Friday, December 30, 2016

Friday Open Thread

The last Open Thread of the year.   It will be a challenging year ahead but, if there were any evidence that the world should go on, look into your child's face.  Wishing you all a healthy, safe and yes, Happy New Year.  And, of course, go Huskies!

Great opportunity for girls, 16-17 - Inspiring Girls Expeditions is offering free glaciology and marine programs next summer. The deadline for applications is January 31st.

Thursday, December 29, 2016

Mumps Expanding Across Region;One Case at Nova

From Q13:
New numbers show the mumps outbreak in King County has now spread to 108 cases, including one new case in a Seattle public school.

The Public Health Department of Seattle & King County has confirmed a student who attends Nova High School has been diagnosed with mumps.

Helping Students Spot Fake News

Here's the link to this infographic.

Wednesday, December 28, 2016

Nyland Speaks Out About Seattle Schools' Deficit

Update: I note that the Times had this up on their front page webpage for just a couple of hours before it disappeared into their Op-Eds links. Hmm.

end of update

The op-ed in the Seattle Times is like many adminstrative missives; kind of bland, kind of vague and without much real strength behind it.

Tuesday, December 27, 2016

Looking Ahead (Nationally) - Part Two, Personalized Learning

I've already written several times about "personalized learning" (here's the latest post that I wrote.)

But let's see how personalized learning will play out within a Trump administration. 

Tuesday Open Thread

Carrie Fisher, our Princess Leia, dead at 60.  I just watched a great documentary - Bright Lights - about her and her mother, Debbie Reynolds.  It was a fun and funny film about two women who lived their lives out loud.  Sad.

Interesting story from NPR about whether software in classrooms can help save lives from teachers viewing what topics students searched for.

Monday, December 26, 2016

Looking Ahead (Nationally) - Part One

You'll notice I didn't say "looking forward" because honestly, I don't see much hope for public education for all students in this country, state and city.  Let's start with nationally.

Trump won the Electoral College and is therefore elected president.  However, that win is clearly not a mandate when you consider that he received nearly 63 million votes to Hillary Clinton's nearly 66 million votes.  Add into her votes the ballots cast for Gary Johnson, Jill Stein, and others and you get to about 74 million people who voted against Trump.

He has not even been sworn in and already there are many warning signs.  His background and actions tell us three important things.

Friday, December 23, 2016

Good Will Towards All

As we come upon different holidays, I want to wish everyone a safe, peaceful and happy time. The blog will be quiet for this weekend but, as promised, next week I will have posts on issues of "segregation," HCC, and 10,000 foot view of the district.

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and Happy Kwanzaa (not to mention the just-passed Winter Solstice.

Naughty and Nice List 2016

On the subject of gift giving....

Thursday, December 22, 2016

This and That

From Ed Week, New York State lifts disciplinary action against teachers who discuss test questions that the state has released.

A reader asked about a threat at Ingraham High School in the cafeteria by a student with a backpack.  A staffer asked around and not a single student knows about this.  In this day of phones with cameras and social media, that would seem odd.  I'm thinking someone was trying to stir the pot here.  Don't do that.

Last spring, Mayor Murray had his Education Summit.  I was there as were hundreds of other people.  He said this about homeless students in SPS (transcript from the Mayor's office, dated April 30, 2016):

What's Up With the Security Cameras at Washington Middle School?

So what's up with this story about Washington Middle School and security cameras in the cafeteria?  From the South Seattle Emerald:
(In late November) the principal of Washington Middle School said she thought so, announcing the installation of “video surveillance throughout the school.”
 
“We intend to identify kids who do not fulfill their clean-up responsibilities,” said Principal Susan Follmer. “Who wants to sit at a crumb-ridden table?”
In another e-mail Follmer said:

Stay Calm and Join the Resistance

Worried about what comes next for our country and public education?  Great uplifting words from the Gadfly on the Wall blog
Why should we despair when we behold the glass menagerie of fools Trump has assembled to populate his administration? Glass breaks.

Why despair when hearing the tired rhetoric of Nazi Germany and the Jim Crow South coming out of his mouth? We defeated both! We can do so again.

Yes, we don’t have any political party that supports us. So we’ll either take over the Democrats or build our own legislative network. 

