Monday, October 10, 2016

Three Issues of Importance at this Week's Board Meeting

From the agenda for the Board meeting on Wednesday night, three items of major interest.
The first item is the introduction of the Amendments to 2013-20 Growth Boundaries Plan for Student Assignment.   

Why should you care?  Well, if you live in the north end, your child may or may not get grandfathered in their current school with these changes.

As well, the creation of Cedar Park, with a largely ELL/F/RL  population, is a recipe for disaster that will ripple throughout the district.

From the BAR under fiscal impact:

Staff estimates that these changes would result in fewer portables at the affected schools, and each portable currently costs the District approximately $160,000.
The fiscal impact of these changes from a transportation perspective requires a more granular analysis and is difficult to determine at this time. The amendments could produce savings, increase costs, or be cost neutral depending on whether the number of students who will need transportation increases or decreases as a result of this proposal. After detailed enrollment counts take place at the end of September, staff will produce a more detailed analysis of transportation fiscal impacts prior to the scheduled introduction date of October 12, 2016.
I'm not sure that's a very exact fiscal analysis.

They cite "community meetings":
These proposed amendments align with principal and community feedback.
The Community Input page starts on page 59.

There's a lot of blah, blah on Cedar Park meetings until you get to:
The recommended mitigations as developed by staff (including the principals of Cedar Park, John Rogers, and Olympic Hills elementary schools, the Executive Director of Schools- Northeast Region, the Director of School-Family Partnerships and Race and Equity, the Director of Enrollment Planning, and the Associate Superintendent for Facilities and Operations) are listed in the full Racial Equity Analysis (attached as Attachment C).
Page 65 of the BAR starts the Cedar Park documentation. Page 71 has the "potential benefits or unintended consequences" section. 

Page 72 has the mitigations like Cedar Park will get all new books and furniture, the district will providesupport for John Rogers if they lose their Title One funding, "bus NE elementary students to utilize the planned health resources at Olympic Hills", etc.  

Where are the fiscal costs for those last two items?

Hard to understand how sending low-income students to a new school and then busing them back to their old school(new building with health services that had been built to serve them) for health services is a real answer.

They went thru twelve (12!) different scenarios for this area.   

There is also this knee-slapper - an "assessment of facilities/capital needs for Cedar Park and John Rogers."

Isn't that what you do BEFORE you put students in a building?

As well, on page 8 of the BAR is the same grandfathering list - I wonder how many parents in the north end realize what may happen.

There are still two more Attachments D (Grandfathering and Fiscal Impact data) and Attachment E (additional public comments) that are not yet available.

I do not see this as the end of any discussion on this topic.

The second item is the Board’s Governance Priorities and Superintendent’s Evaluation tools for 16-17.

The first thing we learn:

The Board funded an initial $2M for the anticipated goals in June 2016 from unused one-time funds. At the September 2016 Board Retreat, the Board approved an additional $2M for the 16-17 SMART goals. Achievement of several of the elements on the rubric remain budget dependent.
So what is that $4M going towards?
  • Eliminate the Opportunity Gap
  • Improve Systems & Supports 
  • Create Culturally Inclusive School, Family & Community Engagement 
The BAR then goes on to list five SMART goals:
- SMART #1 - Ensure Educational Excellence for Each and Every Student - MTSS
- SMART #2 - EOG - Eliminate Opportunity Gaps in Students' Access to High-Quality Instruction and Learning Supports (this is for African-American males and other students of color)

- SMART#3 - Programming Mapping and Review.  
By May 31, 2017, the district will create an interactive program mapping tool that enables stakeholders to view and explore the district's continuum of program offerings by school, region and students served. In addition, the district will design and implement a pilot program review process to systematically evaluate the implementation and impact of current program offerings. 

I don't want to appear ungrateful but why such a high priority on letting parents/families know where programs are offered.   And a "pilot program" to see how the current offerings are doing?  Wouldn't that be the first job you do?

- SMART#4 - Funding/Budget
Here's an interesting sentence from that one - The district will conduct a district comparison by major activities and programs, including looking for efficiencies. 

So the district is now interested in what programs are where, comparing them and looking for savings?  Hmm.

- SMART #5 - Engagement/Collaboration  (bold mine)
By May 31, 2017, through established guidelines, protocols and training, Seattle Public Schools will develop a culture of predictable and transparent engagement with stakeholders at all levels, including internal staff, building a collaborative culture with a foundation of trust and confidence in Seattle Public Schools.
That's a pretty huge hurdle at this point.

The final item is the approval of the TRI Settlement with the SEA, for intro and action on Wednesday night.  This is for negotiated TRI payments with the union (for work outside of the school day like parent conferences, curriculum nights, etc.) 

Ah, I remember this one.  I reported on it in May 2016.
Over two years, from 2014-2016, the district's former Director of Labor and Employee Relations,  Geoff Miller, negotiated this settlement with the SEA.  Payments started going out but apparently no one in Budget/Accounting raised a red flag until $600,000 in payments had been made.

And no one in senior management had any idea this was happening even as, in Fall 2015, the district was negotiating the overall CBA with the SEA.

