Monday, December 17, 2007

Can't Connect the Dots

There are a few little things rattling around in my head - nagging detail sort of things that just don't add up or appear contradictory. None of them are very big, but together they seem like a discouraging trend. It all feels like a lack of follow-through and a lack of honesty.

Sealth / Denny Project

* I knew that Sealth and Denny were going to share some facilities, and I thought that was common knowledge. So how come people are now saying that it wasn't?

* Similarly, the work that Sealth is getting isn't a full renovation. I can't say whether I knew that or not, but clearly some other folks thought that it would be.

* As part of the BEX II levy, Sealth got a modernization of the facility to support the school's transformation plan. Scope of work included creation of a new student commons and building entry, renovating the library, upgrading 9th grade classroom for collaborative teaching, creating a multiple use science lab, and remodeling the metal shop area to become the math academy. So how come in BEX III, the District needs to, once again, build a new library and student commons? And I thought I read that BEX III also would re-do the Sealth building entrance - again.

* According to the BEX III schedule in the brochure, the planning and design for the Denny/Sealth project will continue to June 2009 when construction begins. So if there is another year and a half for planning and design, then why all the talk about it being a done deal?

Southeast Initiative

* The last we heard about the Southeast Initiative, the District's commitment to Aki Kurose was going to be "1.0 - 2.0 FTE pending further discussions with the new principal" and the commitment to Cleveland was described only as "2007-08 resource requirements for Cleveland HS are to be determined after more in-depth discussions with the school’s leadership team." So what did the Southeast Initiative actually get for these schools this year?

* There is supposed to be an accountability element built into the Southeast Initiative. The District, in consultation with the schools this past summer, was supposed to set clear objectives for each school in Enrollment Growth, % of First Choice, Increased Academic Achievement, Student and Teacher Climate Survey Results, and Attendance. In addition to these goals for Fall 2010, each school is supposed to have annual benchmarks. So what are these clear objectives for Fall 2010 and what are the annual benchmarks?

Student Assignment Plan

* According to the Timeline for the New Student Assignment Plan, from September to December of 2007, the District staff are supposed to be designing and testing models, analyzing system impacts, conducting reviews by internal stakeholders, and continuing ongoing community engagement. In January to March of 2008 they will develop the initial detailed proposal. There is no mention of designing and testing models or analyzing system impacts after December 2007. So have they already modeled every change that they are considering or will consider?

* In April, when Ms Santorno announced the postponement of the decision to split middle school APP between Washington and Hamilton, she wrote that changes in APP would be part of the new assignment plan. But she also wrote that specific dates and opportunities for involvement would be outlined as part of the process of creating the plan. From that day to this the District has not spoken with the APP Advisory Committee nor with the APP community about changes in the program. There has been absolutely no engagement on this topic at all.

* When the Superintendent gave the Board (and the public) an update on the Student Assignment plan in September, she clearly said that Advanced Learning, bilingual, and special education programs would be on the table for the new plan.

* But in her response to the annual report and recommendations of the APP Advisory Committee, the Superintendent wrote that no near term changes are under discussion or anticipated in APP configuration (the number, size, and location of programs). So does that mean that no changes in APP configuration are part of the new Student Assignment Plan?

* I can't tell. Will the New Student Assignment Plan include changes to APP or not? In April and September they seemed to say that it will. In December the Superintendent clearly said that it will not.

Superintendent's Entry Plan

* Isn't it time that we see something more concrete from the Superintendent? For a person who talks about clear, objective, measureable goals, we've only got a lot of vague ideas so far.

* Isn't she supposed to spill out a whole package of plans for improvement in January?

* She has put the word accountability into just about everything, but I've yet to see anyone held accountable for anything.

* She says that accountability means that Seattle Public Schools understands our data and we use it to set performance targets for the district, school and classrooms. So where are these performance targets? Are they secret?

Community Engagement

* The new Coordinator of Family and Community Engagement is Bernardo Ruiz but his name does not appear anywhere on the District web site for Family Involvement. In particular, it does not appear on the "Contact Us" page. It can only be found on the documents related to the nomination of new member of the School Family Partnership Advisory Committee.

* Speaking of the School Family Partnership Advisory Committee, it is seeking new members and held nominations open through November 16. It has been a month since then, shouldn't we know by now who was selected for this committee?

* Where is the progress on the School-Family Partnership Plan and the Family and Community Engagement elements of the Distict's Strategic Framework? I'm not seeing it.


Anonymous said...

Dr G-J is traveling around the district conducting open forums to ask her questions. She will be at Cleveland High, tomorrow from 11:45 - 1:15. I attended a forum last week. She said that she is in her final month of the her entry process and that a five year strategic plan will be announced in the spring. She is reviewing APP report, Spec Ed report and conducting a teacher survey. Assignment Plan still on track, using the framework approved in June, for the 2009/10 enrollment year. Cannot say if APP will be a part of the new plan, but would not be surprised to see it in the new assignment process.

Melissa Westbrook said...

As the NY Times likes to say, you ask a lot of questions for someone from Brooklyn (a joke, I kid).

About Denny and Sealth, the fact that you have so many questions must tell you something. Namely, the district just doesn't communicate well. Maybe all this is just communications errors but I doubt it.

It's good you mentioned the Student Assignment plan because there's another thing to add to that list. Who's going to be the foreign language immersion school for the Stanford/Hamilton kids? Someone brought this up at the Roosevelt PTSA meeting saying maybe Roosevelt could do it. My reaction is uh, no thanks. Hale has room for the set-aside sets that will be needed for the program. Maybe it could go to Rainier Beach, they have room. Maybe Franklin. Roosevelt can't take on one more program and if we had to set aside seats for it, you'd hear the howling all the way down to the Stanford Center. However, the district has these programs set up so there should be a high school. Of course, APP ends after middle school so maybe so will the foreign language immersion program.

Anonymous said...

Melissa wrote, "Of course, APP ends after middle school so maybe so will the foreign language immersion program."

The district uses the number of kids who are at GHS and have APP i.d. numbers in their head count to OSPI. They claim that GHS is actually the APP high school program. This is another justification of how the grant money is spent... it formerly included Spectrum kids, but they no longer get a guaranteed entry to GHS.

Anonymous said...

Dear Anon at 6:56,

Thanks for the transparency.
It would be nice if the SPS would supply some.
But this blog is better than nowhere.

Transparency is where ever you can find it in Seattle.

Thanks for making this available.