I attended the Work Session yesterday and was there for all the section on Executive Directors but only 30 minutes of the 24-Credit Graduation requirement. Agenda plus PowerPoint for each topic.
All the Board members were in attendance as well as Superintendent Nyland and other senior staff.
This discussion was led by Chief of Schools, Mike Starosky. I wish I could say this in a better way but this effort was an epic fail. He has advanced training in leadership and yet managed to take a the short 45-minutes for the topic and let it almost entirely slip away.
All the Executive Directors were there but Kelly Aramaki. For whatever reason, Mr. Starosky thought it would be a good idea to allow each Ex director to introduce him/herself and talk about their journey to this job. It could be helpful for directors to know the background of these staff members but that information could have been written down and distributed. So between the preamble and the introductions, there went 20 minutes of the 45 minutes.
Then we had five minutes of Mike Tolley explaining how this role all started about nine years ago.
What was a little funny is that the PowerPoint for this topic was longer than the one for the 24-credits. Mr. Starosky also accidentally put in a slide for Special Education and even stuck in a "joke" slide (slide 27.) Apparently he didn't consider that this PowerPoint would be read by others who were not at the meeting and would not get that joke. Another interesting slide was #10 where he leaves out Advanced Learning as part of "Teaching and Learning."
We finally got to start with the actual talking about the job. Starosky talked about how their job was "complicated" and how important school leadership is. He also said that there were "no documented instances of failing schools turning around without powerful leadership."
Director Peters, seeing time slip away, broke in to ask some questions.
1. Has having Executive Directors made a significant difference in how principals lead our schools?
Starosky either forgot or ignored this question but it was never answered.
2. Has there been a survey of principals (confidential) about how they feel Ex. directors help guide and support their work?
The answer is yes (I'll have to ask for the survey and its results.) Starosky said that the Ex directors now have standards for their work similar to the Danielson framework. He said there were none until last year. He also said that the role of EDs was rewritten last spring (I do not remember this being announced.)
He and Mr. Tolley explained that one finding is that principals have a different idea about the term "brokering resources" than the EDs. Apparently, principals think it is help in finding/solving problems at the district level while, according to staff, it means something else (he didn't expand on that.)
We have principals who are not on the same page with terminology as JSCEE staff? Well, that's not good.
3. Peters said that parents had concerns about too many administrative positions at JSCEE with the EDs and principal coaches and Mr. Starosky and Michael Tolley.
That caused some shifting in chairs. I know it was not easy for Director Peters to say those things out loud but yes, many have questioned all these people and their value to the process.
She also made the statement that she was a little sad that so many good people left being principals to become EDs.
What Starosky did say is that the principal coaches work with novice principals (less than three years as a principal) in a peer-to-peer non-evaluative role. He also referenced the PASS contract and how there were some principals on "plans of improvement" and that the principal coaches were doing that work. He said the principals had to show they were succeeding on their plans "or maybe they might choose another profession." He said there were 51 novice principals in SPS.
He said that the EDs have the evaluative piece.
He said his job was there to "balance the operational side to Teaching & Learning"." He also said that EDs are "leaders at Central Office." I had no idea that was so.
Slides 12 and 13 outline what the EDs do but Slide 13 "Role Balance" makes it look like they give time to four different duties equally. I'm not sure that's what he meant but we didn't even make it to that slide.
Director Harris asked about the "vertical alignment versus regional alignment" of EDs and said she would take her answer in the Friday memo. She asked for an org chart for building-based decisions versus JSCEE decisions and where that accountability is. She said she has asked for this before.
Director Blanford asked about Slide 28 - "Span of Control" that showed the ratio of EDs to principals in SPS and other districts. He said it really wasn't an apples to apples comparison because he knows the superintendent in Lake Washington and he knows the EDs there have different responsibilities.
Director Burke also gently called foul on this slide.
Peters chimed in that some principals were responsible for evaluating more than 20 teachers.
He said it was important to get clarity on principals because, in the past, former superintendent Olchefske had called them "CEOs" and that it didn't appear that was true today.
Peters then asked a question about the chain of command and help for school communities. ED Jon Hafaker said it's "a balance in communication around the CBA." He then went on to say something about the situation at Loyal Heights and there were a number of factors there including race. I had no idea what he meant except possibly the equity lens that is now the go-to factor for JSCEE staff.
Director Pinkham had a question about CSIPs and losing principals. Starosky said they lose more elementary principals but that would be true more because of their numbers relative to middle and high school.
Slide 22 is called "Lack of Clarity in the Role." No kidding.
24-Credits for Graduation
This was interesting because Slide #2 came right out and said:
Interrelated Initiatives 2017-2018:
Transportation Standards, 24-Credits, Cascadia Capacity, Boundaries, Additional 20 Minutes and Late Arrival or Early Dismissal.
Right away you can note that except for 24-Credits, these are mostly operational issues, not academic ones.
This discussion was led by Dan Gallagher who I don't know and it's not clear to me what his title is. Also with him were principals from Hale (Jill Hudson) and West Seattle (Ruth Medsker) who are part of the team working on this issue.
Michael Tolley said they are working on surveys that should go out next week as part of community engagement.
Gallagher said that the district had ask for - and received - a two-year waiver on implementation of this issue but that the law did not allow for any more waivers. So the current 8th graders (class of 2021) will be the first ones to have to pass the 24-credit mark for graduation.
Dr. Hudson referred to Slide 13 saying they are "re-visioning what the profile of a high school graduate" is. She said they are seeking a "collaborative model" for principals and then said that principals had not met as a group in over six years. How could that be? The high school principals have not met as a group to collaborate/share successes and failures in the last six years?
Software called Naviance was referenced as a tool that might help in this work .