Wednesday, July 05, 2017

Waitlist Resolution

 Update 2:  I kinda got it right but it is much harder to track an issue when there are many Q&As, motions, etc.   From VP Harris via Soup for Teachers Facebook:

Option 3, siblings only, plus Whitman, (specific promises made to the Board and Community 01-11-17 mtg, fulfilled) plus 1:1 swaps for High Schools (Director Burke Amendment to move waitlists - net $ neutral) . 

Option 2 following policy had a $4.2M price tag attributed to it. We don't have $4.2M. This is the best we could do with the info. provided to us. The Student Assignment Transition Plan (SATP) must be rewritten so it is clear and fair. Pls. know these are horrific choices in light of capacity and budget crunches. 

Also Ethic Studies and Assessment Resolutions/Policies passed tonight - result of months of collaborative work.
Harris said it was sort of a "split the baby" motion and it appears she was right.  Also, those 1:1 high school swaps?  They could provide problematic.

The Superintendent seemed eager to point out various issues that could arise should the Board not choose Option 1 or 2 but all I can say is that staff wrote the SAP and it was approved by the Board.  Maybe not the same staff or Board that there is today but they need to amend it or abide by it.

However parent, Emily Liberman, said this at the same Facebook page (partial):
The promise to allow choice assignments on a "space available" basis was not a promise made to Whitman alone. That is (and remains, until you change it) the official SPS policy with regard to all schools. It is a promise that was explicitly made to Stevens as well in 2013, when our boundaries were intentionally made "too small" in order to allow plenty of "space available" for post-boundary-change choice assignments. This policy has consistently been held out to families as a way to keep siblings together, a way for kids to stay at the same school even if they change addresses, and a way for families to choose a school that works well for their kids. The SAP promises choice assignments on a "space available" basis to all who seek them.

As for the budget number, it's hard to understand how the cost runs to so many millions of dollars when I believe the net change of staffing required for Option 2 (moving all waitlists at schools with space available) was 9 *fewer* teaching positions needed across the entire district. I didn't hear any director even question this number. I did hear Director Pinkham raise the fact that cost does not appear as a factor anywhere in the SAP. Most of all, it's hard to explain to my kids that they can't continue at their very-empty school because we changed addresses. Like for siblings, the SAP explicitly provides a pathway for kids who move outside a school's boundary to continue at their current school if that school has space available. How do we explain to our kids that the Board cherry-picked a few kids (siblings and Whitman students) to receive waitlist moves in compliance with SPS policy but elementary-age kids who move but want to stay in their same school are left out? 
end of update

Update:  Not really an update but a big thank you.

I confess I went in and out of watching the Board meeting on tv.  But when I tuned in at 9ish, Director Burke was parsing the Assessments policy.  Then at 9:28, they had gone thru what seemed to be a very good budget assessment by Budget's Linda Sebring.  So much so that VP Harris call for a big hand for staff.  (And want to see how to keep a meeting going along swimmingly but respectfully?  Give a big hand to VP Harris for that.)

All this on a beautiful summer night.  Thank you to our Board and the staff who work very hard for this district.

end of update

I will double-check but here's what I believe is the final outcome:

- the district will move the elementary waitlists
- Whitman students who want to stay at Whitman and are on the waitlist will see their waitlist move

Director Harris had made a careful motion to Option 3 that had include the above plus 10% movement of high school waitlists.  She withdrew the 10% part when there was some confusion where that came from.

Ms Berge of Budget said that she had talked to "someone" about Enrollment practices and was assured that what was happening was what was done in previous years.  Harris had to drag it out of her that she spoke to former budget head, Bob Boesche.  Which is interesting because he was in Budget, not Enrollment.

Burke pointed out, based on his research, that over the last several years, the district ran between 80-92% in moving waitlists.  But he noted that, last year plus next year, that rate will go down to about 45%.  He questioned how that could be.

Peters - via phone - said that staff seemed to be using practice without a backing policy.  Staff could not verify that the practice they were using was based on policy.

She also asked about the possibility that some schools were underenrolled because of lack of interest from parents.

Blanford tried, without success, to convince Board members that none of the schools in his region were on a "downhill" slide.  I'm not sure the numbers back that up.  I note that Superintendent Nyland laid out some issues (including one that Blanford had made last Board meeting) like if siblings whose older sibs got into a school on Choice should be able to use the sib tiebreaker.

The Board stood by the policy with this vote. That is good.

It was quite the interesting discussion and I'll post the video when available.

24 comments:

Anonymous said...

This is a good outcome, though yet again the staff's contempt toward the law and the rules is deeply troubling. Nobody wins when staff feel they can break the law with impunity. The staff need to have a basic respect for board policies. If they don't, they can either resign honorably, or be fired.

