Sunday, October 25, 2015

Sue Peters Community Meeting

I attended this meeting yesterday, along with at least 60 parents (plus School Board candidate Leslie Harris).  Director Peters did a superlative job in handling the crowd.

There were two topics; bell times and the QAE issue.

Bell Times

- There is still mistrust over the idea that there can't be just two tiers.  I think the district not providing real data on the costs fuels this suspicion.  It's just not enough to say, "trust us" (which appears to be exactly what some on the Board are doing).

- One Magnolia parent said that, for an isolated region like theirs, having their two elementaries in different tiers that will make it very hard for after-school activities.  She said she had checked with some orgs like Arena Sports and they will gear their offerings to earlier released schools.

- It was stated that the Taskforce asked that clusters be aligned.

- Director Peters said that last year she had fought to keep the latest bell time at 9:30 am but it got upped to 9:40 am and it's not clear to her why that happened.  She did praise staff for getting the number of schools in Tier Three down to 13.

- It was stated that the principal at John Hay Elementary is new this year and didn't even know this change was coming.

- Many in the crowd thought Nyland's released announcement felt insulting.

- One parent said that some middle school students at Blaine get dropped off at a nearby Starbucks to hang out because their parents have to get to work and can't leave them at the school.  


- One person said that he had sent in a message to his Executive Director with no response but when he sent it again, cc'd this time to the Board, he got a response. (And that is exactly why I tell you to ALWAYS cc the Board or your director when you send an e-mail.)

-  On Mr. Elliott's inability to finish the teacher evaluations - ostensibly the reason for all this - one person said it is a state law.  This is true but it is a "fireable" offense and that doesn't mean the person has to be fired.

-Director Peters told the crowd to e-mail the directors as the volume of e-mails does matter.  She also said to e-mail the Superintendent and ask why the focus in SPS seems less on the child and family.  She said the Board can lead the superintendent in this direction but it is very helpful to have the back-up from parents.

(I note that you might not bother with Director Peaslee as she has repeatedly complained at Board meetings about the volume of e-mails she gets and how tedious it is to hear she could be wrong on an issue.  She told staff at an Executive Committee meeting how her adult son was reading some e-mails sent to her about the strike and how "dumb those people are."  I personally was offended that she allowed her son to read e-mails that constituents sent to her, that she found this amusing, and that she told staff about it.)

Peters said she felt that there was an overlarge number of initiatives at JSCEE including the City's pre-k program.

She also said that parents could write the Superintendent and ask that he NOT accept Mr. Elliott's resignation.

She explained that if Mr. Elliott does not resign and is then terminated that he could appeal and that appeal would go to the Board, not the Superintendent.  This would be a calculated risk on his part and could have implications for his pension/health benefits.

 If the Board, like in other actions, were to go strictly on the law, it is likely to go against him.

- Parents kept clamoring about what else they could do.  I told them that the Superintendent was giving his "State of the District" speech on Nov. 5, at two times/locals and it might be good to show up to listen to that.  And I told them that they could consider not supporting the BTA IV levy.  If it were to fail, that would surely get their attention.  Basically, the district only reacts to a couple of things - lawsuits, continued bad publicity and money. 

Director Peters is against this idea and worried it might play into the hands of those who want City control.

I do understand her position but we can never wrangle the district back to a focus to child and classroom by e-mails and protests outside JSCEE.  It will take a huge effort AND follow-thru but I believe it can be done.  


Anonymous said...

Interesting that the evaluation piece is what's being touted as reason. My first year in Seattle (fist year teaching) I think I had only 1 of the 3 required evaluations. None of them made it into my personnel file. It was 8 years ago, but when I brought it up to my supervising vp they did nothing (it was fall the following year), and have since been promoted to principal. I doubt this is where new oversight is really being focused.

Glad I left

Anonymous said...

MW wrote:
"I do understand her position but we can never wrangle the district back to a focus to child and classroom by e-mails and protests outside JSCEE."

"we can never wrangle the district back to a focus to child and classroom by e-mails and protests outside JSCEE." So it is really important that Sue Peters gets the support she needs to turn this around .... Electing Burke, Geary, Harris, and Pinkham will be far more effective than e-mails and protests outside JSCEE.

