Sunday, October 25, 2015

Seattle Schools This Week

A quiet week but maybe the quiet before the storm that may be the results of elections next week.

The UW's College of Education Master in Ed Policy is having a documentary film series on public education with panel discussions on each topic covered in each film.  This week, they will cover The Cartel.

The CartelTuesday, October 27th, 6-8pm, 120 Smith Hall, UW Seattle

Where does all the money go? This is the question that drives the documentary, The Cartel, a penetrating look at the politics surrounding the funding of public education. If you're confused as to why a Seattle parent needed to donate $70,000 to keep a teacher in a public school, come see the film and get engaged in the discussion that follows. We will have four local education leaders to help us make sense of the issues raised, and to give us direction on how we might move the discussion forward.

· Dave Powell, Executive Director, Stand for Children

· Liv Finne, Director, Center for Education, Washington Policy Center

· Rob McGregor, Assistant Director, Leadership for Learning program at the UW, and former Superintendent of the Kelso School District

· John Higgins, Education reporter, Seattle Times 

- Melissa Westbrook, public education advocate and writer/moderator of Seattle Schools Community Forum

 Let me just start with a mini-rant (one extended over a series of years) - I hate the district's website.  You cannot find anything in an intuitive manner.  They don't have live links anymore to documents; they come at the end of agendas and you scroll and scroll and scroll.

But the worst?  The calendar(s).  They do NOT sync up.  I was just checking and the main calendar, the one that should have EVERYTHING on it, doesn't it.  (And I note that some people did not know Sue Peters had a community meeting because it was not on the main calendar.  It WAS on the Board calendar but you had to click the link for Director Martin-Morris' community meeting to see it.)

Now I see that there is an "special" Executive Committee meeting/Work Session this week but it's ONLY on the Board calendar.  Know what's on it?  A public hearing for input on the upcoming school levies.  Nothing like not letting people know.  Speakers get two minutes and ONLY input on the levies is allowed.

It's on Wednesday, the 28th, starting at 4:00 pm.  Naturally, the public hearing is the first thing on the agenda because you certainly wouldn't want people to get off work and be able to get there in time to weigh in on the over $1B the district wants from Seattle citizens.

The Work Session on the 2016-2017 Budget comes at 4:30 pm.  (And they better wait until 4:30 pm because people should be given the chance to get there to weigh in.)

The Executive Committee Meeting starts at 6:00 pm to talk about the Nov. 4th Board meeting and then the Superintendent's evaluation.  


Robert Cruickshank said...

Wow, good luck with that at the UW. It looks like it's 4 against 1 and the film is anti-union, anti-public school propaganda. Kudos to you for being willing to take on this important battle.

Louisa said...

I'm surprised to read that you are urging people to see "The Cartel." Here's the comment from Diane Ravitch's blog:

The Cartel maintains that we must not only create more charter schools, but provide vouchers so that children can flee incompetent public schools and attend private schools. There, we are led to believe, teachers will be caring and highly skilled (unlike the lazy dullards in public schools); the schools will have high expectations and test scores will soar; and all children will succeed academically, regardless of their circumstances.

Patrick said...

Agree about the District's website. The District likes to pay consultants a bunch of money every few years to redo the website and break all the links anyone else has made and make the District's sordid history as hard to track down as possible.

n said...

That's the truth, Patrick. We teachers dislike it as much as you do! Tech is a bottomless pit in SPS.

Anonymous said...


Regarding Wednesday's Special Board meeting. Can the public weigh in at the budget work session? I didn't think there were opportunities for public input at work sessions.

-North-end Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not urging people to do anything; I'm letting them know about this series. The next films in the series are more balanced. I think it important to be aware of what is out there.

No, you cannot weigh in at the Work Sessions. That's how they are structured. Staff takes up so much time with their presentations that the Board barely gets to have questions.

Anonymous said...

What Patrick said. Some budget thing I saw from this month had a huge amount for a "website refresh" didn't they just get a new one?

And re: the 4 pm start time - well, what better way to show that no one at SPS really cares about what us unwashed public think. Saw MW's comment re: how McLaren reacted to emails during the strike and have heard her say derogatory things about that topic before. We are just mosquitoes buzzing in their ears it seems, who get in the way of the "real" work.

Whenever I read this stuff I'm always shouting at the screen - hey gang, remember those kids in the classrooms? The ones who are the REASON you have a job??? Because frankly, I think 85% of the people who work at JCSEE, including 75% the current board, have forgotten that what should be driving each and every dollar and decision. Does directly it help a kid in a class. If it doesn't, or if it obfuscates the public's ability to have impact (like hiding important meetings in out of the way places) then STOP DOING IT...



Anonymous said...

@ reader47

The person who Melissa said was complaining to staff about email volume and who told them that her son reads her emails was Sharon Peaslee, not Director McLaren.

-reality check

Anonymous said...

oh right. her. double bleah. that'll teach me to comment before I'm fully caffeinated.


Ann D said...

Thinking about how much time staff puts into developing reports and presentations to the board which are essentially moot exercises as the SPS board say they have little influence. So we are essentially paying for paper-pushers.

What's the leadership model that works in such a large district to get a change in financial allocations towards the core service model and actual education of kids? It makes me think we need a parlimentary model like when they report in the news that the Italian government dissolved itself. I'm being facetious of course, but where is the impetus to get rid of self-reinforcement of inaccurate ideas in our school district?

