Sunday, October 11, 2015

Transparency - That's All It Takes

From a teacher reader;

The problem with opacity with teacher pulls:  we don't know if they are legitimate or punitive.   

The problem when no one speaks up for a school that is under attack is that it gives permission to launch attacks against other schools in the future!  Hence, Schmitz Park today!

If they do this to JAMS, they will do it to Meany, Eagle Staff and Lincoln High School.   

From Kellie LaRue:

The staffing recommendations are primarily opportunistic staffing cuts. The cuts are deeply targeted at schools where by the creation of the "additional split grades" there would be minimal overage fees paid to the teachers. 

In another words ... someone with a very sharp budget eye (and that is no-small-compliment - a very talented budget analyst did the work). Took at look at every school to examine for any possible savings. 

So this is where my ongoing theme of "Who is in charge of the work of education?" comes in. 

The list of savings opportunities, is just that, opportunities to save a few dollars. It is a neutral document. It is not an education decision. 

However, the majority of the items are the list would be immediately rejected by anyone who was focused on education. 

The Schmitz Park example, was particularly shocking to me. Schmitz Park has been called Schmitz-ville because of the ridiculous over-crowding. They were given a full time sub at the beginning of the year with the expectation that they were going to need an additional teacher. 

That school has been incredible with all of the intensity of the portables. And ... They want to take a schools that is  +1 student above projection and do the following:

* Do not require additional FTE due to class config
* At 26 FTEs, 2 splits and 4 class overages

So SPS is saying that at one of the most crowded schools, you should take advantage of the opportunity to save an FTE that would have been given under the funding formula, and instead have two splits and 4 class overages. 


Anonymous said...

Might be just my computer, but your chart doesn't display properly - spread out across whole screen and unreadable


Anonymous said...

Mine too.


Anonymous said...

One peek at the budget (page 53) shows opportunities for budget cuts. Over the last three years 9 "other" administrators have been added downtown.

2013-14, 2014-15, 2015-16

Superintendent 1.0, 1.0, 1.0

Dept/Asst Superintendent 1.0, 1.5, 2.5

Other District Administrator 33,1, 34.0, 42.0

North by NW

kellie said...

Eek. That was a lot of typos in my comment. Typing complex thoughts on a small box is clearly not my strength.

I think the heart of the problem is a profound mis-understanding of the intention behind the Weighted STAFFING formula.

The Weighted STAFFING plan, as opposed to the Weighted STUDENT plan, was designed near the end of the choice system. Under the choice plan there were a handful of schools who routinely experienced this October shuffle and had staff pulled. These schools successfully argued that they were unable to provide any stability for families and grow without a guaranteed minimum staffing plan.

Hence the Weighted STAFFING formula was born. This system was created with the clear intention that Weighted Staffing would be a FLOOR and that the Weighted Staffing was set to such a minimum that there would be AMPLE funds remaining to be added back to schools for a wide variety of reasons.

However, that was four superintendents, multiple state budget cuts and two rounds of school closures ago. Fast forward to today and this round of October staffing cuts and it is clear that the Weighted Staffing plan is now being treated as CEILING. Here is an example.

* With growing enrollment, an impending move and the largest number of portables in the system (and the corresponding complexity that creates) Schmitz Park should be entitled to EXTRA STAFF, if the WSS was a FLOOR.

* However, the proposed cut puts Schmitz Park at MINUS ONE FTE, relative to the funding formula.

So what is so distressing about this ... This plan send a clear message that protecting the classrooms with a MINIMUM of staffing is simply not a priority.

If these cuts are about, less than expected enrollment, Schmitz Park should not even be on the list as they have one student MORE than projected.

Watching said...

Banda changed the weighting of the WSS. The intention was to provide additional support for ELL and sp. ed., but there were issues with the formula. Some schools had too much staff, and other schools lost too much staff. Don't know what is going on with the formula, now.

There is a document on this blog that describes staffing ratios. I"ve noted that PASS recommends staffing high poverty K classes with a ratio 1:22, and 1:26 for other K classes. I've noted that the district has pushed K classes up to 1:28-30.

Where is PASS? It is time for them to get involved.

Anonymous said...

