Friday, July 01, 2016

Seattle School Board's Lollapalooza of a Meeting Yesterday

Update:  a couple of corrections.

Sue Peters is, of course, the Chair of the Audit&Finance Committee (which I attributed to Director Harris.)  Director Peters had asked Harris to chair the meeting since Peters was unable to be physically present.

As well, I attributed a statement to Peters that was Geary's about how Director Blanford felt the $11M should be spent.

end of update

As I previously reported, the Board was having an Audit&Finance Committee Meeting of the Whole and then had an Executive Committee Meeting of the Whole and then a Work Session on the 2016-2017 Budget to figure out to do with this $11M underspend that was found.

All the Board members were present except for Sue Peters (on the phone the entire meeting) and Stephan Blanford whose absence was not explained.  Also to note, during committee meetings of the whole (COW - how's that for an acronym?), only members of the committee vote on items but all Board members can partake in the discussion.

The meeting also was a first look at the new CFO, JoLynn Berge.  The rest of the room was filled out by staff.  I was the only member of the public present.

While the meeting was marked at times with laughter and the tone was respectful, it was also a sober meeting.

There were only two items to discuss, both of them Technology items.  Representing DOTS (Department of Technology Services) was Nancy Petersen and David Oestreicher, Director of Technology Infrastructure.  Former head Carmen Rahm left the district in early June.  Like many senior staff before him, he left some real problems.  The two items on the agenda were notable for that reason.

One was a BAR for the next Board meeting on July 6th for purchase of technology for BEX IV schools, capacity classrooms, K-3 class size reductions and  Special Education classrooms.  (This includes 85 capacity classrooms that have been created out of other spaces.)

It didn't start well as Deputy Superintendent Steve Nielsen had to confess that the BAR had left out an Apple contract that would move the cost on the BAR from $1.5M to $2M.

That's a pretty big issue right that there anyone could read a BAR on a contract and not realize it was not complete.

Another issue is that staff wanted this to be introduced and approved at the July 6th meeting.  

President Patu was not happy.  She said that she hadn't had time to review this and certainly not the public (on a holiday weekend.)  She said the committee at talked to Rahm who had, at an April meeting, presented this in pieces (seemingly to avoid needing Board approval by not going over the $250,000 threshold.)

Director Peters said that the conversation at that meeting had members asking why the contracts were separate and what was the value to that (given that, generally, you save more buying in volume in one contract.)  She said "it doesn't make any of us look good" when contracts are presented in a less-than-clear fashion.

Director Harris (also Chair of A&F) said the Board had a clear fiduciary oversight duty.  She said she did not want schools to not be ready next September without this technology and said that if the Board did not vote for this, they could be - once again - be accused of micromanaging.  She said she was "extraordinarily disappointed" in staff but that she would vote for this BAR for the "greater good."

She also stated that she would put this particular piece of business on the list for the Internal Auditor.

Board members asked about alternatives if this BAR was not voted thru.  Mr. Oestreicher said that they could not buy anything but that would leave entire school, not just students at the school, under-resourced.  He said they could put off the purchasing for the students and buy just needed technology for staff.  Director Harris asked if they had a spreadsheet for that but the answer was no.

Director Geary asked about the funding and, oddly, staff said BEX IV.  (Most of the money is coming from BEX IV but also from BTA II and BTA III -it's right on the front page of the BAR so it's a mystery to me why they couldn't say that.)  She asked if this was what voters knew when they voted.  Director Harris pointed out that the district, after the vote, has the leeway to do what they wanted with the money.  Director Geary worried that it might "violate the spirit of the levy."

(They also had "Genesee Hill Elementary" on the BAR and that's also a mystery where that school came from.  Director Burke showed me some SPS webpage that said "Schmitz Park at Genesee Hill" but it would be nice if the district would get on the same page for the name of the school.  It's a legal issue and they know that.)

Director Burke asked about why this was all coming forward now (from April) and why the surprise?
Oestreicher said that in discussions after Rahm had left that new CFO, JoLynn Berge, discovered that they couldn't be breaking up the contract in pieces to avoid the Board oversight.

