Sunday, April 16, 2017

Seattle Schools This Week

I haven't been writing this particular thread as of late but I found something rather interesting in the school board meeting agenda.

This is the last week of the legislative session but I hope no one is holding their breath that the budget (and McCleary) will get done.  It's just beyond the patience of districts, schools, staffs and parents to have to watch the Legislature have to use MORE state money to get work done that should have been finished years ago.  

It looks like this week and next week will be SBAC testing (at least for high schools).  Again, your child only needs to take it once to graduate.  You can opt your child out of the test in any other grade level and the district has to give them some place to be. 

The Board has an Audit and Finance Committee meeting this week.  The agenda is mostly taken over by the purchase of a new point-of-sale system.  But right at the end of the agenda (and the lengthy documentation) is a change to Policy 6022 around the Economic Stabilization Account.   This change would mean two things:
  • Staff can recommend using the account for any reason.  The current policy has clear reasons for using this fund which I believe is basically the district's rainy day fund.  The current reasons are: emergencies for life, health or public safety issues and correcting accounting/budgeting errors.
  • A plan to rebuild the fund (which staff says is not in the original policy but I see something that approximates that).  
If this change does not happen, then the district cannot access these funds in order to shore up the budget for next year.  While I understand that need, I think striking stated reasons to access this fund is a bad idea.

I also note this interesting phrasing from the Monthly Financial Report under Debt Service Fund:

The large fund balance has been established as a sinking fund for the 2010 QSCB ($17.5M) that is coming due in June 2017.
I'll ask but I'm hoping that doesn't mean the district has to pay out $17.5M in June for the QSCB (Qualified School Construction Bonds).

To the Board meeting agenda.  The bulk of the meeting - the Consent agenda, Action and Intro - is largely going to be Capital issues from several BEX IV projects. 

But what is of most interest will be the Superintendent's comments.  One notation just says "West Seattle Elementary School" but there is nothing else to give an inkling what this might be.  The other one seems far more serious.

Notice of Public Employee Relations Commission Decision 12672 - Chief Sealth High School


From the Washington State Public Employment Relations Commission:
 
Seattle education association,

Complainant,

vs.

seattle school district,

Respondent.


CASE 127738-U-15

DECISION 12672 - EDUC


FINDINGS OF FACT,
CONCLUSIONS OF LAW,
AND ORDER


On November 25, 2015, the Seattle Education Association (union) filed an unfair labor practice complaint against the Seattle School District (employer). The Commission’s unfair labor practice manager issued a preliminary ruling on December 7, 2015, finding causes of action for employer interference, domination, and discrimination. On April 13, 2016, the union filed an amended complaint; on April 25, I issued an amended preliminary ruling. On May 2, 2016, the union filed a second amended complaint and on May 11, the employer objected to the union’s second amended complaint. I issued a second amended preliminary ruling on May 19, 2016. I held a hearing on September 19 and 20, 2016, and the parties submitted briefs on December 22, 2016.
The district, via the principal at Chief Sealth International High School, did this,

WE UNLAWFULLY sent an e-mail to union building representatives at Chief Sealth International High School on June 24, 2015, and an e-mail to an employee/union building representative at Chief Sealth International High School on September 5, 2015, that could reasonably be perceived as discouraging union activity or as a threat of reprisal or force, or promise of benefit, associated with protected union activity.
The issue was largely between a teacher (who was also a union rep), Nan Johnson, and the principal, Fraser-Hammer. The teacher had many grievances - a large woodshop class that included ELL and Special Ed students who did not have an IA in the room, being assigned to work at Denny and teaching credit retrieval.
Much of this was around budgeting and class size with issues of smaller class sizes for woodshop and IB classes playing a part. The rules state that two-thirds of the staff had to approve a budget and that did not appear to happen but the principal sent the budget to the district anyway.
On June 17, 2015, Fraser-Hammer attended a meeting. She testified that she thought the meeting was a regular meeting with the union’s building representatives. It was not. The purpose of the meeting, which was not disclosed to Fraser-Hammer in advance, was to discuss concerns about Fraser-Hammer’s leadership, including issues relating to transparency, communication, master scheduling, and the union’s climate surveys. Two parents attended the meeting at the invitation of the union representatives. According to Robinson, the union had invited parents because the union thought their presence might help get some movement from Fraser‑Hammer. The union had also invited Fraser-Hammer’s supervisor, Israel Vela, to attend, but he declined due to scheduling conflicts. According to Fraser-Hammer, the meeting lasted approximately two hours.
From the principal's point of view:

On June 24, 2015, Fraser-Hammer sent an e-mail concerning the meeting to the union building representatives. She expressed some of the same frustrations she communicated in the e-mail to Robinson and Knapp:

I am writing this email to express my disappointment with the nature and content of the meeting held on June 17th, 2015.  Your actions at that meeting were unprofessional, inappropriate, inflammatory and insubordinate. 

This entire process was very irregular and I am greatly saddened that it was the method you chose to address the issues at hand.  First of all, I was not informed ahead of time of the nature of the meeting; secondly, the topics raised were all based on discontent with my leadership and not with any violations of the [union] contract; and furthermore, I am still mystified about your decision to include parents in this meeting. . . .

Please know that I will no longer meet with the group unless I am provided with a written agenda ahead of time.  If the proposed topics have nothing to do with items covered by the [union] contract, I will not address it in [a union] meeting.  I will instead suggest the proper venue to address the issue. 

This change is not in retaliation for the personal ambush and lack of respect extended to me during the meeting, but it is an attempt to force this group to stick within the purview of its charge and to help the [Chief Sealth] staff to address issues in the proper and appropriate venues.  The time has come to firmly differentiate between issues that are covered by the [union] contract and those that are not.  Streamlining our procedures and clearly defining the domains and spheres of control of the different groups (BLT, IC, SEA, DL, CLT, etc.) will help staff know how, when and where to raise concerns and/or ask questions.  It will also help us all to engage in more professional dialogue and academic discourse around student achievement and to refrain from negative secret conversations that divide and separate us. 

Know that I am still very willing to have conversations with staff members individually or collectively to provide me with feedback and input – good or bad – about my style, discuss decisions I make, concerns with personnel, etc.  I recognize that I am not perfect and that I have made and will continue to make many mistakes.  For this reason, I am always open to constructive feedback, input and pushback.  I genuinely want to do the best job possible.  I genuinely love this school.  And I know you all do too.  We are all in this together. 

Escalation
September 8 Conversation and September 9 and 16, 2015, E-Mails

Robinson (another union rep) went to Fraser-Hammer’s office to speak with her about Johnson’s assignment for the year on or about September 8, 2015. Near the end of the conversation after Robinson had gone to the door to leave, Fraser-Hammer made a statement to Robinson about wanting to speak with Johnson directly. According to Robinson, Fraser-Hammer said, “I want to be able to have a conversation with [Johnson] without [the union] being present,” and “I don’t want them to talk to you, period, until after they talk to me.”

According to Fraser-Hammer, Fraser-Hammer told Robinson to remind Johnson that Johnson could bring things to Fraser-Hammer and give Fraser-Hammer an opportunity to address them before complaining to Robinson. Fraser-Hammer testified that Robinson slammed the office door closed and was enraged with her eyes wide, nostrils flaring, and teeth clenching. She described Robinson as in her face, pointing at her and telling her she would come after her. Fraser-Hammer felt intimidated and threatened during this incident, which was one of only two times in her career that she felt intimidated.

