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Thursday, September 23, 2021

The Times Endorses Hersey

The Seattle Times has endorsed Brandon Hersey to retain the school board seat he was appointed to in District 7. There were a couple of interesting statements on his part and a glaring error from the Times.

Tuesday, September 21, 2021

Seattle Candidate Forum September 28th

 I had been wondering when we might hear from the candidates for Seattle School Board. 

There's a candidate forum on Tuesday, September 28th via Zoom sponsored by Black Education Strategy Roundtable (BESR), League of Education Voters (LEV), School's Out Washington (SOWA), the Southeast Seattle Education Coalition (SESEC) & Youth Development Executives of King County (YDEKC).

Register for Zoom Link

From the SESEC website:

Auto closed captioning will be available. If you have any questions or access needs/accommodations/supports (such as language interpretation), please contact vivian@allfivesinfive.org and mindy@allfivesinfive.org.

Confirmed Candidates as of Sept. 21:

School Board
Vivian Song Maritz (D4)
Laura Marie Rivera (D4)
Michelle Sarju (D5)

City Council
Nikkita Oliver (Position No. 9)
Teresa Mosqueda (Position No. 8)

In other news about the school board races, King County Labor label endorsed Vivian Song Maritz for District 4, Michelle Sarju, District 5, and Brandon Hersey for District 7. They pointedly said that they opposed Dan Harder, District 5. 

Friday, September 17, 2021

Seattle School Board Trashes the Idea of "Accountability and Transparency" in their Work

 Folks, most of you know I have been a public education advocate in Seattle for decades. And just when I think Seattle Schools/Seattle School Board cannot get worse, they always surprise me. Below is a quick summary but I will flesh out the details below that and, when I finally get information that IS public information that WAS paid for by Seattle taxpayers and WAS already voted on by the Board, I will write more detail.

My perception of the bottom line is that the Board is trying to protect its members, the district is trying to not get sued and the people of Seattle are being gaslighted and deceived by the people employed and elected to run Seattle Schools. 

Summary

In September of 2020, two senior staffers at SPS filed a formal letter of complaint to the Board. Those two women were Dr. Keisha Scarlett and Manal Al-ansi, both black women. In their complaint, they state that for months, both then President Zachary DeWolf and then VP Chandra Hampson had "intimidated, harassed, bullied, gaslighted, retaliated and silenced" them in their work environment. The two women also charged that there was racism involved in this behavior by Hampson and DeWolf. The two women do not detail when/how on the counts but it apparently culminated at a Board committee meeting in September 2020.

We now know that the Board's reply to this was to launch an external investigation by a law firm into the charges.

Last Wednesday, at a regularly scheduled Board meeting, the final investigation report results were announced. According to the report, Hampson and DeWolf were found to have bullied, harassed and intimated both Scarlett and Al-ansi but not racially or by gender. 

The Board voted to accept the final investigation report, give a copy of the named Board policy to Hampson and DeWolf and advise them to comply with the superintendent's procedure that flows from it and that future directors receive training on the policy. 

The policy is 5207 and deals with how SPS staffers and district volunteers behave and act towards each other.  Sadly, we come to find that the policy does NOT include Board members and that actually, there is NO policy around how Board directors treat staff or each other. 

The Board also folded into the motion that they waive another policy 1420 that requires that all documentation for each item on the Board agenda be attached no later than three days before. Because the Board had chosen - for no stated reason - to NOT attach the final investigation report to the agenda for the public to see. 

I have sent in a public disclosure request - because CLEARLY the report is done and voted on - for the report and am told I can get it October 1st. 

Monday, September 13, 2021

Around the Horn at Seattle Public Schools

Editor's note: a rather stunning admission came out at last week's Board meeting involving President Chandra Hampson and VP Zachary DeWolf.  It made for some rather tortured discussion. I am waiting on a document that is a final investigation report in order to be reporting clearly on this issue. Look for that post this week. 


COVID

Saw this today on a parent Facebook page. Apparently a parent got a call from the school nurse to pick up her child with a sore throat/runny nose (but no fever). The nurse told her that SPS had changed their symptom policy and if a student has one or more symptoms, they would be required to be picked up immediately. The child can then return to school 24 hours after a negative COVID test. 

Wanted to let other parents know about this change. From my conversation with the school nurse, it seems that the expectation is that parents should keep their kids home and get them tested if they have any symptoms whatsoever now.

The district's COVID dashboard indicates the number of cases is going up.

Parents also wondered about testing at schools and it seems some schools give a handout where parents can go. One parent said the principal at her school said that schools will offer it only to those with symptoms/exposure to COVID. But the principal seemed unsure when this would be happening. 


Parents, what have you heard at your school? I see nothing new at the SPS website.

K-5 Curriculum Survey

Which is then retitled at the link at website as "Needs Assessment Survey for Families and Community Members." 

