Friday, October 16, 2015

District Can't Quit the Alliance That Fast

As I reported, the district and the Alliance for Education each put out a letter, outlining the dissolution of their 20-year partnership.  As I also said, there is something bittersweet to this as the Alliance started with the blessing of the late Superintendent John Stanford.  Here they are in one place at Scribed.

I was around then and I always did think of the Alliance as its own separate self but it was very much put forth as being a fundraising (to help meet challenges and gaps and provide enrichment) group as well as a civic cheerleading group for the district.  I remember the early years of pre-first-day-of-school pep rallies at Mariners field with a huge number of parents, teachers and children.

But there was a lot of upheaval and the Alliance morphed much more towards its business side.  I believe the Alliance was impatience with the slowness of change and very much wished it could control who sat on the Board and their governance.

But these letters! Well, there's some hurt feelings, misunderstandings and at least one item that I suspect could end up in court.

Highlights from the district:

" outline concerns about the Alliance CEO."
  • discord with former Superintendent Susan Enfield and the CEO of the Alliance, Sara Morris
  • discord between former Superintendent Banda and Morris
  • discord between Superintendent Nyland and Morris
  • MOU had been expired for more than a year, then renewed for three-month periods until March 2015.
  • the Seattle Teacher Residency MOA (with Alliance, SEA, UW and SPS) is also expired (but using "expired terms" of MOA.
  • the district spent money on a consultant to try to iron out the differences (I recall this)
The District also alleges that the Alliance's Philanthropic Partners in Public Education (PPPE) which is supposed to support SPS and the Alliance's CEO has put forth proposals to them without telling the district.

And, the Alliance funded travel for eight principals without the knowledge of the Superintendent or head of principal development. As well, they allege the CEO spoke to PASS leadership without going thru the Superintendent.

 The mission of the Alliance has shifted from supporting student learning to focusing on three things;
  • an unsustainable STR model
  • a desire to change District leadership either through direct turnover or through governance change
  • a desire to be a more independent (critical) voice for change in regard to District leadership.  
SPS needs a partner who will be a positive, fundraising partner. 

You are asking SPS to help raise funds to pay for Alliance overhead, to pay for Alliance staff who are critical of SPS decisions and leadership, and to support the funding of programs that are either unsustainable, contrary to the wishes of SPS, or a surprise to the Superintendent.  This simply cannot continue, which is why we are moving to dissolve the relationship.

What does this mean?

  • It means that SPS will legally separate (with a formal Board resolution, no less).  
  • The Alliance can no longer use the SPS name in promotional materials or represent SPS in any way without permission.  
  • The district will no longer participate in Alliance events.  
  • The Alliance won't be fiscal agent or grant sponsor.  
  • Discuss how to transfer any SPS collected endowments.  This one is the one that may take legal action.
Highlights from the Alliance:
In firing back, the Alliance has its own lengthy letter and even uses a chart, for a point-by-point rebuttal of the District's charges. 
  • the Alliance is okay with the STR MOA with the district contributing $230K this year and just $50K next year.  The future of the program beyond that is murky.
  • the Alliance will continue with fiscal accounting services thru this year.  They say they would apply to keep doing this if the district has a contracting process.
  • Endowments held by the Alliance include exclusive property provisions stipulating funds are the exclusive property of the Alliance.  This is where there could be a tug-of-war. 
  • the issue around the PPPE stems from the Alliance saying that the only grant PPPE ever gave "was overseen by the HR director" who didn't meet deliverables and "the grant was withdrawn.
The Alliance, like the District, has been cagey about their money.  Oh, you can go read their financials but it's never quite clear, at least for district spending, where the money goes.

For the life of the district, I'm not sure what this change means.  I don't know how much money will go away.  The Alliance will continue on - I was told this - but how they support public education is unclear. 


Po3 said...

Could the money schools were forced to hand over the Alliance not be returned to the school programs they were intended for because of this breakup?

Anonymous said...

What's the commonality in the list of SPS complaints? Its CEO Sara Morris. Pre-Morris, no problems. Pre-Morris no Corporate Ed Reform shennanigans. I remember well that the Alliance with Morris pushed Goodloe-Johnson on us. She was "their" superintendent. The Alliance's superintendent was the biggest disaster to hit SPS other than Olchefske in the past 20+ years!

Since then the Alliance not only has not added value to SPS, in fact it has worked directly against it.

So why doesn't the Alliance dump its CEO if she can't get along with 3-in-a-row superintendents post-Goodloe-Johnson? Makes the Alliance's board look plain silly.

CEO of Alliance's salary is public information. I looked it up a long time ago. It was 6 figures. Given the salaries, of course the staff at the Alliance will work their butts of to have a reason to survive. Probably will 'recommend' that the organization raises money to give to Murray's new education department. Anything to keep those paychecks coming. Gotta watch them.

A new legitimate SPS Business Support organization would put the Alliance aka The Borg out of business period. Hope it happens.


Anonymous said...

Wow - there's some mighty ticked off language in those letters - clearly Dr. Nyland is not fan and/or felt very disrespected by the Alliance - I could totally see that happening, as The Alliance folk have always come across a bit "we're above you" in their presentations.....

Also, it's clear from the Alliance side they won't be returning $$ to SPS anytime soon! ...owza - it kinda reads like a bad high school breakup frankly...


Melissa Westbrook said...

No, all school money is safe. The Alliance has made that clear.

The difference between Morris and her predecessor, Patrick D’Amelio, were pretty stark. Things might have been different had he stayed on.

DistrictWatcher, about that new support group - I would love to be a part of that.

