitsap Sun. Here's where our special ed dollars are going. You can check it out yourself: Here they all are Are they accurate? Well, nobody knows of course, but this is what the Kitsap Sun reports. You can look for yourself.

Jessee, Wyeth, Exec Director Special Education $156,488.00, years of certificated experience: unknown
Hanson, Kari, Director of Special Education $118,333.00, years of certificated experience: 21.80
Clancy, Michaela, Director of Special Education $116,519.00, years of certificated experience: 12.10
Kraemer, Stephen, Teacher-Special Education-XE $110,129.00, years of certificated experience: 29
Olney, Robin, Spec Ed Svcs Supervisor $105,617.00, years of certificated experience: 13.90
Carter, Elizabeth R, Spec Ed Svcs Supervisor $105,026.00, years of certificated experience: 26
Studley, Sherry, Spec Ed Svcs Supervisor $105,017.00, years of certificated experience: 23.4
Thorson, Beth M, Spec Ed Svcs Supervisor $105,017.00, years of certificated experience: 14:10
Parks, Karla A, Applications Developer - Senior $104,955.00, NA
Campbell, Patricia A, Spec Ed Svcs Supervisor $102,626.00, years of certificated experience: 0.2
Pan, Spencer, Spec Ed Svcs Supervisor $102,626.00, years of certificated experience: 3.8

(this last one is pretty incredible)
Seriously???? A new hire, with less than four years experience - hired as a supervisor making more than $100,000. Less than 4 years of experience - yet he knows so much. How is that? We can't fund programs for students with autism but we can have a whole building full of supervisors. The next layer down, are the "program specialists". Well, they make less than $100,000 - but there are SOOOOO many of them.

Sped Reader

n said...

All of the above. I'd start with eliminating positions in administration of course and maybe ed directors first. I can't believe those salaries. Go back and see what John Stanford eliminated to get to 4+%? We do need better tech so hire more people to service schools in technology. I, too, had a parent fix my tech and another teacher hasn't used hers all year because it doesn't work and no one will come fix it. We were supposed to get refurbished pcs a year ago and we're still waiting. iPads only go so far. Let's go back to teaching in computer labs instead of testing them.

Get rid of the star mentor program and hire librarians again. Principals hired at the rate of $105,000 to 125,000 shouldn't need $162,000 ed directors to tell them what to do. Unbelievable. Use that money to buy counselors.

Useless PD. Give us those days to collaborate with our teachers. I always learn more from my colleagues than I do from outside pd. Besides, schools with different populations of students really need different pd. Let them decide what they want to learn about and give them the time.

Finally, absolutely reduce nursing staff downtown and put them in the schools where they are desperately needed. If sped is over-populated downtown, reduce that contingent as well. I realize I'm respending the money that I save by eliminating others. We have many needs for the money that goes down the dark hole of administration.

Just ditto, ditto, ditto all of the above.

Floor Pie said...

Put JSCEE SpEd staff in schools where we actually need them? Give each of them a small caseload to manage in addition to their desk jobs?

n said...

One more: thanks powerless in seattle for reminding me about curriculum adoptions: why do they have to be every five years. Isn't that about the time frame? Perceived curriculum needs eat up a lot of money and teachers who are trained to teach and who get a couple years experience should be able to teach without the newest curriculum on the shelf. So much money in education is spent as a result of marketing. I've seen teaching materials from Romania to China and they are efficient and minimal. We just don't need to throw out one curriculum for another every few years. Right there you have a nice saving.

Anonymous said...

Concerned Parent,

I work in a neighboring district and I can just tell you that I have never heard of the types of positions that SPS has. Executive Directors, Assistant and Deputy Superintendents, a whole team running PR? None of these things exist in my (quite well-regarded) district.

