Tuesday, October 13, 2015

Kids Not Cuts Gets Political

Update 2: Word is that not all members of the School Board even saw the letter (no less signed-off on it) before it was sent.  I think that an appalling lack of respect.  This continues a theme on the Board as Board members were not told that Principal Chappelle was leaving for a city job in education.   I have to wonder about Director McLaren out on the campaign trail, denigrating the previous Board and saying that her Board works together.  She must have a different idea of what "collaborative" means."

Update 2: My apologies to Rep. Walkinshaw.  He DID sign this letter. (Thank you to reader Ivan.)

Update: Below this letter is the Board's response which I consider disingenuous.  The district is NOT cutting these jobs; they are moving them from one building to another.  Maybe I'm missing something.

Also: following Dems debate, Bernie Sanders was the only candidate to mention education in his opening remarks.

end of update

Editor's Note: the Board apparently wrote back and seemingly was not happy with the input from the delegation.  I will post when I receive.  Also, I note that Rep. Reuven Carlyle, Speaker Frank Chopp, Rep. and Senator Jamie Pedersen did not sign this letter. Pedersen and Carlyle are SPS parents.

Washington State Legislature
Sherry Carr, President
Seattle School District Board of Directors MS 11-010
PO Box 34165
Seattle, WA 98124-1165

Re: Staff Reassignments 

Dear Board President Carr, 
It has been our privilege work in partnership with you and to advocate on behalf of Seattle Public School students in Olympia. Many of us have students in Seattle Public Schools, and each of us cares deeply about providing all of our children with an excellent education. We recognize the extremely difficult position the District is in and appreciate the steps staff have already taken to minimize impacts to students as you seek to maximize resources consistent with enrollment. We are writing today, however, to express our concern about the disruption caused across the district by teacher reassignments, and we are asking that you consider postponing those teacher reassignments to allow the District to work with the community in order to craft a plan to keep staff at their currently assigned schools. 

In 2012 the State Supreme Court ruled that our state was not meeting its paramount duty of fully funding basic education. Since the original ruling, the state increased K-12 education funding for important elements of basic education such as student transportation, K-3 class size reduction, materials and supplies, and all-day kindergarten. The members of this delegation have been committed to full funding of our system with new revenue and at the robust levels that are required to build out both our capital needs, hire more educators, and reduce our class sizes. Like you, we take our commitment to reducing class size seriously. We are concerned that anecdotally we have heard from parents of, or example, first grade classes growing to 28 or 29. We know staff has been extremely diligent in allocating scarce resources, and hope that you will continue to strive to meet our mutual obligation to reduce class size. 

While we have made progress in meeting our obligations to amply fund education, we recognize that there is work left undone and we are committed to working with our colleagues in Olympia to meet our McCleary obligations. In the meantime, we would like ensure that all students in our district are getting a high-quality education this year and hope that we can work together to keep teachers at their currently assigned schools. 

Specifically, we ask that the District give us time to work with staff, Seattle Public School parents, and other outside stakeholders to implement a plan to mitigate the impacts of the proposed staff reassignments. There is great community support for our public schools and we appreciate your stewardship of that support. 


Rep Jessyn Farrell, 46th Legislative District
Senator David Frockt, 46th Legislative District
Rep. Gerry Pollet, 46th  Legislative District
Seantor Jeanne Kohl-Welles, 36th Legislative District
Rep. Cindy Ryu,32nd  Legislative District
Rep Sharon Tomiko Santos, 37th Legislative District   
Sen. Sharon Nelson 1 34th Legislative District
Sen. Marilyn Chase 32nd Legislative District
Rep. Brady Walkinshaw 43rd Legislative District
Rep. Eric Pettigrew 37th Legislative District
Rep. Joe Fitzgibbon 34th Legislative District 

Dear Washington Delegation, 

Thank you for your letter Of October 2, requesting that Seattle Public Schools postpone the process of teacher reassignments currently underway. We understand that you are asking for time to work with the community to find a way to keep staff at their currently assigned schools. We assume you are making this request of other school districts also facing similar challenges as they adjust staff in schools as a result of enrollment. 