I go back to those annual teacher-parent-student surveys which are never enacted upon and on the parent side have such poorly worded questions as to never uncover any issues (Is your child safe at school? Um, well I guess so even though there is no nurse on site and the school secretary is dealing with playground injuries, well and there was that bullying incident but I guess no one brought guns to school...). Seriously, when I looked at the results of the anonymous teacher survey I saw educators trying desperately to communicate their dissatisfaction with a poor principal (rated 30% for ed leadership compared to 80% and up for surrounding schools) and having it fall on deaf ears at HQ. The teachers are not protected from speaking out against lousy managers and so their anonymous attempts are all they can give.

Anonymous said...

@Ann D - What's the leadership model that works in such a large district to get a change in financial allocations towards the core service model and actual education of kids?

...wellll... this presumes they WANT to allocate toward actual education of kids - the cynic in me is starting to wonder about that...


Anonymous said...

Tom Halverson, director of the MEP program, said the series is intended to spark conversation between audience members and local educators, advocates and policymakers who will participate in panel discussions following each screening. The screenings are free and open to the public.

"If we're going to reform education to serve all students well, we need to partner with a variety stakeholders," Halverson said.

And yet he stacks the deck against teachers, unions, and full funding of public schools.


Anonymous said...

Speaking of the levy, I've always voted yes for school levies, thinking that's the way to support schools/kids/education.

However, I'm so angry at the district right now, especially in relation to the bloated salaries for the bloated district office staff that I'm strongly leaning toward a no vote on the upcoming levy. I don't trust the district to spend the levy money on the specified projects, and just don't trust them with money in general at this point.

I'm interested to hear where others stand.

-Seattle parent

NW mom said...

Seattle parent - I have been voting for 30 years, and have always voted yes for school levys, but am voting no on the upcoming levy for the reasons you state above.

Anonymous said...

@Seattle parent--I'm also an SPS parent (of 2) that has always supported school levies along with most other levies in Seattle.

I will be voting NO on this levy, and encouraging everyone to do the same. This district has gone rogue and is out of control with arrogance.

-sick to my stomach

Anonymous said...

Here's something to ask the Board/SPS Admin about before they a)hire a new Supt, b)approve new positions/initiatives, or c) implement a new website that doesn't work terribly well

Was looking at current job descriptions for SPS in the Admin/Management category. One of the job descriptions states that the applicant must have at least 3 competencies from the (and this is EXACTLY how it appears online) Professional Leadershio Education Comoetencv Wheel

what exactly do you suppose "comoetency" might be? ;o) Turns out the real thing is a Microsoft developed set of qualities Microsoft suggests for teachers/educators. Fascinating! Who knew they were the goto folk for something like that!?


Ann D said...


Microsoft Education Competencies

"The Education Competency Wheel has been in use by educators since 2006. It was created by leadership and talent consulting experts at Lominger and adapted for education. Schools and districts around the country are using this tool in a variety of ways. If you are interested in learning more about the Education Competency Wheel please consider attending the Microsoft Institute."

Melissa Westbrook said...

Catherine, I raised this issue to Professor Halverson. He was gracious enough to ask me to join the panel and asked if I had any recommendations for the next two panels which are on teachers and testing. I sent him some names of people I believe can balance whoever else gets on the panel (and I don't know how he finds the other people).

I always find it useful to just ask if I feel a panel is unbalanced and sure enough, it worked.

They say it is not to be a debate and the panel members will all likely state their studied opinions on the topic.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of the BTAIV Public Hearing (Wednesday, 10/28, 4 pm)

This was found and posted on another thread by reader47....A somewhat current detailed list of BTAIV-proposed projects, by building and system:

Last time I checked, only the broad summary, not the detailed list, was posted on the BTAIV Board Action Report.

-North-end Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

And, I'll be willing to bet that any documentation at the Wednesday public comment period will have the listing for funds to help pay off the bonds on JSCEE. They KNEW they would need to do this and yet did not say a word at any community meetings.

ProSleep Mom said...

North end Mom-
This list was handed out at the Ingraham community meeting that I attended (actually got there near the end, so didn't hear the presentation.)

I did ask Flip at the end if the $17 million debt service for JSCEE was included in this; he said it was. I have since gone over it, and it's certainly not obvious where it's included.

I do see $11 million for management and staffing, and escallations totaling 27% of the total projects- is that reasonable, or on the high side?

Melissa Westbrook said...

An early comment said that, when asked, Flip said it would be added. I do not see it in the handout I received from the community meeting.

Many of us think the management side is too much especially for the outside contractors for the more simple (think; non-historic) buildings.

Anonymous said...

Did the high school teacher cuts list come out yesterday?

Speaking of high schools - Have any of the school board candidates come out with a plan for solving the QA/Magnolia high school issue?

- interested

Public/Private said...

Thanks for the link, Ann D. Microsoft Institute?

I'd noticed that Microsoft was hosting pre-k discussions. There were many concerned citizens in the room. One must wonder about all of that data - and profit- being made from that being stored in icloud.....;)

Public/Private said...

"What's the leadership model that works in such a large district to get a change in financial allocations towards the core service model and actual education of kids?"

Awesome idea. Kshama Sawant is working on a "People's Budget". Perhaps Seattle Public Schools could head in that direction. I for one, feels the district pays too much flying people around the country. I"d love to have those dollars in the classroom.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know that Sealth already lost some staffer (not a teacher) but I have heard nothing on high schools.

Yes, the district seems to love consultants.

Anonymous said...

i get nervous about voting down levies when we are so desperate for capacity. What effect would a no vote have on the immediate capacity need? Would we be sacrificing our future high schoolers (the ones who will feel the crunch most significantly) in order to make a point?

Considering No