“Fate whispers to the warrior ‘You cannot withstand the storm.’ The warrior whispers back ‘I am the storm.’ ”
– unknown

Tuesday, December 20, 2016

Bellevue School District

A reader recently referenced the high PISA-like scores for students in Bellevue School District; I read about it in the Times via this article:
If the Bellevue School District were a nation, its high-school students would rank among the top of the world’s developed nations on an influential international exam.

Fighting Trump's Ed Secretary Nominee

Update from Politico:
Billionaire Betsy DeVos has been unabashed about using her wealth to advance her own agenda. “We expect a return on our investment,” she once wrote about her family’s massive political contributions.

After giving millions of dollars to politicians over the past two decades, she now heads into her Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary with a clear advantage: DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination — four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process.
end of update
Billionaire Betsy DeVos has been unabashed about using her wealth to advance her own agenda. “We expect a return on our investment,” she once wrote about her family’s massive political contributions.
After giving millions of dollars to politicians over the past two decades, she now heads into her Senate confirmation hearing for education secretary with a clear advantage: DeVos and her husband, Dick, have donated to the campaigns of 17 senators who will consider her nomination — four of whom sit on the Senate education committee that oversees the process.
Simply put, Betsy DeVos will be a disaster for American public education.  That Trump does not know near enough about the system, Common Core, etc. means that he would likely give free rein to whoever runs the Department of Education and that includes pushing charter schools and vouchers.

Tuesday Open Thread

I'm celebrating a child's birthday this week (I have grown men now.) One thing I always tell parents of boys; record that little boy voice because when puberty hits, it goes away.  I can still hear my older son's voice in my head but not my younger but hey, it's all on tape.  Whether with video or not, get some audio of your son's voice - you'll be glad you did.

Sunday, December 18, 2016

UW 2017 History Lecture Series

This winter's lecture series on Equity&Difference has some good ones that could be useful in thinking about public education.  (Two of the early ones - Equity and Deeper Learning and White Privilege are already sold out.)

Feb. 15th, Kane Hall at 7:30 pm
Joy Williamson-Lott -  
New Hurdles, Same Territory: How History Can Guide the Future of Education
Many look to “the school” as the great equalizer, a meritocracy where equal opportunity is realized. For communities of color, this is often far from the truth. Throughout history, each time communities of color have made progress toward equal educational opportunity, a major societal pushback has caused the loss of gains that appeared won. Dr. Williamson-Lott looks to history to show how we can work toward real progress.

Overview Thoughts as We Come to the End of 2016

We don't need to have an expanded discussion here on these various issues but here's what I'll be writing about by the end of the year:

Friday, December 16, 2016

Friday Open Thread

The Governor has announced that he wants to have a new department, for Families, Children and Youth, to provide a streamlined, one-stop service agency for those citizens. This makes sense to me.  I think better outcomes, faster, for children in need is what we all want and this could be it.  From the News Tribune:

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Tuesday, December 13, 2016

Why I Have Little Respect for Bill Gates on Education

If this statement doesn't convince you, then I give up.  From The Hill:
Bill Gates said Tuesday that President-elect Donald Trump’s potential to bring innovation to the U.S. resembles that of President John F. Kennedy’s. 
Gates, the billionaire Microsoft founder and philanthropist, told CNBC that Trump can lead the U.S. “through innovation” and compared Trump’s ideas to Kennedy’s expansion of the U.S. space program in the early 1960s. 
“But in the same way President Kennedy talked about the space mission and got the country behind that, I think whether it’s education or stopping epidemics … [or] in this energy space, there can be a very upbeat message that [Trump’s] administration [is] going to organizing things, get rid of regulatory barriers, and have American leadership through innovation,” Gates said.
There are no words for the words of Gates except that, well, it's business on parade.

Tuesday Open Thread

Finally, some good news for students with disabilities and ELL students who are taking the SAT.  Via the Washington Post:

Saturday, December 10, 2016

Budget Deficit Revealed (Kinda)

I spoke at the School Board meeting on Wednesday.  One of my topics was the fact that in order to understand the raging budget deficit facing SPS, I was told to file a public disclosure request.  I pointed out to the Superintendent and Board that this was not transparency at its best and if they want support from the community, it might be useful to be open about the situation.

This information  is not some state secret and, in fact, the finance/budgeting folks probably all know the numbers by heart.  