The way we fund is absolutely baffling to me. I get that projections are just that and that if the projection is too high and the school hires to the projected numbers, they will need to reduce. But it's baffling to me that it 1) happens so often, 2) the WSS seems so shady, 3) the principals (?) continue to hire up to projected levels even though this keeps happening and 4) that there's such a focus on maximizing # kids per class at the expense of the turmoil for the kids. But mostly, it appears we're in this position because we fund by school and not by grade. Why do kids "count" as different amounts in terms of funding? Why do kids on IEPs and ELL count as anything, additional? Their classes should be funded based on need. A need for the class = a need for a teacher and as many IAs are needed based on the number of kids in the class. It's nonsensical to count a kid as 1.5 or whatever, if it means that if a program isn't full the school doesn't have the money to fund the teacher/ratios the program needs. You need to fund as many gen ed teachers as are needed based on the number of kids per grade. I'm not entirely opposed to split classes, but it would seem reasonable that there should be some level of balance between the grades split and that that class size should be smaller.

This ridiculousness makes me more and more glad we've gone private for elementary and even more concerned because we had wanted to go to public school for middle/high.

North Seattle

Anonymous said...

The chart doesn't work on my computer, but overall what this debacle shows it that the people downtown do not know how to staff for education. It is so appalling, I do think that some heads should roll.

I would also comment that I don't think that whoever is downtown knows how to staff OR budget for education . The primary mission of the school district is education. The money should match the mission.

I just want to say that I am so appreciative of this blog and all the work that everyone (Melissa, parents, teachers) is doing in helping to highlight this craziness. Thanks so much!
A Teacher

Meg said...

Central Administrative spending appears to have grown well above any other increases. Since the 2013-14 school year, the central administration budget has increased from $31.9M (actual spending that year was $35.2M) to $43.6M, an increase of $11.7M.

That's a lot of money - and a 36% increase in spending, well ahead of percentage growth in spending on teaching, or in enrollment increases. It's enough to put another teacher in every single school in the district.

Central administration budget growth seems to closely correspond transformation of the WSS from a tool to make sure schools got the basics into a ceiling that ensures schools will get NO MORE than the WSS (unless they pay for it).

Is the basic problem still a lack of funding for the public schools? YES.

But resources will never be unlimited. It's really hard to watch spending on student learning consistently be a lower priority than, say, a district administrator wanting another million to blow on another consultant.

Should anyone want to take a gander, I used data from OSPI (F-195 forms) and the district (adopted budgets).

Anonymous said...

Meg wrote:

"That's a lot of money - and a 36% increase in spending, well ahead of percentage growth in spending on teaching, or in enrollment increases. It's enough to put another teacher in every single school in the district."

The School Board supervises the Superintendent and determines "Policy" and "supposedly enforces policy". Is the Board "aware" and "supportive" of this increase in administrative spending?

-- Dan Dempsey

GarfieldMom said...

Oh, the irony. From the Strategic Plan:

Core Beliefs: We believe that the district-wide commitment to these core beliefs is vital at all levels of the organization and will enable students to succeed and become responsible citizens.

Our Students Come First

We believe it is essential to place the interests of students above all others in every decision we make.
We believe that the core work of the district is supporting student learning.
We believe it is our responsibility to do whatever it takes to ensure that every child, regardless of race, gender, socioeconomic status, language proficiency, learning style or disability, achieves to their highest level.

Were I a board member, I'd pose the specific question to staff: How do these staffing decisions place the interests of students above all others? And I would not accept any answer that contained jargon or buzz words of any sort. Plain English only.

Anonymous said...

Well, as the old saying goes "money talks, bleep walks" - time to put your money where your "strategic plan" mouth is SPS Admin - an $11 million increase in admin - wowza.

I know. I'm dreaming. But something has to change. Is a failed levy the only option?


Anonymous said...

Just to add a note -- when the district does pay us, the teachers, for overage, the extra pay doesn't help us meet the needs of the students at all.

Anonymous said...

Can't we get an initiative passed that puts a cap on district admin budgets to equal no more than a certain percentage of the total district budget? Anything over would result in immediate consequence of some sort that impacts the admin only?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Ottabe, the Board could pass a policy if they wanted on cuts, percent of adm for total district budget (and the adm would have to be more transparent on the TOTAL amount).

It will probably take some hard difficult steps to create change. Ideas to come.

Fund Teachers said...