One question seems off to me:

How important is each of the following to the goal of math learning in Seattle Public Schools? Answer: essential, very important, somewhat important, not important
  • Instructional materials connect mathematical concepts and learning to authentic family, community, and cultural experiences
  • Instructional resources for teachers provide support for the learning needs of all students (Multilingual learners, Highly Capable, etc.)
  • Instructional resources for teachers provide support for small group instruction and activities.
I mean, what parent doesn't want teachers to have resources to serve all kids? And that first one? I'm just not understanding what that would look like.

Applying for Advanced Learning
Here's the latest and it's not all that clear but that's the SPS way.

Community meetings about the upcoming capital levy, BTA V and the Operations Levy.
Every three years, the district asks voters for money for Operations as well as for one of two expiring capital levies. This time it is for BTA V (Buildings, Technology, Academics/Athletics). The district - in its adorable way - doesn't tell you how much they are asking, just:

These levies are expected to be on the ballot in February 2022. They would replace the expiring levies and are not new taxes. (bold theirs)

One, the last Operations levy was $815M. The last BTA levy was $475M. I would expect the district to ask for more for each levy. So yes, not new levies and yes, not "new" taxes. But will you pay more? Highly likely. 

Meetings will begin at 6:30 p.m. and are expected to end at 7:30 p.m. or earlier.
Tuesday, September 21, 2021
Thursday, September 23, 2021
Can’t make the online meeting? Meetings will be recorded and posted on the school levies webpage.
The webpage says the links to the meetings will be there a week before the meetings so that would be tomorrow, September 14th. If they are there, I will put them in.

"Survey" for Feedback for RFP for Superintendent Search
I saw the district has this feedback page. The first thing is your consent to give the feedback (odd) and then "demographics" where they ask for your name, how you are connected to SPS, phone number and email. That's NOT demographics, that's personal information. Also odd.


Sunday, September 12, 2021

Teaching American History

 I wanted to revisit this subject after this truly wonderful speech at a Georgia school board meeting by parent, Melanie Moore. (Partial and all bold mine)

Sunday, September 05, 2021

Oh the Things You'll Learn - Operations Committee

 I am a bit behind but did want to update folks about what was in last month's Board Operations Committee meeting.

I hadn't heard of anyone who was running the Tech Department but, from the minutes, it appears there are two people. One is Carlos del Valle, Executive Director of Technology and Nancy Petersen, Director of Technology Infrastructure. Mr. del Valle's LinkedIn page says he's been in that position since November 2019. Maybe I lost track of hires during COVID. Ms. Petersen has been with the district for about 10 years with a different tech title. There's an interview with Mr. del Valle from November 2020 on the Technology recovery for SPS during COVID.

From the minutes of the previous Operations Committee meeting:

Thursday, August 26, 2021

And the Beat Goes On at the Broadview-Thomson Encampment

 The district had a meeting tonight at Broadview-Thomson K-8. I don't see it on the district's calendar but there were people there. 

Reporter Erica C. Barnett was live-tweeting and here is some of what she saw/heard. I'll add some comments in-between. 

Sad News at Aki Kurose Middle School

 Via The Seattle Times:


A 17-year-old boy suffered life-threatening injuries and a 14-year-old was in police custody after the two exchanged gunfire Thursday evening outside Aki Kurose Middle School in South Seattle, according to police. 

Seattle police spokeswoman Valerie Carson said the younger boy was sitting on the steps in front of the school about 6:30 p.m. when he was approached by the older boy. It appears they both had firearms, she said. 

The 17-year-old was struck multiple times and was lying in the street when officers arrived, she said.

So questions:

- How were there TWO underaged kids with guns? 

- School isn't even open so I wonder why they ended up at the school?

No comment from the district yet (at least on Twitter). 

Saturday, August 21, 2021

Oh, the Things You'll Learn (Part Three)

The last Student Services, Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting was held on August 18th. 

Reviewing the minutes of the last SSC&I meeting on June 8th, a couple of items of interest:

Thursday, August 19, 2021

Oh the Things You Will Learn (Part 2)

 Next up, Executive Committee meeting held August 18th. 

Public testimony at school board meetings may be changing. In the minutes from their previous meeting, it was discussed using an online form rather than either email or phone-in. The minutes don't say whether it was noted that not all members of the public or parents/guardians have email capabilities. 

It includes the  proposed Board goals for 2021. Here's one. (Editor note: the table I had put in is not showing properly and I don't know how to fix that.)

"Reinsert humanness in our interactions with one another, staff, labor, community." Didn't know they had not been doing this. 


Superintendent Search
It appears that the work will start any time now with a selection in April/May 2022 and a new superintendent coming in July 1, 2022. Timetable:
  • They will be hiring a consultant for community engagement/RFP for headhunters by the end of August, 2021. 
  • By October, 1 they will publish the RFP. 
  • November, hire a search firm. 
  • December-April engage community and search
I'll just remind folks that there appears to be nothing in Superintendent Jones' contract that would prevent the Board from keeping him and/or hiring him thru the search process. 