To my surprise, I was sent this information by JoLynn Berge,Assistant Superintendent of Business and Finance. Great but, once again, not specific enough (but, of course, that's by design.) 

I'll first note the obvious for every single one of us adults - when creating a budget, you start with what money you DO have and what you owe/needed spending and THEN you see what is leftover for other things.  The district seemingly operates with what they WANT to do and then moves on to paying for needs. 

This is obvious when you consider the underspending on maintenance of the facilities, both new and old.  This is obvious when the Board votes a COLA for the Superintendent (after giving him a raise the previous year) and yet schools like Northgate don't have money for copy paper.  It's obvious when some Sped students don't get to come to school on a late start weather day because of transportation (I had no idea but this is happening.)

Most of all, when the Superintendent and staff, in the face of all operational problems, puts Strategic Plan initiatives ahead of a well-operating district.  This district will NOT ever move ahead for its students (especially those who are low-income and/or of color) if this district is not well-run.

I do not believe it is well-run and I have thought this for a very long time.

Friday, December 09, 2016

Yay for Girl Scouts of Western Washington

If you have ever wondered about the difference between the Girl Scouts and the Boy Scouts. I am very proud to have been a Brownie, Girl Scout and Cadette.

Dear Girl Scouts,

New York Times Asking Kids: What Are Your Reactions to President-Elect Trumps Cabinet Appointments?

 New York Times:
From George Washington’s presidency until today, the president of the United States has always had a cabinet, a group of close advisers who help him make decisions about how to run the country. Since winning the election, President-elect Donald J. Trump has named many of the individuals he will nominate to serve as members of his cabinet.

Have you been following the news about Mr. Trump’s cabinet selections? What’s your reaction so far?
Students 13 and older are invited to comment. All comments are moderated by the Learning Network staff, but please keep in mind that once your comment is accepted, it will be made public.

Friday Open Thread

Interesting way to get kids to consider those less fortunate during the holiday season - the Christmas Cat of Iceland.

So this blog has had lively discussions over tracking in music and athletics - China takes this a step too far.  From the NY Times:

Wednesday, December 07, 2016

Seattle School Board Meeting Tonight

Update 2: Sue Peters is the new School Board president.  VP is Leslie Harris and Member-at-Large is Scott Pinkham.

End of update

Update: Guess who is getting a raise?  Superintendent Nyland.

He has generously offered to only take a COLA of 1.8% of his base salary of $289,878.75.  The BAR states that no public engagement was needed and that research had been done around other superintendents' salaries.  There is no such data attached to the BAR.

This information was put up this afternoon, less than 24 hours before this BAR has intro/action.  That is completely wrong to put this up in this timeframe. Like this is an emergency or something.

I cannot believe anyone can believe – with a straight face and that kind of salary –that you will have any support from the public or parents when you come and say that big cuts must be made to schools and personnel.

To say I am aghast and disillusioned is putting it mildly.

End of update

 A couple of things to look for:

- The quick no to any contract change/raise for Superintendent Nyland.  I'm fairly sure of this outcome because there is no link to anything about this on the agenda despite it being there.
    Approval of Contract Discussions with the Superintendent - Approval of this item would approve the results of the contract discussions with the Superintendent. (to be posted prior to action) (this item is for introduction and action at the same meeting)
    That there is no link 24 hours before this item would indicate to me that no action can be taken.  They cannot just put it up there without any ability from the public to review it.  (As well, how would it look to give him a raise?)

    - As I mentioned in the Blanford post, if you watch the meeting on tv, look at his body language.  He tends to keep his back to his colleagues even as they speak.  Given what he wrote in the South Seattle Emerald with no notice to his colleagues, there may even be discussion about what he wrote.

    - The speaker list is full but with just one person on the waitlist.  The majority of input is to be about the Student Assignment Plan.  I am the first speaker after the student speaker from Garfield.  As well, former director Sharon Peaslee is on the list and may speak about Licton Springs K-8 which she fought mightily to save.

    Thank You, Nordstrom

    From Nordstrom's Facebook page for their downtown store Santa schedule:

    Updates to Garfield Report Card Conferences

    The district requested that I provide these updates for clarity.

