The district has ended its relationship with the Alliance for Education (for the most part). I will scan and post their letter but it is very damning. Basically, the district says it has been trying, for years, to get on a better footing with the Alliance. There are several allegations by the district.
The letter says:
- that the Alliance did some fundraising, using SPS' name, that didn't exactly find its way back to the district
- that a superintendent (I'm assuming Banda) was bad-mouthed by the Alliance behind his back AND during an Alliance social event
- It says that the Alliance met with some principals without district permission or knowledge.
The district will have to find another fiscal agent for those PTAs using the Alliance's (expensive) services. I had heard at an A&F meeting that they did send out an RFP and only the Alliance submitted a proposal. I find that hard to believe in a city of Seattle's size that no other firm was even interested. (I don't know if the Alliance will continue, on its own, doing this work).
I spoke to Jane Broom, of the Alliance, briefly. She said it was not one thing that occurred and that there seems sorrow on both sides. The Alliance was started during the tenure of Superintendent Stanford and that does make it sad. The Alliance put out their own announcement today; it does not address any of the allegations made by the district.
The Kids Not Cuts group disrupted the meeting yesterday to the point where we ended up playing musical chairs. They asked, right before the meeting started, to be able to speak and have a brief discussion of their issues with the Board. President Carr said, no, we have an agenda and cannot legally discuss anything else. KnC leader, Chandra Hampson, continued on and there were cries from other members about it not being fair. Carr then moved the entire meeting to the Board conference room which is a cramped space. We were warned not to talk and no one did. They, at one point, locked the doors to the Board office so no one else could come in and I went out and complained. (What if new people arrived late to the meeting who had nothing to do with the disturbance? It was, after all, a public meeting.)
Then, they decided to go BACK to the JSCEE auditorium, again with a warning.
The KnC folks were told by Carr that, at the break between the meeting and the Work Session, individual board members would talk to them. That took nearly two hours to get to with KnC folks sitting patiently. The discussion then was about 10 minutes, in several locations in the room. I didn't hear all of it so I would let those folks chime in.
I will say that the district has done poorly on their messaging and communications to the point where it is fairly difficult to discern what all the reasoning is. Principals and Executive Directors have said varying things in explanations to parents. A couple of things are clear:
1) the district continues to make staffing cuts. They are now cutting at STEM K-8 even after STEM K-8 was told in August to hire another teacher. That is patently ridiculous.
2) the district has not ONCE admitted any fault at JSCEE. This was no act of God and a little "mea culpa" on their part might help.
3) Their empathy for the situation facing these schools has been muted.
The Board refused to move forward a BAR for consideration of an expansion of the City's Pre-K program. Again, there is a lot to report on this but Cashel Toner and Charles Wright gave their usual soft-spoken but quite persuasive reasoning on this but, in the end, money trumped all. For this district, without any real data on this program and even less money, that's the right answer.
Basically, multiple Board members - Peters, McLaren, Peaslee, Carr, Patu - do not like the 25% holdback of payment to the district for the pre-k program. They never did like it and now, with this request for expansion, dislike it even more. There is a range of arguments against it including:
- "partners" don't do this kind of thing
- the worry about where the money would come from as years go by. What staff is trying to say is that there is little worry the district won't pass these benchmarks and that for the first couple of years, a Gates grants would be where the 25% would come from. The reasoning is that the district WOULD meet those benchmarks and then bank those Gates dollars in a "reserve." Then, if by chance in future years, they don't meet the benchmarks, the money from the reserve could be used. That's some convoluted thinking.
- Blanford acted as the cheerleader for the program saying that it was hard for the City to find the right teachers in the first place, among other reasons. He also disparaged Director Peters' pointing out of a brand-new study that says that pre-k effects don't last and may even hurt some kids. It was an uncomfortable moment because while most studies do support pre-k, he was acting like there were none that had the opposite findings.
The district is not here to pilot the City's work. Several directors repeatedly pointed out that K-12 is the state-funded business of the district.
Lastly, Director Blanford said that there is "value in stability" for these pre-k families to know these programs will continue. (I'm thinking he doesn't realize what the phrase "pilot program" means. He also missed the irony of who sat before he - a group of parents agitating for "stability" for their schools and its programs. He is quite tone-deaf on these things.