New Website
There is a powerpoint in this committee's documentation about the new website. It claims that prior to the launch, it took 5-7 seconds to load a webpage and after the launch, 1.5-2 seconds. 

They say, "Post-Launch quality assurance and clean-up of the websites (on-going)." I hope so because there were too many broken pages.

Then there is a powerpoint for ITAC (Information Technology Advisory Committee) and selection of new members. I have a few thoughts as I was a member of the inaugural ITAC group. 

1) Executive Director and Executive Committee will jointly review committee applicants using an objective scoring rubric.

Wait, what? Before this, the membership was the domain of the head of Technology. Why would the Board get heavily involved in deciding the membership of this committee?

2) When I was on the committee - a co-chair actually - we were given an agenda, limited time to discuss any one issue and mostly led to votes that were not full fleshed out. Then, the head of Technology could go to the Board and say that this is how the ITAC group voted. It was appalling.

School Board Student Members
Yet another time waste for the Board AND, one of their own making. To explain,

In March of 2021, the Seattle School Board adopted Policy No. 1250, which creates School Board Student Member positions. Three Student Members will be selected in the 2021-22 school year for the inaugural cohort. The policy also provides that an accompanying Board Procedure will be developed to implement the selection, role, and support of Student Members.

The N-YC is the student group that initially brought Policy No. 1250 forward to Directors DeWolf and Hersey, inspired by the Angela Davis quote that “walls turned sideways are bridges.” N-YC members led the development of and the effort to get Policy No. 1250 passed.

Student school board members will not attend executive sessions or closed sessions, make or second motions or hold Board offices. 

Know what is missing? Student board members have no vote. That should be clearly stated and it's not. 

The Board will induct these students in late November. If these student voices are so important, why wait until the end of November?

While I think inclusion of student voices is good, I think this measure goes too far. Why?

  • Board policy has always given some student voice. Every Board meeting a student from one of the high schools gets to sit on the dais with the Board and give input. The first speaker spot on the testimony list is for a student from a high school. As well, if other student speakers want to speak, they will be given priority. 
  • The Board is collaborating with one youth group - the NAACP Youth Council - and that's troubling. 
  • What's also troubling is the amount of time the Board has spent on this. There is so much to cover and yet they created a new policy for student board members. 
  • These student board members will also be assigned to Board committees and expected to go to those meetings. One, it's difficult to get to JSCEE and I'm not sure how many students could get there. Maybe they will phone in? Second, these are detailed and tedious meetings; why would any student sit thru this and have an understanding of all the various issues discussed? 
  • The chair of the committee for any given student board member assigned to that committee has to serve as a mentor. 
  • Board Directors are expected to consider the opinions of school board student members before making decisions on district matters. I'm sure they will each and every time the Board votes, it will consult the student board members. 
  • For members of the Board who complain about how long meetings are, this will very much make all meetings longer. 

Oh, the Things You'll Learn

Update. Found out what the "Garfield Superblock" in the BTA V levy is. 

Robert Stephens, Jr. has been one of the voices pushing the public agencies who each control a section of the Garfield High School campus, Seattle Public Schools and the Seattle Parks and Recreation Department, to fulfil a promise made back when the school was undergoing a major renovation that opened in 2008 that cost the district over $100 million. 

As part of the public process to approve building a new Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center, Seattle Public Schools had to be approved to get a variance in order to build fewer than the required number of off-street parking stalls. As part of that process, the district was required to provide a public benefit as a mitigation. 

That project was the Super Block improvement project. “The community was just forgotten about,” Stephens tells CHS. 

A center of these improvements is the Legacy and Promise Promenade. This pathway would fulfill the long-envisioned goal of connecting Horace Mann School, now home to Nova High School, just on the other side of Cherry Street, with the Quincy Jones Performing Arts Center in the center of the campus. 

Current estimates of the full cost for the Super Block project are $6 to $7 million; the coalition says they are expecting the school district to contribute around one million to the project. T

end of update

...when you ask for the documentation for Board committee meetings. 

As an informational aside, the Board has four committees - Operations, Curriculum, Instruction and Student Services, Audit&Finance and Executive. The first three are self-explanatory. The Executive Committee is led by the leadership on the Board (in this case, Chandra Hampson, president, Brandon Hersey, vice-president, and Member-at-Large, Lisa Rivera Smith). That committee goes over upcoming Board meeting agendas as well as state legislative agenda, resolutions,  etc. All four committees meet monthly.  The public is allowed to both Work Sessions and Board committee meetings but there is no public speaking time. 

Also to note, when the district has Work Sessions, you will be able to view the agenda AND the documentation online. You cannot for the Board committees and so you must request it. (This on the theory that "things could change" but I think it's to keep the public at bay.)

First up - Audit&Finance

Wednesday, August 18, 2021