Hint: Charles Wright has an enormous budget. Look towards Michael Tolley's budget, too,

Anonymous said...

Can teachers refuse the overage pay and take only the contracted number of students as a max? Is this money paid to lend a blind eye? Bribery to not stand up for kids? That's what it looks like.
West Parent

Anonymous said...

My understanding is that teachers don't have a choice. They have to take the extra kids. Overage payment is just a way to mitigate having more kids in the class. In reality, it really doesn't mitigate anything. Usually teachers don't get the pay. Usually the money is used to add a part-time aide, at least in the younger grades. The reality is that teachers rarely get overage pay or aides because theoretically the school could choose to do a split and not have over in a class.
A Teacher

Anonymous said...

The foxes are in charge of the hen house.

If the Strategic Plan with absolute clarity says the Students are our first priority


The money is running short, because they, the District overspent,


In order to balance the budget, they have to make cuts,


do they first look to the schools to squeeze out those cuts?

Shouldn't that be the very last resort? Isn't there another place they can cut?


Yes, there is: JSCEE.

They could cut themselves.

Oh, but wait?

Why would they? What is their incentive? Who holds their feet to the fire? (hint: you!)

What is their incentive to do right by the kids?



There is a budget shortfall

And their first response is to look over a list of schools and chop teachers without regard to education. Not cool. Plus, it overlooks the obvious...

In contrast, our first response to a budget shortfall? Our solution? To hunt around JSCEE and cut Super's cabinet down to size! Bye-bye, chief of schools, so long, deputy Super, project manager, head of continuous improvement, roll-back the Tolley and Herndon super-sized title upgrades and salary raises... Cut this stuff and the kids won't notice. Oh, and axe the Amplify tests too. That should save millions.

But, they won't do that. Ever hear of a high level manager downsizing him/herself out of a job? Yeah, didn't think so. Too many generals, not enough soldiers. (Too many $100K+ suits in JSCEE, not enough teachers in schools).

When the decider, Guillermo "Bill" Echeverria at is hunting for FTE on his carefully crafted spreadsheet for people to axe to save a few bucks, do you think he ever looks in the mirror?

How do we fix this? Foxes snacking on hens?

There really is only one way to yank the leash and get their attention, and tell them we are not kidding. Just one. Nothing else works, nothing else matters. Not a 2 minute testimonial in front of the Board. Not a petition. Not voting out unsympathetic board directors. Not going on strike. Only one thing might stop this freight train barreling down the road of "I got mine, now you get yours". Vote NO. Then, and only then, will the pressure mount to do something to appease the voters.

Only with a NO vote will the discontent of the public peak sufficiently to burst this suit-fiesta bubble at JSCEE. Then and only then will they get the point: if somebody's got to go because we can't afford to feed both the JSCEE and the schools, then, that somebody who has to be axed is from JSCEE, not from the schools.

The arrogance of Dr. Nyland to even dare mention the strike for the/a reason his newbee's projections are off is so extreme, so offensive, so nonsensical, so untrue, that he just flipped this ed-loving liberal democrat's perpetual yes vote to a natta.

Seattle kids deserve better.

Vote NO

(You've got to be cruel to be kind)

Anonymous said...

"Not voting out unsympathetic board directors" I think there are at least a couple of board candidates that have said they are going after the excessive central administrative cost at JSCEE. I don't think we have that in decades. I say turn them lose!

Ed voter

Anonymous said...

@Ed Voter,

But don't you think even a board full of Sue Peters (which would be this voter's dream!) would still get a 'talk to the hand' from Dr. Nyland? I do. Even 7 Sues could NOT get this Super and his Board to do the right thing.

He is a lame duck super, and as long as the voters supply the cash, its all good. He does not care if the cash comes with a stern warning. All he cares about is the cash. That gives him the fuel to feed the machine.

However, if voters get uppity and put the brakes on, and vote NO, that is when the sh*t just got real. Then and only then would this voter expect to see not just some traction for the concept that kids are the priority, but, actual, albeit, resistant, action to shift priorities to the actual kids in the actual classrooms. A NO is what it takes. It is the only tool we have. Use the levies as a referendum on 'how is this district doing'. Can't imagine anyone really giving them a smiley thumbs up! Not SpEd, not ELL, not general ed, not HCC, not spectrum, no the SE, not the north, no Queen Anne... can't really think of a single fan.

