Wednesday, November 18, 2015

The Last Board Meeting

Tonight's Board meeting is the last for this particular make-up of the Board.  They certainly are leaving with major issues that will be decided tonight.

Items of note for tonight's meeting:
- The speaker list is again packed.  I called in at 8:04 am on Monday and am 11th on the waitlist (so, no, I won't be speaking.)  The overwhelming majority of speakers are going to be stating their views on the revised bell times.  There are a couple about the student assignment plan and a couple about the Superintendent's evaluation.  Naturally, people do sign up with a topic but may veer off that topic once they start speaking.

The speakers on the Superintendent's contract will be presenting all the ideas of what the Superintendent's projected $13K+ could be better spent on.  The Seattle Weekly had a good story on this effort, The Thirteen Thousand Dollar Question.

“Dear Dr. Nyland,” reads a letter from a fifth-grader at Louisa Boren STEM K-8 in a wobbly scrawl, “The boys bathroom at our school is broken. It stinks so bad you can smell it all through the building. The smell is so bad I have to hold my breath when I go to the bathroom. Everyone is grossed out! Your $13,000 could be used to repair our plumbing. Please help our school fix this serious problem!!!” 

Thirteen grand not solve any issues? With the district, parents, and teachers still smarting from Seattle’s first teachers’ strike in 30 years and a state school system facing what the state Supreme Court considers unconstitutional underfunding, that felt like a challenge. So (Carolyn) Leith and (Shawna) Murphy, who’d met only the week before but share some strong feelings about Seattle’s schools, put out the call. The letters they collect, they say, will be placed on the table, literally, at Wednesday’s board meeting.  

The way the agenda is structured, the Superintendent's comments are BEFORE public testimony.  Still, it will bear watching to see if Nyland addresses the raise issue at all in his comments.

- The Superintendent's evaluation documents were placed on the agenda Tuesday morning which would make that shorter than the usual 48 hours before the meeting.  Bad form.

Order of Action items

First, there is the collective bargaining agreement with Automotive Machinists Local 289

Next, is the Transportation/Bell Times item.  As I previously mentioned, after the staff changed the third tier down to 13 schools, it has been very quiet out there.  I suspect this vote will be 6-0 but hopefully all the Board will ask staff to continue to work towards two tiers.

To note, the Times has a story on how the vote tonight is of national interest as other districts, like Chicago, have been pondering this move. (One correction: yes, there has been very active work on changing bell times in Seattle over the last four years and now it has come to fruition but there are those of us - it was a group of parents from Hale - who had been talking to the district some 10+ years ago.)

Seattle could “provide a role model for urban school districts to do the right thing in the interest of student health, safety and well-being and to serve as a beacon to inspire other school districts,” said Dr. Judith Owens, who directs the Center for Pediatric Sleep Disorders at Boston Children’s Hospital. 
 
Owens was instrumental in helping the 11th-largest school district in the country, Fairfax County Public Schools in Virginia, get later start times for teens last year.

Third is the approval of the Student Assignment Transition Plan for 2016-2017.  I'm glad that there is recognition that this is just another transition plan and not a mash-up of the SAP and Transition Plan.  Those big adjustments will come when boundary changes around newly-opening buildings are clear as well as any program changes.  I suspect this vote will also be unanimous but I wish someone had an amendment to change the waitlist end date to a date later than May 31st.

Fourth is the approval of the BTA IV Levy Authorizing Resolution.  I don't like that the district had community meetings and THEN rearranged the dollars to have $8M+ for paying off the bonds at JSCEE (and "other capital fund expenditures as may be found necessary by the Board of Directors.") Kind of slushy that last phrase.  And, staff has made zero effort to communicate these changes to the public.  Very bad form.

Also, district watchdog Chris Jackins let me know that the district did not do an "environmental threshold determination for BTA IV."  If that were done, it would include a public notice, opportunity for public comment and an appeal period before action by the Board.  This is not my area of expertise but it does seem odd that they did one for BEX IV but not this one (and this includes reopening of buildings and not just major maintenance.)

The fifth Action item is the approval of the superintendent evaluation and SMART goals.  This is NOT the vote on the Superintendent's contract.

The interesting part to this issue will be the discussion around the SMART goals especially for closing the opportunity gap with students from communities of color.  And will you look at that; there are now THREE amendments.

One is from McLaren that would specifically call out African-American males in that SMART goal; one is from Directors Peaslee and Patu that would call out ALL groups but specify the work starts with AA males and now one comes from Director Carr which is about a different SMART goal, this one around the parent school satisfaction surveys.  (Oddly, this was language that HAD previously been in the document but somehow "was unintentionally dropped."  Oh.)

There is this term "targeted universalism" being used which I believe means to support ALL these groups but in a manner as meets specific needs within each group. 

I find this jockeying for position in service for these students a little unseemly.  Isn't the district going to be working for all these groups - Native Americans, African-Americans, Pacific-Islander and Hispanic? Yes According to data in the Action item, each group tops one measure - like grad rates, math scores, etc - as having the worst outcomes.  I think it's fine to start with African-American males but I don't get why only that group would be called out in the wording of the SMART goal.

This might be one of the longer conversations of the evening and possibly, highly charged.

The sixth Action item is the possible raise/contract extension for the Superintendent.  This might have some spirited conversation as Board members defend this action.  I am fairly certain that none of the outgoing Board members will vote no and I would be surprised if any continuing ones did as well.  I mean, there might Board members who disagree but they are continuing on the Board so it might make their position with the Superintendent somewhat awkward.  But somehow a 7-0 vote seems sad.

The last Action item is approval of Race to the Top dollars for the Seattle Teacher Residency. This is actually a good thing because the last thing the district needs to do is spend more dollars on a program that may fall apart (because of the ending of the partnership with the Alliance for Education.)

I am going to try to live blog but it is hard to do that and take good notes so I'll try to hit the high and low notes.

2 comments:

Anonymous said...

Not sure how quiet the bell times issue will be tonight...a petition has been circulating demanding 2 Tiers for everyone and it's not clear to me whether they are asking the board to vote no on the final recommendation or not.

BT

mirmac1 said...

Here's my personal perspective. Nyland has "rebuilt" trust with conventional parent stakeholder groups (i.e. SCPTSA) He's also seemed particularly responsive to "reform-aligned" groups. Too bad that is but a fraction of the great unwashed: us.