Friday, February 01, 2019

Saturday Open Thread

Open House for the Science Instructional Materials at Nathan Hale HS from 9 am to 3 pm.

Several articles of note.

Nice story in the Times about Ingraham High School's champion basketball team from 50 years ago when Governor Inslee played for the team.
Our guys were tough, aggressive, smart, fast, and we could jump, and there was mutual respect all over the place,” center Ricke Reed said. “Because of that respect, because of that unselfishness, there was an incredible spirit.”

They finished 23-0, capped by a 39-38 victory over Hoquiam for the large-school state title.

“We did the most with the least, and that’s a certain category,” he (Inslee) said. “As far as loving the guys you played with, I think we’re probably up there on that score too.”
Another basketball story, present-day from Garfield- this one sad but inspirational one about a player named Jack Bryant.
While his teammates sat, the quiet, reserved Bulldog stood and delivered a short and powerful message at midcourt: He was fighting cancer for the third time since his original Hodgkin lymphoma diagnosis in May 2015 when he was 13 years old.

Bryant gave his team a lift with his words in December. A 2-3 team suddenly gained life and won its next seven games and 10 of the next 11.

“That was probably the turning point for our team, and we had one hell of a practice that day,” said Garfield interim coach JayVon Nickens, who at age 13 lost his 17-year-old brother, Terry Manuel, to leukemia in 1993. “That was our best practice of the year. Jack led the charge and since then we bonded better on the court and off the court. Jack has been one of our captains, and he’s leading us every single day.

Friday’s game will be the last for Bryant. Wednesday, he’ll be admitted at Seattle Children’s for a week of intense chemotherapy. He’ll undergo a stem-cell transplant on Feb. 14. Doctors harvested Bryant’s stem cells in June for the procedure that his doctors hope erases his cancer once and for all.
The Seattle Times also has an story about lead in the water in Seattle Schools.  This certainly has been an issue in the past but one that I thought the district had corrected.  As well, the study used in the story has largely been discounted.  But hey, I would suppose the Times editorial board wants SPS to look as bad as possible in the weeks leading up to the levies election.
Once every three years, Seattle Public Schools tests drinking fountains and sinks in its schools for high levels of lead and other toxic heavy metals.  But the district’s own data show it doesn’t disable or replace every water source that fails its self-imposed 10 parts per billion threshold for lead remediation.
District officials say the high lead readings don’t pose a danger to students, because the failed fixtures are classroom sinks, not drinking fountains — which assumes kids drink exclusively from fountains. But as of this summer, district data showed elevated lead levels in some drinking fountains in at least seven schools and Memorial Stadium at Seattle Center, home to high-school and professional games.
The highest level of lead was discovered at a drinking fountain in Green Lake Elementary. There, a combination fixture — with both a fountain and a sink — registered levels of lead in 2016 nearly six times the district’s self-imposed limit of 10 parts per billion and four times above a federal standard of 15 parts per billion.
I can say as someone in an elementary school weekly, that kids have been told they can't drink the water from the taps in the bathrooms (and who does actually drink from a bathroom tap?).   That said, I'm not surprised Memorial Stadium registers poorly; it's in extremely bad shape. 

In other bad news, KUOW had a report on the costs to the district from their bus service, First Student.

The school district has a three-year contract with First Student, and pays the company $30 million a year. The contract requires the bus company to pay for late and missed routes, and the cost of paying for back-up buses.

But the district has not enforced this requirement, and instead has shouldered the financial burden for First Student’s failure to run buses on time.

The school bus company, North America’s largest, was supposed to compensate Seattle Public Schools for the service problems, according to its contract with the district. But First Student kept sending the usual invoices, and Seattle schools officials kept paying them … all the while shelling out hundreds of thousands of dollars for back-up buses, taxis, and Metro bus passes.

Now, halfway through the year, a KUOW analysis shows that First Student owes the district an estimated $3.3 million … with no indication that the district will recoup anywhere near that amount.
The district would not tell KUOW how many late or blown routes it has tallied this school year, citing negotiations with the contractor. 
“The district is in a tenuous position when the contract is up next year,” said Shannon McMinimee, former attorney for Seattle Public Schools. “They could be worried that they will have no bidders next year if they are aggressive now.”
If the district paid for routes that First Student failed to run as promised, that could be a violation of state law, which requires that agencies certify that services have been rendered, and “labor performed as described,” before paying contractor invoices.
There are no Director Community meetings on Saturday.