The second item on the agenda was a one-year additional support agreement with PowerSchool. 

Director Geary asked again but why wasn't this recognized in April.  Nielsen said, "Carmen did recognize this as a problem."  He said yes, Director Peters had asked questions at the time.

I think it important that the Superintendent set the tone for staff and not hire people in senior positions who think it their job to try to outwit the Board.  

There was discussion about possibly following Board policy to introduce it in July and vote on it in August and could Apple/Dell expedite process?  Staff said they probably could for the shipping but it was really the work when it reaches SPS that takes time.  Director Peters put forth a motion for introduction but didn't get a second from either Harris or Pinkham (the other members of the committee.)  Director Harris then moved for this item to be introduced/voted on at the July 6th Board meeting.  Pinkham seconded and they voted.  The vote was 2-1 with Peters voting no.

There was a bit of a slight verbal tussle when Director Harris reiterated that she wanted this to go to the Internal Auditor.  Erin Bennett pointed out that the A&F committee had already charted out that work.  Harris was undeterred and pointed out that the Internal Auditor was the Board's employee, not the district's. 

Again, the Board was asking why this was being brought to them in a rushed fashion for intro/action on July 6th.

Ms. Petersen said that "it was a case where we wanting to be accountable and transparent."  She also revealed that while the district was paying for service from PowerSchool that you had to pay more to get your issue answered more quickly.

Director Harris asked about why this was before them on this basis.  Ms Petersen said that the staff had done their own upgrades previously but that they didn't get the new software in time and they worried about getting it done on-time for the start of school.  She went on to say that this release has "new features we really want" like a mobile gradebook for teachers.

There was back-and-forth on this issue especially around why the district needed to pay extra in order to get this done.  I was waiting and waiting for Ms. Petersen to explain what was in the BAR - the vendor was late in releasing the software (by at least a week) which she said was highly problematic for staff.  I wish a Board member had asked why the company couldn't pay for some of the service since it was their delay.

Geary asked if buying this service might be a cost savings for DOTS with maybe the need for fewer people.  Petersen seemed startled and said not in staff numbers but probably in staff time.  Petersen also stated that they do tracking on isolation and restraint for Special Education students manually and it would be better for reporting to feds and state if it was done by computer.

Again, Director Patu asked why this was coming to them so late.  Petersen said that late last month they looked at what they needed to get done and were worried about the work given the late release date of the software.

There was discussion around the fact that DOTS had accepted service from PowerSchool with PowerSchool understanding that if the Board didn't okay this contract, SPS couldn't pay them for the service.  As well, there was discussion about the start and end dates on the contract which specified June as a start date but that the actual contract wouldn't be voted on until July.

Peters again tried to get a motion for just intro at the July meeting but there was no second.  Director Harris then moved for intro/action at the July meeting but again, she wants this to go to the Internal Auditor.  It passed 2-1.

That was the end of the A&F meeting.

Executive Committee of the Whole
The only item here was to review the July 6th agenda for the Board meeting.  Because of the two previous items there will be changes to that agenda but, as well, the principals' contract had already been struck from the agenda.

Director Harris pointed out that a number of community members expressed interest in seeing the final contract and asked about community engagement.  Dr. Clover Codd stated that it had not been completed in time for the July 6th meeting and would get to the Board to review and posted for community members to review. This item was already introduced at the last board meeting but only as a placeholder as, obviously, there was no documentation attached.

Again, no one is asking to be at the table.  But a timely review of the contract by both Board and community is not out of order.

Director Geary also asked that one item be taken off the Consent agenda.  That was Item #11, Northwest School of Innovative Learning (SOIL).  The district has a contract with this school for some Special Education students.  Director Geary said some issues around isolation/restraint at the school appear to violate Board policy and those needed to be worked out.

Work Session on Budget

Steve Nielsen lead this portion of the meeting and this is where it got somewhat tense.  He explained that the Cabinet had done "exercises" to figure out what to do with the underspend of $11M.