I don't think it's necessarily nepotism or anything like that - it's just that in the complex world of education, most jobs could be divided in two (or four, or six) if resources were unlimited. A teaching job could easily and very reasonably be three jobs, if class sizes were lower and teachers had prep time equivalent to teachers in the rest of the world. But the reality is that we have scare resources, and we have the balance those resources. It's not a personal insult to suggest that the large and impressively-remunerated jobs downtown have less of an impact on students than do actual teachers.

Teacher + SPS Grad

P.S. David Edelman is a legend, and I'd rather have him in my district than every single person at JSCEE.

n said...

Why do you all believe the district has no money? Isn't there $22m in some savings fund? I thought I read that. And what if we bargained so hard and long and parents pushed the board to bring resolution, couldn't we get a promise or a plan to reduce administration at least on paper? Sometimes you have to think out of the box. I suppose there is a limit to the time we really have but determined strikers in other fields have made unexpected headway by being persistent and patient. Tell Nyland to show us how he can administer the District in a way to reduce administrative costs and hold him to it. Perhaps the board would finally influence the outcome but only if we hang on to our resolve.

This is, in the long run, about Seattle education - not just educators. If Nyland can't get it done, we need a superintendent who can get it done. Bernie would get it done.

Anonymous said...

NEMom

Seattle has 53,000 kids in school. Administration is a necessary facet of any medium to large organization. And administration at SPS may indeed be bloated but the solution isn't simply cutting what looks expensive. Rather, it should be about how to deliver necessary services more effectively. The baby, bathwater solution is a favorite of folks who favor investing our social security in the stock market.

Hacking away at fat will never work as well as designing an effective system.

Concerned Parent

Anonymous said...

Yes, exactly what do each of these Assistant and Deputy Superintendents do? How are their jobs different from each others? How are the Regional Directors jobs different than the Superintendents' jobs? Are they out in schools? Are the job descriptions a matter of public record?
What are they doing in there? (Tom Waits voice used in last sentence.)
-Tom

TechyMom said...

Stop buying consumable textbooks and printable worksheets. Use hardbound books, have kids do homework on paper, keep the books until.the subject matter is out of date or the covers fall off. Supplement with free, online material (and don't print it), and books/periodicals from the library.

Transfer all the sped educators and nurses and math specialists from downtown to schools.

Hiring and salary freeze on employees who are not assigned to schools to work with students, for the length of the teachers' contract.

Move admin staff to cheaper office space, and put an option high school at jscee (or sell it and use the money to build a school at memorial stadium). Maybe they could work at old van asselt? Or telecommute?

Anonymous said...

Tech is a never ending cycle of broken, buy new, broken, hire expensive fixers, broken, buy new. Save money by eleminating tech. How about no computers in elementary school. That would save money.

Anonymous said...

Yes, you can cut positions and salaries at JSCEE. who says we can't? This is not management welfare. This is about educating kids. The corporate world makes cuts to fat all the time.
Fat

KG said...

NE Mom,

The people with the boots on the ground are the most important people, meaning in this case the employees in the buildings who teach and assist the educational process. This
Over burden on spending on Central admin. as posted earlier shows Seattle spending in a gigantic way which has proven to help make the District run more poorly. Why defend this? We in the buildings would not miss them one iota. Be for the working people who do the work. Bernie would ask us first!!!

Anonymous said...

Eliminate computers in elementary school. Instead teach kids to read and write.
Fat

Anonymous said...

"You cannot undo salary hikes but you sure can put a hold on them."

But you can undo a hire. Some downtown drones should be "rightsized," as they say in the merger biz. Pressing the sup to do this should be a priority of the next board.

Scrawny Kayaker

n said...

@Concerned Parent
And effective system has no fat. If there is fat, get rid of it.

Yes, we give way too much money to tech at elementary. It is another black hole.

Tchr said...

The problem is that central admin. are the ones who decide the budget and hold the purse strings. You think they are going to reduce their numbers? Especially now that they see how out-numbered they are by teachers in red shirts.

Anonymous said...

So which candidates are going to aggressively go after central admin cost? I want to their statements on the subject and evidence.