I also wonder what the State of the District event will look like this year (it's on Thursday, Nov. 6th, details TBA) since the Alliance had stage-managed it for years.

Watching said...

Thank you for posting this information.

The Scribd document is damning, and I give the board and superintendent credit for discontinuing this toxic relationship. I note that through it all..Michael DeBell was a cheerleader for the Alliance.

I know, for a fact, that Sara Morris was also having direct contact with at least one teacher.

Watching said...

We should also note that the city, via the Family and Education Levy, has principals reporting to City Hall. Much different? I don't think so. The city needs to be reigned-in as well.

Anonymous said...

If it's a help to any school community...our school moved away from the Alliance as a vehicle to process our Annual Appeal donations, etc. And obtained a product called Much less expensive than the Alliance and very easy to set-up and operate.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, StepJ; I wondered what others were doing. That 7.5% that the Alliance charges always seemed high.

n said...

Do all principals know that they didn't need to use the Alliance? I'm surprised because at my school, "soft" money has been a problem and even teachers have been cheated out of fund collected from parents for "legal" items. Also, from principal to principal, our secretaries had different rationals for that money. I'm feeling a little cheated.

Anonymous said...

As I recall, the alliance made a huge u-turn a number of years back. They laid off staff who were committed to supporting schools & realigned with the reform crowd to try to control change at the district. They cleaned out anyone who might not be gung ho with the new agenda.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

What is "STR" that the letter from the District mentions?


Anonymous said...

@Jane - Seattle Teacher Residency - a teacher certification program via UW modeled after medical residency programs.


Anonymous said...

Those 8 principals would have had to submit travel leave forms in order to go on a trip. Even if it was funded by the Alliance, each principal had to submit the professional leave travel form. Michael Tolley would have had to approve that travel in order for them to travel with the Alliance.

There is no way that eight principals took a trip without Michael Tolly approving each of those trips.

District Employee

Jan said...

reader47 -- "a bit" above? Truly, thou hast a gentle tongue!

District Employee: I wonder if there weren't multiple approval processes -- and one hand didn't talk to the other? Or perhaps they requested leave -- but didn't disclose that it was for travel to (wherever they went), so the District never knew, and felt that it had been impermissibly circumvented.

So glad this relationship is ending. I have always (well, at least since the MGJ days) had the uncomfortable feeling that the Alliance did not have the District's best interests at heart, fostered its own agenda in a less than forthright way, and used its relationship (and District funds) to unfairly and incorrectly pump up its own importance, while undermining the District's goals, the Board, and District priorities (although they often tried to make THEIR goals and priorities the District's -- so it was often hard to keep it all straight).

Their true downfall came, I think, when the Board chose Banda instead of their "pet candidate" and their pique over the whole thing began to expose their true colors. But since there were also problems with Ms. Enfield -- maybe it all started to expose itself even earlier.

seattle citizen said...

The Gates Foundation has given the Alliance over $2,500,000 since 2011, $750,000 of which went to League of Education Voters astroturf to give to the Our Schools Coalition astroturf to influence the insertion of Gates agenda items into the teachers contract of 2012.

'nuf said.

chunga said...

Also note that Pamela Banks is on the board of the Alliance. I would be very nervous about her being on city council.

mirmac1 said...

My email to the Board in Dec 2013:

"In review, STR has been on our partner Alliance for Education’s wish list for years, predating Teach for America (another costly distraction that has never been evaluated for effectiveness). STR will be administered by the Alliance (for a 12.5% fee) with money we will subgrant them. They will accept “residents,” expect the district to offer them contingent contracts to pursue their teaching certificate, then pay their tuition. The Alliance has spent private philanthropic funds to date to support this pet project. But they have no intention of continuing to finance this. The Road Map grant application clearly states:

The Seattle Superintendent has committed to funding increasing percentages of the budget until the district’s share reaches 51% by 2017-18.

With the first year’s budget at $1.4M dollars, that means a minimum of $700K, including the equivalent of 2.2 FTEs of top central administrators. This fits Road Map’s dictum of:

…sustainability will be a strongly weighted criterion…Where investments are proposed that might impact ongoing district budgets, the Executive Committee will require districts to analyze their potential for redeploying existing dollars (emphasis added) before they are awarded Race to the Top dollars.

Board policy clearly states: “Attempts should be made by the district to seek funding opportunities that do not require the district to use district funds to continue program activities once the grant source or categorical dollars have been discontinued.” How does STR fit here? Policy also says grant acceptance should not “violate management rights and responsibilities” and should “support and honor district decision-making procedures of the Board, central and building level staff.” How does letting the Alliance essentially hire and place “residents” support this? Under Board Policy 6114, the Board should be reviewing this grant and considering the long term costs.

Now, I feel I must clarify comments made regarding release and use of student educational records. The issue parents have with Road Map is that, whether the district gets RMP grants or not, it has already agreed to release ten years of extensive student educational records to CCER, who "will be able to use data collected for and on behalf of the District for CCER's Road Map Project analyses..." So with the DOE/PSESD Project 8 we are not just reporting on number and % of students enrolled in AP or IB, or % of students who graduate meeting the WSAC requirements, we have handed over every student's grades, coursework, FRL status, and test scores to a third-party, CCER.

I find particularly disturbing that the Project 1 STR project will be even more intrusive. To evaluate the effectiveness of 25 junior teachers, SPS "will collect and reflect on aggregated and disaggregated attendance, discipline, classroom-based assessment, and standardized assessment data for all students. These data from STR classrooms will be collected at multiple points throughout the year and compared to school historical data, as well as with data from similar classrooms across the district. (pg 30 of grant)" Combing through children's discipline and attendance data across the district?! Without parent permission.