    Tuesday, December 06, 2016

    Washington State Charter School Updates

    With the Growth Boundaries, 20-Minutes added to the school day, changes to the Student Assignment Plan, Cedar Park, etc, I have found nary the time to write about charter schools in Washington State.  But finally, here it is.

    "I Know You are a Good Boy"

    This is a singularly beautiful video on being a teacher but especially those who take on the big challenges.


    Want to Know What Makes Up Budget Deficit? Mum's the Word

    Last week, I asked district Communications a couple of questions about the projected $70M+ budget deficit for the 2017-2018 via email.  I also spoke to a member of the Communications team. When I asked, I was told that was probably a question they would get from many reporters and they would get that info.  (Makes sense, no?)

    Tuesday Open Thread

    Unfortunate news from View Ridge Elementary; a smash-and-grab windows and then theft of purses from cars in front of school right after drop-off time.  Apparently, one mom was only gone 10 minutes so that meant the thief was watching the school because that's pretty brazen for daylight hours.

    One huge story comes from Washington's Paramount Duty's Facebook page:

    Senator Michael Baumgartner (6th LD, Republican) filed a resolution today to amend Article IX (Education) of Washington State Constitution and call for a state vote on numerous amendments. 

    Monday, December 05, 2016

    Director Blanford Starts a Fight (and to what end?)

    The South Seattle Emerald newspaper has an op-ed piece from Director Blanford that is, well, pretty incendiary.  The title of the piece (I don't know if it is his or the newspaper's) is School Budget Deficit Too Heavy A Price For Our Children.  Which children Blanford is talking about becomes clear as you read the piece.

    He starts by explaining that in mid-November, the Board had been informed about the budget deficit.  He says it's the biggest one the district has ever experienced and could not be solved by McCleary. 
    The SPS’s financial staff advice to the board was clear: Using the Strategic Plan as a touchstone, the board must commit to exercise financial discipline in order to manage current and future expenses. Otherwise, projected teacher layoffs and program cuts would be catastrophic in our classrooms and schools.
    Now I stop here to interject that when the district had this so-called "underspend" last year of $11M, staff could not find enough ways to spend it.  To his credit, Director Blanford had wanted to not spend all of it.  And, staff has continually thanked the Board for allotted the bulk of that money towards Strategic Plan initiatives.

    He goes on to complain about the $1M voted in by the Board majority for transportation costs for grandfathering.

    Wait, what?

    He doesn't explain that the overwhelming majority of the deficit is due to the levy cliff?  That makes it sound like the district/Board are terrible managers of the public's money.  He doesn't help the public understand that action needs to be taken to prevent this from happening.  No, he says nothing about that.

    He goes onto describe the Board meeting where the Growth Boundaries were voted on. 
    Afterwards, we moved to the business portion of the evening, hearing from a long line of angry parents clamoring for special treatment of their children’s schools with revisions to the Growth Boundaries Plan. Various members of the board, acceding to their demands, then put forward 12 separate amendments to the staff-generated plan. Not one of these amendments addressed conditions at any of our South End schools or clearly articulated the financial costs of implementation. And the amendments did not provide any cost savings, or even remain budget neutral. 
    I'm not sure that it's "special treatment" for parents to want their child to be able to finish school where he/she started.  And, that many of those parents clearly spoke for parents who could not attend or did not have the ability to advocate for their own child.   Anyone watching that meeting would not say it was a bunch of NIMBY parents.

    As for not addressing conditions at South End schools, I can only say that what was being discussed and voted on that night were growth boundaries for mostly the north end as that is where the majority of change would happen. 

    As for the costs, well, staff didn't put forth any amounts for how much it would cost to move 800 kids around from one school to another so how would anyone know the real costs versus savings?

    He went on to explain how big budget cuts would likely hurt students of color most of all.  I think we could all agree on that.  That newer teachers get laid off before more senior teachers.

    But then he veers off into an attack on the rest of the Board and their motivations.
    Secondly, based on recent history, I have come to believe that the school board that I serve on is not sufficiently oriented to or motivated by the need to eliminate the gap, in spite of the fact that the majority of students (53%) served by Seattle Public Schools are students of color. Obviously, not every student of color is in the gap – in fact, many students of color outperform their peers. But for those that don’t, there was very little outrage or even discussion when the board learned of our national ranking in a story that was reported back in May. I’ve frequently seen members of the board disregard advice from the staff and parents when it conflicts with the narrow interests of some of their constituents. 
    Betty Patu, who has served far longer than anyone on the Board, doesn't know or isn't motivated to eliminate the gap for students of color.  And Scott Pinkham, who is a Native American SPS parent, isn't motivated to close that gap?  Not to mention all the rest of the directors who have stood up for students of color including voting for the Strategic Plan and its focus.

