Wednesday, June 16, 2021

As the 2020-2021 Seattle School Year Wraps Up

 I see this week is the end of SPS’ school year and that means graduation. Congrats to ALL the graduates and their families. What a long and difficult year for all so kudos for all the hard work. Best wishes for all the grads!

On a less happy but no less serious note, the district has announced that remote learning for next year will ONLY be a pilot program. (Bold mine)

While we are taking all the necessary steps to ensure in-person learning is safe and welcoming for all students, we will also pilot virtual options for a small population of K-12 students. A virtual option for preschool students will not be offered. Starting with a small virtual option pilot will best promote the district's goals for racial equity and will provide important data and feedback should the district decide to develop larger scale future virtual learning options. 
For Fall 2021, there will be a limited number of students in grades K-12 who can participate in this virtual learning option. SPS will first ask students to consider this option if they can thrive academically in a fully remote learning setting. In addition, since the pilot will be small, we will need to determine a way to prioritize interested students. As a result, students with existing, documented health issues or concerns, including mental and emotional health concerns, will be prioritized for this virtual pilot. This may include: 
- Students with an underlying condition that increases their risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Students who live in a household where someone in the household is at increased risk for severe illness from COVID-19.
- Students who have a mental health issue or other condition.
- Students who experienced an increased sense of safety during remote learning.
For students who have existing health concerns that require virtual learning full-time in the fall, SPS will determine which school site(s) will provide the virtual pilot option and students selected for the virtual pilot will need to enroll in that designated school site.

Have a district-issued device? You’ll need to turn it back in and here’s the rather lengthy explanation of how to do that. 

Update on LGBTQIA+ Community Inclusion work. Many good things happening here. I am going to assume that parents were already notified at school about the SPS K-5 Gender Book Kit. I took a look at the kindergarten and fifth grade lessons. 

The feedback I would give about the kindergarten lesson is that the vocabulary appears to me to be over the heads of many kindergarteners (keeping in mind that I volunteered for three years in the same kindergarten classroom). I think “gender identity” is a tough one with both words not likely in a kindergartener’s vocabulary. 

As well, I found the definitions not quite true - compassion means “being a good friend?” The facilitator also uses “word” when explaining a phrase. Would that be confusing to a K or 5th grader? Maybe. Also, note to SPS, in the 5th grade lesson - Red, a Crayon’s Story - the word “fairly” is misspelled. 

A message from Superintendent Jones on Juneteenth is also in the news.

Lastly, a couple of queries about data I had mentioned in previous posts. Here’s the link for the last Board Work Session on both Enrollment and the 2021-2022 Budget. Enrollment data for every school starts on page 26. 

Use of the ESSER funds is in the Budget portion of the document, from pages 50-53.

Who’s on First in Seattle Schools

 Superintendent Brent Jones is certainly getting busy in a big way. From SPS Communications, an announcement of the newly-formed Office of Strategy Deployment and Responsiveness (SDR). This office will report directly to Deputy Superintendent Rob Gannon.

The Office of Strategy Deployment and Responsiveness will work to bring strategic alignment and coherence to district initiatives in support of student outcomes.

Providing cross-departmental and district-wide project management and coordination including timelines, deliverables, reporting channels, and ownership.

Monitoring deployment of strategies and providing system accountability to students, families, schools, and staff.

Developing and supporting a clear escalation path and resolution structure for key issues and decisions.

Ensuring alignment and a consistent, coordinated cadence of internal and external communications; and

Supporting district-wide knowledge management.

The first task of the new office is to support a successful Fall 2021.

I’ll venture that they have folded Public Affairs/Communication into this office but also coordination of various initiatives. The announcement is quite the word salad so I can only guess. I think this kind of wording has a two-fold use to the district . One is to sound full of purpose and action. Two is to avoid using regular wording that would allow parents - the consumers of this purpose and action - to understand what the district will be doing in the coming year. 

I find the leadership of this new office bewildering because there are two people who will head it and one of them is one of the worst Executive Directors of Schools (and that position may have a new name as well). 

Carri Campbell, former head of Communications, will now be Assistant Deputy Superintendent. Dr. Sarah Pritchett will also be an Assistant Deputy Superintendent. I don’t know who will do what between the two. 

The announcement touts Pritchett’s leadership but in more than a decade of watching her work, from afar and up-close, I have never heard one parent at any school say that she came into a situation at their school and helped mediate it to a conclusion. I was at one meeting and was astonished at how little she helped a tense situation. 

And naturally, I would assume with a new title comes a bump in salary. 

If you are keeping track, I believe that means SPS has one Deputy Superintendent (Rob Gannon), one Associate Superintendent (Concie Pedroza), two Assistant Deputy Superintendents (Carri Campbell and Sarah Pritchett). It will be interesting to see a final org chart. SPS used to have associate superintendents but that gave way to “chiefs” and now has come full circle.

Pedroza will oversee the merger of the divisions of Schools and Continuous Improvement and Student Support Services.