And SEA leadership, who should have known this should go before the Board - no one knew a thing or said anything.

That's pretty hard to swallow. 

Reading the BAR we learn that the district hired an independent attorney to investigate what happened.  The investigator says this about Mr. Miller (red highlight mine:)
The staff member at issue failed to follow District protocol and did not obtain legal review, costs analysis, or approval by his superiors or the Board before negotiating and executing the agreement. Other than a failure to perform his job properly, there was no evidence that he acted in bad faith or colluded with SEA or others to carry out the agreement. It appears he entered the settlement agreement with a good faith belief that the District would not prevail in arbitration if the grievance proceeded. While the District had prevailed in a similar grievance arbitration in 2011, the investigator determined the settled grievance was substantively different than the prior situation.
It's not anyone's job in SPS to make a legal determination if they aren't in Legal but apparently if you acted in good faith, it's all good.

I have no idea why Mr. Miller is not named in the BAR.

This has to be into/action because to the payments had already started going out.  The district is withholding $100,000 but heck, folks, let it go.  You've already let everything else go.


kellie said...

The 2013 Growth Boundaries Plan was based on enrollment projections that extended to 2016. As such, we are now officially in uncharted territory. It is time for a full mid-course correction.

The BAR as presented as multiple problems, including that Whitman and Washington become incredibly small and will need to displace substantial staff.

There are multiple technical errors in the BAR, including the omission of HCC pathways and a geo-zone for Licton Springs.

Plus all of the elementary school boundary changes are unnecessary and geosplit over 800 students for no measurable gain.

Anonymous said...

Kellie-- I wrote the board an email on this issue. However, did not hear anything back. It concerns me that in the 10-12-16 agenda action it looks like SPS feels they have the authority to decide HCC pathways after the boundary vote.

It will be a mess for overcrowded schools that will remain overcrowded such as HIMS, as well as Whitman and Washington becoming so small. Maybe SPS plans to put HCC kids over at Washington (an approved pathway) or create one at Whitman prior to next Fall 2017.

HCC middle school parents are going to be in for a big surprise in Feb 2017 about their kid's changing school for Fall. Anyway, I had thought the board needed to vote on approved HCC pathways. The board needs to fully understand enrollment projection data including for programs prior to the boundary vote.

Anonymous said...

The board needs to call them out for this monkey business. The District is clearly manipulating the situation to get around the board's move to approve program placement. This is obvious and dishonest.


Anonymous said...

Our kid started Whitman this fall, and in spite of the general 'fear of Whitman' that I've encountered among other non-Whitman parents, we are (so far) very happy there. The teachers are (mostly) great, staff has been responsive, parents are involved.

Next year we are assigned to Eaglestaff. The boundaries document only mentions grandfathering at the elementary school level. Even if we did choose to stay (as had been our inclination), when would we know about staff and course reductions? Will all these decisions be made after the deadline for requesting a choice seat? And what is going on with Eaglestaff planning?

I believe in public schools, but between this and the situation at the high school level, we are trying to figure out if we can flee to private as this storm is hitting during some of the most important years of our children's education. But who can afford (or justify) $120K for a 4-year high school education?

taking flight

Anonymous said...

This is amazing: "a foundation of trust and confidence in Seattle Public Schools."

This cannot happen as long as Larry Nyland, Michael Tolley, and other key leaders remain employed by SPS. They are liars. They treat parents and teachers with contempt. They have repeatedly proven themselves unable to properly manage the operations of a school district. Every day that they remain employed by and in charge of our schools is a slap in the face to our children and our city.

I eagerly await the board waking up and taking real action to build trust and confidence in SPS. That will not happen until they take the wheel, starting with firing Nyland and his senior leaders. Unless that step is taken, we cannot have any trust and confidence in this board.


Anonymous said...

Wondering if many parents have written the board besides myself. I guess Oct 12th will be interesting. The board will not "call them out" if only a few parents have written them about this issue.

Anonymous said...

Taking Flight, my daughter goes to Whitman too. Her friend's mother called up the District to ask if her child would be able to stay next year for 8th Grade. The mother was told "the District is concentrating on elementary schools not middle schools. If there's room, kids can stay at Whitman." All extremely vague. All extremely worrying.
Whitman Parent.

Anonymous said...

Whitman Parent-- According to most recent projections there will be lots of "room" next year at Whitman. They are expected to go down to 485 students with the new boundaries. While HIMS and other schools stay way overenrolled! However, they need the kids from Whitman to fill Eaglestaff and "balance programs", so personally I doubt they will be grandfathered.

Anonymous said...

Why not keep most of the elementary schools that now feed into Whitman at Whitman, then move HCC kids from Hamilton into Eagle Staff (with a smaller cohort of neighborhood kids)? Wouldn't that be less disruptive than geo-spliting hundreds of kids out of Whitman to fill Eagle Staff PLUS geo-splitting HCC kids who knows where (Whitman???).

-so confused!

Anonymous said...