Unfortunately, Seattle and other districts are charged by law with operating our schools under a balanced budget. Our budget, like other school districts across the state, is constrained by inadequate funding from the Legislature. The Seattle School Board has been extremely diligent, patient and consistent in our message for years to the Legislature to adequately fund K-12 education. To ask Seattle to suspend movement of teachers and staff to schools and students who desperately need such staff indicates that you may not understand the realities of K-12 education funding, school district operations and the Legislature’s paramount duty. This is one of many impacts of inadequate state funding at the local level. It creates problems for students, teachers and schools. Unfortunately, we can’t retain teachers in schools where enrollment numbers do not yield the funding to pay them. We also can’t reduce class sizes or provide a host of necessary services without adequate funding. 

Our recently signed Collective Bargaining Agreement (CBA) requires additional funding of $65 million in the 2017-18 school year with current plans for the levy limit and per student allocation. If these plans go forward and our levy limit or per student allocation is negatively impacted, the challenges we currently face will only worsen. Regardless, unless we have unlimited funding from the state, staffing resources in our district and others will always need to be adjusted after the start of school to reflect enrollment numbers and thus state revenue. We appreciate the action of the Legislature in June of additional funding for elementary teachers in order to reduce class sizes, which allowed Seattle to provide about one additional teacher per building. But as you’ve heard from parents, that still is not adequate to meet the state mandate for class size reduction. 

We appreciate your good intent, yet asking our district or any other to suspend operations and decisions without the funding required to remedy the problems is financially irresponsible. The only way legislators can work with a community to find a way to keep staff at their currently assigned schools is through private funding of staff. This, while well intended, fuels the opportunity gap and relieves the Legislature of its paramount duty. 

If you would like to provide us with political cover we respectfully suggest that you convey to your constituents that the current problems arising from staff allocation and class size are tied to inadequate funding of K-12 throughout Washington. We ask that you focus your efforts on complying with the McCleary court ruling to fully fund, and communicate to the public that we as a District are doing the very best we can with inadequate funds and underfunded state mandates. 

Thank you for your concern and perspective. We will continue to work with you to seek solutions to adequately fund K-12 education, so that all children benefit from appropriate staffing levels and equitable, reasonable class sizes as well as other services students need to reach their full potential. 

Sherry Carr
Board President, Seattle Public Schools
Sharon Peaslee
Board Vice President, Seattle Public Schools


Anonymous said...

This is a lame duck board, they are not going to do anything. They are going to leave it up to the newbies to fix.

Half Baked

Outsider said...

It seems to me that protest of the staffing cuts is confusing. There might be at least three separate arguments that could be made:

1) The district standard class size (such as 26 in lower grades of non-poverty elementary school) are too high, and whatever schools luck into smaller classes for whatever reason should be allowed to keep them, while we wait for the holy grail of a lower standard size across the board.

2) Pulling teachers in October is too disruptive, so whatever schools luck into smaller class sizes due to forecasting errors should be allowed to keep them, even if the standard class size were not the end of the world.

3) Split grade classes are bad, so schools should be allowed to have smaller-than-standard class sizes to avoid splits.

What I wonder is -- is everyone arguing for (1), or are some people content to argue (2) or (3)? (1) is by far the most expensive as a public policy matter, so it makes a difference.

Anonymous said...

I think number 1 is very true, but number 2 is why the practice is boneheaded and has to stop immediately.

I think schools should get to decide about 3, and so that is a more sps logistical policy specific problem than a generalizable problem like too large class size. I think splits could be ok, with kids specifically picked to take advantage of the advantages in them, a flexible curriculum, and a 22 kid maximum in elementary. Failing that, splits are just another way overloaded classrooms fail to deliver education. And so I don't think SPS should force them on schools the way things are now. But that is a slightly separate argument, about the particulars of the WSS, not just the October pulls.


Anonymous said...

Whoa, pretty snotty, Sherry. The legislators were nice enough not to mention the elephant in the room - the executive hiring spree.
Chris S

Lori said...

