Tuesday, January 19, 2016

Where Did FACMAC Go? Reading the Operations Ctm Agenda

The minutes from the last Operations Committee meeting shed some light (if somewhat dimly.)

From the December 17, 2015 minutes:
Resurrecting FACMAC was discussed. Dr. Herndon explained that the FACMAC was a superintendent advisory committee working on the operational side which is different than the BEX Oversight Committee, is a professional advisory board appointed by the Board of Directors. The committee expressed concerns that the former FACMAC had been primarily run by two people and did not represent the school district equally. Dr. Herndon will be discussing the committee with the superintendent in the next few months when current workloads have lessened.
1) Which "committee" expressed these concerns - BEX Oversight or FACMAC? 

2) Who were the two people?  (I have my own thoughts but I don't really know.)

3) Finally, it would be GREAT to see FACMAC back but that "discussing in next few months after workload lessens" doesn't exactly seem to have any urgency given the capacity issues in our district.

I'll say it out loud - I think the number of smart, questioning people on FACMAC scared some staff but boy, they asked some very good questions.  Director Harris is a big supporter of this committee so I think she will take some interest in what happens.

More from the Operations Committee meeting Thursday (1/21) from 4:30-6:30 pm.   

Wilson-Pacific appears to be getting "retaining walls for elementary school future portables" for about $250K plus "infrastructure for future portables at middle school and elementary school for $225K.  Nothing like planning to be over-capacity from the get-go.

Also, on page 62, there's the:

Now, to note, the agenda does not say this is what is being presented - it says "Update on Sexual Harassment and Title IX work.  Maybe whoever created the agenda didn't know it was a fairly important document but you'd think that it would be important to make that clear to anyone who would be attending the meeting.
These are Ms. Schmidt's recommendations and then the district's response( partial.)

From the report:
- student climate survey for middle and high school that students will be asked about sexual harassment and sexual assault.  
District: we don't have the "infrastructure" for this but:
However, the REA Department will explore the possibility of creating a more detailed follow-up Title IX survey that could be given to schools identified as negative outliers based on District’s student climate survey results.
I'm sure schools will like being called "negative outliers."

- Create new strategies for administering climate surveys to encourage greater participation, such as online completion, incentives for completion, and time for in-class completion. SHSA suggests contacting student government officers, school leadership teams, etc., from specific schools to ensure the options explored are youth-informed. Set participation goals to improve students’ response. 
We will ask school principals via Principal Communicator to develop a plan for student engagement with the School Climate Survey. District will explore options for a survey format and environment that ensures students feel as safe and comfortable as possible when taking a detailed follow-up survey on this topic. 
- There was a survey of "health teachers, counselors, principals/vice principals, and appropriate support staff in April 2015. Responses were received from 230 staff members and teachers." 

Make the results of these surveys publicly available through the Title IX web page on SPS website in languages other than English. Revise and re-administer the survey to gather follow-up information for at least the next 2-3 years while infrastructure and training are being implemented. 
District: Accepted and in progress
- Develop proactive public campaign led by the Superintendent explaining the District’s emphasis on Title IX compliance and highlighting how SPS is building a District-wide climate of prevention of incidents and supportive responses to incidents of sexual harassment and sexual assault. 
District: Accepted and in progress

- Distribute age appropriate printed materials to families/caregivers and students. (This rec has multiple suggestions as to how this could be done.)
Materials are in progress and will be printed in January and February 2016. SCRO, Health Education, and Communications will come up with roll-out campaign with School and Family Partnerships (SFP) and Family Engagement Action Teams (FEAT), School and Community Partnership (SCP), and Principals, and is considering parent forums with Seattle General Council PTSA. (This response also has other actions as well including a free webinar on March 23rd.)

