Wednesday, April 20, 2016

Proposed end to staff reductions after the start of school

The Board Audit and Finance Committee agenda for yesterday included a proposed change to Policy 6010, School Funding Model, which, if adopted, will prevent mid-year classroom shuffling and staff reassignment caused by enrollment overestimation.

Director Peters is introducing this motion and she has a lot of stuff to back it up. Including a number of letters of protest to Superintendent Nyland about staff reductions this year. It's good that Director Peters included them because, as we now know, the Superintendent doesn't make it a practice to read letters.

Director Peters shows that the staff reductions make little sense - staff is reduced at schools due to under-enrollment while the school has a wait list for enrollment, the costs of the staff reduction wipes out most of the savings, and the staff reductions are incredibly disruptive to students and their education.

We'll see how it goes.


Anonymous said...

Oh please oh please let this go through. That budgeting practice is incredibly inhumane.


Anonymous said...

Thank you so much Director Peters for putting forward this motion. It is one of the most disruptive practices that happen in schools and can put kids and teachers through a lot of stress that could be avoided!!!
NW Mom

alex said...

In my two years as an SPS parent, this is the most sensible policy change I have yet to see. Or maybe I should day it's the ONLY sensible policy change. I was a teacher in New Orleans and LA Unified, and those districts never did staff reductions after the start of the school year. If they can figure it out, maybe SPS can too?

alex said...

In my two years as an SPS parent, this is the most sensible policy change I have yet to see. Or maybe I should say it's the ONLY sensible policy change. I was a teacher in New Orleans and LA Unified, and those districts never did staff reductions after the start of the school year. If they can figure it out, maybe SPS can too?

pm said...

This is fabulous news! Kudos to Sue Peters for this proposal.

Watching said...

Director Peters works incredibly hard. I am grateful for her service.

Anonymous said...

Of course, we shouldn't need a school board policy to guide something so common sense, but I suppose we need this drawing of fundamental values in an environment of fighting over scraps.

What I don't understand is how this policy makes any difference unless it also prevents the ADDITION of staff after school starts. Adding a teacher late is just as disruptive at any level. At elementary, it requires students to be shuffled around on the fly after a lot of care is put into balancing them in the first place and after kids have gotten used to one set of routines. At middle school, in both sixth and seventh grades, my daughter's schedule was completely upended with new teachers in October when new teachers were added, not taken away. Basically, kids lose September. What's more, in my experience, most of the teachers hired in October have not been effective -- they are given no time in the summer to get ready for the year and they are likely the ones who were passed over for positions earlier.

The policy needs to figure out how to align projections and actual enrollment in a way that good numbers, specific at the grade level at each school, can be determined and then held to and staffed to by June, or early August at the latest. Only major surprises should face October adjustments. Otherwise, the district needs to hold a tough line that eats the cost of staff where it wasn't needed and makes the best of a tight situation if numbers come in higher than expected.

I haven't read the proposed policy but I'm worried it just prevents cuts and therefore will encourage district bean counters simply to underestimate early on to stay in compliance.


suep. said...

Dear all,

Thanks for your comments and support but I can’t take credit for this proposal. It’s the thoughtful work of a group of community members and organizations including Kids Not Cuts and Soup for Teachers, and it was presented to the Audit and Finance Committee on Tuesday by parent Jennifer Ogle, whom I invited to the table to explain it. (My name was attached because I added it to the agenda.) Thank you, Jennifer.

Former Assistant Supt. for Business and Finance Ken Gotsch, current Deputy Supt Stephen Nielsen and I all thought it deserved discussion, and in the greater context of crafting the district budget.

Clearly the issue of staffing adjustments after the school year begins is a problem that concerns many of us. Such changes can be enormously disruptive (and heartbreaking). Seattle is not unique in making such adjustments. But maybe we can be unique in finding a better solution.

How feasible it is to lock in all staffing decisions before school begins and before the official (October) enrollment count is in, is the challenge. As we grapple with this, in the meantime the district has created a $2 million mitigation fund (which I and others requested, and I like to call the 'Student Stability Reserve') -- money set aside to cover some (unfortunately not all) of the potential costs of keeping staff in place after the official October student count (which is what has traditionally triggered the staffing adjustments).

