Friday, September 01, 2006

Community Conversations?

From Mel Westbrook comes this interesting piece of information:

FYI: Superintendent Manhas will be delivering his annual state of the district speech on Tuesday, Sep 12th from 3-4:30 at the district headquarters. His speeches are generally not that interesting (sorry Raj) but the at the end there was this:

Note: The Superintendent and Chief Academic Officer will also host a series of community conversations to focus on academic vision and plans for the district. The first of these meetings are scheduled for the evenings of Wednesday, September 13 and Thursday, September 14. Additional information to follow soon.

Not sure where she found this tidbit of info...I didn't see it on the district website at a quick glance, but it is intriguing.

Less than 2 weeks notice for these meetings, no details, poorly advertised/announced... Hmm... makes me think the district is planning to go through the motions again to claim they have had community involvement, but are not truly interested in community input. Have I gotten too cynical?


Anonymous said...

According to the District web site, in his State of the District talk, Raj will "review accomplishments of the past year, and outline plans for the 2006-2007 school year and beyond." I'm thinking about the accomplishments of the past year.

1. Closed six schools (meant to close 11 or 12)

2. Hired a new CAO. To replace the one hired two years ago that was a temp, only no one knew except the CAO and the Superintendent.

3. Convened a committee of folks to tell the District what to do, but have not implemented the recommendations.

4. Completed some school renovations, such as Roosevelt. Blew through the budget on BEX II, overspending so much on so many projects that two projects had to be kicked to the next capital levy.

5. No real progress on academic achievement, either closing the gap or raising scores generally. Created the false impression of improved WASL pass rates by re-classifying 827 students from the 10th grade to the 9th grade.

6. No real change in District culture towards openness, honesty, transparency, accountability, or community engagement.

Ummm... I'm done. I can't think of anything else.

Is it me? Have I forgotten something important? I intentionally left off the athletic achievements, such as the State Champion Chief Sealth Girls Basketball team.

Oh well, I guess I'll just have to watch it for myself to find out.

Anonymous said...

Well, I'm just dying to know what these "conversations" will be about. I had a private conversation with the Super and Carla Santorno last night and just waited to see if they would say anything. They didn't (I'm still impressed with Carla and like Raj).

I wrote the Board and Raj an e-mail this morning about BEX III and the oddities contained within it. I had a talked with Sally Soriano who agreed with much of my efforts. The facilities folks are trying to gaslight her into believing that Hale will fall down and "must" be renovated for - gulp - $76 million. I smell a rat. I did some quick looking at the Meng Facilities report and it does not back up the "we must do this" attitude. Hale is a lot better off than say Ingraham or Sealth (which is on the rebuild list). I am getting a real "tit for tat" whiff from the directors -you okay my project and I'll okay yours. Directors Stewart and Bass seem to advocate heavily for their districts, seeming to forget they oversee those districts and are elected city-wide.

My suggestion to the Board and Raj about BEX III was that they need to think about the public relations mess they are in right now. Yes, levies have traditionally done well but SPS's rep is getting worse and worse. My thought was okay, do 3 major projects - Hamilton (because they have been patiently waiting for years even though Whitman looks worse per the Meng report), Sealth and/or Denny because they need it and Ingraham's math area (because it is just pathetic and again, even though they need seismic help more than Hale). Do the technology/fields upgrades. Then take the roughly $200M left (out of a projected $380M) and take it throughout the city. Here's an example. At Eckstein we had a torn, dirty and smelly carpet in the library. The PTSA broke down and replaced it. What a difference for every student and teacher in the building! There must be projects like that throughout the district. You spread that $200M out, telling people (read parents and taxpayers) that with the bitter (school closures and consolidations) comes the commitment to the remaining buildings and the sore spots that need help. One school might need a heating upgrade, another new pavement in the playground. Hale has to get rid of (because of seismic problems) its chimney and revamp the library. That cost is projected at $1M so that would be on the high end but the rest of the projects could be from $50,000 to $250,000 and a lot of good (and goodwill) could be spread throughout the district.

The Facilities runs in a parellel universe in this district and it needs to stop.

Beth Bakeman said...


I think your suggestions for BEX III make sense. I especially agree with the need to show parents at many/most schools in the district how the consolidations/closures will benefit them.

But I am most intrigued by your comment that "I'm still impressed with Carla and like Raj."

I have heard from several people that they are impressed with Carla. So far, she has underwhelmed me at Board meetings. I have not met with her individually. What do you see that is impressive?

And why do you like Raj? I've heard he's a nice guy, but his performance/appearance/attitude during this closure/consolidation process has been truly awful.

In fact, I was thinking today about the signs my daughters and I held at an early rally. They read "We deserve better. Better schools. A better plan. Better leadership." I think Raj needs to go, and the sooner the better.

As superintendent, he is ultimately responsible for the dysfunctional school district culture, the lack of openness to parents and community members' opinions as part of the decision-making process, and the constant mistakes and missteps that drain away goodwill towards and trust in the district.

Anonymous said...

There's a big difference between liking someone and thinking that person is doing a good job. Raj, on a personal level, is a nice guy and a good manager. He is not a superintendent and he needs to go. He should have only been here a year and I think many of us have been very disappointed in the Board for not taking steps in that direction.

I'm impressed with Carla for coming in, doing a quick assessment of the district and going to work. She's already shaken up the status quo in a couple of departments. She is one of the first and few administrators to acknowledge that we need to get the high schools on track, that gifted kids do exist and that there ARE things that can be done to effectively address our problems. (She also made me happy when we were discussing Bill Gates and his big hand in the direction of public high schools. She tactfully said, "he's misguided." The jury is out but she's only been here a short time and I like what I see which is taking charge and taking action.
Following up the BEX III issues, I have done some research using the Meng Analysis report and I'm more puzzled than ever. Whitman, Eckstein and Washington have far worse scores than Hamilton. Yet Hamilton is being rebuilt. I do not begrudge Hamilton (although it is went back and forth over whether they would relocate to Lincoln or renovate) but the issue is how to best use the levy money.
I also have a call into Meng Analysis because, looking at their report, I'm not sure they did much deep seismic analysis and I am wondering how the district can base decisions on it. They are considering rebuilding Hale (only about 40 years old), saying it is seismically unsafe.

I could be wrong and that's why I'm doing the research. But based on past reasoning, I'm not sure how these decisions are being made.