What's on your mind?

17 comments:

Anonymous said...

Again this year, much of the Black Lives Matter Week curriculum involves LGBTQ issues, including gender identity. Why? That doesn't seem unique to being African American and I don't see the relevance.

Are parents aware of this sexuality training that's going on from pre-kindergarten on up through high school?

As part of the Teacher Resources for "Early Childhood" (Pre-K?) there are these notes:

"Transgender Affirming is the commitment to continue to make space for
our trans siblings by encouraging leadership and recognizing trans-
antagonistic violence, while doing the work required to dismantle cisgender
privilege and uplift Black trans folk."

“Everybody has the right to choose their own gender by listening to their own
heart and mind. Everyone gets to choose if they are a girl or a boy or both or
neither or something else, and no one else gets to choose for them.”

"Queer Affirming is working towards a queer-affirming network where
heteronormative thinking no longer exists.
“Everybody has the right to choose who they love and the kind of family they want
by listening to their own heart and mind.”

Northend Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Northend Mom, I think Black Lives Matter wants to be inclusive and support all those who feel excluded. That said, I doubt that any elementary school teacher will be using this talking point.

In the past I have said that I think every parent gets to decide when to have this conversation with their elementary school aged child and that schools should notify each and every parent if these conversations are to take place in class.

I think what needs to happen is teaching tolerance for differences in people. I posted a third-grade teacher's teaching on consent and it was about listening to others and respecting their answers. It's a good starting point for younger kids. I think in this case, talking about tolerance and respect is a good start as well.

Anonymous said...

@Melissa

I completely agree that children need to learn to tolerate differences in others and to be kind to each other.

My point is that most parents are not informed about these conversations about gender identity, which can be quite confusing to pre-K and early elementary students. SPS has actually made a point of NOT telling parents about them.

Parents should know if the curriculum's or teacher's agenda is "working towards a queer-affirming network where heteronormative thinking no longer exists"

Northend Mom

Anonymous said...

If there is an official Black Lives Matter curriculum, doesn’t it need to have been formally vetted and adopted?

Unclear

Eli said...

This busing is appallingly bad for student and families -- especially families who work inflexible jobs, don't have transportation alternatives, and are running close to the edge. Has the district said anything serious about what they're going to change to prevent this from happening next year?

If we believe we have a open-and-shut lawsuit, then what's the harm in stating that's in progress?

If there was a mistake made in the current contract or in past execution to lose legal leverage, okay, what have we learned?

If this story is accurate that SPS is legally in the right but can't collect because busing providers would freeze us out -- then I *really* need to hear why this isn't going to happen next year, because that sounds like we're saying no matter what we write into the outsourcing contract, it'll do us no good. Which seems economically bizarre, but if the busing service industry is really like that, then we need to run our own buses. Paying without getting what we paid for is not a money-saving plan.

I promise I'm not interested in blaming someone (lawyer or administrator), but I want to hear something concrete (no "we'll execute better") that's going to make a change.

Eli said...

Anonymous Northend Mom, what specifically concerns you about the content of the Teacher Resources you quote? Don't fear, they're not dropping that *terminology* on first-graders, they're more likely reading a book about a child who has classmates saying she can't have two Dads but it all comes okay in the end. "Dismantling heteronormative thinking" just means getting that not everybody's straight.

Some parents are cool with mentioning gay people but are more unsure about teaching gender material. Funny thing is, early-elementary children have a pretty good handle on gender identity. Gender's actually more concrete to them than sexual attraction, which we tend to gloss as "love". Do you *know* you're a girl? Even if somebody was telling you you're a boy? That's basically it.

This is the age range when many trans kids figure out the concepts for what they perceive, and tell their parents in terms the parents understand. (One parent of a trans kid told me, now in hindsight I think they completely understood a year ago but I didn't get that's what they were telling me about.) Many students will know a trans classmate, or will know one soon, so this is not theoretical material.

Eli said...

Now as far as why it's in there, we could talk about what I think, but generally speaking the BLM material is being assembled by black people and if they assess this as important to include, I'm not where I want to second-guess them.

Could be you really are, like if you're black and gender-nonconforming and you're saying, I get this gender material but I think we should focus on race this week and gender separately. But if you're black and straight you might want to check with somebody who's not straight about whether gender and race are separable as neatly as you think. If you're not in fact black, I promise nobody's looking to gag you, but you can be more effective towards your goals (what are they?) if you articulate a bit more what you're bringing to the table.

