Sunday, October 04, 2015

Seattle Public Education This Week

A busy, busy week.
Monday, October 5th
Student Assignment Plan Update meeting - Schmitz Park Elementary lunchroom
5000 SW Spokane Street
Interpreters: Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese

Bell Times Analysis Meeting - JAMS from 6:30-7:30 pm.

Tuesday, October 6th
Audit&Finance Committee - Agenda - from 4:30-6:30 pm
Another jam-packed committee meeting.

- Title IX Update
- JSCEE "Debt Retirement Options Briefing Paper" - yet again the district is struggling to figure out how to pay off the bonds that have wrung the neck of this district for about 15 years.
- "Economic Stabilization Account Policy and Resolution" - we get the backstory on this from the minutes from the last A&F meeting on August 13, 2015.  (Partial)

Previously minimum fund balance has been set annually in accordance with Board policy. According to the Government Accounting Standards Board, minimum fund balance definition is not strong enough.

Ms. Technow spoke about how the GASB states that the board has to approve use of these funds and has to be for a defined reason. It is much more prescriptive, as you can see; the old policy was three paragraphs and the new policy is three pages.

A resolution has to be in place before August 31, 2015. If we do not change this terminology before then the minimum fund balance would only be noted in footnotes to the financial statements and then fall in the unassigned balance on the budget. But if we make this change we can include it in the financial statements and have it as a separate item and it would not flow into the unassigned fund balance.

The Committee moved this item forward with a recommended to move forward to the full Board for approval for intro and action.
So two things:
1) The Board and the staff no longer operate on the policy that ONLY emergency items get intro/action on the same night.  Staff late with info (like in this case)? Okay.  Didn't get things done in time? Okay.  The problem is that the public doesn't get to hear any discussion by the entire Board on these issues and it's troubling how often that is happening now.
2) There appears to me to be something off about this particular action but I'm not an accountant.  Not something nefarious but I think a way for the district to hide where certain money goes (from the public, not the Auditor.) 
- the relationship with the Alliance for Education.  This is discussed in the minutes of August 13th and also got discussed at last week's Executive Ctm meeting.  I would say status: downhill.  The Alliance didn't even return the Superintendent's last call.  The Alliance handles a number of school accounts and the district sent out an RFP and the Alliance was the only group responding to that RFP.  I find that really, really hard to believe.  The claim is that "not many organizations do this sort of work."  Oversee school accounts? 
- Draft of Operations Levy Proposal.  This one is interesting because the district is creating a line item just for charter schools that may be open by then.  They are not going to readjust their ideas of how to spend the Operations levy dollars for charters - they are just building it into its own separate pot.  For 2017 - $900K, for 2018 - $3.1M, for 2019 - $6.2M (these are estimates).

Another huge issue on the Operations levy is the issue of the levy lid.  Seattle Schools has one of the lowest rates of assessed value in the area.  (For example, the high is Federal Way at $3.75 while Seattle is $1.28 per $1,000 assessed value of a home.) I am hearing that the SEA wants the district to go higher which, of course, could have its upside and its downside.  

One document in the agenda that is of huge interest is the "2016 Levy Authority and Estimated Local Effort Assistance (LEA) Payable."  This document, found on page 194 of the A&F agenda, lists all the various items in the district's budget and how much they would paid out of various pots of money.

Page 203 has the Federal and State Grants Summary which is also interesting reading.

- Last in the agenda documents is the Annual Risk Assessment and Audit Plan for Sep 2015-August 2016 from the district's Risk Management office.

Along with regular school checks, they are looking at disbursements, field trips, athletics (the only "centralized function not physically located at JSCEE and never been audited) and data sharing agreement spot audits.  There are also capital audits for the Schmitz Park and Arbor Heights projects as well as personal services contracts, construction management services, contractor compliance with apprenticeship and prevailing wage laws, contractor accountability, change order use and appropriateness of Interfund Transfers.  I'm pretty thrilled to see some of these items on this list.

Also on Tuesday, APP Advisory Group will have its first meeting of the year at the library of Washington Middle School, 6:30-8:00 pm.

Student Assignment Plan Update meeting - World School at Meany from 6:30-7:15 pm
301 21st Ave E
Interpreters: Chinese, Spanish, Somali and Vietnamese

Candidate forum (City Council and School Board) -  Sponsored by the Eastlake Community Center from 7-9:15 pm at Pocock Rowing Center, 3320 Fuhrman Ave E.

Wednesday, October 7th
School Board meeting starting at 4:15 pm. Agenda

- adoption of SEA CBA
- Middle School Social Studies Materials adoption
- MOU with OSPI around Special Education Services

- Adoption of State Legislative agenda
- Resolution supporting Supreme Court order on McCleary
- Revised Student Assignment plan

Thursday, October 8th
School Board Candidate Forum - Sponsored by the League of Women Voters and SCPTSA from 7-8:30 pm at Seattle First Baptist Church, 1111 Harvard Avenue.

Friday, October 9th
Regular school day

Saturday, October 10th
Director Carr Community Meeting from 8:30-10:00 am at the Hearthstone, 6720 East Green Lake


Meg said...

Wait, what? They're introducing a resolution for intro/action and the date it was supposed to be done by was August 31?

Horse has already left the barn. They're over a month past the point the resolution was supposed to be completed by (or do all the cool kids in district administration backdate resolutions now?). Why not follow protocol on intro and then 2 weeks before action?

I agree it doesn't mean something nefarious is going on. But SPS is a public district. As much as possible, intro/action should allow room for public input.

Anonymous said...

Meg - that resolution was already brought to the board in August, look up the August 19th agenda. Remember that Melissa is talking about an early August meeting, and since their September meeting got cancelled with the strike, this is the first chance to approve the minutes. It was still a rush job but I don't think it was staff's fault, the info only came out late June, and the August meeting was the first chance to bring it to a committee.

Just sayin'

Melissa Westbrook said...

Meg, that is my poor writing (and I'll correct it). No, they had it rushed into Ex Ctm on August 13th and voted on it at the next Bd meeting in late August. And I don't believe this was some surprise to staff; they just didn't get it done in a timely fashion.

My point is that Intro/Action has no real emergency meaning anymore.

Meg said...

got it. never mind, then.