Director Harris asked why, if the Legislature seems to "stick to us" every year, why that isn't anticipated and made part of the budget.  Neilsen said it was different every year and hard to anticipate.

Nielsen also made clear that the $11M is an estimate.  It could be higher or lower and they wouldn't know until November numbers were available.

Ms. Berge said that no blood was shed during the staff's exercise work.  Nielsen went to the chart on the wall to show the priorities.  (See photo.)   He then showed a duplicate chart and said that they had 11 dots for each director ($1M per dot) and invited the Board to come and put their dots up.

Dead silence.  No one got up from the Board's end of the table.

Harris said there was a huge spread on the SMART goals (from $4.4M to 7.6M) and that many of those items were "on-going items, not one-time ones."  She said her cynical self thought this was a set-up for next year and why the goals weren't being met and staff would say "you wouldn't approve the money."  

She said she didn't like the WSS and not having the public understand how the budget gets decided.  She said she appreciate the idea of voting with the dots but she would not do it.

Burke also said he was uncomfortable with the dots about something "that needs debate and dialog."  

Berge said the idea was to be able to start the conversation "where alignment is or isn't."  

My own internal take on the dots was no. I mean, this isn't a community conversation with a bunch of community members.  It's elected officials taking dots to vote on priority items.  It just seemed the wrong way (and frankly, kind of undignified.)

Patu said she didn't even see items up there that she thought should be there and her vote would not represent what she truly thought.

Director Peters said she had no dots so obviously she would not be able to participate in a clear fashion.  She said she, too, thought that the Board would be contributing to what would be on the list and not just voting on what staff wanted.

Director Geary mentioned that the Board had the understanding that Director Blanford wanted the entire $11M to go into a reserve over his concern about a possible levy cliff.

Bingo! I mean, nice try on the part of staff but it didn't work.

Nielsen ruefully offered another way to go.  He asked what the Board wanted to see.  (Staff was shifting around in their chairs and not comfortably.  I find sometimes it is far more interesting to look at the people who aren't speaking than the actual speaker.)

They went down the list:

School mitigation - that was a yes from the directors at about $2.2M for Tier One and Tier Two schools.  (There is already about $2M in the fund.)

There was back and forth about high school schedules and mitigation issues.  Superintendent Nyland said it was difficult because "everyone makes the same argument" and half are legitimate and the other half aren't.  (It would be interesting to know what the non-leg arguments are but no one asked.)  He said they don't always have enough data to know whether arguments are legitimate or not.

Director Burke pointed out that mitigation requests might become "the new normal" and that one area of "heartache" for him was the class size reduction that may force splits at many schools.

Michael Tolley quietly said that there were 18 FTE for that purpose.  Nielsen, who was almost next to me, said, "I didn't know that."  Nyland said he hadn't been "in on this conversation" but it will all depend on if they "hit our enrollment number" and that it may happen at some schools but not others.

Nyland said that with Berge's help, "We don't think the split issue will be as dire as once feared."

Compliance - a big one for Director Geary - yes from the directors at $1.9M (this could be slightly more or less because the regulations have not yet been written.) 

IB for the three high schools that have the program - there was a bit of a discussion about sustaining money versus "aspirational" goals.  They settled on $750,000.  There was a bit of tension when Harris said the IB schools needed the help and Nyland said, "We didn't make that promise" and she shot back, "I respectfully disagree, you weren't here." 

Geary said what about later for these IB schools. Nielsen said that they are looking at other sources.  He said there is a state grant that they hoped Seattle would get part of and the other is a private funder who is interested in the program.  He couldn't say more on the latter.

Middle School math adoption - this would be about $3M.  Peters and Burke were really talking this one up. Geary was not for it because she said that the elementary math adoption wasn't going smoothly and that she "didn't see the promise of consistency and equity."

Tolley explained that Mercer Middle school was using Saxon math with good results.  But then he went on and it was very troubling.