- Website information
District: Completed, with link
There are several other recs, most of them the district has accepted and says completed.
Here are a couple of interesting ones not totally embraced by the district:

- Reinstate health classes as a required core semester-long class in middle schools. Early adolescence is the ideal age for students to receive prevention education, particularly with regard to drug and alcohol education, sexual health, and sexual assault prevention. 
District: rejected this for cost but will consider it for 2016-2017 budget

- Current SPS health education is unacceptably insufficient. It generally consists of two weeks in 5th grade, some lessons in middle school, and the option of one semester in 9th grade, but is inconsistently administered. The District and School Board should expand health education, social and emotional skill-building, and violence prevention equitably into all grades. 
District: requires Board Approval as this is curriculum.
Page 81 has the Interim Report (which I don't believe I saw when it came out in May of 2015.)  It covers Dec. 1, 2014 to May 31, 2015.  Interestingly, more elementary students report being sexually harassed/assaulted than high school students.
73% of alleged victims were female, 55% were Sped students, 64% were children of color, 9% had a disability.
Aggressors: 90% of the alleged aggressors were male, 27% were Sped students, 72% were students of color; the majority of the cases were peers.


Meg said...

I was on FACMAC.

Maybe it's a complete coincidence, but FACMAC meetings ended when the majority of FACMAC said that they disagreed with the capacity/facility plan that Dr. Herndon advocated. I felt it was a plan that didn't just reduce the flexibility of the system as a whole - it made the system more brittle and difficult to manage. After the FACMAC chairs sent then-superintendent Banda what amounted to our "we disagree" memo, FACMAC never met again.

As to FACMAC not representing the city? That might be fair, but I mostly heard people advocating for what was best for the system, and the majority of students in it, not their own kid or own neighborhood. The north end has the most intense capacity problems and got a ton more focus (yes, W. Seattle has capacity issues, but had more inventory available to bring in, too).

The chairs running it? Meh. You could argue that of almost any committee/group.

Anonymous said...

FACMAC was a NE popularity contest with one of the two chairs particularly my-social-and-geographic neighbors first in tone and output. Sorry, it might have had diligent members but the totality of NE-PTAers overwhelming other voices means the group is right where it needs to be: retired. Open secret that staff saw the same issue and acted on it.

Committee veteran

Anonymous said...

How many special education families were on FACMAC? I was told none. Wouldn't a nice sped parent please sign up to bless our planning???? - which virtually ignored special ed at every turn.


mirmac1 said...

That is correct Speddie. And once the board gains more control of program placement, have a FACMAC that balances equitable access, and capacity with other issues.

Benjamin Leis said...

from the outside, the committee ended up seeming very political. That doomed its influence
just as much as whether the staff really wanted it to come up with independent conclusions.
Personally, if reconstituted someone should be asking what they really want out of the effort. So much of the solution requires the district to spend lots of money. Do we need a committee to build consensus on hard interim choices? Or to build support for large levies? Or to advise on better ways to plan for capacity upgrades?

One thing I hope we don't do again, is mistake the committee for either a representative body with any kind of power or set it add odds with the staff. An advisory committee is only useful if it remains persuasive to the actual decision makers.

Patrick said...

However if Staff only want advise that they wanted to hear, there's not much point in having the committee at all.

Anonymous said...

How many high schools have health classes in 9th grade? Hale has them as one of the core classes for 9th grade. I can't remember if it amounts to a semester or year of health. The 9th graders take it for 2 quarters but they are block classes.

It was one of my kid's favorite classes. I felt it was well worth the time.


Eric B said...

I was also on FACMAC. I'm with Meg that I think it was disbanded because the committee became a pain in the District's butt by publicly challenging the facilities plans. For much of the time up until the committee challenged the District, I felt that the committee was often window dressing--we would show up to be recognized at capacity management public meetings, but what was presented wasn't necessarily our idea or even one we thought was good. Later in the process, getting information was very challenging. There were two co-chairs who ran the committee. I think that's pretty much normal that the chairs run the committees. I didn't necessarily like all of the decisions they made, but I don't like all of the decisions my boss makes, either. That's life on the org chart.