Directors that direct the district are needed. Hopefully we will have that beginning in December.

-- Dan Dempsey

ProSleep Mom said...

Regarding: “Task Force asked that clusters be aligned.”

I served on the Task Force, and I don’t remember this being discussed. We evaluated the various proposals on many criteria, but not that clusters be aligned. I’ve checked our report and I’m not seeing it there either.

Any schedule is a product of balancing many, often conflicting, priorities. Ours included:
• the health of students,
• the effect of the schedule on learning/brain function,
• the safety of students traveling to or from school,
• effect on before and after school care/programs/tutoring,
• costs of transportation,
• level of participation in nutrition programs,
• effect on athletic programs,
• effect on Title 1 schools, and many more.

While aligning clusters would have benefits, where would you place it relative the items listed above? I would look at how significant is the impact or benefit, and what is the size of the population involved.

The current proposal is head and shoulders above all the previous ones and hugely above our current schedule.

Today, we have only 2 of 14 high schools with a healthy time as defined by AAP and CDC; under the new proposal, we would have all 14, 100%, at a healthy time. Today, we have zero middle schools with a healthy bell time- we would have 100%. Today, we have 33 elem/K8s at Tier 3; this is reduced to 13 in the proposal.

I want two tiers, and believe this will come with full funding of schools; I will continue to advocate for both of these, the work is far from done. This proposal is not perfect, but it is a huge improvement for virtually everyone, by high school, if not well before.

As to why the 10 minute shift from our current schedules- this came from the Superintendent last spring, with only the explanation that 7:50 was too early for elementary students. I’m assuming this is based on concerns regarding going to school in the dark. However, the Safe Routes to School rep on the Task Force did not say this was a definite safety issue in their estimation; this might be something to explore with elementary parents.

Finally, I’m sorry I missed this meeting. I checked the District website and it was not listed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

ProSleep, interesting because someone there said that.

Yes, I note that it was not listed. I think this is because there is a new person in the Board office.

ProSleep Mom said...

oops. one correction- due to agreements that Denny and Sealth cannot start at the same time, Denny is still at Tier 1, so one middle school will still start earlier than 8:30.

Was the person speaking on the Task Force? I attended all the meetings, but may have spaced out at some point, or possibly it was discussed in a small group. I don't see it in the report as one of our main priorities.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, the person said the Taskforce had said this. I didn't read the recs that closely a the time so I defer to you.

Anonymous said...

Clusters? Schools are no longer organized by clusters. Since the NSAP in 2010, schools are organized by middle school service areas.

-North-end Mom

QAMagStraddler said...

"She also said that parents could write the Superintendent and ask that he NOT accept Mr. Elliott's resignation." Did anyone else remember Seattle becoming Soviet Russia? Pretty sure that in this country, one can not refuse to accept a resignation from an employee, figuratively or literally.

Watching in Bleachers said...

We did talk about it, and it was early on in our discussions on the Task Force. I believe it was initiated by parents at the table, from my recollection; and, although understandably it was not with the intent that all schools in a cluster (elementary, middle and any high schools) would align into one tier, it was with the request and the consideration that elementary schools would.
There was a discussion how communities were impacted with three tiers of elementary schools and how that was not only in-equitable, in terms of access to childcare programs but provider based programs as well. I know that I noted at that discussion (as it was also highlighted at Sue's meeting yesterday) that there are providers that are already catering to earlier tiers only and those that have the misfortune in being in Tier 3 do not have access to certain programs as a result.
It was not suggested, that this was to be the priority in the decision making process in how the Task Force (or lord knows "the staff") in making the final recommendation, but I know in talking with several others who were on the Task Force we felt that it was a consideration that the elementary schools in the clusters would be (or there would be an attempt) that they would be aligned for the intention of community and equity.
I would like to thank the other members of Task Force (Pro Sleep Mom... you, in particular and your amazing day-lighting and data crunching and highlighting of inaccuracies along the way particularly with transportation numbers and ridership info). It was an amazing group of people from parents throughout Seattle, sleep experts, Parks and Rec, SDOT, SPD, ... it was an amazing assembly who generously gave of their time... all who truly had such insight and willingness to make a difference in improving academic outcomes (and safety) for our students.
In the end, I am disappointed by the figurative high fives the district is giving itself on a the "cost neutral" solution it has found -- from my perspective, it is far from that. It is has pitted schools and neighbors against one another with "why do they get that time slot?!"?; it has left even greater numbers than ever questioning SPS's commitment to its own Goal 3 of the Strategic Plan - Meaningful Community and Family Engagment; and it has seemingly cements for many that SPS holds a "yawn mentality" towards transparency and the public (ie. Where is the response on why it is going to cost $8M+ to be a two tier system? or Why in the span of three and a half weeks did were there so many changes between the previous and apparently now "final" version of plan going to the Board for a vote?... and the list goes on)
Like so many other "task forces" I have had the apparent privilege to be on, this is another where I leave feeling like I am but a check-mark on the box "Community Engagement Satisfied".