NW Parent

Eric B said...

@Concerned Parent,

Since you aren't sure who David Edelman is or what value he has, I will say that my daughter had Edelman, and is 100% sure he's worth it. In fact, a group of her peers were lamenting a couple of days ago that he was going to be so busy teaching 9th graders the rest of the school wasn't going to benefit from his classes.

As far as cutting fat vs. a well-designed system, there have been 10+ $100K+ positions added at JSCEE over the last two years. We don't know what these people do. We don't know why they were hired. I'd hazard a guess that if nobody in the schools or parent community knows what a person does, there's a really good chance that they are not necessary. I might go so far as to say that all new positions created in the last 5 years should have to write a 1-page statement justifying their position's existence. I think it would be eye-opening.

Eric B said...

NW Parent has the right idea for change. This only happens with a change in the Board. Nyland needs to be told to clean house and get his central admin costs under control.

Watching said...

I would like a line by line analysis of new state funding- as well.

The state provided funding for materials and to lower K-3 class size. If the district hired 100 teachers at $60K/ each....there would still be plenty of dollars.

Years ago, the district received a TIF grant valued at $12.5M. Those dollars have run-out and the district will be picking up those expenses. Still...there should be some funding.

At one point, during the budget process, the district had $11M in unmet needs. Do we know whether or not the WSS was fully funded with new state revenue? One way would be to know whether or not counselors were funded. Counselors, in the past, cost the district $2.6M.

jl said...

I think a lot of departments (fiefdoms) have budgets that could be cut incrementally, perhaps eliminating some downtown staff along the way. There was no money, then laptop carts showed up at every school for testing. Amplify and MAP are still used and the data guys still create growth ratings for some teachers who have that as a part of their evaluations. Someone purchased way too many math manipulatives to go with MIF (at least at my school, boxes and boxes we will never need).

I have heard stories of use or loose it spending sprees in departments at the end of the year(anecdotal, but reliable sources). The district also maintains more than is typically needed or required in reserves.

I would also like to know how much they pay in out of court settlements every year (and how capping caseloads might help us serve families more effectively). Some of this is hindsight, but oversight and more transparent accountability could help moving forward (this district has a long history of fiscal mismanagement and outright fraud, perhaps that is gone?). Let each department head know they need to reduce their budgets by a reasonable amount.

How about looking at energy efficiency, apply for grants and execute some improvements. It is a big system, you cannot cut one thing and cover it all, but everyone can cut back and the sum could be huge. A budget allocation is not a cost until it is spent.

The actual individual gain for teachers in a fair contract as proposed by the SEA has been estimated at a couple dollars a day (I have not done the math myself). It is not about teachers getting rich, it is about respect and hopefully attracting good people to come work here instead of elsewhere.

Anonymous said...

They reduced our salary by eliminating a day here and a half-day there. You CAN reduce a salary hike. It happened to teachers in the last two year contract (after getting a "raise" nonetheless- they took away what they gave us).
-WinterisComing

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Jl, when people see our entire budget at around a $billion per year it's a hard sell to ask for more money before looking at cost savings first. I personally would give money directly to SPS, but not until I see significant reduction in cost at JSCEE. I think we should consider selling the building and distributing the staff to portables located on various campuses. Like I've said before, sometimes you have to go back in order to move ahead.

NW Parent

mirmac1 said...

"Hacking away at fat will never work as well as designing an effective system." No, but it is a start - given that the effective system design is going nowhere.

n said...

I'd like to revisit the professional development piece. If you give teachers the chance to determine their own pd - pd that is relevant to raising scores at their own schools - and expect them to work collaboratively to put that pd into practice, you'll get more investment from the teachers. At some point we quit giving teachers a stake in choosing their own academic development. Of course oversight would be expected from the principal and student growth would be expected. I'm far more likely to invest my time and effort in pd that is relevant to the needs of my school population. Making it a grade level team effort provides structure. I'm not talking plcs but teacher-decided and supported pd that targets academic achievement.

