Thursday, April 14, 2016

What's happening with program placement?

I'm trying to figure out what's going on with program placement, and I have to admit that I'm not confident in my understanding of the current status.

Here's what I can determine:

Board Directors were feeling blindsided by decisions that they, and the public, understood to be program placement decisions. These included the closure of the High Point location for Middle College, the creation of an Interagency site on Queen Anne, and the announced discontinuation of the kindergarten program at the EEU. There were others, but these were central.

Staff responded that none of these were, in fact, program placement decisions and that the superintendent had full authority to make all of these decisions without Board approval and without even reporting them to the Board. That response wasn't helpful.

Board Director Sue Peters proposed changes to Policy H01.00, School Closures, and the proposed changes were discussed at the Executive Committee's February 4th meeting. Staff was concerned about changing this policy and raised some legal issues. Everyone agreed that there was a lot of ambiguity around what is a school, a service, a program, or whatever. The Executive Committee determined that the issue also involves other policies, including Policy 2200, Equitable Access to Programs & Services which was due for discussion in the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee. They decided to work with that Committee to avoid a duplication of efforts.

Director Peters was back at the next Executive Committee meeting, on March 3rd, with proposed revisions to policy H01.00, School Closures; Policy 2200, Equitable Access to Programs & Services; and Policy F21.00, Specific Areas of Involvement Reserved for the District. She had BARs ready for introduction at the Board's March 16 meeting.

If you read the minutes of that meeting you will get the sense that the superintendent and staff were piqued by these proposals. Superintendent Nyland said that the proposed changes weren't made in accordance with the communications protocol or the policy revision process.

From the minutes:
"Supt. Nyland suggested a meeting of the whole or of the Executive Committee and staff to discuss the implications on where to draw the line on program, service and school involved closures. 5 These minutes were presented to the Executive Committee for approval on April 7, 2016. 
"Directors agreed that a work session is preferable and noted they would like more advanced notice and more transparency as they are the front line when parents and community members come to question the decisions."
From the minutes you can see that staff are trying to delay discussion and make it more complicated while the Board is trying to expedite discussion and make it simpler.

They decided to make this a topic of discussion at a work session on March 23.

The minutes of the March 23 meeting are long and include a lot of discussion, but no decision. Instead it's just everyone saying how glad they are to be discussing the issue and how important it is. But there is no resolution.

So where does that leave us? Nowhere. Director Peters' proposed policy revisions were not introduced at the April 6 Board meeting. The April 7 Executive Committee meeting packet includes the introduction of motion to amend these policies on the draft version of the agenda for the April 20 Board meeting and among the action items for the draft agenda for the May 4 Board meeting. Of course that's the agenda for the Executive Committee meeting. The meeting minutes have not yet been posted, so I don't know if the proposed changes will appear on final agendas for these meetings.

So where are we? The Staff is saying that bringing all of these decisions to the Board will change the decision-making authority and create all kinds of additional work for them, but the Board is saying that all the staff has to do is bring the decisions to the Board after they are made, provide the rationale, and get approval. Surely the decisions will be approved because the rationale will be so strong. Right? The staff don't want to admit that they often have scant rationale for their program placement decisions and they don't want to daylight their process - whatever it is. The Board is demanding transparency and the staff only want to pay lip service to the idea.


Robert Cruickshank said...

The proposed changes that Sue Peters offered are extremely important and need to be adopted as soon as possible. Staff have no basis to complain about this. It's not staff's job to be making these kinds of decisions anyway, and the decisions they have made have caused massive public backlash. The board needs to adopt these proposals at the earliest possible opportunity.

Anonymous said...

"Board Director Sue Peters proposed changes to Policy H01.00, School Closures, and the proposed changes were discussed at the Executive Committee's "

While I support Ms. Peters changes, they are myopic. Once again the board as a whole is failing our students. They are failing to make policy changes requiring our district to perform Expedia root cause analysis for why students are needing these types of late intervention programs.

Furthermore, they need to focus on setting policies that aim to prevent the need for intervention programs by building in safeguards and protocols that identify and provide for early intervention to help struggling students long before they end up needed very late and very expensive remediation.

How long before we have board members with the analytical skills needed to accomplish any corrective action?

SPED Parent

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sped,all the programs in the district are not intervention programs. Also, there are a myriad of reasons why a student might need an intervention program that may include issues not involving SPS.

We DO need the Board to have more oversight over all our programs. That's not myopic.

I do agree we need earlier interventions and I think the Board would like to see that. But you have to start somewhere.

As for analytical skills, this is the most skilled Board I've seen in a long time.

Anonymous said...

If memory is correct the move to place Programs under the jurisdiction of the Supt. vs. the Board happened during the MGJ era. Not too long after this change was approved Summit K-12 was declared a 'program' with swift approval by MGJ to shut it down, accompanied by a stiff arm to the board as they no longer had oversight over programs.

There does seem to be a revolving door of definitions of what is a school, what is a program, and what is a service.

In addition to the Board reclaiming their rightful oversight of programs, I would like the policy to include a definitive list of what operations within SPS are schools, which are programs (Montessori, Language Immersion?), and which are services. That way there will be no SPS shell games as to the definition of each. As in - why yes that was a program last year, but now we are calling it a service!


Anonymous said...

Program placement has been a completely mysterious process inside the superintendent's office for a very long time. I recall the same issues all the way back into the administration of Superintendent Kendrick, a quarter century ago, and they were not new then. The board has fiddled with policy from time to time but it has not in recent memory managed to elicit so much as a clear description of how the decisions are made, much less wrest any control over the process from the superintendent. Maybe the current board will get somewhere, but if so there will be an awful lot of complaining from staff.


Charlie Mas said...

I've seen this before. THe Board makes a policy to regulate X. The staff then create something that looks like X, functions like X, and prior to the regulatory policy would have been X, but now they call it Y and, therefore, declare that it is exempt from the policy.

They did it with advisory committees to evade the advisory committee policy and when program regulation got serious they invent "services". When services were regulated they invented "sites" and "classrooms". Director Peters' re-write of the policy would regulate anything that functions as a program no matter what it is called.

Anonymous said...

Let me have directors about me that are fat;
Sleek-headed directors, and such as sleep o' nights.
Yond Peters has a lean and hungry look;
She thinks too much: such directors are dangerous.

--Larry Caesar

Charlie Mas said...

The Board Meeting agenda for the April 20 meeting has been posted and the motion to amend the policies around program placement are NOT on the agenda.