As we delve deeper into formulating the budget for 2016-17, now is the time to bring forth ideas on how the district can do more with what we have, what priorities we as a district and community would like to bring to the top of the list, what we might take off the list, and what trade-offs we would consider.

In fact, I invite Melissa, Charlie and readers to start a thread or send the Board emails on their Dream Budget or People’s Budget (with a nod to Councilmember Sawant, who initiated a similar proposal with the city's budget): What would you like to see added to the school district budget? What would you like to see removed?

Because we are working within the reality of an unfulfilled McCleary mandate and thus limited resources (the state's failure to fulfill its Constitutional duty to amply fund public education), everything we add to our wish list will require an adjustment somewhere else in the budget.

What expenditures or initiatives should stay or be added? What should go? How can we make the most of the resources we have to better serve our students, teachers and schools?

The current Seattle School Board is seriously committed to directing as many resources as possible to the classroom. (As all boards likely are.) My own position is that we need to fund the fundamentals first. My question to you all is: How do we define fundamentals? Counselors? IB programs? Language immersion IAs? New curricular materials? School supplies? More staffing--where? Wraparound services? Ample time for lunch and recess? Fully resourced libraries for all schools? Arts and PE for all students? A computer for every student? Cultural competency training?

Thanks in advance for your thoughts.

Sue Peters
(Chair, Audit & Finance Committee)

Anonymous said...

This proposal was brought to Dir. Peters by a group of parents and was met with resistance from both staff and Dir. Blanford. It was barely discussed. However, now it is in public record and available for reference. I don't know how it could be re-introduced or what the next step would be, but nothing will happen without advocacy.

Alki parent

Linh-Co said...

@ Sue P.

Definitely not a computer for all student. This would be a huge waste of money.

Anonymous said...

@ Sue P. School counselors should be funded for every elementary school and K-8, and preferably one per grade level for secondary schools.

The new WSS funds counselor positions at "high poverty" schools, now defined as over 50% FRL, which leaves many schools with no counselor, and puts the burden of funding this position on PTAs, which is a difficult task, especially for schools with significant FRL populations (but evidently not significant-enough to warrant funding for a counselor).

-North-end Mom

Anonymous said...

I think smaller class sizes first, then as many student facing adults in the building as possible (ie nurses, subject specialists, and counselors, not "test administrators" or "teaching coaches.").

Thank you for whatever part you played in this, Sue. It really is draconian. I understand that we have actual limited dollars to spend, but I would way, way rather have my child one year in an unfortunate surprise 29 kid class all year while another kid at a random other school gets a lovely surprise 21 kid class all year than have us all settle in and then in October rearrange every kid in the grade(and others if this involves splits) in both schools. Emile it right, you lose September that way, and that is certainly more harmful to lose a whole month than the extra 4 or 5 kids being in class all year.


Anonymous said...

@ Sue P.

Eliminate 1st grade HCC. This should help with some of the capacity crunch at these schools.

Eliminate computer-based standardized testing for Kindergartners, First and Second graders and simultaneously eliminate computers in the classroom for those grades (I do realize not every school has computers in the classroom - is this 100% PTA funded? I don't know.). The computers are only used for test prep and playing online games during rainy day recess.

Use this money on art teachers and nurses and school councilors.

-Making Waves

Anonymous said...

Eliminate 1st grade HCC? Are you kidding?! This would make the capacity crisis worse and it would be a disservice to kids who learn in a different way.

It is difficult to readjust a budget, but one possibility would be to stop switching math curriculums every year or two. It has been such a waste of resources.

- Northender

Lynn said...

Eliminating 1st grade HCC simply moves the capacity crunch from Cascadia to (for example) Bryant. North End HCC elementary isn't going to fit into one building (and no elementary should be that large.) It's clear there will have to be two or three locations. The humane approach would be to let parents and children know now where those children are going. Decatur and Webster seem to be likely. This is of course going to require redrawing many boundaries in order to move general education programs to Wilson Pacific. Staff should be working on this now and reporting regularly to the board on their progress. This should be settled before Flip Herndon finds a new job.

My child's elementary classroom has three new desktop computers and as far as I can tell they've never been used. The teacher (2nd grade) feels they're unnecessary and I agree.

