Tuesday, August 23, 2016

Community Meeting Today to Explain the Budget Process

You might be thinking, "Gee, Melissa, not much notice."

My thought exactly.

I had seen this on the district's calendar at the end of last week but thought it might be something internal.  But no, it's this:

Seattle Public Schools will be hosting a two-part budget work session to provide budget background information and gather feedback from our community partners and stakeholders.  
Session One (District Budget Overview): Tuesday, August 23,, 2016 from 3pm-5pm at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence, 2445 3rd Avenue South


·         The first session will provide an overview of the budget, including information about District revenues and expenditures, as well as an overview of the state funding formula and the allocation model that the District uses to allocate funding to schools. 
I certainly would have put this up sooner (and I think I did say months ago there would be some community meetings on the budget process but there was no available info.)  Apparently, I'm not on their "community partners" list even though I probably have the widest reach of any group.

But anyway, there is no notice about this at the home page of the district.

There is no description of this from the calendar page except for notifying people there might be a possible quorum of directors if more than four of them show up.

So the district wants parents and community to better understand the budget process but they don't put out any clear, real notification on the meetings?  Not good.

Just a heads up, there's supposed to be another meeting in September but no details yet available.

25 comments:

Watching said...

Any chance we're looking at the beginning of a People's Budget?

Melissa Westbrook said...

With this kind of lack of notice? No.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Also, there were no tweets about this either. I don't think this is Communications fault; I think someone in Budget dropped the ball.

Ann D said...

Did anyone manage to attend this meeting last night? Was interested in what occurred.

Ann D said...

Still thinking about this. How is it still, with the supposed emphasis on customer service and communications under the current superintendent leadership, acceptable on any level. One would think that public attendance and/or communications from the public would be a metric by which the district might rate itself as doing a good job or not.

This kind of lead time is completely unacceptable for a public meeting. This is where the district could learn something from the City of Seattle from the departments related to transportation (SDOT), parks, and neighborhoods (DON) at least.

I just did a quick search BTW, for "public engagement tools for ranking school budgets social media" and came up with this, among others. Surely we can do better outreach.


Tools For Civic Engagement
http://www.gfoa.org/tools-civic-engagement-0

Charlie Mas said...

I believe that the District is doing EXACTLY as well on community engagement as they wish to. If they wanted to do more, they would.

I believe that the Superintendent is doing all of the community engagement that he wants to do. If he wanted to do more, he would and if he wanted his staff to do more, they would.

I believe that the Board is exactly satisfied with these community engagement efforts. If they wanted more, they would insist on it.

Ann D said...

Melissa --

Is this the current document to help support community engagement around the budget?

FY 2016-17 School Budget Development Instructions (Gold Book)
http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Budget/Budget%20Development%202017/goldbook_singledoc17.pdf

Is there a way to view a draft budget somewhere -- or maybe just the last budget for ideas? I think what most of us are interested in are how much the district gets per pupil from the state and how much of those funds are going towards central administration. No?


Just saw this as well:

"The next Community Budget Presentation is scheduled for September 26, 2016 at the John Stanford Center for Educational Excellence."

Charlie Mas said...

Oh, and if they are not going to measure the quality or efficacy of their academic programs, there is no way that they will measure the quality or efficacy of their central office departments. There was a management oversight work session for Communications on June 8.

Here's the agenda and here are the minutes.

One of their Key Performance Indicators was "Improve external engagement (beyond website)" but it was all about the District online. It had nothing to do with anything in the meatspace.

From the minutes: "Ms. Campbell pointed out that while principal satisfaction rate is high, family surveys indicate room for growth around our family outreach satisfaction rate, with those numbers trending down the last few years."

Anonymous said...

Ann D - this is last year's budget doc

http://www.seattleschools.org/UserFiles/Servers/Server_543/File/District/Departments/Budget/Budget%20Book%202015-2016/adoptedbudget16.pdf

According to that doc:
Budgeted expenditures by State Activity for 2015-2016 are as follows (note percentages may not total to 100% due to rounding):
o 63.0% Teaching
o 9.5% Teaching Support
o 6.1% School Administration
o 15.5% Other Support Services e.g., Student Nutrition, Utilities, and Building Maintenance
o 5.8% Central Administration

reader47

Leslie said...

Charlie, et al.,

Again I have learned so much from you and other contributors on the blog. However, your comment below is unfair and misplaced. I wish you still lived here to have heard the discussion at both the June 4th Board Retreat on community engagement issues and at the Work Session - as you know, minutes do not always reflect the tone, tenor, and detail. A couple of points:

1. The District and now a Task Force is meeting to fully build out the Community Engagement Tools recognizing and addressing the need for better engagement and transparency. 2. The poorly announced Budget Session was scheduled for the right reasons to give the community an earlier heads-up on the budget issues coming our way and to have several touch points for the public to engage. This is far better than has occurred in the past and I know Deputy Supt. Nielsen, Asst. Supt. Berge and Dir. Campbell are committed to a process that allows our communities to see how the budget is constructed not from "some secret process and group that doesn't take minutes on the priorities and divvying up a small complicated pie" (my words) has been done in the past. There will be another meeting on Sept. 26th (which will be far better advertised across different media) to allow for more input and education. There are promised additional budget sessions that the public will be invited to participate in - hugely important with the McCleary and Dorn cases ongoing and the potential levy cliff.