He said that the critical area of instructional materials that are needed for our system aren't available.  He talked about teachers having to create their own materials.

This goes to what a couple of readers (northwesterner and craziness) said in other threads: why are there not instructional materials in our schools?  How can teachers be creating their own, not because they want to but because they have to?  How can we have 20+ year old books?  Science as a tested subject and yet not basic lab materials for middle and high school?

Again, for me, this goes to my theme of back to basics.  We must have a functional district, stocked with the basics for public education from the first day of school straight-thru to the last. Period.

I left this meeting before the end (I was there nearly 3.5 hours already.)  What I was told is that the Board and staff agreed to put the balance of money - left over after IB, mitigation, compliance - about $6M into an "escrow" account to be spent this school year on SMART Goals and possibly a new middle school math curriculum.  


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the write-up MW...

In regards to curriculum I am copying and pasting a response I made to a post on 3/3/16 when Tolley said they "discovered" that they hadn't done a middle school adoption for LA since the 1990s). Everything I've said below is still true. Because they don't have a schedule on what adoption needs to happen next, the adoption costs don't get written into the budget when it is being prepared. The only way an adoption happens is on an ad hoc basis, when extra cash is identified. That's ridiculous. As noted, by me, and now by Tolley, some of the materials are so out of date they no longer can be acquired (Follett has a nice service refurbing, recovering, and reselling old books, but if you search their catalogue you'll see legacy high school math books like Unified Math (circa 1990 and reportedly still be used on a limited basis) and Integrated Math (circa 1998) are not available.

Additionally, as I mentioned in the other thread, the board should request a list of adopted textbooks, and then an inventory showing shortages, so the board can figure out how to address these shortages in the next budget cycle.

My message from the spring, reposted is in the next message.

Anonymous said...

The choices being proposed by Michael Tolley are so ridiculous its a miracle he keeps his job. He's been here how many years? And he knew that K-8 Language Arts has not had a curriculum review and new materials purchase in 14-18 years. When did he think would be a good time to bring this up?

How can the district measure successes or failures of their curriculum if they don't provide materials to the schools and support these curriculums?

And how can he just meekly say ... well, its hard to prioritize what to do so we need the board to set direction?

How about this:

Make a schedule. Determine the duration of a curriculum adoption (wear and tear / availability of replacement materials should be a prime consideration). Outline where we are with each major curriculum group in regards to when they are scheduled to be replaced.

Then put a plan in place to get those materials updated over the next five years. It can't happen all at once, the money isn't there. But the district should have a ballpark idea of what new materials will cost, and it can be written into the budget.

Tolley and his department are supposed to be the experts here. How about a real, fact based presentation to the board about what they feel the greatest need for curriculum review this budget year is. Start with answering these questions.
*How many schools are using the approved curriculum?
*What are their test scores?
*What other curriculums are in use?
*What are their test scores?
*Any insights from the above?
*Quantity/condition of materials in use? Shortages and how they are addressed, etc.

This is not that difficult. Then tell the board we need to do curriculum reviews in these five areas, in this order, as soon as possible. And it will cost $xMil per review. If the board feels the priorities identified are correct, then they vote to move the district in that direction. If other areas are felt to be more critical (for instance, Middle School Math) by the board, then just adjust the prioritization order.

But one curriculum per school year (Elementary Math two years ago, MS Social Studies last year, K-5 L/A this year) probably isn't going to get the district on the right track. And when you have curriculums that should sequentially with each other (math, for instance), then that needs to be presented as well.

This district's inability to wrap their arms around these basic operations issues of educating children is unreal.

I've pointed out before that an organization that is in chaos can feel unfixable because there are so many issues that need to be addressed. I truly believe that many of the district staff are in this position, so they don't even try. Everything is fixable, it just requires someone to prioritize, follow up, and actually resolve these issues. This district never actually resolves anything, which is why it feels like they're just spinning their tires.


kellie said...

Thank you Mel for such a great detailed write up.