"The district is NOT cutting these jobs; they are moving them from one building to another. Maybe I'm missing something."

Do some of the buildings to which these teachers are supposed to be moving currently have long-term subs? If so, then these re-allocations could save a bit of money by reducing sub costs. Has anyone investigated the angle? Because if that's not the case, then I don't understand how moving staff saves money either.

Anonymous said...

It's true that legislature needs to get off its a$$e$ to fund our schools. But it is ALSO true that the school shuffle is about much more than funding. It is about JSCEE arrogance, incompetence and not putting student needs first. Which is one of the reasons our delegation doesn't think much of SPS in the first place, from what I've gleaned through the years.

The tone of the letter from Carr and Peaslee was beyond snotty. It was rude and self-serving because it takes no ownership of an operational problem that sits at the feet of the board and in the lap of JSCEE. Not enough $$ from the legislature? Sure, then cut. Start downtown. The cuts that could be made from within Central Administration and Central Staff could cover leaving every one of those teachers at their schools, this year.

The legislature better loosen its funding dollars by this time next year. But as for this year, Carr and Peaslee's letter (and why is Nyland completely MIA - what an astounding lack of leadership) just set Seattle back another step. Because now they've publicly POd the bulk of our local delegation. SMDH.

Anonymous said...

Does this really happen in neighboring districts on a regular basis? If so, which ones?


Anonymous said...

And now Sherry goes back to working on the 'board of distinction' recognition, so sad.

Anonymous said...

I read an interesting idea on the comments section of one of the Seattle times articles. Whether the teachers that are being reassigned are being sent to low income schools to comply with the increased state funding for lower class sizes in high poverty schools. Because if not the district risks losing that extra money they just received.
Is that true? Do we have a list of where those teachers and staff are moving?

Curious parent

TechyMom said...

I think all of the above. Splits could be ok in theory, but I've watched all 3 of the ones I've been near fail. I don't think SPS has what it takes to make multi age classrooms work, which is flexibility and tailoring curriculum to each child.

Melissa Westbrook said...

On the issue of other districts (this is in King County), a reporter told me that he/she contacted those districts. Some were slightly over, some slightly under but none, NONE, cut any staff.

Anonymous said...

I get the balanced budget remark...it would be more convincing if downtown was looking for some tweaks to cut some spending too, but regardless, 25 schools seems simply too high for what is a projection that was really awfully close to accurate.

If what the board is saying is true, then it seems something that would be fairly easy to address with some transparency. Something like "The district has hired up to our projected student count. We're under overall and therefore we need to cut total district spending by $4M to comply with our balanced budget requirements. We also need to move certain staff members in order to address some differences in school population vs our expectations. We've come up with a plan to save $1M from our central budgets (staffing, travel, etc) and $3M from the schools by reducing certain sub positions by moving teachers from schools that are overstaffed based on student count to schools that are understaffed based on student count. We're moving staff from the following schools (table with school and underenrollment vs projections) to the following schools (table with overenrollment vs projections). I don't think people would get as up in arms.

Except they can't. Because it doesn't seem to actually be true. If it was true, they wouldn't be loading up 1st grade classes with 28/29 kids because the school as a whole divided by 26 means they lose a teacher. And there doesn't appear to be any schools that are really gaining staff...just a few that are gaining a full teacher vs a long term sub if I'm understanding it correctly.

Which to me gets back to the WSS is just ridiculous and is creating these issues. I can't figure out who created it and how it is determined. I do however wonder why teachers weren't striking for those parameters. More than actual special education ratios, pay and many of the things they went to strike over, this seems to have a huge chaotic impact on many kid's school year and many teacher's ability to teach, especially in the fall. That I would have fully supported.

North Seattle

dj said...

I am a John Hay parent and just got an email that we are losing my child's kindergarten teacher. It's going to be rough for him. We have one k/1 split now so I am not sure how it will affect class sizes or if this means we will no longer have a split class. To be honest, while I had heard about the staffing cuts proposed in other school communities in which I have children, this was the first I had heard about it at John Hay.

Disgusting said...