I expect Nyland to send these particular staffers packing - immediately.

JR

Anonymous said...

Huzzah! Great news. Thank you MW. Thank you Directors for your support of families and students. I especially love the research of Director Burke and the reported comments of Directors Harris and Peters.

It is a good start. I have been told of a spreadsheet that has been delivered clearly detailing budget neutral moves that can be made for HS and MS. Let's keep those waitlists moving! :-)

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

The comments by Director Blanford and Supt. Nyland about the Sibling tiebreaker are concerning. Their understanding of the sibling tiebreaker is not correct. I suspect they are confusing it with the historical sibling preference. I don't expect that our directors or our superintendent be experts in every aspectvof SPS. But, I do expect the department heads to be experts and lend clarification and explanations in regard to the fine or even large aspects of policy.

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

The current sibling tiebreaker is the most heavily weighted of the tiebreakers. It does not guarantee a sibling will be admitted to an out of area (choice) school, but it does give siblings the best chance to attend the same school. As it is not a guarantee it would be completely appropriate to maintain this as the first tiebreaker. If parents want to take a chance with a choice - si be it. But, no gte for younger siblings to come.

There was the historically known sibling preference that existed during the time of the full choice system prior to the NSAP. All K seats and any other grades open seats went to siblings. For K it was almost a guarantee of entry to the same school unless there were more siblings than seats available.

I personally favor a sibling guarantee in the event of a boundary change. If an older sibling attended the school when the boundaries changed and would still attend in a following year then a sibling would have a guarantee to attend. This guarantee does not currently exist today.

I also favor maintaining sibling as the first tiebreaker. For older siblings with a choice or option enrollment it does not guarantee a younger sibling can attend thecsame school, but gives the best chance for keeping families together.

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

This is good news. I also hope that the artificial cap on Franklin HS enrollment is lifted. Kids are clamoring to get into that school (from many other attendance areas, not just RBHS), and the school has capacity and wants the higher enrollment.
- southpaw

Anonymous said...

Sorry for the typos. Out of town and typing on a small screen.

-StepJ

Eric B said...

This meeting was pretty amazing for inside baseball reasons, especially the early part. Two items were pulled from the consent agenda (solar panel contract and personnel report). The solar panel contract was delayed until the August meeting so that staff could tell the Board what happened to the goal of 10% minority participation in the contract, which went to zero.

The personnel report was very interesting. For background, this is the board rubber stamping all personnel changes (hiring, firing, retirement, etc.) that happened over the last time period, and normally passes without any comment. Peters brought it from the consent agenda, I believe over concern about the CTE teachers being laid off. It ended up passing 3 for, 2 against, 1 abstention (Geary was absent). That's pretty remarkable for such a high-stakes item.

I am grateful for the board holding staff to policy on waitlists. Berge in particular really got hammered on this during her presentation. I would have preferred the original language of the high school waitlist moves (move all waitlists for schools that have seats available up to 10%). That got lost in the discussion of whether the 10% set-aside for choice was ever a real thing. The final version was to move all revenue-neutral swaps in high school. There are an awful lot of students covered in that, with no change in teachers at any school.

Hopefully data on waitlists will be released soon so we can hold staff accountable for following the policy just adopted by the board.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And Eric gave very good testimony on what is currently happening with enrollment in high schools. He pointed out how very overenrolled Garfield and Ballard are with Ingraham not filled and Roosevelt just filled. His point was about students being able to fill their schedules with courses they need and want.

One thing I didn't hear (and maybe Eric did) is what they will do to clean this mess up for next year. That really should be near the top of the list now because this can't keep happening.

The 10% set aside seats for high school WAS indeed a real thing. (I do get tired of Berge saying she's never heard of something in such a pronounced manner. It tends to lead to the Board believing her despite her short time in SPS.) I also think that staff should have policies to be discussed - a history and a timeline and the actual policy - every time.

I know the 10% set asides either got taken out or it was changed but it did exist. It may have been used once for a couple of schools but then enrollment increased and it was no longer possible.

Anonymous said...

Should we expect no wait list movement then at middle schools apart from Whitman? I see only elementary and high schools mentioned here.

FNH

Melissa Westbrook said...

FNH, yes, that is my understanding - I don't recall that any middle school waitlist movement except for Whitman was discussed. Whitman's parents were given a very specific promise from staff and the Board believed they could not let that be taken away.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa, to be clear, my understanding (contrary to your initial report above--I know you posted the actual motion in your update but it may still be confusing to readers) is that there will NOT be elementary school waitlist moves aside from siblings. That's a LOT of elementary school families not getting choice assignments that they requested. How elementary schools got left aside here is baffling to me--that is SPS's chance to keep families who are either seeking to enroll for the first time or dissatisfied with their school and seeking an acceptable way to stay in SPS.
--Frustrated

Anonymous said...