I am very grateful that Director Harris highlighted how the WSS does not make any sense to people, because it doesn't'. I have a substantial finance related background and quite honestly ... I often need to call one of my peers, to decrypt some of the budget data.

Linda Sebring truly knows the budget inside out. However, there are so many anomoloous historical things in the budget, it is quite challenging for new folks to wrap their arms around.

Anonymous said...

Quote: Nyland said, "We didn't make that promise" and she shot back, "I respectfully disagree, you weren't here."

Thank you Leslie Harris. Keep doing what you're doing. To our semi-retired superintendent: you have promises to keep. Do your fucking job.


Anonymous said...

How many years have parents been asking for better math? My youngest son graduated from COLLEGE four years ago and I am still waiting.

These administrators are sure lucky to still have their jobs.

S parent

Lynn said...

S parent,

Yes - still waiting. I'm spending the summer teaching my youngest the prior year's math because nobody is making our teachers use the recently purchased elementary curriculum. It's not enough to spend the money - someone's got to keep track of what's going on inside the buildings.

Anonymous said...

S Parent,

You are not alone. Some concepts may be new, but review of math really strengthens concepts that were not practiced adequately in the school year. Any discussion of SBAC results this year? Were the reports more helpful for parents to provide targeted remediation over the summer this year?


suep. said...

Hi Melissa. Thanks for sitting in on the meeting(s), and for updating your post. A couple of clarifications and details that might be of interest to your readers:

The Audit & Finance Committee is comprised of Directors Harris, Blanford and myself. As you noted, I am the chair, and I asked Dir Harris to preside over Thursday’s meeting in my stead. Director Pinkham sat in for Director Blanford, who was absent.

By way of background, I questioned the Dell & Apple contracts various times in April, when first brought to A&F as an informational item. These contracts all came in under $250,000 individually (the threshold that requires Board approval) but added up to over $1 million from the same vendor. With the Apple component added, these contracts now total $2 million. Appropriately, these are now being brought to the Board for approval.

The problem with both introducing and voting on an item at the same Board meeting is not just one of appearance, but of oversight, transparency, procedure and public review. I motioned for a July 6 introduction and August 24th vote (the following Board meeting). But, as you noted, the motion was not seconded.

As for the dots, I pointed out that this method of tallying (perhaps useful in some instances) was somewhat of a logistic challenge for those of us who were not physically present. I also agreed with Board President Patu and others that the list on the wall (thanks for the photo) did not include all the areas of priority that Directors had in mind and wished to discuss. To everyone's credit, a more detailed and robust discussion ensued.


Sue Peters
VP, Seattle School Board

Anonymous said...

As a special education teacher, I am really irritated that there is extra money in the budget. In the past, our self-contained classrooms have received $1,700 for the school year for us to spend on curriculum items and other things that we need for our current students. This is because our student needs and levels are so diverse that one curriculum would not work. I have yet to receive any curriculum from the district that is pertinent to the needs of my students so I really use that $1,700 every year down to the last penny. Imagine my surprise this past year when our budgets were reduced to $1,000 and an additional $250 that was held centrally. That is a reduction of $450 for the school year. In addition when I asked how I could access the $250, no one seemed to know, not our fiscal secretary, and not our program specialist. I sent out many emails asking about this that were never responded to. I ended up bit being able to use the $250 even though we really needed it. I wonder if that was some kind of ploy by the district to be able to say later, "See, the special ed classrooms did not spend that money, so they must not need it.Let's cut that $250."
Let me tell you what I spent my $1,000 on. I spent it on velcro and ink for the color printer, and one assessment book relevant to the needs of my students. That's it, after that, the money was gone. This is ridiculous! I teach every subject to my students and I need to have curriculum that meets their needs. I ended up having to spend my own money so my students would have what they needed, which is WRONG, but it feels as if the district counts on that.

Tired educator

Anonymous said...

"Director Geary also asked that one item be taken off the Consent agenda. That was Item #11, Northwest School of Innovative Learning (SOIL). The district has a contract with this school for some Special Education students. Director Geary said some issues around isolation/restraint at the school appear to violate Board policy and those needed to be worked out."