One thing the district did this year which really helped was to put some required pd online and asked teachers to watch it and then finish a quiz on what they learned. That was great because we didn't have to spend an hour after school listening to someone going over it all. We did it when we had time and signed off on it digitally.

Why Amplfy? It has gotten terrible reviews.

I think you're right on, NW parent.

n said...

Winteriscoming makes the point we are not salaried. We are wage earners which is why removing days here and there impact us so much. As someone else said, it is a shell game.

Anonymous said...

My question is if the SSD eliminates 50 positions at 100K, will that be enough to meet SEA's pay point and reduce the SPED load? If not, what is the number SSD needs to have to cover new SPED hires and teacher pay? Does anybody know?

parent

Patrick said...

What if the senior teachers ran the district? How about the Athenian solution. Say every teacher with over 10 years experience was entered in a lottery every January. Those picked would spend four years from the following July as administrators of a department: two years as a deputy learning from the current administrator, then two years as the administrator. After their four years are up, they go back to the classroom. During their time as administrator, they are salaried with pay comparable to the current administrators, but continue to accrue seniority toward their teachers retirement. No cronyism, no empire building, everyone has a chance of having to serve like jury duty or the draft used to be. They wouldn't all be perfect at the jobs, but then we don't have a perfect system now.

Maureen said...

I agree with Eric B, have the top paid 100 admins at JSCEE write one page justifying their value to the education of Seattle's children. Basic cost benefit analysis (I hope they know what that means. Or can google it.)

I'll write up the same analysis for David Edelman to make sure he has time to teach. Eric can proof it for me. We both agree, we want David back in his classroom as soon as possible. We know he nets out positive.

Anonymous said...

@parent

It doesn't matter whether the number is 5 or 50 or 100..... it's not as if it's gonna happen. How's anyone gonna make it? Seriously, the suggestions here have a lot of merit (at least for further evaluation if not action) but who is going to make any of htis happen. The people that control the purse strings are the very ones we want to rein in and it appears that no will on the part of this board, nor previous ones to put the brakes on this runaway train.
Makes me so envious of my friends in the other local public school districts. They just provide a good solid education (BTW, look at their Nat Merit Scholars and note how Garfield numbers have dropped alot lately- hmm) and don't need activists or blogs (thank God -& Melissa - for this this one) to try to save them from themselves.

Powerless in Seattle

Maureen said...

Patrick, I have to admit, that sounded a little Hunger Games to me at first reading! The best teachers my kids have had would be crappy administrators, but the best administrators I have known were good solid teachers

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, those are a lot of suggestions. Some thoughts:

- "Rather, it should be about how to deliver necessary services more effectively." Yes, that is true except that downtown staff does not know how to do this. I say this because of years sitting in committee meetings where basic issues (like collection of kindergarten fees) were done improperly. Because I was at a committee meeting where Deputy Superintendent Wright wanted $1M because staff "can't wrap their arms" around operations. Yes, that's true.

So yes to being more effective. No to the people who are in charge.

My bottom line? Money should be driven to schools and classrooms. That they created another layer of bureaucracy ("chief of schools") between the Superintendent and principals is wrong. That so many people - in schools - don't get what the Ex Directors do tells me something is wrong.

Yes, people at JSCEE in top position should be telling us what their jobs are, especially on a day-to-day basis. Yes, people at JSCEE should be telling us EXACTLY where the new state money is going and where the money taken from the Capital Budget is going. I'll ask but don't hold your breath.

I wish we could get rid of the need for the amount of tech in schools. But we can't. One, students who do not have the technology at home need access to it during the school day. Two, it is mandatory to take SBAC on computers - you cannot ship kids to different locales for their testing.

That years of School Boards either ignoring what was before their eyes and/or being bamboozled have let this go on is deeply troubling. But I honestly believe, as I have not before, that new Board members are going to put their collective feet down for accountability. And either that comes or the Superintendent goes.