Thursday, June 10, 2021

An Overdose Death at the Broadview-Thomson Homeless Encampment

 There is a group called “We Heart Seattle”, led by Andrea Suarez, who have been very good at working with the homeless. 

Andrea reports on their Facebook page that a man named Nicholas Bjarnson overdosed at the encampment next to Broadview-Thomson K-8 on May 28th. He was 35 years old. 

In her posts, Ms. Suarez seems unhappy with “turf wars” and said, “Keeping people, especially addicts, comfortable in parks, on schoolyards or anywhere until they are ready is nothing short of assisted suicide. Please wake up Seattle.”

We Heart Seattle’s mission statement:

Seattle Schools and 2021-2022 Enrollment

 Earlier this week, I put up the link and info about Enrollment/Budget per the Work Session this week on that topic. Here’s the link and what I had seen in the documentation at that time. I listened into the Enrollment portion of the Work Session yesterday. (I will say that the budget looks pretty bad and they are going to use ESSER money to mitigate.)

Sunday, June 06, 2021

SPS Work Sessions, June 7-11, 2021

There are a couple of Work Sessions this week. Luckily, with Work Sessions, staff does attach the documentation (which they do not for Board committee meetings).

The first one is Monday, June 6th. Capital Programs Semi-Annual Report; Student Assignment Transition Plan and Boundaries Agenda and documentation here.

I confess I have not yet read the documentation on this one yet - it’s 95 pages. 

SPS HAS opened up in-person meetings but you need to register in advance. Details on the agenda.

The next one is Wednesday, Annual Enrollment Report and Capacity Evaluation; Budget.

This and That in Seattle Public Education

One interesting development over this year is not just the churn of employees in senior leadership leaving but the addition of new positions.

For example, Dr. Concie Pedroza, who was head of Student Services, has now been made associate superintendent. So SPS has both a deputy superintendent (Rob Gannon) AND an associate superintendent? I do hope to find out their salaries because it’s rare at SPS to either be in a new position and not be well-paid OR bumped up and not get a raise.

Homeless Camp Update

 It appears the volume is going higher on the situation at Broadview-Thomson K-8 over the homeless encampment on district property next to the school.

Here comes this article from the Urbanist where most of the candidates for mayor weigh in. Bruce Harrell, who did spend a lot of time on the Seattle City Council and knew about homeless issues then, weighs in:

Tuesday, June 01, 2021

Maybe Start a Betting Pool?

Who is going to blink first - Mayor Jenny Durkin or Board President Chandra Hampson? 

I ask because the homeless situation in Seattle seems to be escalating so what of the homeless encampment at Broadview-Thomson K-8?

Monday, May 31, 2021

36th Democrats Endorsement Committee Interviews with School Board candidates

 I listened so you don’t have to but really, give each candidate 5 minutes so you can see what you think. Each interview is about 20 minutes. They interviewed all the candidates for District 4 except for one, just one candidate for District 5 and none of the District 7 candidates. Here’s the link to their interviews; just scroll down to find the School Board candidates.

One funny aside, two members of the 36th Dems endorsement committee said “bachelorette” for “baccalaureate.” It lightened the mood.

Board Meeting on Wednesday Night.

 There’s a regular Board meeting this Wednesday, June 2nd. Reviewing the agenda, I see that more and more items - especially BEX/BTA items - are on the Consent agenda. The Consent Agenda is for items usually reviewed in committee and previously introduced at a Board meeting. Putting multiple items on the Consent agenda for action means the Board won’t be discussing any of them further and the vote is a package deal for all the items. 

When the Board has a particularly lengthy agenda, this is okay. But there are watchdogs like Chris Jackins who pours over these items and frequently has useful comments to make but can’t because those items are on the Consent agenda. 

Thursday, May 27, 2021

Seattle Schools and Planning for Reopening for Fall 2021

 The Board had a “special meeting” yesterday afternoon to vote on a reopening plan. The Board rarely has this types of meetings because when all seven of them are together AND voting outside of a regularly scheduled Board meeting, it’s a big deal. (Director Harris was calling in from a beach and Conzie Pedroza, head of, said she, too, was on vacation.)

Why this reopening plan now? In a word, OSPI. The State Superintendent’s office required all districts to submit a reopening plan - per OSPI template - by June 1st. 

Here’s an overview with the link to the plan from the district’s webpage about this action.

The biggest takeaway that district staff told the Board was that this plan is NOT the entire plan and staff are still working on that. Rob Gannon, Deputy Superintendent, said this is a plan but it is “not comprehensive.” He said there is more engagement to come and this is “just a moment in time.”

The district promised a FAQ on June 7th.

Wednesday, May 26, 2021

Seattle School Board - A Roundup of Who is Running

The great folks at the 36th Dems invited all candidates for an endorsement interview before their Elections committee so here’s a link. Makes for interesting listening. The 36th will take a vote of their membership tonight and I’ll have an update here tomorrow.

Candidates - if one media outlet does a profile of a single candidate, you have the right to ask for an interview as well, especially if it is local media.