Wow. Very destabilizing to 5 and 6 year old children. NOT a good idea to place 28-30 children in K and first grade.

Not one mention of discontinuing travel, or trimming administrative expenditures.

How about asking the city to reimburse them for hundreds of administrative ours spent on the city's prek program?

Robert Cruickshank said...

Can we get Carr and Peaslee to resign now? Not sure we can wait until the end of November when their terms are up. They have forgotten they represent the parents and people of Seattle, and seem to think they represent district staff. They don't. Carr and Peaslee are largely responsible for this crisis by their failure to properly manage and oversee the district.

Anonymous said...


I wish there was a max of 22 in a combo. The rule is 2 less than the average of the straight grade classes. For example, if the straight Ks and 1s have 29 kids in them, a K/1 "should" have 27, but it is often not what happens.


Anonymous said...

I ❤️ Multi grade classes (but full disclosure, my kids are in the Montessori program and they are multi age by design).

Mag mom

Anonymous said...

I don't know if that rule is always followed. When I had a child in a split, it was the same size as the classes in the larger class size grade, which was the older one. I went into it with an open mind, and I believe they tried to choose children who could do well. I was quite surprised when I counted the kids to see it was larger than the classes my kid's friends were in. But the school/district was too inflexible with the curriculum, and the class was just too large. It was that child's worst year so far by a wide margin.


Anonymous said...

Here's an idea:

Cut Nyland.

I'm serious.

What difference would it make, operationally?

He's just a figure head, from what I can tell. And clearly, not a very good one

Used to be that all principals were direct reports of the Super.

But, 95 direct reports was too much for a "CEO" to handle (fair enough, because, CEOs are suppose to be doing a lot of other stuff too besides handling direct line items), so, Dr. Enfeild grouped the principals by region and put in a management layer, the EDs. Not unreasonable, from a strategic or organization point of view.

BUT, now along comes Nyland, and, he puts in a layer between the layer? Meta-meta. Huh? His direct reports, the EDs, which were the intermediary between him and his school principals, themselves now report to another intermediary guy who then reports to Nyland? So, why bother having Nyland? Just use that guy as the guy in charge of schools. He's cheaper.

Just a thought.

I am completely serious.

Not sure what Nyland's 'value add' is.

He totally bungled the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiations. I mean, no strike in 30 years, and then suddenly, bam! His team didn't have the courtesy to show up several times, and when they did, they will not prepared or professional.

So, what is his value-add? Salaried $276,000++, that would be about 5 teachers (each with a salary of $55K).

What do you think delivers more value to the 53,000 students in Seattle's Public Schools?

Him, or, them?

When an organization is ultra LEAN and has a totally flat pyramid, CEOs earn their keep. But when you have a multi-layered, multiple tentacle behemoth like SPS with loads of redundancy built in to each silo and bunker (an assistant super for this, and assistant super for that, each with their own lieutenants), then really, do you need a CEO? He's kind of more of a figurehead, like a monarch, rather than a functional asset, like a teacher, for example.

Just saying. I am not being rhetorical.

Can someone, perhaps Dr. Nyland himself, please describe what is the value that Dr. Nyland in particular imparts to our children, to our school organization, to our efforts to secure more funding from the Legislature?

Just not seeing it. At all.

So, to save some students from overloaded classrooms and scrambled schedules, which will result from cutting teachers, save them, and, cut Nyland.


Anonymous said...

Looks to me like Brady Walkinshaw signed the letter.

-- Ivan Weiss

Anonymous said...

The district administration is taking out their frustration with the strike on our kids. And the board is backing them up on this. Very mean-spirited. They need to go.


Anonymous said...


Get your information straight. Just click this once and get informed.


The district was professional, on time, and responsible during bargaining. The union has put out nothing to the contrary.

There's so much more to say, but I got sick of the bashing of the district bargaining team during bargaining...there are many people on that team that teachers like and respect (and some we don't, but it is safe to say that not all teachers respected every member of the SEA bargaining team) who don't deserve the picture painted by the public.

Tired Teacher

Anonymous said...