What it will take to curb this group at the top and get them to really, really get that "its the kids, stupid" is pretty clear.

So very sad that it has come to this. And please, don't talk McCleary. There is nothing Dr. Nyland would like better than to blame a bunch of others and point the finger anywhere but himself! That talk gives him a dodge, and that is exactly what he is looking for! He clearly is not motivated to fix the problem: he is perpetuating the problem! Of course he will say Olympia is the problem, which it certainly is, but, that misses his role and responsibility as the leader here with a budget to serve kids. He is serving a lot of interests, but, kids in K-12? Not so much. They are jostling for attention and crumbs. Okay, a bit hyperbolic, but, it is galling to see teacher pulls and cavalier "just let them eat cake / just give them several overloaded classes and a couple of splits" attitudes that are prevailing. They don't get it.

My expectation is that he, or anyone in that Super position, is a manager with finite resources who must deploy those resources according to priorities, the priorities being the kids. Kids need teachers. Plain and simple. Desperate times call for desperate measures. Cut Mr. Echeverria. Cut Mr. Wright. Cut Amplify. Cut cabinet salaries across the board by 15%. Show us they are serious educators serious about educating Seattle's children. When they do that, I vote yes.

Vote NO.

Anonymous said...

In regard to =>
going after the excessive central administrative cost at JSCEE

As Ed voter points out:

When in the recent past have Board directors seen the job as Directing?

This election there are some candidates running "to direct the district" rather than just be directors. --- Turn them lose.

It is time to end the era of unquestioning nearly consensus support of central administration by those occupying the position of "school board director".

-- Dan Dempsey

Anonymous said...

On the sidelines of the kids soccer game today I was surprised by the popular topic of conversation. I was expecting talk of the Seahawks loss. Instead, it was about teacher cuts at so many neighborhood schools. Parents were discussing escape options - going private or moving. They were dismally tired of overcrowded schools, continual crisis, emergency parent fundraising. No mention of the strike. Only mention of the fatigue of all of the seemingly random, never ending monkey wrenches thrown at schools by SPS.


Anonymous said...

I am 100% in agreement with you. For the first time in many many years, I am likely going to vote NO on all upcoming levies. I no longer think McCleary will even have an impact on my kids who are still in middle school and I've heard those conversations as well, StepJ. The Board does not have the appetite or the will to do their job, with 1-2 exceptions and like many parents, I'm getting tired. Here's the issue though that I see. As parents, we see the impact of poor decisions from JSCEE every day while continuing to put bandaids/ funds to every problem thrown at us. But, the rest of the city, the non parents, will vote "for the kids" without understanding the issues with SPS. They need a crash course on this topic sufficiently to understand why a NO vote could actually force better outcomes. It's tricky. But I do think this is the only card parents have to play right now.
-SPS Tired

Eric B said...

The difference 7 Sue Peters on the School Board is what happens after Nyland gives them the "talk to the hand" routine. At that point, a properly functioning Board (IMHO) would schedule a special executive session on employee performance, invite Nyland in, and tell him that they are his boss and he will respond to their requests and direction, or they will fire him for cause, citing procedures he is violating. I'm sure Charlie could give me a list.

The bottom line is that Boards provide oversight, and cannot do that if they do not get answers from staff.

Anonymous said...

My vote on a staff cut would be the administrators who just sidelined the nearly new Math in Focus elementary textbooks with Scope and Sequence. Teachers are confused, students get short changed in math and the directors got hoodwinked. I believe this goes right up the food chain to Michael Tolley.

S parent

JulietteF said...

to VoteNo and SPS tired:
Voting no on levies etc. won't stop the current bad practices. You gotta shake up things in a more lasting way.

So; I respectfully disagree: there's more than one way to choke the fox.

Student (parent) boycotts. & Temporary withdrawing/walkouts. Switch to Homeschool status (or if your kid is 7 or under, you don't even need to do that) for a week to avoid truancy BS.
No students = no funding. Gets everyone's attention; parents mad about yet another staffing change, teacher union, board, and central will have a hard time justifying more pay raises and more 'Other Admins' if 5000-20,000 kids suddenly march off the enrollment roster in anger...

It got their attention real fast in '66.