    I would have to think that his assertion that the rest of the Board doesn't seem to care about children of color might just violate the standards that the Board has set up for themselves about how they interact with each other.

    Why the lack of clear information to the public about the reasons for the deficit?  Why no call on trying to get the Governor or the Legislature to extend the levy for another year when that would be the one real solution, not cuts?

    My spidey radar tells me there is more here than meets the eye so my real question would be, how does this help the budget situation, Director Blanford? 

    Seattle Schools This Week

    The district's info on buses and inclement weather for what may be an up-and-down weather week.

    Also, two items of note to put on your calendar.

    One, a community meeting on Cedar Park and its designation as an Option School.   This is on Thursday, December 15th at Cedar Park Elementary from 6:30-8:30 pm.

    The other is an Option School Fair that the district will be holding on Saturday, January 28, 2017 at Cleveland STEM High School from 10 am-2pm. 

    Monday, December 5th

    Student Assignment Plan meeting from 6:30-7:30 at JSCEE.  


    At UW, Education and Society Film Series: Starving the Beast.  Sponsored by University of Washington College of Education Master in Education Policy program
    Kane Hall 120 from 7-9 pm.
    Some of the most pressing issues facing America's educational systems will be discussed during the "Education and Society" documentary film series. Watch "Starving the Beast" and join a conversation about the funding of public higher education. 
    Examine the ongoing power struggle on college campuses across the nation as political and market-oriented forces push to disrupt and reform America’s public universities. The film documents a philosophical shift that seeks to reframe public higher education as a value proposition to be borne by the beneficiary of a college degree rather than as a public good for society.
    The event is free and open to the public.

    Tuesday, December 6th
     There is notice of a possible School Board quorum as the Board has been invited to a luncheon with Superintendent-elect Chris Reykdal.  

    Wednesday, December 7th
    School Board meeting at JSCEE, starting at 4:15 pm.  Agenda

    Highlights:
    - the Board is slated to approve grant funds from the Seattle Foundation/Vulcan Foundation of $465,000 for two projects.  One is the Creative Advantage/CTE Media Arts Skills Center program and the other is the Creative Advantage Regional Arts Showcase.
    - election of new officers for the Board.  I'm thinking that it's likely the Board will continue on with Director Patu as President.  I believe she's likely to leave the Board when her term expires in Dec 2017 (but I have no inside knowledge of that.)
    - one-page narrative of Superintendent Nyland's second year of work for SPS
    - introduction of the Student Assignment Plan that already has one amendment.  This comes from Director Peters and is to grandfather all rising 8th graders with transportation affected by the opening of Robert Eagle Staff Middle School and the reopening of Meany Middle School.

    Thursday, December 8th
    Audit&Finance Committee Work Session, JSCEE Board conference room from 4:30-7:00 pm.  No agenda yet available.

    Robert Eagle Staff Middle School Family and Community Planning meeting from 6-7:30 pm at Loyal Heights Elementary at the John Marshall building.

    From Washington STEM and the League of Women Voters:

    Have you ever wondered about the STEM (Science, Technology, Engineering, Math) programs in our schools.  What does it mean to be a STEM program? How are they implemented?

     Join the League of Women Voters of Seattle-King County, 1620 18th Ave, Suite 101, from 11am to 1pm.


    Friday, December 9th
    BEX Oversight Committee Meeting, from 8:30-10:30 am, JSCEE, Room 2750, no agenda yet available.

    Saturday, December 10th
    Community meeting with Director Peters at Magnolia Library from 11 am-1pm.

    Contact the Governor NOW

    I'm going to offer the simplest advice I can on the levy cliff. There is NO reason it has to happen. 
     
    I urge everyone to call 360-902-4111 or,
    email https://fortress.wa.gov/es/governor/ or 
    tweet @GovInslee 
     
    and tell him to put pressure on the Legislature to have a one-day special session to extend the levy deadline from 2017 to 2018.