My-oh-my. What a response from Sherry Carr. I am struck by the overtly confident disdain for Parents, Legislators, and most brutally…students.

She does not speak as someone alone on an island, but rather someone who knows someone has her back, and whose palatial estate she can visit for an extended weekend.

Will be interesting to see where she turns up next, and have the mystery power broker revealed.


Anonymous said...

Although the District is apparently trying to put the issue behind it and simply move forward with the teacher pullbacks, the local media has now caught the story. There was a report on KUOW on my way home. Perhaps it will run again in the Wed. a.m. drive time.

In more surprising coverage, The Seattle Times has picked up the thread. There is both a news story and a column from Danny Westneat. Danny takes SPS Central Administration to the woodshed.


Patrick said...

KPLU reported on the reassignments and half-baked sale this morning.

Anonymous said...

I wonder if the displaced teachers (already on the payroll) will be used to staff in-school suspensions? Some sort of intervention specialist position, perhaps?

SPS Staff were especially-cagey about how the initiative to end out-of-school suspensions would be funded when it was presented to the School Board. It wasn't clear to me who would be in charge of kids being disciplined by in-school suspensions.

Schools are very under-staffed when it comes to counselors and assistant principals, due to the WSS. Was it ever disclosed how the initiative to end out-of-school suspensions would be implemented/funded?

- reality check

Tresanos said...

Tired Teacher--

You missed some of the SEA general meetings, maybe-- it was made very clear, by SEA bargaining members, who directly stated that on several occasions, specifically SPED bargaining, the district did not appear. I am wondering if you are Tired Teacher, or maybe Tired Downtown Central Office Employee? Yes some of the SPS bargainers are fine, good people-- but there werea number of times they were ill-prepared or did not show. That's one reason their major proposals did not hit the table til the 3rd week of August....

kellie said...

This exchange between President Carr and the Delegation caused me to do some looking into what is actually funded by the State of Washington.

Here is the RCW that describes the apportionment of funds at the State level.

At the State level the apportionment ratios are

General education average class size
Grades K-3. . . .25.23
Grade 4. . . .27.00
Grades 5-6. . . .27.00
Grades 7-8. . . .28.53
Grades 9-12. . . .28.74

SPS then allocated via the WSS to the building using a ratio of 26:1 at elementary and 30:1 at secondary. The elementary numbers are in alignment with state apportionment. However, secondary numbers are not.

After reading the actual RCW, it sure seems that the Seattle Delegation wrote a very polite note and that President Carr's reply does not hold any water.

It is completely understandable that when the projections are off by about 600 students district-wide that there will be some buildings which received staffing such that the student teacher ratio is no longer in the ball park of the state allocation. (ie 20:1 rather than 26:1) and in those cases, it makes sense to reduce staff. (not fun for anyone but at least understandable)

Many of the planned staffing cuts (or transfers or whatever you want to call them) place buildings at student to teacher ratios that are not aligned with the state apportionment level. (ie 30:1 rather than 26:1) So either Seattle Schools is leaving money on the table and not getting all the funds which are authorized by the state or some of these cuts are a direct transfer of dollars from the building level to downtown.

This is all particularly troubling when you simply look at the top line budget numbers from the purple book for funding from all sources.

The 2013 Actual budget is $615M
The 2015 Adopted budget is $730

That means that the 2015 budget is $115M more than the budget from two years ago.

After looking at the actual numbers, I think the Seattle Delegations letter is very understated and polite and the reply from the Board is not on target.

kellie said...

There is another concern from the RCW. The RCW calls for enhanced funding at secondary for

Career and technical education average class size: Approved career and technical education offered at the middle school and high school level. . . .26.57
Skill center programs meeting the standards established by the office of the superintendent of public instruction. . . .22.76
(d) In addition, the omnibus appropriations act shall at a minimum specify:
(i) A high-poverty average class size in schools where more than fifty percent of the students are eligible for free and reduced-price meals; and
(ii) A specialty average class size for advanced placement and international baccalaureate courses.

As far as I can tell, there is nothing in the purple book that show these funds.