The NE and West Seattle was overrepresented, but that's where capacity problems were and where people were motivated to volunteer to spend three hours a month in meetings to try to shift the District's course a few degrees. I do think that we tried as best we could to get input from other places in the city and programs that were not otherwise represented in the program. Several committee members spoke out passionately about SpEd students getting repeatedly screwed by capacity decisions and how that wasn't fair to those students or programs.

There is no point in reconstituting FACMAC without a clear charge and mission as well as support from the superintendent on down the org chart. IMHO it also needs a clear statement about what meetings are public and how information is distributed. I think FACMAC would have been more effective if we had had some public meetings.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks to all the input from former FACMAC members.

Anonymous said...

We were being impacted by FACMAC recommendations and we were not able to get meeting notes to understand how they arrived at the decisions let alone who was present at the meetings. This meant ultimately we had to fight against that committee which was a pity because there is strength in multiple groups of parents coming together. This state of affairs was not solely the district's fault. There were many dedicated smart committee members but it seemed true to our group also that at least one of the chairs operated on what we all accuse the district of doing - withholding information instead of freely sharing it. Yes with an end in mine that benefited that 'leader.' It was maddening and devolved into a middle school clique vibe between those on the committee and those outside looking in. Yes this happened in the northeast and yes I think all of us including myself have a lot of reason to think deeply about how to be truly civic-minded and not just 'I'm going to make sure mine get what we deserve' mentality when signing up for these committees. To what Eric above said these meetings also need to be open public meetings. I also don't think the district should ever again operate a geographically based committee if it cannot get representation from all areas of the city. It takes work to sign volunteers up but I don't believe for a second that with some handholding by staff for recruitment we couldn't have had more representation from the south central and south ends of the city. A lot of lessons learned. I also note that most district set up citizen committees of recent years appear to have been pointless. I can't in fact think of a single one made up of majority parents that have come up with tangible recommendations adopted by the district. That says something about what staff wants and the term rubber stamp comes to mind.

One mom

Jet City mom said...

My daughter had health for at least a semester at Garfield.
It was a very important class as it helped students not just learn about physical health, like nutrition and exercise, but emotional and mental health like stress and depression. It was one of her favorite classes as the teacher was warm and funny and it helped her make the transition from a smallish alternative school to much larger comprehensive one.
At Summit she had health as a 7th / 8th grader.( 6th grade at Summit was in elementary school, middle school had looping with a core English/History teacher. They read books in LA that had to do with health issues, and they also had a drug/ alcohol counselor ( one of the benefits of being k-12), who did presentations and led support groups.

The state does have learning standards for health from k-12. Admitting that Seattle public schools have inadequate and uneven instruction for health curriculum, despite guidelines, seems like people in charge should be demoted, as should the folks in charge of them.

How can they argue that it is too expensive to teach health, when they are spending $6 million on new furniture for the district?

kellie said...

I was also on FACMAC and I agree with Meg and Eric.

I would only add that when FACMAC was started, there was great balance. There were TWO sped representatives as well as two representatives from all seven board districts.

FACMAC was created in the wake of the closures-that-never-needed-to-happen. The newly elected board was very aware that multiple community members were correct with regard to the closures and that the prior board had truly rubber stamped closures-that-never-needed-to-happen. As such, FACMAC was created as a place for this community voice to be heard.

The "problem" with FACMAC was that it was created under Superintendent Enfield. I truly applaud her willingness to include a committee like this but as a Superintendent committee, members could ONLY be added or removed by the Superintendent.

As the years dragged on, many people simply had other priorities. Superintendent Banda REFUSED to replace members, who no longer participated, despite being begged to do so on many occasions. The end result was that only a handful of people kept swinging at the fences to try to rationalize the conversation about capacity management.

The two chairs did truly stellar work continuing to try to daylight issues that nobody wanted to discuss.

It is truly easy to hate FACMAC. But as long as FACMAC existed, there was a REQUIREMENT for some conversation. As imperfect as FACMAC was, there was a PUBLIC DIALOGUE during its existence. Since then, all facilities decisions have been made in the shadows.

