Monday, February 22, 2016

Looking at the Upcoming Work Session on Wednesday

It's quite the mash-up of topics for this week's Board Work Session on Wednesday the 24th from 4:30 pm to 7:30 pm:
  • Early Learning/Seattle Preschool Program 4:30 pm- 6 pm
  • SMART Goal #4 - Early Hiring 6 pm - 6:45 pm
  • SMART Goal #6 - Customer Service 6:45 - 7:30 pm
Each of the presentations is quite different.

Early Learning starts on page 3 of the agenda. 

Staff claims that there are 60 students in the three SPS-located City Pre-K.  But they also claim that there is space available at all three locations.  Which naturally begs the question - what is the stated class size limit for these classrooms? (Answer: 20 students per class so I'm unclear how there is still space available.  (The graph shows 20 students in each location.)

 They also don't say that it has taken months for the two City-enrolled SPS classrooms - Original Van Asselt and Van Asselt - to get to this level.  

Then, there are pages of "data" that I'm not sure adds much to the whole idea about whether SPS should expand this program. 

They also claim that there is an "opportunity" to expand the City Pre-Ks to 3-4 additional locations (and it appears that would be the number of classrooms.)  And guess what?  "There is space available."  And, the sites have been "vetted with capacity management."

I know you are on the edge of your seat; where - in overcrowded SPS - is this room? Alas, the creators of this presentation are not telling us.  You'll just have to wait for the Work Session. 

As well, apparently there is grant funding available to backfill the 25% of the City's grant money that is held back until SPS meets certain rubrics.   (Right now, the district is on track to meet the guidelines for all the money.)  They did not say where the grant money comes from.

Here's the thing - why, as several Board members have asked - does the City withhold 25% of the grant money from the district if SPS is a partner?  The district is giving the City free space to begin with for the City's own program. 

Lastly, the presentation says "staff" (but doesn't say if SPS or City or both) want to "gain clarity around expansion."  Well, at the last Executive Committee meeting I thought it was pretty clear. 

Board members don't want to expand if classrooms aren't full.  Not having just those three classrooms full until many months into the year is not what Board members want to see. 

As well, it is NOT SPS' obligation to help expand the City's program.  It is in the Strategic Plan to support pre-K and SPS is doing that but the issue is space and the district should NOT give up any space it may need in the very near future.  That's just folly at this point in time.

To note, the Mayor recently was in Lake City to talk about planning in that area of our city.   About kids:
New affordable housing with family-sized apartments and Seattle Preschool Program classrooms at the site of Fire Station 39. A minimum of 20 blocks of new sidewalks to support Safe Routes to School and neighborhood walkability. - See more at:
New affordable housing with family-sized apartments and Seattle Preschool Program classrooms at the site of Fire Station 39. A minimum of 20 blocks of new sidewalks to support Safe Routes to School and neighborhood walkability. - See more at:
  •  New affordable housing with family-sized apartments and Seattle Preschool Program classrooms at the site of Fire Station 39.
  • A minimum of 20 blocks of new sidewalks to support Safe Routes to School and neighborhood walkability.
Previously, some community members had argued against more low-income housing, saying Lake City has its fair share. (This is next to the fire station.)  I agree with a reader who sent me this information - a fire station could be interesting to pre-k kids but could also be noisy.  Maybe the fire house is a placeholder until SPS can be persuaded to give up more room?

The next presentation - SMART Goal #4 - Early Hiring -  is pretty good (it starts on page 19.) It seems clear what they are doing and exactly (to a person) who is doing the work.  This work includes hiring teachers as well as administrators and staff. 

It's interesting to see that the number of principal vacancies has dropped significantly from 2013-2014 to this year while the number of "total admin vacancies" has not.  Wonder if that's not filling old admin vacancy jobs or expansion of admin jobs to be filled?

The last presentation- SMART Goal #6 - Customer Service - is a lot of PR words but not much on specifics (starts on page 38.)  For example, under Customer Service Progress; Customer service norms:

Establish for each department, publicize and embraced.  

First off, I'm not even sure that grammatically correct.  Second, "embraced" by whom? 

Also, another "conversation" is "around sustainability of program."  What? the Customer Service program?  I hope so.

Look at page 44 where there is a baseline count of customer service personnel in different districts in our state and others.  SPS has "5+3=8."  Does that mean three empty places to fill or create or are there eight people currently in the department?

Also to know, "Web Site Refresh project - launch Dec. 2016."


Anonymous said...

They say they want feedback from the Board on whether or not to continue and/or expand participation in the Seattle Preschool Program, yet they don't give much info on which to base that decision. Aside from seeing that they've been able to enroll enough kids and that they seem to fit the desired profile (although the labels on slide 11 are missing), is it going well? What do teachers think? How is the curriculum working? Assuming they assessed these kids at the outset, how did they do--were they low for age, demonstrating need? What do parents think so far?


Lynn said...

On preschool, from looking at the attachments to the agenda for the Feb 4th executive committee meeting (page 14) it appears that the new sites are in the new buildings for Arbor Heights, Schmitz Park and Thornton Creek, and then either Boren STEM or Roxhill. (I think I recall seeing that Roxhill might not have space - so it's probably Boren.)

As for the note on space available in the current locations, it seems to refer to the building (classroom isn't needed for K-5) rather than a seat in the classroom for the current year.