Watching in Bleachers said...

Clusters... services areas. :-/

Anonymous said...

If Sue believes that an appeal of a termination of a principal of more than 3 years comes to the board, either legal or HR isn't telling the board the score. If DE gets wise, he won't quit. Then HR has to give him detailed written notice of the allegations against him, then he geats the right to attend a meeting to defend himself and tell the district anything that he thinks that the district should consider before taking action, then the Superintdent has to issue a notice of probable cause proposing discipline if it is suspension or termination, and then DE would have the chance to appeal to an outside independent hearing officer. Same rights as a teacher gets. And PASS could also file a grievance, which if taken to the highest level, goes to an arbitrator, not the school board. The school board can step in and tell it's only employee - the Superintdent- to not issue a notice of probable cause if they don't agree with the proposed action. It takes a lot to fire any certificated staff member, teacher or principal. If DE has no discipline and the story is what he is saying (and knowing that SPS often chooses not to discipline staff who violate other laws or district policy), I don't think that SPS has a sure thing in defending a termination. Which if they lose, they would have to reinstate DE and pay his attorney's fees, along with the hearing officer and thier own attorneys, which they have to pay for anyway.


Burke said...

I attended the school board meeting last Wednesday and heard testimony firsthand from 8 people on bell times and also the introduction of the final proposal. I think the task force has done an amazing job presenting their case for the flipped schedule; health benefits, optimal learning/brain function, participation in nutrition programs, impact on pre and post childcare. This is what an appropriate education is all about! But I'm appalled with such resounding agreement on its huge benefits that the district will deprive 13 of its schools from receiving them. It's like rolling out a new and improved curriculum to the majority of the district but not the last 13 schools because they can't afford to buy the materials. So their stuck with old inferior one. This is NOT an appropriate not equal education for all. And there MUST be a plan to include ALL schools in the flipped schedule ASAP.

Disgusted said...

Public documents indicate that Michael Tolley provided QA principal with 15 minutes to decide whether he wanted to resign or be fired.

The situation unfolding at Queen Anne Elementary provides insight into the John Stanford building, and the bullying that occurs.

It would have been appropriate put the principal on probation. Firig- or forcing a resignation- is not appropriate.

Queen Anne Elementary families would be smart to write the superintendent and testify at the next board meeting- where the board will vote to extend the superintendent's contract and possibly offer a raise.

Disgusted said...

"(I note that you might not bother with Director Peaslee as she has repeatedly complained at Board meetings about the volume of e-mails she gets and how tedious it is to hear she could be wrong on an issue. She told staff at an Executive Committee meeting how her adult son was reading some e-mails sent to her about the strike and how "dumb those people are."

This is wrong on so many levels. Next time I send an e-mail to Peaslee, should I send it to both she and her son?

McClureMav said...

Disgusted, if you read the letter carefully you will see that he actually had 7 months of extra time given to him, and that he was called into JSCEE to discuss the evaluations several days before his alleged forced resignation. I believe the 15 minutes line is a total red herring.

Anonymous said...