Is this - community engagement and the budget build - a great concern of mine and my fellow Board colleagues, Yes, emphatically yes.

A great deal of effort is going into these initiatives and yes we can and will be doing better.

Cordially,


Leslie Harris
SPS Director, Dist. 6
Exec. Audit & Finance Committees
leslie.harris@seattleschools.org
206.475.1000


I believe that the District is doing EXACTLY as well on community engagement as they wish to. If they wanted to do more, they would.

I believe that the Superintendent is doing all of the community engagement that he wants to do. If he wanted to do more, he would and if he wanted his staff to do more, they would.

I believe that the Board is exactly satisfied with these community engagement efforts. If they wanted more, they would insist on it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"The poorly announced Budget Session was scheduled for the right reasons to give the community.."

Well, it was announced to some and I have wonder why "community partners" are more important than parents and just community. I give them an "F" on engagement. I do not think this an error; I think this was by design and it reflects poorly on whoever made that decision.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, Director Harris, you tell me.

If the District wants to do more community engagement, what's stopping them? I don't see anything stopping them, so they must be doing all they care to do.

If the Superintendent wants to do more community engagement, what's stopping him? I don't see anything stopping him, so he must be doing all that he cares to do. The same goes for his staff.

If the Board is dissatisfied with the district's community engagement efforts, then tell me the initiative, the program, or the motion that the superintendent wanted to move forward but was stopped by the Board for lack of community engagement. If the Board has not said no to anything for a lack of community engagement, then the Board must, by definition, find the current level of community engagement to be satisfactory.

Correct me and I will acknowledge that I was wrong.

Anonymous said...

How much do you want the district to spend, Charlie?
Enough to satisfy everybody would cost a lot of money.
Maybe better spent on teachers.

Sue

Anonymous said...

And here I thought we'd elected a new school board that would finally put a stop the culture of lies and deceit at the JSCEE.

I expected them to eventually be co-opted into defending the system, as were Sharon Peaslee and Marty McLaren before them, but I thought it would take longer than this.

Wake me when this board finally demands accountability, change, and people's heads on pikes.

-Not Surprised

Charlie Mas said...

Spend money? Why does community engagement cost money? What does it cost to have the superintendent appear at a few more public events and take questions? What does it cost to have staff answer questions from the public? What does it cost to put information - information that the District should already have as internal documents - on the web site?

I'm not asking for big, catered events with balloons, bands, and bunting. I'm saying that the superintendent and staff should be forthcoming.

Charlie Mas said...

I just finished reading the agenda and the minutes of Board Retreat on June 4, specifically the work around community engagement.

It's nothing that I hadn't seen before. All of it has been discussed before at Board Retreats and work sessions. None of it is new - not the materials, the tiers of engagement, the hand-wringing over distrust, the calls for a commitment, the chest-thumping claims that everyone wants to do better, nor the thinly veiled contempt for the public. And, just as before, it ended without any real resolution - and I mean that in both ways. The issue wasn't settled and there is no evidence of a hard line commitment from anyone in attendance.

The staff usually decides that the proper level of community engagement is the lowest one, inform, and they don't seem to recognize that they typically fail to do even that. The budget meeting featured in this post is an excellent example. The refusal to acknowledge the dissolution of Spectrum or the replacement of Advanced Learning with MTSS are two more. The cloud of lies around Special Education - in which the staff claims there are no programs any more, and then, in the very next breath, talk about where the programs are. The cloud of lies around the definition of the words "curriculum", "content", "course of study", "school", "program", "service", "cluster", "cohort", and other malleable edu-crat jargon. And, of course, the long, long list of broken promises. Where is the written, taught, and tested curriculum for HC? Let's start with that one.

From the final paragraph of the minutes:
"The different groups reported out the levels they reached, most at consult/involve, and noted the importance to maintain promises made to the community."

By this, of course, they meant promises made in the future. They attach ZERO importance to maintaining promises made to the community in the past.

Perhaps I'm being unfair. Read the minutes for yourself and tell me what you find.

I'll tell you this: there is a real disconnect between what the community thinks is important and what the staff thinks is important, and there is no reference in the minutes that anyone noticed that wide difference.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Sue, you said this:
"How much do you want the district to spend, Charlie?"

It costs very little to post information to the web in a timely manner. That's one of the biggest bang for your buck things this district could do. And yet, we see that it doesn't happen.

"The staff usually decides that the proper level of community engagement is the lowest one, inform, and they don't seem to recognize that they typically fail to do even that."

Yup.

Anonymous said...