I think the interesting thing about the city preschool program is the enrollment demographics overall. Only 19% of families are paying any tuition. This is a problem for the city as the implementation plan clearly indicated they believe economic integration improves outcomes.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lynn, I neglected to say that yes, that was what was reported to the Ex Ctm. I have to wonder why - if there's room - the presentation doesn't just say it.

Prek said...

The city wants to combine their prek program with Head Start, which is a federal program. In doing so, the city will probably want to control the curriculum. Yet the district must comply with federal laws and Seattle School Board has the legal authority/ responsibility for adopting curriculum.

The board should consider:

- A discussions around Head Start, Curriculum adoption, state and federal laws.

- What legal authority does the City of Seattle have in relation to curriculum adoption with a federal program?

- Does the Seattle School Board have legal responsibilities related to prek and curriculum adoption?

The city's prek program creates additional work and administrative responsibilities:

Exhibit A:

2. The district must maintain personnel and payroll records.

3. Withhold income taxes, social security etc. - creates additional work for the
district's HR and budget department

4. Cover costs of additional audits.

5. Maintain record for 6 years.

Frankly, the city's prek program should be reviewed in Audit and Finance, and the district should be well COMPENSATED for the support they are providing. As is, the district is providing private entities with free space and the city considers the district nothing more than a resource.

Lastly, the city should supply the board with a copy of the city's Comprehensive Evaluation Strategy. The "Comprehensive Evaluation Strategy" involves the city's research project. At one point, I saw a document and there was a sentence about asking children culturally sensitive information. The city should have completed this document in 2015.

Anonymous said...

I can't wait until they ask us about how well their Communications and Public Engagement work is going. It seems worse than ever!


Anonymous said...

How, oh how are we still having these preschool program discussions?

How can Thornton Creek be an acceptable place to put a preschool program (aside from the city wanting it to hopefully pick up so sorely needed paying children) when Bryant, less than a mile away, is losing it's before/after care classroom because they're out of space? Shift the geo zone slightly and they could redistribute kids easily.

How can anyone support this while knowing that kids in the SPS developmental preschool are still receiving a 10 hr a week preschool program (vs 30!) with few to no typically developing peers?

How can the city keep pushing SPS for space when their very own preschool program - the one they've had for YEARS through Parks and Rec - still offers a 2, 3 o 5 day a week 3 hour preschool program at a number of community centers around Seattle. I know Meadowbrook and Green Lake both have programs. Why not change these classes first?

On that matter, why not looks to Parks and Rec for space needs first? I don't know what the interior set up is like or how many community centers are like this, but I stopped by Magnusson Community Center this morning and was shocked to find it isn't even open until 4:30 Mon-Thurs and is closed both days on the weekends. Perhaps Parks and Rec could offer a few classes there. That would even cover a fairly similar population to Thornton Creek.

NE Parent

Charlie Mas said...

Almost nothing about the Seattle pre-school program makes sense. They don't use existing programs, they don't go where they should, they don't coordinate with the federal program or the SPS program, they don't do anything that you would reasonably expect they would do.

So what is their purpose and goal? They are headed towards something other than simply universal pre-school. What is it?

The Board is being asked whether or not to expand the district's involvement with the City's pre-school program, but their is no program evaluation on which to base that decision. Why not? Because there are no program evaluations for any of the district's programs.

Should we expand the insanely expensive language immersion program? Can't say; the program has never been evaluated. Should we expand Montessori? Can't say; the program has never been evaluated. Does Blended Spectrum work as well as self-contained Spectrum? Can't say; the program has never been evaluated. Does APP work better as a stand alone program or as a program within a neighborhood school? Can't say; the program has never been evaluated.

Also, how can supervisors evaluate the performance of the program managers without any evaluation of the quality or efficacy of the programs? What forms the basis for the manager's evaluation?

Charlie Mas said...

Ugh! Why is it that the PowerPoint from the Communications department is the worst of the three? The grammar is faulty and inconsistent, the font size and bullet pointing hops around, the alignments are off, and, of course, its meaning is completely impenetrable.

Anonymous said...

It's incredibly clear from the Communications presentation that they see their job as "spin" rather than customer service.


Outsider said...


To your point about SPS programs never being evaluated: you might conclude that SPS is lazy about evaluating programs. But there is another explanation. Perhaps student outcomes don't actually drive any decisions they make, so evaluation is irrelevant.

They do care about one particular evaluation, the SBAC tests, especially with results sorted demographically. Perhaps that plus some other qualitative political or social engineering concerns will drive all decisions. If nothing else matters, why waste time and money evaluating anything else?

Anonymous said...

Hmmm... I don't get the 5+3=8 part under Communications - well yes, yes that equation does indeed equal 8 but what does it tell the Board?? According to their Dept. Contact page on the website, there are 8 people assigned to Communications so....???? I have to agree that if they can't even clearly "communicate" what they do etc to the Board then what does it say re: other communication channels.

And I so wish SPS would get over this sad obsession with Powerpoint sets - it does nothing to illuminate things, especially from a public info standpoint, because clearly, they'll give the Board the "meat" of this stuff verbally. Strikes me as a passive-agressive CYA move - "see, we gave the public information....just not all of it"



PreK said...

The district wants to use Title 1 dollars to cover the potential loss of performance pay dollars which equals 25%. I do need to ask: Are those dollars being used for other projects and supports? If so, those programs and supports would be put at risk.

Melissa Westbrook said...

PreK, again, what's this magical grant that staff and the city are talking about?