Every elementary school should have a counselor and a full time librarian. Every school should have a line item budget allocation for library materials. That should not be something decided by the BLT. Textbooks and supplies are basic education expenses.

Things that are not part of a basic education: classroom computers and iPads, language immersion IA's, IB and coaches for sports. If parents at some schools are allowed to donate money for these enhancements, parents at every school should be allowed to provide the extras they value for their child's school. If this inequity is unacceptable, it should be unacceptable at every school.

CascadiaMom said...

What about district staff, teachers and principals spending some time to try to contact and verify whether a child is going to show up at school? Maybe the teacher for the class can call their roster and just see if everyone says that they are coming? This would require that August be used for organizing and planning. Making phone calls to everyone would definitely find a few people who aren't going to show up and that could really help this problem. If every teacher called 25 students, the burden wouldn't be so difficult, and they would be motivated knowing that it might prevent at least some of the shuffling.

Every year people post to this blog that they told the district they weren't coming and the district didn't get the message. A simple phone call might help.

mirmac1 said...

This was brought up for discussion only. The district currently conducts three staff adjustments: May, Aug and Oct. These adjustments were done with waitlist moves as late as September 30th. Final resolution of waitlists is being moved up dramatically for 16-17 to May. This change, along with an increased contingency fund of $2M for mitigation and, what I propose, is a final staff adjustment in August should vastly reduce any need for staff cuts and moves. I believe these practical steps are better than making a change in policy.

Anonymous said...

Waitlist resolution in May is not helpful to many schools Mirmac. It hurts enrollment which in turn allows downtown to cut off funding for schools not in favor with downtown. Many of us are lobbying against this operational change.

Further, a formal change in policy vs. an operational change is always a good idea when dealing with downtown. Downtown changes operations and personnel more often than my niece changes her style.


Anonymous said...

Why does everyone (including SPS website) keep saying wait list as end of May? The board approved August 15th; albeit with staff saying end of May as a goal to move everything. That's not the same as saying May is the last date. I think the SPS website is being disingenuous here.

- MemoReader

Lynn said...

They will not add any new names to the waitlist after May 31st. That's what they mean when they refer to closing the list on that date.

mirmac1 said...

I'm good with final moves in August, along with final staff cuts.

Anonymous said...

What about staff increases, especially in special education in secondary school?

Sped Reader

Anonymous said...

Lynn - are you sure on that?

The registration page mentions no moves after May 31:

As seats become available, Admissions staff contacts waitlisted students about an assignment offer to their choice school (or program). Once families receive this offer, they have 48 hours to accept or deny the choice assignment. Waitlist moves will continue through May 31, 2016. Click here to view the waitlist numbers by school, grade, and program.

mirmac1 said...

Sped Reader, the SEA dropped the ball on that one. SpEd ratios were used as a bargaining chip for other things.

Anonymous said...

Mirmac - what I mean is that in secondary schools - you can get an influx of students with intensive needs (> SM1) who also have guaranteed admission in secondary schools. That means comprehensive secondary schools can get overloaded after open enrollment with students with disabilities. THen what (under this proposed policy)? Will the school be allotted an increase of staff if there's more kids showing up at the door? This is not an issue in elementary school because there is no guaranteed assignment for elementary students with significant disabilities anywhere in the district. Same with option schools.

SPed Reader

Anonymous said...

I'd be happy if 3rd grade was the first grade level offered for the HCC program. Kids in kindergarten, 1st and 2nd grade are getting better at different things at different times. Some may be non-readers after kindergarten and may quickly jump up in reading skills so that they reach the same level as accelerated kindergarten readers do by 3rd grade. What I mean is that 3rd grade is a leveling out year. So it would make sense for people to be tested in 2nd grade year to enter the HCC program. Prior to that, elementary schools should be able to accomodate HCC kids thru differentiated instruction. Use that money saved for tutors at all elementary schools to help teachers provide good differentiation.
NW Mom

Lynn said...

NW Mom,

What money saved? There is no additional cost for HCC beyond busing and the state pays for that. Differentiation should happen in early elementary - but does not as evidenced by the number of children who move to HCC for 1st and 2nd grade. If you're thinking we could save money on testing, the state requires the opportunity for identification (testing) to be available every year from K-12.