Powerless, yes, that's true - you just don't hear about this kind of turmoil in districts around us.

So it may not be possible to undo all these hires but it is indeed possible to get a new Superintendent. I have heard that Superintendent Nyland - despite what he said at the beginning - may want to stay. Now is the time, via School Board voting, to let him know that is not likely.

We need a Superintendent who is vetted, not installed.

Patrick said...

Why are there nurses downtown? What do they do?

Anonymous said...

I'm a little surprised that no one has mentioned all the money that goes to consultants.

-- Ivan Weiss

mirmac1 said...

How about all the money going to "strategic initiatives"?

Anonymous said...

It seems naive to think that the SPS can or will just eliminate positions to find the money to meet the teacher's seemingly unreasonable demands. The teacher's strike will not resolve admin cost but rather there will be cuts or rather lack of spending on other items that will ultimately hurt our students.

This Seattle mom does not support SEA, and the breaking point was their lack of willingness to negotiate for 3 days at the start of the strike. Now they are just being greedy and unreasonable. Really - does 20 min additional school like a bad idea? It just brings our kid's schools up to a standard that everyone else has nationwide. As for salary - the raise seems generous considering the limitations of the budget. Parents - if you want more - then pay more in taxes so that the best teachers can be retained and paid more, and the crumbling infrastructure can be fixed. As a State employee, many of us had our salaries frozen for 4 years - so the teachers need to view this downturn as a more global problem that cannot be fixed with this strike.

Please resolve your issues, compromise and get back to work. Not all Seattle moms support this strike as this blog would suggest.

Working mom

Anonymous said...

@Working mom, do you work without getting paid for it? Thought not.

-- Ivan Weiss

Lynn said...

Working mom,

Really? There's a national standard for length of school day? Yes - I really think 20 more minutes of school for elementary students is a bad idea. I think a seven period high school day - with one sixth more homework than kids currently get is a bad idea.

Lynn said...

Vermont:

Length of School Day

2312.1 Except as provided in Rule 2311.5, the school day shall be:
(a) for kindergarten, a minimum of two instructional hours. However, in any calendar week, five school days may be counted if the total number of hours of instructional time is equal to or exceeds 10 hours per week.
(b) for grades 1-2, a minimum of four instructional hours including recess, excluding lunch. However, in any calendar week, five school days may be counted if the total number of hours of instructional time is equal to or exceeds 20 hours, including recess, excluding lunch.
(c) for grades 3-8, a minimum of 5 1⁄2 instructional hours, including recess, excluding lunch. However, in any calendar week, five school days may be counted if the total number of hours of instructional time is equal to or exceeds 27 1⁄2 hours, exclusive of the time allowed for recess and lunch.

(d) for grades 9-12, a minimum of 5 1⁄2 instructional hours, exclusive of the time allowed for recess and lunch. However, in any calendar week, five school days may be counted if the total number of hours of instructional time is equal to or exceeds 27 1⁄2 hours, exclusive of the time allowed for recess and lunch.

Po3 said...

What if the budget was flipped - schools and their staff were all funded first, then the district was funded?

Would we money going to a new Source and/or website every couple of years?
How many exec directors and asst. supers would the budget support?
What would the PR and Communications dept look like?
Would the nurses be moved into schools? (and why are there nurses at the district level?) Would you see the district essentially shut down in the summer?
Would they be able to spend money on MAPS, Amplify or be forced to look at cheaper alternatives like ITBS?
Would you see them consider renting out all the empty office space in their palace?


Tresanos said...

SEA says agreement reached!!

Patrick said...

KPLU reports there is a tentative agreement; the strike will continue while union leadership reviews and decides whether to recommend ratification.

Patrick said...