About David Elliott and the Teacher Evaluation Issue.

Is the district using the Danielson Framework for evaluation?

Whatever evaluation that is being used, is it time consuming to complete?

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...


Ya, still not what the district has to do - they have to give him detailed written notice of the allegations against him and an opportunity to respond. And then the Superintendent (and only the Superintdent, not Pritchard, not Tolley) has to issue a notice of probable cause. The. He gets an appeal.


Anonymous said...

I'm with Burke. Everyone is patting themselves on the back over the fact that almost all schools will have optimal start times, and they managed to get Tier 3 down to only 13 schools. Fabulous!! Unless you are one of the 13 schools. If you are, then you know you are stuck with the least optimal time for your children for many years to come, as no one, NO ONE will fight for you because you are such a small minority now. Too few who are carrying the weight for everyone else. I agree this is a great plan for most, but I can't agree with leaving 13 schools behind. At the very least, please put the 13 schools together in the same geographic region so those kids can all be released at the same time and have equal access to after-school activities.


Anonymous said...

I think SPS has to be very careful here about the message they want to send with this action. In the past, when administrators (building and central) have been terminated, it's been for reasons of scandal, usually financial. This is the first time I've been aware of termination for an outright accountability issue. I suppose it's a breath of fresh air, but it's also a strange time to choose this particular case. Communities are already justifiably clamoring about central accountability for everything from budget to enrollment planning leading to staff getting yanked out of buildings well after the school year has begun. Short of any reason that it's unsafe for Mr. Elliot to be around children, is this really how SPS wants to treat its principals, who are so important to helping communities get the best they can for their children? Is this how we want to START holding administrators accountable?

Big Deal

ProSleep Mom said...

@Rick on bell times.
Rick, if you can come up with the money for two tiers I'm with you all the way. The current Board seems to think this is a problem. Transparency about the number (they say $8 million, my estimate is closer to $4 million) but still a lot of money.

Lacking the money, I see this as a triage situation. There is abundant evidence that early bell times are bad for adolescents; this is why they are almost all moved one hour later and why there is some urgency to this move. The evidence regarding best times for elementary students is much less robust. Some research indicates around 8 am is good (7:30 or earlier is not good); or that two hours after waking is good; one researcher I talked to said her evidence was showing the later the better for elementary aged kids. In short, the jury is out; it is not clear how much younger children are helped or hurt by various times.

In my mind there is a real difference between bell times that are bad for kids health, and those that are hard for families (can we mitigate this any other way?), or less than what we think might be optimal.

If wanting equal education means not changing any bell times (is that what you are saying?), then are you OK with continuing to have times that you know cause harm to thousands of kids? I see the concern about losing steam for the schools that remain at Tier 3, but letting everyone suffer together isn't really a good plan either.

Personally, I think it would be worth a chunk of change to do this right, and hopefully the new Board will agree and figure out how to do it.

Lastly, the process by which we arrived at this solution is crazy. We need to avoid pitting people against each other, and focus on what getting a consensus regarding the values and the priorities that should drive the decision. If we could come to some agreement on what the priorities should be, and there was some logic to the specific assignments (schools with long bus routes get this tier to avoid 7 am pickups- even if it means going home in the dark, Title 1 schools get specific supports for their specific programs, etc) there could be more of a sense of fairness and people would understand the why of the decisions that now seem so arbitrary.

Anonymous said...

Big Deal makes an excellent point on the timing of dealing with David Elliott.

This evaluation concern should have been dealt with during the summer. If it was a big problem that he refused to correct, then he should have been removed prior to the start of the school year. Principals do work during much of August.

I think the supervisors of Mr. Elliott may need to be reprimanded for not dealing with this situation in a timely appropriate manner.

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

"This is the first time I've been aware of termination for an outright accountability issue."

The failures in accountability at Stevens Elementary have affected dozens of students with special needs, yet, that principal is back again with no signs of having been held accountable ... same Education Director, right?

The double standards in this district when it comes to special education and accountability of principals are truly staggering.


Maureen said...