At hearing, Robinson denied the allegation that she became hostile and did not recall being in Fraser-Hammer’s personal space. Robinson stated she told Fraser-Hammer that if she continued to participate in retaliatory behavior, the union was “not going to have a choice but to move forward and file a[n unfair labor practice complaint] against her because she [would] not stop.”
As a result of Fraser-Hammer’s report of the September 8 incident, the employer initiated an investigation under its Harassment, Intimidation and Bullying (HIB) policy. Geoff Miller, the employer’s then-labor/employee relations director, sent a letter dated October 12, 2015, to Donaghy. The letter indicated that Miller met with Donaghy on or about September 17 and recounted the allegations contained in Fraser-Hammer’s September 16 e-mail. The letter requested that Donaghy provide a statement from Robinson in response to Fraser-Hammer’s allegations. The letter also detailed restrictions the employer was placing on Robinson’s access to Chief Sealth during the investigation. 
The investigation had not concluded at the time of the hearing and the restrictions on Robinson’s access to Chief Sealth remained in place, requiring her to meet with staff at alternate locations.
Bad to Worse
On March 28, 2016, Fraser-Hammer had a teacher take over Johnson’s class so that Fraser‑Hammer could meet with Johnson along with a union building representative and Fraser‑Hammer’s secretary. At the meeting, which took place in a small space, Fraser‑Hammer presented Johnson with the option of staying at Chief Sealth on a part-time basis or transferring to another school. Johnson testified that she was seated and Fraser-Hammer was standing over her, shaking displacement paperwork at her, and Johnson felt intimidated, bullied, and harassed. Johnson stated to Fraser-Hammer, “I’m free. I’m white. I’m 21. You can’t make me do anything I don’t want to do.” The next day, Johnson signed the displacement paperwork indicating she would maintain her 1.0 FTE and transfer to another school. 
In the end, the district was found to have violated two parts of labor law that apply here.  Several other union issues were not upheld.

I don't print all this to embarrass anyone.  But it is sad that these issues escalated to the point of shouting, slamming doors, and intimidation.  That the Executive Director of that region seemed to be largely out of the picture is telling, although not surprising.  It looks like the principal was largely left to her own devises to control the situation and didn't do an especially good job at that.  As well, the teacher certainly did not help herself with some of what she said. 

Most of all, I'm sure for most of the staff at CHIHS, it certainly must of been uncomfortable and you have to wonder how morale is today.  It doesn't serve anyone to have this kind of tension at a school.

6 comments:

Anonymous said...

This doesn't seem like a particularly unusual circumstance. In the eleven years my child has attended the SPS we have seen two such incidents, at two different schools. In both cases we had to make considerable personal adjustments in our family life to accommodate curriculum changes that occurred when beloved teachers were forced to transfer (fired) by the principal for reasons that seemed illegal. Class size was also an issue. In one situation, student services were denied because there was no space left in the class (which is against state law). I won't go into any more detail than that but I want to emphasize that the Executive Directors were in each case MIA, except to send me emails stating that "decisions are up to the discretion of the principal". I think the Executive Director positions should be eliminated as they don't really accomplish much except masterfully deflect responsibility.

-SPSParent

Anonymous said...

Anyone else waiting for the Assignment Lookup Tool to be back online?

About the Assignment Lookup Tool

The Assignment Lookup Tool is temporarily offline. The results of Open Enrollment for School Choice will be available starting April 17, 2017.


Well, it's April 17, and the Lookup Tool is still not active.

-st

Elsa said...

Hello....Melissa.....

"Executive Director of that region seemed to be largely out of the picture". When was that NOT the case.

In our opinion, that seems a "minimum qualification" for that position in the Culture of Lawlessness at SSD.

Bueller said...

How many times has an Executive Director intervened and we were not made aware?

Anonymous said...

The bigger issue is that the climate at Sealth has deteriorated to such an extent that an administrator is intimidating and harassing staff (again not new to SPS) and yet SPS (which includes the executive director) sits back and protects and/or ignores these scenarios.

We taxpayers pay for these "executive directors" at a large cost, but every year SPS manages to whittle away number of teachers and never an "executive director"position. How many teachers can we remove and still function? Anyone ask how many FTE (full time positions) were "removed" or "reduced" at Sealth this budget year? Over 7.0... and replacements? Not in SPS budget....

Who is most effected? Our students.

I call to action all parents and community members to be active in our school board and at our schools, whether your child is in school or long graduated. It is the lack of oversight by SPS, but as community members, we must support our youth and our schools. They are our future.

Anonymous said...

My experience as a parent in the district has been that the quality principals live in fear of advocating for their schools and requesting the FTEs that they need to best serve their students. The Executive directors' duties appear to be to bully the principals if they cause "trouble". We've seen and heard this fear in the principals' voices and comments at the PTSA meetings that I have attended. I guess this is what the directors mean by "principal coaching". Additionally, if you have a teacher who advocates too fiercely for students - the principal will get flack from the executive directors to "quiet them down". So, yes, I don't doubt that the Executive directors intervene from time to time - but when they do so, it is not to serve students in the best way possible. I've seen all this play out over the years and, frankly, its sickening. It is time for a change.

-SPSParent