Lynn, I had a 7-period day in high school. It was a good thing, I think. Math, science, english, social studies, a foreign language, and two electives (including health and PE for at least two years). The electives were usually pretty light on homework. The 7-period day allowed students to take an additional elective, or to make up a course that wasn't completed. Students who only wanted to take six classes could have an open period for homework or possibly at the end of the day to leave to a job or sport. I'm sorry we don't have that chance now.

Eric B said...

Another good place to look is the list of projects that the Board was given when they requested a bell time change. Who requested and approved those projects? Who approved the staff who are working on them? How much do they cost? Do they have any direct impact on the classroom?

But to do that, we need a Board who is willing to rock the boat.

In MGJ's time, we had a CFO/COO and a CAO for the superintendent's cabinet. That's it. I do think that the CFO and COO needed to be separated, and a capital planning position needed to be added. But not the 6+ we have now. I think hell has officially frozen over now that I'm thinking about the halcyon days of MGJ!

Anonymous said...

Patrick,

Things have changed today. Many kids would feel the pressure to add one more AP class with another 15 hrs a week of homework to avoid being labeled a 'slacker' by colleges for not taking the 'hardest possible schedule' in high school.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

Another Parent here who is huge fan of David Edelman. This amazing teacher took my geeky sped math teen & sparked an interest in history & philosophy as well as a a first time feeling of accomplishment & competency in the social science arena that has continued to change the whole educational landscape for my kid. Wow! Let's see JSCEE beat that.

-a fan

Anonymous said...

Seattle teachers and the Seattle Public Schools have reached a tentative contract agreement that will end the teachers' five-day strike if it's approved by the membership.

Schools could reopen as early as Thursday if teachers OK the agreement.

A Seattle Public School spokesperson said the agreement was reached at 6:50 a.m. Tuesday after an all-night bargaining session.

"In the end we found common ground," the spokesperson said.

Details of the agreement were not released pending review by the teachers union.
- ABC

Anonymous said...

Yes I think the "standard", though there isn't much of a standard, is a longer day. Private schools have a longer day and every kid of friends I have out of state (CA aside) has a longer school day. And I also think high schoolers need a school day that at least has an optional 7th period. I think HSers should be able to take al 5 academic classes, the required tech/health/etc and one quality elective (art, shop, music, etc) depending on interest.

I think there's lots of places to cut, especially testing and tech, but a teacher contract that pays teachers "too much" will only result in services to kids with special needs and all kids ultimately being cut. Or we'll look at yet another super high levy in the next round. I wish there was a way for these things to be negotiated differently. Agreement on admin vs in schools (it isn't reasonable to expect it to be a complete shell downtown despite a too $$$ building and likely too many people), school day, agreement on special Ed and then agreement on comp. But it seems like there's too little time and money devoted to what works and too much devoted to what's new.

North Seattle

Shawn Anderson said...

In case a better source is needed, here's SEA's Facebook post on the tentative agreement.

Anonymous said...

Think about 4, 5, 6, 7, or 8 period day.

I visited Albuquerque Academy in 1989 (The Lakeside school of NM)
It had 8 32-minute periods for middle school students (grades 6, 7, 8)
maximum class size 15 students
teachers hand correct all student homework
teachers have either 3 plans and teach 5
or 4 plans and teach 4
The Academy was grades 6 through 12
and offered admission to any entering sixth grader, who could gain admission,
with incredible financial assistance. That assistance continued through graduation.

Many smaller rural high schools have a 7 period day
normally 7 50-minute periods
Student occasionally have a "study period" and take other 6 classes.
Teachers usually teach 6 with 1 plan
In Tonopah NV. That would be six different classes to plan for with one plan.
(If you think that is great - go for it the HS Math job is still open.)

High performing Asian countries have way way more plan time than USA schools, why is no one in Leadership roles concerned with greatly increasing plan time?

The 6 period day is usually 55 minute periods.