Anonymous said...

I guess nobody remembers Laidlaw, the other, local competitor to First Student. Parents begged the district to retain the Laidlaw contract. They said no. First Student was way cheaper. Yes, because they pay their labor poverty wages. Too bad, so sad. With rising healthcare costs, that contract is pretty much unenforceable. Now they’re gone and we’ve got nobody else to do business with. The district really has to shell out more for transportation or get rid of that luxury. It really isn’t a requirement. Make your bed and now sleep in it.

Bed


Anonymous said...

I would like to respectfully point out that gender identity and sexuality are two entirely different things. As someone who participated on the task force for the Gender Identity Book Kit, I can promise that suggested conversations and teaching for younger grades do not involve sexuality or body parts or anything “confusing” for kids. As has been mentioned by others, kids very easily grasp the concept that we should accept how others identify themselves. In my opinion, the work that is being done around tolerance, kindness, and learning is a bright spot in a scary time.
Reader

Melissa Westbrook said...

Looking at the transportation situation, it does seem like something has to give. This is untenable. That said, the district has no money to buy, operate and store buses. Or, maybe a good corporate citizen could lease them land, cheaply, to store the buses. But it would be a major undertaking.

Or, it may be that the district may have to cut back on transportation. On the one hand, it would make Option schools less accessible to some but maybe more accessible to others.

If the city had decent sidewalks in more places (or prioritized school walk zones), you might see more kids who could bike/walk to school.

As to the other question of BLM curriculum, while that word is being used, because it's not a subject-matter area and not created by the district itself, I think it needs no Board oversight. I would hope the Board would review all of it for content, though.

Anonymous said...

Sharing from a friend's FB post since she said it so well:

When you get vague letters from your child's teacher about Black Lives Matter week and how there will also be lessons on "equity" and "bias", they get letters like this:

Hi Mr. Teacher!

Thank you so much for the heads up about Black Lives Matter week. I checked out the SPS Ethnic Studies but didn’t find specific curriculum. So I assume that this is going to be the schedule that you will be following:

Monday: Restorative Justice, Empathy and Loving Engagement

Tuesday: Diversity and Globalism

Wednesday: Trans-Affirming, Queer Affirming and Collective Value

Thursday: Intergenerational, Black Families and Black Villages

Friday: Black Women and Unapologetically Black

Very few people, ourselves included, would disagree that black lives matter. I am so grateful for the endurance and clarity of the civil rights leaders who fought for equal rights for our black brother and sisters. But when examining their website or following the official BLM movement it seems that this is, primarily, a political movement that falls along political lines with very clear political enemies. While it’s true that racism and bias can still be found in this country, the BLM material often frames itself as fighting against “hate” which caricatures anyone who might disagree with their political goals as racist. In a time when only 17% of black children will have the benefit of their married mother and father loving them in the same home though high school graduation, I think it’s deeply problematic that BLM states “disrupting the nuclear family structure” as one of it’s platforms. I went to https://www.seattlewea.org/…/Black%20Lives%20Matter%20Week…/. Many of the links are simply opinion pieces. Others make claims that can be refuted or at least challenged if we were to examine these questions through the lens of data rather than ideology. Perhaps I’m wrong but, this does not look like the organization to align with if we are seeking honest and open educational conversations.

In addition, I have deep concerns about what it means to be “trans-affirming” in elementary school.

- Breaking rigid gender stereotypes? Great.

- Giving kids off-label drugs as puberty blockers that effect their brain, bone, and muscle development? Highly problematic and controversial.

I have a friend who started cross-sex hormones as an adult and after a few years suffered life-long, devastating physical results. Though she no longer identifies as a man, she had to have a full hysterectomy and lost all her sexual function in addition to numerous other long-term health problems. Another friend underwent a full medical transition but then resolved his dissociative disorder and found that his transgender feeling subsequently resolved. Unfortunately, he still has the body of a women, though he no longer identities as one. So forgive me if I am cautious about what BLM means when they say “trans-affirming.” Adults can do what they please, but we need to be encouraging children to love and embrace their bodies, not become life-long customers of pharmaceuticals and cosmetic surgery.

I would love to have more concrete details about what exactly the class will be discussing and reading this week. Though it sounds like what you have planned is fairly open-ended so perhaps more details are not available at this time. If that is the case, perhaps you can let me know when these lessons will be scheduled so I can sit in during class time?