Let me amend the statement above (I don't know how to edit my comment, sorry): That's a LOT of elementary school families not getting choice assignments that they requested at schools that have SPACE AVAILABLE to accommodate those requests.
--Still Frustrated

Anonymous said...

The 10% set aside seats for choice was a real thing. It was a compromise made to try to include some equity for populations that were loosing choice preference because of the PIC decision. During the NSAP planning meetings, there was a lot of support for a low-income tie breaker or for drawing boundaries with preference for economic diversity. The 10% choice seats was the final compromise that might allow families who were divided by Seattle's historic housing patterns to access schools in other neighborhoods. It was also the small give to folks who wanted students from across the city to have access by lottery or audition to programs available in only one school, like the Roosevelt Drama or Garfield Orchestra or Ballard Biotech Academy.

The 10% choice idea was about offering a shot at equal access for all students and to increase economic diversity in schools. Only 10% because the district promised that it would support schools to replicate popular, or successful programs so they would be available to all students. The only program they have tried to replicate is IB & they are not funding that.

It seems disingenuous for staff to spend so much time talking about equity & then secretly torpedo the one nod to equity in the assignment plan.

-HS Parent

Anonymous said...

When JAMS opened, some reassigned students opted to stay at Eckstein through the choice process. Space was available at Eckstein. Similar to what Whitman families were expecting, yes? How many reassigned students were able to stay at Eckstein? JAMS was still scrambling at the beginning of the school year to accommodate some JAK8 students who opted last minute to enroll at JAMS that fall rather than move with JAK8 (Hazel Wolf).

That was just a couple of years ago, when open enrollment extended through the first few weeks of the school year.

-remembering

Eric B said...

I believe the high costs associated with moving waitlists was to provide staff mitigation so that the sending school did not lose teachers but the receiving school did get new teachers for their new students. I'm not really sure I agree with this approach, but it may be necessary given how long staff kicked the can down the road on waitlists. We could have had this discussion in April or May (perhaps before laying off or hiring some teachers) except staff said we had to wait until after the June numbers came out.

Anonymous said...

@ Eric B,
Why were all those CTE teachers laid off?
asdf

Melissa Westbrook said...

ASDF, the district likes CTE. But they seem to go thru good CTE heads and I think it's hurting the system. At a Work Session this past spring, there was talk about how the CTE numbers are down and they needed to cut back on teachers. Problem is, that the numbers seem to be down for JSCEE problems that, if corrected, might see more kids enroll. If a program is difficult to access, kids give up.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Melissa.

asdf

Anonymous said...

Aren't CTE requirements increased in the new 24-credit graduation requirements, which kick in with this year's incoming freshmen?

HS soon

Anonymous said...

Thank you Melissa for answering my question about MS wait lists.

FNH

Anonymous said...

With further details these moves are not as encouraging as I thought originally. It is very good that promises made will be honored.

It is discouraging that it takes a board directive to move the waitlist for budget neutral moves. That should just be a part of the normal process.

Why is staff so resistant to moving waitlists when the gain is happy students and families with no budget consequences?

-StepJ

Anonymous said...

With further details these moves are not as encouraging as I thought originally. It is very good that promises made will be honored.

It is discouraging that it takes a board directive to move the waitlist for budget neutral moves. That should just be a part of the normal process.

Why is staff so resistant to moving waitlists when the gain is happy students and families with no budget consequences?

-StepJ

Lynn said...

This was not a good moment for the board. The morally correct move would have been to instruct staff to move waitlists at all levels wherever there is physical capacity. Instead they corrected this for only one school.

Choosing to make all budget-neutral moves at the high school level was another awful decision. It completely ignores the fact that students have a number on the waitlist and creates a new policy that limits choice seats to those students who are lucky enough to live in an area with a popular school. If you live in Ballard you have options. If you live in Rainier Beach, you don't. Isn't that the definition of an inequitable policy?

JoLynn Berge said on Wednesday that only 300 students want to attend Rainier Beach. The other 300 were forced into the school (many against board policy regarding choice seats and capacity.) This has to stop. If a renovation will make the school more attractive to families in the area and if we need the seats, it should be on the list for BEX V. Until then, it should be an option school.

Where was the head of enrollment planning Wednesday night? I suspect that much of the blame for the unauthorized change in assignment practice can be assigned to her. At a recent work session she was touting her department's remarkably accurate enrollment projections. We now know that they were accurate because she arbitrarily limited the capacity at each school to match her projections.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I know; why was it Berge and Herndon but not Davies in Enrollment?