The 5 period day was used at Vashon High School
5 72-minute periods taught in 60 day trimester increments
This allows class length to be based on content that needs to be covered.
Each trimester is 72 hours - so a full year course is 216 hours.
I think Algebra I was 216 hours and Frosh English 9 was 144 hours.
Teachers teach 4 classes and have one 72 minute planning time.

The 4 period day sprang out of the one period day. In the one period day students took just one class for 6 weeks, with a different class each six weeks.
The 4 period day - ran 4 classes of 85 or 90 minutes each for a semester.
This meant the student only needed to keep track of content from 4 different classes in the brain and be organized for 4 different classes.

Unfortunately I believe was the introduction of the A-B block schedule which featured alternating days and turned the 4 period day into 8 courses with each group of 4 classes offered on alternating days.
Some A-B schedules still ran Algebra I every day for 90 minutes and some AP classes every day for 90 Minutes.
As for Plan time teachers taught 3 periods and had one plan in the straight 4
while some places the A-B schedule meant teaching 3 per day with one plan but running 6 courses.
Some "cost conscious districts ran A-B with teachers teaching 7 courses and having on 90 minute plan every other day. (YUP - teachers taught 4 90 minute classes with no plan time every other day)

-- Dan Dempsey

Watching said...

There is often a disconnect between district administrators and schools. I"ve often felt that administrators should be rotated out of JSS and into schools every five years. Let's face it, some administrators don't have administrative experience in large comprehensive high schools.

Anonymous said...

Things have changed today. Many kids would feel the pressure to add one more AP class with another 15 hrs a week of homework to avoid being labeled a 'slacker' by colleges for not taking the 'hardest possible schedule' in high school.
-HS Parent

I agree with this, sadly, and if we do have to go to a longer day, would love to see high schools "put a cap" on the number of AP classes kids can take. This is entirely within their control, I believe. The AP craze is out of control, and many of my kid's friends in high school are slogging away well past midnight in order to put in those many hours, just like little tech workers. It's insane. And then - high schools in Seattle STILL start WAY too early. So - these kids are not only stressed out but sleep deprived. I wish that school bell times had been one of the items on the negotiations table or formed part of the discussion.

-another HS parent

Anonymous said...


"In the end we found common ground," the spokesperson said.

What concessions did SEA make in regards to the District's sped caseload proposals?

Teacher parent

Anonymous said...

I'm always amazed when I visit family at JSCEE at all the "stuff" lurking in the weird back hallways - there is an awful lot of things that get surplussed - I've heard of boxes of paper being surplussed from one school - guessing someone else could have used that! That and the number of people in business clothes sitting in rooms having endless meetings - my family tells me that goes on a LOT. Given the increase in Admin positions, there has to be SOME room for reduction at that level - oh to be queen for a day and decide who goes ;o)


And lets hope it doesn't take 3 days for the SEA membership to approve the tentative deal!

reader47






Melissa Westbrook said...

"This Seattle mom does not support SEA, and the breaking point was their lack of willingness to negotiate for 3 days at the start of the strike."

Who told you that? SEA and SPS were negotiating the whole time (not always together but with a mediator).

This blog never said all parents were on-board with the strike and certainly, people have weighed in. But yes, the blog itself - supported the strike.

Anonymous said...

Having the city council come down fully on the side of the teachers yesterday also sent a message to the district administration and board. That was a relatively public smack from one governing body to another.

Good.

Except that the theory among a certain set that SPS should be run by the city instead of the district administrators has just been given another high profile boost.

Unintended consequences? Or...Intended consequences!

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

When I was in high school (large, mediocre public school) we had block scheduling with 8 different classes. I maxed out on AP classes and took 6-7 at a time. It was far less stressful than my current life as a full-time working parent and I managed to get 4s or 5s on nearly every test. I can't see how a high schooler who only gets to take 5 academic courses can really get all they need in four years, particularly with having to fulfill the time-filler requirements of health and PE (and in my district, requirements of Speech and a "Success" class). I don't know how much planning time my teachers got, but they in general seemed fairly happy and not overly taxed. Texas also lacked a state income tax, but for whatever reason the schools seemed to have plenty of money (at least for football), even in the lower-middle class suburb that I lived in.