Do parents need to start collecting evidence on principals who have not been fired even though they didn't fulfill their professional requirements? My kids school had a principal for a few years who was clearly placed there by the district so the parents would do the work to get her fired or retired. Why didn't the ED just fire her?

Anonymous said...

Just wanted to pass along that Sue Peters is a great ally, and that she happily walked into the firestorm at that meeting (btw - bringing toys for the kids there was a nice touch!)

It was clear her heart is in the right place, and she wants to help - on all issues. We need more like her.

I do have a question on these community meetings; are topics supposed to be regionally related, or is it appropriate/common to also go to other Director's meetings and pass along thoughts across any part of the district?

- Appreciative Dad

Melissa Westbrook said...

Reader is right; that situation at Stevens was on-going from the first day of school last year. Why wasn't that principal called out? I would hope that it happened behind the scenes but the situation escalated and it certainly didn't appear anyone spoke to the principal. From what I was told, the Ex Dir knew it was happening.

Appreciative Dad, you can go to any meeting on any topic. All the directors represent all the public. As well, since directors only have one meeting a month, it can be trickier going to the one in your region.

SummerSolstice said...


can you please comment based on your experience then, why the board directors as categorized into districts, with lists of schools that they "represent" on their SPS websites? I would have assumed that would mean that the particular director would be more attuned to the issues at play with their particular "jurisdiction" and in particular with the schools they are assigned to.

Or is this just for show and means nothing to the district, and to the board members themselves? In which case those of us showing up at board members community meetings with the understanding that they should be well versed in the particulars of the schools under their purview are misinformed, and would do well to shift messaging and tactics as well as start attending meetings of all directors when available.

Anonymous said...

@Appreciative Dad: Good question. While the meetings are regionally based, because the entire board votes up or down, it's fair game to show up and advocate directors in whatever region they're in. Some will resent the turf-stepping, but I've always found the directors to be pretty good at balancing the time, topics and needs. If people didn't cross-pollenate throughout the district, we'd have some pretty isolated and ill-informed directors, even in this instant-communication day and age. WSDWG

Another Name said...

"This evaluation concern should have been dealt with during the summer."

I agree. Where was the Ex.Director in all of this? What types of procedures are in place to make sure principals turn-in teacher evaluations? Forcing a resignation in October is extremely disruptive and I must look to those within the John Stanford Center.

I would like to know if there other principals with outstanding teacher evaluations. If so, will the district fire- or force a resignation?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Summer Solstice, my understanding of the regions for directors is that although they run from a certain region in the primary, they do end up with a city-wide vote. Therefore, that makes them accountable to all voters.

I don't believe there is even an Board policy but what I have understood is that directors ARE the experts on their region. That makes sense because with 97 schools, it would be hard for each director to know every school/region well. Therefore, if each director knows his/her region well, they can give input to fellow board members on issues/concerns from that region and the impacts of any given policy or action that might be coming.

But, in the end, they are all accountable to all voters.

Anonymous said...

I am so confused. Sue Peters represents the area where I live, but the school any child of mine would attend, Lowell Elementary, is out of her area. Changed from John Hay. I did write her but got no reply. SSD seems like a real mess. I was on a school board for 8 years and a certificated employee in Puyallup for 18 hrs so have experience.

Linh-Co said...

Just want to clarify Burke is not Rick Burke.

ProSleep Mom said...

Thanks for the clarification!

Tom said...

Leslie Harris the Sarah Palin of School Board

Anonymous said...

Tom that makes no sense. The Sarah Palin of the board?

Voted for Leslie, disappointed in Marty and not just about the math.


Melissa Westbrook said...

Tom, can you explain your comment? Because no matter what you feel about Harris, she's not dumb. And Palin is dumb (among other things).

dw said...

Tsk tsk. Melissa, I thought we weren't supposed to make personal attacks on this blog! Saying someone "is dumb" is about as personal as it gets.

Unless..... are you treating this like libel, where the statement has to be false to be considered a personal attack? Never mind! ;-)

Melissa Westbrook said...

DW, got me there. I let my personal opinion of Palin cloud my blog ethics. But Tom still should explain himself.