One small example, after FACMAC disappeared, all the enrollment information disappeared from the website.

Lynn said...

My kid is taking health as a senior. If a student wants to take both a language and a music or theater class every semester, it's difficult to fit it in. The first opportunity is sophomore year - but only if they take regular history instead of AP World and the other is senior year during the semester they're not taking US Government. We know kids taking it online during the senior year too.

kellie said...

As to the closures-that-never-needed-to-happen. There is a good reason why it is so important to have multiple eyeballs looking at enrollment and capacity data, whether it is FACMAC or something else.

Much of the issues surrounding the closures, was blamed on the change in enrollment patterns.

However, everything about the closures was driven by weak and incomplete data. Here is the document that explained the capacity calculations, upon which, all three rounds of closures were based.

This analysis stated that, SPS has capacity for approximately, 53,000 students and that capacity was based on

* 25% of all space being set aside,
* ample space for sped,
* three vacant interim buildings
* very modest class size.
* AND the removal of ALL portable classrooms.

Fast forward today, where we have 53,000 students enrolled but to meet this enrollment. SPS has

* converted the majority of PCP space.
* challenges with space for sped accommodations
* All interim buildings in active use with full schools, and no true interim building remaining.
* burgeoning class size at every grade level
AND the ADDITION of more than 200 portable classrooms.

If the capacity calculations had been presented in a clear and transparent manner, it would have quickly become apparent that the capacity number of 53,000 was completely incorrect.

The scope and scale of that miscalculation is so profound. It cost the district many years and hundreds of millions of dollars. Due to the persistent staff turn-over, it is unlikely that most of the current staff, are aware of this history. Transparent data is in everyone’s best interest.

It is so ironic that Charles Wright can complain about the lack of "white space" to think. I agree with that statement completely. But the reason there is no space to think is because so much time and energy gets lost is boondoggle initiatives rather that solid operations work.

FACMAC was beyond imperfect but in the absence of any independent eyeballs, there are merely more big capacity management surprises to come. The high school problem will eclipse everything else to date.

Anonymous said...

Kellie - thank you for your insightful and concise detailing of the issues. I so wish someone from SPS admin (or maybe a new Board member or 2) would sit down with you and Meg and get the history lesson that is missing from today's capacity decision-making process.


Anonymous said...

Anyone notice how many times Nyland has willing - without a glaring spotlight of media pressure - bothered to ask the public for their opinion about anything let alone form a citizen advisory committee? Far as I can tell that number is a fat ZERO. Look around folks. There is less opportunity for public input than in the bad old days of Goodloe-Johnson. Like the lobster in the slowly warming pot, nobody seems to have noticed that all committee opportunities have melted away.


NW Mom said...

My kid took band for all four years of HS and several AP classes so she ended up taking health online through BYU - that was what several of her friends did as well. I would assume there are other places to take it but it was recommended to her and she waited until the last minute (despite several reminders over the years from myself) so that's what she ended up doing, spring quarter of senior year. There was a bit of yelling and giggling at the laptop when the topic of sexual health (only after you're married) came up, which actually led to some good discussions between us.

Jet City mom said...

I hope that the district makes it clear during hiring and during continued training that adults working with children are mandated reporters.
In the past, they have been encouraged to keep it in house, i am not a DSHS fan, but I also do not think our district has the skills to investigate and should make reports to police or DSHS.


Eric B said...

One mom, I completely agree with you about transparency. One of the challenges was that the District was gun-shy about releasing partial or incomplete information for fear that they would get beaten up over changes when the full data came in. I think there were valuable discussions that could only have happened in closed session. That said, I think it would also be reasonable to have a percentage of open meetings (say half or a third) where final data is presented and decisions are voted on and discussed. The remainder would be closed meetings where wild hares and crazy ideas could be discussed and either put up for more analysis or beaten down for being unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Jet City Mom,

I recall those cases quite well and the recent incident at Sealth before break is a good example of a failure by the district to do anything to secure safety. Go to the West Seattle Blog to read the comprehensive breakdown of that incident and another one just recently.