-former Texan

Lynn said...

If high schools go to a seven period schedule, they'll be hiring more PE and health teachers. Is that really at the top of anyone's list of necessary investments? I'd rather have six periods, smaller classes and more nurses, counselors and librarians.

doctorno said...

Just an FYI from someone who's worked with nationally recognized pros on this: Creating assessment instruments is an enormously expensive and time-consuming venture; you can't just write a test and give it to 50,000 students. It has to be validated and re-validated several times, and you have to constantly develop new items (that also have to be validated). It's all well and good to put more power in local hands, but most districts (and I'll wager SPS) don't have the capacity or funds to do this properly. That's why there's an industrial assessment complex to begin with (though obviously good and bad things that go with that).

So, while I'm not a fan of all assessments, asking a district (or even a state!) to do this is actually a waste of money (if they can even find the expertise necessary to do it). However, changing the policies around how these instruments are paid for, used, and implemented can help to improve quality more than having the district strike out and do their own.

Anonymous said...

I think "he who shall not be named" had incredible intuition on the issues, almost clairvoyant. November will be very interesting and I can't wait to see if the public wants real change or just non-micro manager types.

Ballard Parent

Anonymous said...

When my high schooler took an AP exam for a class not offered in school, she aced it with minimal prep. That does not mean that she was assigned minimal homework in AP classes. Her AP teachers assigned 15-20 hrs a week for each class. GPA depends on turning in homework at her school. They are also expected to play school sports, do music or theater or robotics or something, have a volunteer position, and many work too. My kid is in a very competitive college program & finds in relaxing compared to high school where a 90 hour week was the norm. The pressure has ramped up for high schoolers.

And it seems to me that there should be time in their schedules to be creative, try new things, read books that aren't assigned, and learn all the stuff we are supposed be teaching them, from filing taxes, to changing a car tire, to understanding what their health insurance covers, to figuring out how to vote on port commissioners.

I just feel sorry for them. My high school days seem halcyon.

-HS Parent

Patrick said...

Some high school students would get in over their head with a seventh period that was too demanding. Does that mean none should be allowed to try? If they try and can't manage it, at least they've learned something about themselves that would cost more to learn when they're paying college tuition.

Anonymous said...

Patrick wrote: "What if the senior teachers ran the district?"

This is not as "far out" as some might think.

A building based model with teachers making major decisions about their school is recommended by John Hattie as likely the best way to improve the academic performance of students at a school.

If we were really serious about "maximizing the learning" of each student, there would be fewer employees at the district office.

-- Dan Dempsey

Watching said...

Seattle's City Council backs teachers;

http://www.businessinsider.com/ap-city-council-backs-seattle-teachers-as-strike-enters-5th-day-2015-9

Elected officials, and others, are free to take positions. I'm feeling a sense of concern that an entire elected body has taken a position on the Seattle teacher's strike. Essentially, the city has involved themselves with district and union issues. Correct me if I'm wrong, but I don't ever recall the Seattle Public School Board inserting themselves with city and union issues.

What if the Seattle Public School Board took a position, as an elected body, on city/ police/ union/ contract issues? Something to think about.


I'm finding it odd that Business Insider decided to pick-up the story- as well.

Anonymous said...

You certainly could get rid of technology in elementary schools.
1. Elementary students do not need access no matter what they have at home.. Reports can be hand written at that age, and vulnerable children should not be pursuing the Internet. Children could learn to read books and use them for research.
2. Abandon the SBAC. Our old scant rom results got returned faster, gave more meaningful data, and we're less obtuse for children to navigate.
3. Save BIG bucks.
Less tech.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Less Tech, certainly you could do all these things. Will they? No.

Anonymous said...

Go back to ITBS. Much cheaper.

Anonymous said...

oops HS Parent above.