    Remind him that until the Legislature completes McCleary work, districts should not suffer even more from a lack of fully funded schools.

    Yes, contact your own legislator as well but I'm hoping that if the Governor feels the full force of citizens begging for this, he can make it clear that whatever the Legislature wants to get done when they do convene their regular session, nothing will get his signature.

    Saturday, December 03, 2016

    2017-2018 Student Assignment Plan

    Or, as more commonly referred to, the SAP.

    Background
    The district created a new Student Assignment Plan in 2009 that was approved by the Board.  It was a big change, primarily because the district went from a choice plan to a neighborhood plan.  I know that many of you don't like this form of SAP but, at the time, many parents were clamoring for a neighborhood plan because of the assurance of knowing what school their child would be assigned to.  The interesting thing I wonder about is that under the choice plan, 90% of people received their first choice.  That's a pretty good percentage but was that their desired choice or just the best choice they felt they could make in terms of knowing where their child would be?  I haven't heard any numbers on the choice within the neighborhood plan.

    Then, with the explosive growth in the district, the plan had to be tweeted and so there was a Transition Plan.  What is confusing to me is that the district is still in a growth mode plus opening new schools even after school year 2017-2018.  Why they would not continue having a Transition Plan until all those new schools are open is a mystery.

    Legislature Needs to Act Fast


    Email your legislators right now by clicking here and ask them to fully fund public schools so they don’t lay off teachers this spring.


    Dear friend,

    Please email your legislators right now and ask them to fully fund public schools so they don’t lay off teachers this spring.

    Across the state, already-underfunded school districts are being told to prepare for a new round of budget cuts. You may have received letters or emails warning about the possibility of teacher layoffs or program closures.


    Let's be clear: this is unacceptable. And it's unconstitutional.

    Friday, December 02, 2016

    Friday Open Thread

    The big news is that the City of Seattle announced three new homeless encampments to be established in early 2017 and one of them is right by the Wilson-Pacific complex that will be home to Robert Eagle Staff Middle School, Licton Springs K-8 and Cascadia Elementary.  The location is 8620 Nesbit Avenue North and it will have up to 50 tiny homes, serving 60-70 people (Nesbit is one block east of Aurora.) The other new encampments are down in Georgetown and White Center.  (The one in White Center will also be near an elementary school but with enough distance that it's not the issue that Wilson-Pacific campus is.)

    I think we can all agree that the homeless crisis in Seattle is a major issue.  But I am shocked the City would choose a location in an area that is already problematic AND has so many school children nearby. As I previously reported, RESMS planning principal Marni Campbell announced at a community meeting this week that the City is giving the district $1M grant to improve safety in that area. Well, this would appear to be one reason why that happened. 

    The district tweeted out a story from Mind/Shift from KQED about West Seattle High School and a program to reach students who may learn in different ways.
    “How do we make the system fit the child instead of trying to make the kid fit the system?” she asked. Teachers at her school are exploring this question in a variety of ways, including through a pilot advisory-type program that began with a cohort of 25 tenth graders.
    As I tweeted back to the district, this is great but how come they didn't announce this themselves?

    Hey DFER (Democrats for Education Reform) WA is looking for a new director.    Just to note, DFER has endorsed the nomination of Betsy DeVos for Education secretary in the Trump administration while simultaneously criticizing Trump.  It does not mention DeVos love of vouchers but supports her love of charter schools.    From Diane Ravitch:
    The reformers are in a pickle. They can’t claim fealty to Trump, because they pretend to be Democrats. But Trump has embraced the reformer agenda, lock, stock and barrel. This statement is one way of handling their dilemma: embrace DeVos–a figure who finances the far-right and wants completely unregulated, unaccountable choice, and simultaneously chide Trump for his hateful rhetoric. Pretend to be Democrats while saluting her.
    Not so coincidentally, DeVos gave money to DFER. From ed blogger, Mercedes Schneider:
    Well, because DFER already has a relationship with both a DeVos’ nonprofit as well as a DeVos-chaired nonprofit– a financial relationship.
    There is a meeting tomorrow about Robert Eagle Staff Middle School at Northgate Elementary from 11 am to 12:30 pm.  

    Need to do some holiday shoppingThe Stranger has a great list of fairs/shops to buy locally made gifts.