Why is SPS still spending $80,000 per student at SOIL? Shouldn't Geary be asking that along with asking why SPS is not serving these students directly.

Not too long ago SPS paid out over $440,000 to a parent in a case where the district attempted to place a student at SOIL against the parents wishes. The parents successful argued that SPS should be serving students inside the district.

The use of restraints and isolation at SOIL S/B looked at by CPS not the Seattle school board. Now the board is overseeing non SPS schools?

Geary, please stay focused on SPS and the SPED violations it's committing.

SPED Parent

mirmac1 said...

Tired educator, I greatly appreciate your post here. As I've seen (with respect to Seattle Preschool classrooms) our SpEd classrooms pretty much get nuttin' How is it our district will spend to provide curricula for children that do not fall within their mandate, yet cast a blind eye and deprive disabled preschoolers who they are mandated to serve.

Amy Hagopian said...

Thank you Melissa, great reporting. All of this underscores the inadequacy of having a totally volunteer board of directors WHO HAVE NO INDEPENDENT STAFF of their own who they can trust. Okay, a volunteer board, but if so they have to have staff who represent the interests of the public, not the superintendent. These are different interests. What if the city council relied only on the mayor's staff for its data and analysis? That would be crazy. And this is crazy.

Anonymous said...

I do hope that all of the split level classes will be mitigated. Our elementary school is being funded for one less teacher for the 2016-2017 year. Based on the current 2016-2017 enrollment that will mean seven classrooms with 30+ kids next year. Even though our actual 2016-2017 enrollment is 13 over projections, and only 7 less students than our June enrollment.

There are kids wait listed at each grade, but the wait list won't be moved because, "It would violate the CBA." Ironically, the student to teacher ratio of the CBA was already in violation by the District cutting funding for a teacher. But, by forcing larger enrollment at the higher grades the District can still collect the monies for small classrooms from the State, which is likely well beyond the cost to pay the CBA classroom violations at the higher grades.


Anonymous said...

"All of this underscores the inadequacy of having a totally volunteer board of directors WHO HAVE NO INDEPENDENT STAFF of their own who they can trust."

The last thing we need is more cost and more bureaucracy at SPS. Board members need to trust, but verify.

If a staff member is found to be untrustworthy they need to be fired quickly. We all make mistakes and staff need the space to do so, but deliberate deception or repeated incompetence are not mistakes.

I haven't seen where current or past boards have demanded the highest level of accountability from district managers, especially principles.

It's not rocket science, it's basic directorship.

Got accountability

N said...

Burke also said he was uncomfortable with the dots about something "that needs debate and dialog."

I so agree! I get frustrated every time my principal gives us dots and a chart. Yes, we do create the chart but never spend time discussing it. We contribute to a list and out come the dots. The art of discussion and prioritizing with intelligence long ago left my building.

From northwesterner: it just requires someone to prioritize, follow up, and actually resolve these issues.

Isn't that what you pay a superintendent to do? Isn't the leader's job "the buck stops here?"

I am disappointed in Harris. I agree with Peters on the timing issue. She seems to always hold these people accountable. Harris is giving in.

Seems to me that past boards have been more political than this one. I thank Sue Peters for setting a new tone and demanding more accountability.

Math is still a problem in elementary. I posted many months ago that I tried to be aligned with MIF but it was difficult to align the math departments scope and sequence to the program's S&S so I finally gave up and used SPS math guide. I don't just teach math. Besides, I think the jury is still out regarding MIF. I think it is highly dependent on memory over strategies but I'd listen to arguments on that.

Finally, I'm still in agreement with Kellie's proposal to use the money to get things straightened out and back on the right foot. If not now, when?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Harris is putting these issues right at the top of the Internal Auditor's list. She said, both times, that she didn't want to hear children and staff at the new buildings/classrooms. Believe me, staff was not happy with her push to ask the IA to look into this issue.