So confused: yes, agree. But, district staff seem intent on Eaglestaff being a "comprehensive" middle school with a "small cohort" (was told there will be no more than 250 at one boundary meeting) of HCC kids. But this leaves Whitman at 485 students & HIMS and other north end middle schools very over enrolled. And it leaves 100 HCC kids who knows where. In fact HIMS was even overenrolled even if they moved the original 343 (out of 700 total middle school) HCC kids into Eaglestaff which was in Dec 2015 projection. I have no idea where they are thinking of putting the other 100 HCC kids.

Anonymous said...

Pretty rich that in the BAR on growth boundaries they highlight Amendment 12:

Acknowledge that the Growth Boundaries Plan for Student Assignment will be reviewed annually and modified as needed, taking into consideration the impact of implementation on students, families, communities, schools, program pathways, transportation, and costs. Community engagement with impacted stakeholders will continue. The intention will be to improve these plans, minimize disruption, maximize flexibility, and manage unforeseen developments and outcomes.”

Have they failed on all accounts?

The impact on students, families, communities and schools will be extensive, with huge numbers of students moved unnecessarily (as kellie had pointed out). Additionally, a school designed to serve the specific needs of one population will instead see that population shifted elsewhere, where it will become a high FRL school that doesn't have onsite access to the same resources. "Minimize disruptions" my a$$.

Program pathways for middle school HCC are inexplicably (and irresponsibly) being being left out of the new north end middle school boundary discussion, even though the current north end HCC sites are overcrowded and other schools are being redrawn to be underenrolled. It's almost like the district has a plan but doesn't want to tell us yet...

Transportation and costs don't address the newly created (but completely unavoidable) need to transport Cedar Park students to the health resources at Olympic Hills, since they are being moved to away from the site that was developed with their needs in mind.

It's very hard to believe this is the best they can do.


Anonymous said...

If they want to kill Whitman (for whatever reasons they may have - do they need one?), they could make it a high school. It's a better location than Lincoln, in many respects - nice fields, large area, and an easier and cheaper school to demo because it (rightfully) isn't landmarked. And then Lincoln could become another middle school, partnering with HIMS to share facilities that HIMS is lacking.

taking flight

Melissa Westbrook said...

Interesting idea, Taking Flight but is that where we need a new high school?

Anonymous said...

I agree that the Whitman location isn't ideal for a high school - but it would be an easier and therefore cheaper site to develop than Lincoln and would have better field space. I worry that the Lincoln development will get mired in landmark issues and the kinds of costly surprises that come up in remodeling projects. Because of this, Whitman may take less time to bring on line as a high school than Lincoln - though is may be that more time is needed for program planning (and lots of planning has already been put into the Lincoln site). Lincoln isn't a perfect high school location either since it's about mid-way between Ballard and Roosevelt. And re-making Whitman a high school would get us back to the middle school capacity problem. But maybe Lincoln is a better middle school location, given that HIMS, Eckstein, and Eaglestaff will all be overcrowded?

What I really wonder about is what the district could possibly be thinking as it prepares to open a new middle school and reset elementary and middle school boundaries that will result in over-enrolled and under-enrolled schools, but none that are just right.

taking flight

Anonymous said...

How many working parents or parents at home with elementary students can attend a 4:15-8:15 meeting downtown to stand up for their kid's best interests?


Jill Geary said...

Hi Melissa,

I think I am responding to the right post. As for Smart Goal #3, I asked for a better mapping tool so that we can analyze where our programs are in relationship to the different populations of Seattle. I asked for this because it is the first thing I wonder every time we are asked to approve the additional funding of one of the many different programs - dual language, IB, etc. I want to see where the program is in relationship to the others like it, who it will be serving, and the statistical make up of the community it will serve. I would like this information so I can determine whether the placement is equitable and/or serving the population it is designed for. This will also be helpful to me with regard to the placement and populations under the new special education program placement. I thought this information would be necessary to reviewing the student assignment plan, which seems to me desperately needed - but impossible to do with out some good visual information about our district. Maybe some people can get a sense of all this by looking at dense Excel spreadsheets, but I cannot.

My request became a goal, or bigger goal, when Director Burke asked that it be combined with an evaluative piece - to address our frequent questions about the effectiveness of the different programs that are being offered. It is my hope that this information will assist us in making the many decisions about program placement and funding that we are often asked to make, but in what feels to be a bit of a vacuum.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks, Jill. But I'm a little surprised that this doesn't already exist. It would seem that the district could easily give you this info.

Charlie Mas said...

Since the first criteria for program placement decisions is supposed to be putting the programs where the students live, the District must already have some means for determining where the students live. And, of course, they do.

We can already see the cases in which the District program placement follows this criteria and when it does not.

Anonymous said...

Why did they lump boundary changes in with changes to the assignment plan (grandfathering, geo-splits, etc...), and changes to enrollment preferences/tiebreakers (option school geozones). Seems like a lot for an all or nothing vote, and I don't remember the BARs for previous annual revisions to growth boundaries having an implementation element. Wasn't this done separately, as a Student Assignment Plan transition plan?

-North-end Mom

Zella917 said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Zella917 said...

Not sure how to delete my last comment, but I believe I misspoke. It sounds like the board will at least consider HCC pathways at the same time as making other growth boundary decisions, and amendments are being proposed, but nothing is definite yet.