So we have Ballard High on 3 hour lockdown and another with an actual gun implement found and 3 hours later well they confirmed it.

SPS has put the boys back in Madison Middle School following the sexting video incident in October. Why is that?

There are many many more incidents of which the public is unaware and well ironically the staff. Security is a just another word for .... well you can figure it out.

= Citizen Activist

Charlie Mas said...

They can put together this report, which no one ever asked for, but they can't put together the report required by Board policy 3208.

kellie said...

@ one mom,

Thank you for your comment. I think your comment very succinctly summed up precisely why FACMAC does not exist.

There are many communities out there who believe they were impacted by FACMAC recommendations. This both looks-and-feels-true but it is not accurate. The primary thing that FACMAC did was to continually beat a drum that said we need to get ahead of X, Y and Z capacity crisis, because the looming capacity issues will impact every-single-student in one way or another.

All of that noise regarding getting-ahead of the capacity crisis before the crisis hit, fell on deaf ears and the official response was the there-are-no-problems and that projections show that there is plenty of space and we don't need to make any changes. Trust us, we have it handled and FACMAC is over-reacting.

Example, for over a year, FACMAC kept saying that middle school capacity in North Seattle would reach a crisis point and that it would be much better for EVERYONE to get in front of that crisis point and begin community conversations, in advance so that nobody is blindsided. Our logic was simple. If every single elementary school was full and growing, eventually those students would wind up in middle school. Sounds pretty simple, right?

The official answer - projections show that there is plenty of space and no changes need to be made. Fast forward one year and ... boom. There is no room at the inn and FACMAC takes the heat for "recommending" that every child gets a guaranteed assignment seat. Crazy-making. These students were in the system for years ... but yet when they reached middle school, it was a surprise. West Seattle, pay attention, this will happen in West Seattle, next.

FACMAC did the same thing with high school. We kept pressing that BEX was not enough and that high school capacity needed to be discussed in the community BEFORE it reached a crisis point. The response. No more FACMAC meetings.

kellie said...

The irony is that FACMAC were correct at every juncture. The last FACMAC report made it clear that the design of the Wilson Pacific Campus was fundamentally flawed and that portables would be required immediately. The official response as many of you know .... Projections show that there will be so much EXCESS CAPACITY when Wilson Pacific comes on line that we can squeeze in a THIRD school and Whitman will be empty.

FACMAC can not be held accountable that the district has buried their heads in the sand for over a decade regarding capacity management. FACMAC stood for expanding the conversation into the community. FACMAC failed not because of the participants but because the district simply did not want to have that conversation.

So here is the contrast point to consider. It has been TWO YEARS since FACMAC last met. In that time, there have been a wide variety of capacity management decisions that have just been slipped into the mix without a lot of push-back or transparency. That is what happens where there is NO citizen oversight.

FACMAC also pressed that there was not enough geographically appropriate elementary space being provided by BEX and urged a community conversation about before-and-after-care before it was too late. Fast forward ... you now have this surprise recommendation to remove on-site before and after care at certain locations. It is easy to guess which schools will be impacted but without FACMAC, there is no list and there is no conversation.

I have said this a million times. Capacity impacts every single student in the district either directly or indirectly. Boundary changes have cascade effects. Program changes have cascade effects.

I think capacity management is the single most important conversation that this district could and should be having. This is because CAPACITY is the FOUNDATION of every education initiative. Want to improve Sped, you need capacity. Want to improve class size, you need capacity. Want to have Core 24 at high school, you need capacity.

Want to have "white space" for staff to think, you need capacity.

The only thing that solves a capacity problem is more capacity. The current issue with portables at Wilson Pacific and the removal of before and after care demonstrates this. Those are drastic ways to add capacity. If there had been any community dialogue, we might not have gotten to the place of draconian measures but here we are.