Sunday, May 08, 2016

Local This and That

Update: of interest this week is the Board Work Session.  The topic? HR.  More on this in the thread, Seattle Schools This Week to come.

end of update

Neither Roosevelt nor Garfield placed in the top three for the Essentially Ellington competition in NYC but congrats to all these musicians for getting there and representing Seattle.

The Times has two articles of note on Seattle Schools.

One is about librarians and libraries in SPS.  A group of SPS librarians did their own research on funding for libraries and the fruit of their work is troubling.   For many libraries, the library fund is very dependent on the PTA.  From the article:

While Seattle Public Schools provides money to each school that could be used for libraries, the principal and other school leaders decide whether to spend it that way.
It would be interesting to know what other categories the schools feel are more important.  The article states that for 2015-2016 38% of Seattle schools didn't use that money in their libraries.  (It's not clear if they didn't use any or just not all.)  Each school pays for a part-time librarian at each elementary schools (but many schools raise money for a full-time librarian.)
Students who attend schools with certified teacher-librarians and high-quality facilities performed better and were more likely to graduate, regardless of school size and student income level.
Overall, Seattle's district office provides only about a quarter of the $535,096 - the rest apparently came from PTAs, book fairs and grants.

The average spent is about $2.55 per student for the year.  That's below the national average of $10.

The SPS librarian researchers asked the following questions district-wide:
- how much each library gets from the district, parents and grants
- number of books in the library
- condition of the books
- how often books are checked out

The librarians did not name schools in their research (not wanting to raise an issue over the funding but rather, to call attention to these disparities.)  But Craig Seasholes, the president of the state library association and the librarian for Sanislo Elementary had a good quote:
"Book reports on Pluto being a planet don't happen in well-funded schools."
Danny Westneat's column in the Times was about the choral music teacher issue at Garfield High School.  He calls the situation there, "adults behaving badly."  He writes about a Garfield student, Julia Furukawa, who testified at the board meeting this past Wednesday, about how she is teaching three sections of Garfield music classes.
Strangely, the Seattle School District denies that Furukawa is teaching these classes - even though she plainly is.
It's a sore point because the district is astonishingly employing three adults related to these classes.
Most every adult at every level - from the original choir teacher to district staff who didn't warn the school of a student with behavioral problems to the superintendent who has seemed more concerned with legal liability than getting these kids a teacher - all failed these students to one degree or another.
Yes, the district is concerned with liability at all costs.  Sometimes this makes sense to me but at other times, it is the tail that wags the dog.

He asks what she learned from this situation:
"That relying on adults to get things done can be a dead end. They have mottos - 'Every student, every classroom, every day - but they don't really mean it.  You have to make it happen for yourselves."  
Westneat ends like this:
Well, you can't say you don't get an education in Seattle Public Schools. It's just often not the one advertised.
I'll end like this:
 Won't someone in top administration at SPS please make this a week that this issue is done?  


Anonymous said...

It appears to me that personnel issues: unwillingness to hire teachers (and pay them decently) underscores most of the SPS district's more spectacular failings.

While the Garfield Chorus situation is one of the most egregious recent situations; we also had a situation where the Principal at HIMS did not hire a replacement for a math teacher for 3 full months after a bike accident made it impossible for her to return to the classroom. The weeks went by - with rotating substitutes and no class plan. A replacement teacher was finally hired in the last month of the school year. This only happened, we suspect although cannot be sure, because we parents started taking time off work to attend class to see what the heck was going on there.

This problem (unwillingness to hire teachers and support teachers in the classroom) also underscores the capacity problems, access to advanced learning opportunities, SPED support - you name it. The district bean counters need to make experienced teacher hires a priority - and engineer some wiggle room in the budget so that small dips in attendance do not have to result in the immediate reassignment of FTEs. I think the district thinks it is being really clever by moving teachers and students willy nilly to keep ahead of the capacity "chess game" (as Banda called it). I wonder if some district administrators' salaries (which appear to correspond to about between 3-4 teachers' salaries) and corporate "study" budgets (that administrators use to make decisions they appear to not be able to do themselves) might not be better used to provide some stability in teacher hiring?

Every time I go to a school concert, a science night, or a school field trip - I come away amazed at the dedication evident in so many of our district teachers. MGJ worked very hard to make teachers appear to be interchangeable cogs that can be moved wherever the "supply" was needed and teach any subject at any time. With so many of her hires still in place I fear that this attitude persists. It ruins morale and takes the spark and motivation to excel out of teaching. This is also evident when so many of our best teachers seem, to my eye, to be mis-treated by the district because they are not "bland" enough to serve as a cog in the machine.

Happy Mother's Day

-SPS parent

Melissa Westbrook said...


Anonymous said...

SPS Parent

The HIMS incident from what I can tell had a back story. The cast of rotating subs had more to do with the Teacher who was in the classroom but not full time teaching and that was part of the problem

There are many where Student Teachers are in charge of classes with rotating subs who are "covering" for an on leave Teacher or there are Subs hired without the proper credential as the job is designated "hard to fill" despite state law saying that a sub not credentialed in the subject is to be there longer than 30 days. That is how they circumvent that.