Maureen said...

mirmac 1, Does the Sped PTSA have bandwidth to process grants for Special Ed Teachers? Could they put out a call to the general K-12 PTSA's and PTOs to donate some percent of their fundraising (say the % of kids eligible for Special Education at their school or, probably better, the percent eligible in SPS) to the Sped PTSA to redistribute to teachers? Most of the schools my kids have attended have given teachers (including Sped teachers) classroom grants for supplies, but I know that isn't universal (and can imagine those teachers need more anyway.) The grant process could be as simple as: here's what we got, email all of the Sped teachers and if they don't say no mail their school a check for their share. (Thinking there could be an opt out for teachers who know they get enough support from their local community.)

N said...

You're right and I do appreciate Harris,

Lynn, with a school district in such turmoil, why put so much of the onus on teachers over and over. I'm okay including principals because they along with their ed directors have communication up. But really, teachers are literally at the bottom and are making the best of a lousy situation these days. I will be interested to see what the priorities are in the PASS contract.

Anonymous said...

Each mitigation of a grade split generates a need for a new home room space. Most schools have No Available Space. Dropping portables is sometimes possible, sometimes not. Always costly and takes time.


Anonymous said...


That may be the case at some schools, but at ours we are only having a grade split due to being funded for one less teacher than last year. A classroom is available without the need of adding a portable.


mirmac1 said...

Maureen, while I was at SpEd PTSA - there was no bandwidth.

Now realize that SPS provides $93 per AAFTE (which includes sped students at 100% in K-5). SpEd classrooms get $1000/classroom. I will lay bets that SpEd teachers do not get to access $93 per their students. There are terrible attitudes among numerous building leaders that "THOSE kids have their own money" In my mind the $1000 is for the excess cost for their supplemental aids, and should supplant the $93/student.

mirmac1 said...

should NOT supplant...

Maureen said...

mirmac 1,I used to be on a BLT so I've seen the building budget. I'm thinking that $93 per student is all lumped into the only cash line item ("discretionary funds?"). I have never seen that go directly to classrooms (and a teacher who had 30 students certainly didn't get $930 more than one with 20 students.) In my experience that "cash" all went to pay for the copy machine and paper and maybe to keep the librarian or the counselor in the building. Classroom supply funds all came from "Friends of/PTSA" grants. And Special Ed teachers got the same amount as gen ed classroom teachers (so more per student--though obviously never enough.) I never saw any funds for curriculum, though the parent group would often grant funds for books and materials to individual grade teams (including requests from SpEd teachers.) Our school had a relatively low balance in LAP funds and no Title 1 mitigation funds, so I don't know how those would be distributed within a school.

mirmac1 said...

That's true, it's "discretionary" funds and typically pays for building supplies. I have seen poor discretion exercised, however. For instance, a principal put the kibosh on a request for a PTA grant to purchase an inexpensive video camera to help with role-playing social skills and group work in SpEd classrooms. The principal said NO, the SpEd classrooms had their OWN money and shouldn't tap PTSA funds. This is ludicrous, parents of SpEd children are members of their building PTSAs too. I think this feeds into the us vs them mindset. Grants for SpEd teachers shouldn't have to come from SpEd PTSA. Those children are members of that school's community and should be treated as such (just like at your school).

Maureen said...

Grants for SpEd teachers shouldn't have to come from SpEd PTSA

Agreed, but I thought that might be a way to funnel funds from wealthier school communities to poor schools that also have high SpEd rates (since the Seattle PTSA doesn't do that.)

How was the principal able to stop the grant by him/herself? Grant committees I have been on take recommendations from a principal, but can always over ride them. I will say, this year we asked a Sped teacher to share a requested laptop with film-making software with the Film class since the SpEd teacher only intended to use it for one event a year. Everyone seemed fine with that.

mirmac1 said...


There is very real resistance to funds sharing, SCPTSA has faced this for years.

So, unless you are willing to take this task upon yourself, then I will say it will not happen. A PTSA is only the sum of its volunteers. Would be great if you can make this happen.