And finally, I want to thank you for being a great teacher. Our child has really enjoyed his time in your class and I think you have risen through the ranks to now be his all-time favorite. I’m so grateful for how you worked through the bumps in those first few weeks and found a way to help him love his classroom time. The school days that he doesn’t love, are the days when he has a substitute.

Let me know if you have curriculum details or when I can join the class.

Many thanks,

Katy
--------------

Northend Mom

Anonymous said...

All the curriculum concerns above are fair. We've been told to teach both a week of BLM lessons and trans-affirming curriculum. We've been handed lots of suggested websites and links of lessons. But there isn't any structure to it - just a bunch of teachers winging it.

For BLM, those 5 themes listed above are the only common thread between the various resources we've been referred to. I can't figure out how I'm going to link all that into my curriculum this week but the expectation that I will, and that I will talk about Black Lives Matter every day, is quite clear. I am on board with BLM personally but also believe it's highly political so not sure it's reasonable to dive all the way into it with K-5 kids. The district website I was referred to contained exactly one actual lesson, using Dr. Seuss' Sneetches, that I believe is many decades old.

The Trans teaching piece is similar - we've been asked to take it on but the actual grade-by-grade work on this is really vague. We have also been told, per legal, that we use at all times the gender identified by a child as young as K regardless of what parents say or believe, including in any kind of bathroom or locker room situation (think swimming pool or museum, not just school) I will be following those directives; we were also told anyone who does not agree with that needs to resign from SPS. Again, personally, I think we should absolutely be advocating for kids. But as early as K-2 it seems like parents' beliefs and feelings are relevant.

-Perplexed

Melissa Westbrook said...

Perplexed, what exactly has the district told teachers (or was it your principal)about what BLM week means at your school?

Is BLM "political? I tend to think of the BLM movement as less political and more about civil rights. That it veers off into territory that I see many parents find as somewhat confusing is fair.

"We have also been told, per legal, that we use at all times the gender identified by a child as young as K regardless of what parents say or believe, including in any kind of bathroom or locker room situation (think swimming pool or museum, not just school) I will be following those directives; we were also told anyone who does not agree with that needs to resign from SPS. Again, personally, I think we should absolutely be advocating for kids. But as early as K-2 it seems like parents' beliefs and feelings are relevant."

For the first sentence of that paragraph, I think that the district knows it could get sued for discrimination if a teacher or staff member did not support the gender preference of the child/family. That's legitimate.

However, as to the latter part of that paragraph, I think the district has the responsibility to clearly inform families about what their child's school will be telling students about gender identity. I also don't think parents should have to wait until a situation arises to have that happen.

This is especially true at the elementary level where many children may not have been told much about gender identity by their parents and parents may need more info themselves or at least informed about the district's views especially around civil rights.

Again, we circle back to issue of tolerance and respect but that needs to be coupled with a flow of information.

Anonymous said...

I think what Perplexed is saying about young kids and parents is that the school staff have to go along with the child's statements about their gender identity even if their parent does not want them to. Parents are often not informed that their child is using a different gender identity at school.

I don't think parents know what their children are being taught at school about gender identity either and it's quite different than they might expect. Check out "Genderbread Person" at genderbread dot org to see that kids are being taught that their gender identity, gender expression, and biological sex can all vary along with who they are sexually attracted to and who they are romantically attracted to. That's a very complex and confusing message to give to any students, especially at the young elementary age.

Northend Mom

Melissa Westbrook said...

Again, the district should just tell parents - in advance - what to expect. I don't think that is asking much.

Anonymous said...

It's crazy how many of SPS's problems are caused by (a) failure to communicate effectively with families, and (b) failure to provide teachers with evidence-based curricula and the resources they need to effectively teach.

It's not rocket science, JSCEE folks and Directors. If you want a BLM week, explain it to parents. Review the proposed lessons and material, select those that are appropriate for each grade level, train teachers in how to use them (including what TO do and what NOT to do), and explain all that to parents. Yes, it takes time and effort, but that's to be expected. Education isn't easy. But if you can't do it right, you have no business being in the business.

do good

Anonymous said...

@Not Joking

There is no excuse for threatening violence against someone for stating an opinion or asking a question that you don't like. Civility is important. Threats of violence can be reported to the police.

Northend Mom