It is a long history of hide the pea under the walnut in this district.

- Old Timer

Anonymous said...

Thanks for the clarification Old Timer, I know the backstory - I am sympathetic to the fact that the teacher in question may have wanted to return to the classroom and was still coming to work but unable - under doctor's orders - to run the class. However, I also could not help but get the impression that she should have been on full medical leave for her own good and the good of the class. I may be wrong here but the district and principal may have avoided this option - I don't know avoid paying for medical leave? Meanwhile, the class languished for 3 months. And in a final irony - the teacher they got to fill the last month of the course was great - why wasn't he brought in 3 months earlier????? I believe there was a true (and perhaps typical) lack of leadership in this case - and many others we could all name. And the only people who really came out as losers in this scenario were: the students (of course!).

Anyway, I agree with everything you said there - the shell game continues!

-SPS Parent

Anonymous said...

SPS Parent

She is not the first nor the last to do this. Medical leave is often short term and not fully covered so that may be a financial reason on the Teacher's part, then there is the issue of why they had rotating subs. I know one of them and that too was a problem, lesson plans given, the demonstration done by the Teacher with the sub sitting there most of the day. Then there was the final guy who from what I heard was actually a student teacher for another math teacher, but again I cannot confirm this as this scenario happens a lot. I know of two other schools that did the same when a Teacher did the part time medical leave to well full time medical leave and again rotating subs. Same person I know was again put in those jobs. And they leave as they are not paid, possibly not fully certified but could do the job, or well there are "conflicts." And subs fear getting banned from buildings as a result.. HIMS has done that in the past too. Hence why also jobs are hard to fill as the shortage of subs has less to do with actual shortage but hey I am not going back there again for many reasons.

The district does not support Teachers and they sure don't with subs either, but it is way worse. No due process and the union does not help. It is that bad

I am glad it did work out.. I am not sure how much I should be sharing on a public board but there were a lot of factors in play in that gig.

(And funny the next year half those kids ended up at JAMS due to the shift)

- Old Timer

Anonymous said...

I posted this on another thread but since this one talks about the Library story am reposting here

As an ex-librarian, that story in the Seattle Times about the inequities of SPS school libraries just breaks my heart. I am who I am because of libraries. I had my first "library job" as a student helper in my elementary school library in 4th grade. The day I got my first library card was like Christmas. Libraries can change lives in so many ways. What a ridiculous system this District has. Its a school. Where you know, kids learn to read and to love learning. Step up to the plate SPS and fix the inequitable funding, and poor material allocations. Could you possibly be more inept? (yes, I know they can...sigh)

And to some of the commenters on that story - wow - get a clue. Public libraries, adequately funded, are the hallmark of a democratic and free society. To suggest Seattle has too many...aiyiyi!


Anonymous said...

The example above makes you realize it's not just an issue at any one particular school, but district wide. Our child had a semester with a sub that was not qualified to teach the subject. Since it was Spanish, a hard to fill position?, it was somehow allowed. We had another year where the teacher was absent an excessive number of days, but scattered throughout the year, and it felt like the whole year was wasted. I've spoken to a retired teacher that subs in another district and he selectively subs for teachers he knows. Teachers will arrange in advance for him to sub. How much control do SPS teachers have in the selection of subs?


Anonymous said...

This is about disparity, but it is also absurd that parents and PTAs pay for all sorts of things that should be funded. Why doesn't the district and legislature fund the library and librarian adequately? I've had kids at several schools with good fundraising from parents, but I find it absurd that the parents have to pay for so many basic things (additional funds for extra teachers, counselors, nurses, playground improvements, art or music, library books, librarian time, and on and on). Students NEED all those things whether in a school with extra funds or not. All students should get those supports, but of course especially those whose schools can't raise extra funds.

Two Students

Anonymous said...

I will also add that sometimes the sub has been a significant improvement over the regular teacher.


Anonymous said...


F/T Teachers can request any sub they want and they can simply communicate directly with said sub and confirm availability and that can be manually put in the system.

Schools have priority subs who are on the top of the list and regardless will be sent sub gigs to them if available, and they have the ban list. You have no way of knowing if you are on one or another but the gatekeeper (aka Secretary) does know this and with the new Aesop system coming it makes it easier to block subs without even HR ever knowing. That is the point as the Sub contract has supposedly made this banning ritual eliminated and requires a meeting to discuss it. But when I read the Stevens parent comment about the Principal banning a sub as the kids complained it appears no.

Many subs are amply qualified, many would like to be more so and avail themselves of the training to be more useful but that will not happen. Why? Money.

In the case of hard to fill gigs as I stated there are ways the district can bypass the legal requirements but at that point one wonders why they don't figure out that the class cannot happen and coordinate with another school to share Teachers (which they do in some of these situations) or cancel it and enable some alternative means for students to get the credit and lessons.

There is an article about a supposed Teacher shortage here.. no like Subs that is a falsehood. What it is that people just leave they have enough.

- Old Timer