Yikes. Just trying to swim thru those minutes is an exercise in futility...no wonder no one ever seems to know what the other hand is doing.

While I might not take as harsh a tone as Charlie, I have to agree. Y'all can meet and talk about community engagement till you are blue in the face but talking about it isn't doing it - it's pretty simple really - you post something on your website - maybe a tweet or two -maybe a facebook post that people can share with others, thereby increasing the engagement exponentially at little to no cost.

These are not complex concepts. The fact that SPS continues to talk around the issue rather than just doing the dang engagement piece is so telling....either no one really knows what the other parts are doing (highly likely) or no one truly CARES about this issue enough to just do it. Without 1000 words on the hows/whys/when/who - just plain doing it would solve so much angst aimed at SPS...


reader47

Outsider said...

In defense of the Board, why should they bother with community engagement? Very little of school policy or operations are really amenable to public influence. Much is controlled by labor contracts, state law, or federal law. Most of the rest constitutes the core social engineering mission of the schools, where only the high priests of PC are qualified to speak. The public is deeply divided on these issues, not to mention naive and ill-informed. The incorrect, over-privileged segment talks too much. I am guessing the board's discussions of community engagement focus largely on the hypothetical silenced, un-privileged segment who, if it could only be encouraged to speak up, would support everything the Board and bureaucrats plan to do anyway. That would be great, but it doesn't really change anything. Community engagement is not about giving the public any actual influence. So isn't it a giant waste of everyone's time to pretend that the public could have any direct influence on school policy or operations? (They could have indirect influence, of course, by electing a different school board or legislature.)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Outsider, this meeting was about understanding the Budgeting process which is something that is confusing to both the public and parents. Where the dollars come from, where they can go, etc. It's basic public policy that needs to be explained. They weren't looking for input and these kinds of things can and should be done.

Charlie Mas said...

It's funny, you know, but the staff do not regard the Board any differently than they regard the incorrect, over-privileged segment that talks too much. After all, who do you think runs for school board?

As for Outsider's question of "Why bother?", the board and the staff answered that question. They have reasons to engage the public. And there is a whole lot of stuff that is NOT dictated by contract or law. A whole lot.

I'm not sure that you'll find a lot of folks who share the view that the core mission of public education is social engineering, but I can see it is what you sincerely believe and I won't bother to try to talk you out of it. Your clear lack of confidence in democracy is likewise beyond my ability to alter.

So thanks for spilling your vitriol and please come and do it again soon.

Outsider said...

Which Charlie was that, the one who says "they have reasons for engaging the public" or the one who says "the Board is exactly satisfied with these community engagement efforts. If they wanted more, they would insist on it"?

Democracy is voting for school board and the legislature. It's working great. I guess.

But what reasons do the Board and staff have for community engagement? If there were a topic on which they would let community sentiment influence the decision, they would have a reason. But there are few such topics. Charlie #1 seems to recognize that.

Aside from that, politicians generally prefer (rightly or wrongly) that the public not see too much inside the sausage factory, and the staff even more so. There is a fantasy that the right sort of community engagement would bring out a groundswell of support for all the things they plan to do anyway, but it's no surprise that the elected school board doesn't act too strongly on that fantasy.

Outsider said...

Also, Charlie #2 seems to think the Board is on the side of incorrect, over-privileged parents, but that seems very far from the truth. To reverse engineer a school board win in Seattle, step 2 is get the Times and Stranger endorsements, and step 1 is support of activists and city elites, which determine the endorsements. If a candidate has the Times and Stranger endorsements, the election is over. So school board candidates might pander in a limited way to parents during the campaign, but their true loyalty is to the activists and elites who hold the keys.

Of course there is a "deep district" that ignores the board, because they can. The deep district has its own relationships with activists and city elites, and knows where the ship is headed without any input from the board. The deep district knows the board is not really very powerful, and can be stared down at will. That's my cynical and vitriolic impression. But I am open to counter-evidence.

Anonymous said...

"Of course there is a "deep district" that ignores the board, because they can. The deep district has its own relationships with activists and city elites, and knows where the ship is headed without any input from the board. The deep district knows the board is not really very powerful, and can be stared down at will. That's my cynical and vitriolic impression. But I am open to counter-evidence."

This is absolutely correct and a crucial insight. So far the new board members either do not realize this, are unwilling to confront it, or are making their allegiances with the "deep district." If our elected school board cannot overcome this and break the power of the "deep district" then we are going to see a total disaster in the form of a mayoral takeover in the very near future.

This current board is our last chance to fix these problems. But so far, not a single one of the new members has shown they are willing to uproot the JSCEE culture of lies, deceit, and willful ignorance of policy. I'm pretty disappointed so far. I hope they prove me wrong.

-Not Surprised

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Of course there is a "deep district" that ignores the board, because they can. The deep district has its own relationships with activists and city elites, and knows where the ship is headed without any input from the board."

Yup. And nearly every superintendent is more than happy with that.