    There are no director community meetings tomorrow as the Board has a retreat at JSCEE from 10 am-3 pm.  The agenda reflects discussion around the following:

    - the 2017-2018bbudget (recap of discussion and/or decisions - if any- to date), compilation of recommendations from stakeholders and staff, discussion of additional/new information, recommendations and consensus for pessimistic and optimistic budget scenarios
    - eliminating opportunity gaps
    - discussion of work of Community Engagement Task Force
    - assignment of Board Committee assignment preferences (the Board will be voting in new officers soon)

    Based on the worrisome budget next year, I think I may be buying this holiday gift for the Board and Superintendent.

    What's on your mind?

    Thursday, December 01, 2016

    Understanding the Dire State of SPS' 2017-2018 Budget

    Update 3: partial from letter sent to families that has new information:

    Next Steps

    Between Dec. 5, 2016 and Jan. 4, 2017 we will continue to solicit feedback on budget priorities from staff, families, and community partners. I would like to thank the Seattle Council PTSA for hosting three regional meetings for families to provide feedback on budget priorities. 

    Community Budget Gap Meetings
    Tues., Dec. 13, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Ballard High School
    1418 NW 65th St.


    Thurs., Dec. 15, 6:30 - 8 p.m. South Shore PreK-8 School
    4800 S Henderson St.


    Tues., Jan. 3, 6:30 - 8 p.m. Franklin High School
    3013 S Mt Baker Blvd.


    Interpretation will be available. To request interpretation please contact publicaffairs@seattleshools.org with your requested needs. 

    Additional details regarding the budget deficit, budget development timeline, and actions you can take will be posted to the 2017-18 budget webpage by tomorrow, Dec. 2. 

    If you have specific questions or concerns about the budget shortfall please email the Budget Office at budget@seattleschools.org.

    end of update

    Update 2: at the end of this thread is the district's press release about this issue.  It has no new information.

    end of update


    Update 1: the Times now has a story on this issue and the district is talking about lay-offs.  A message went out to teachers on Wednesday from Superintendent Nyland. 
    ....Nyland said the problem is based primarily on a $23M increase in labor costs and the fact that the district could lose about $31M under the so-called "levy cliff.

    The budget gap is the largest the district has faced since the 1970s, Nyland wrote in his message.
    Information is to be sent to families today, according to the Times.  As well, from the Superintendent's letter to teachers:
    Additional details regarding budget development and actions you can take will be posted to the 2017-18 budget webpage by the end of the week.
    But here's what legislative wonk (and all-around smart guy) Robert Cruickshank says in the comments to my story:
    It is important to keep in mind this is a fake budget gap. SPS does not have to cut a dime. The legislature cannot push districts over the levy cliff - doing so would be unconstitutional and the state Supreme Court would reject it. The legislature also promised in the 2016 budget to either provide new money to replace the lost levy authority OR extend levy authority for another year. That's a promise and not a law but it suggests that SPS will not actually have to cut anything.

    So what should SPS do? Nothing.

    SPS staff should NOT be planning for cuts. They should NOT be asking parents to fight amongst each other to decide which programs and teachers stay or go. They should NOT be preparing layoff notices.

    Why? Doesn't SPS have to plan in case they lose state money?

    No, because again, it's not actually possible for the district to lose that money. Whether through legislative action or court action, SPS will get the money they need.

    We must insist that SPS - staff and board - refuse to undertake a divisive, unnecessary, and unconstitutional exercise of planning for a budget cut that is legally and juridically impossible to actually happen.
    end of update

    Here's some information on what the levy cliff is and what you can do to try to head it off before our district falls off that cliff.

    I do note that I'm not sure how much of the $71-74M deficit projected by staff is due to the levy cliff.  All? Part? If so, how much?  I'll have to ask.

    From John Freeman at the Washington's Paramount Duty Facebook page (editor's note - I rearranged some of the information):

    Robert Eagle Staff Community Meetings

    I attended the community meeting for Robert Eagle Staff  Middle School on Tuesday night.  There were maybe 5 parents there including one father with his daughter.  Marni Campbell gave the presentation with Executive Director, Jon Halfaker, in attendance.  There were no handouts.

    She led with the phrase "dream ambitiously."  She also referenced the heritage of the Wilson Pacific site that SPS wants to honor.