Thursday, January 31, 2008

Big Issues Looming (and the Meetings to Discuss Them)

So next week's calendar has a couple of important meetings on district issues.

One is the district's meeting at the Chief Sealth High School library on Monday, the 4th, at 6:30, to discuss the plan for the co-joined Denny/Sealth building. They scheduled their meeting after the local community group, the Westwood Neighborhood Council, had announced their meeting on the issue on Tuesday, the 5th. (This upset a number of people and the Council has rescheduled for Tuesday, the 12th at 7 pm in the Sealth High Commons. They will have a 5-person panel to discuss issues about both the co-joined building and co-joined programs. They will have as moderator, Enrique Cerna from KCTS and Steve Sundquist, Board director for the region, will be one of the panelists.)

Both meetings should be quite interesting as they will cover some of the same ground but not all. The district's meeting won't be talking about the academic benefits or what the academic plan is. Oh, that's right - there is no plan yet, according to Carla Santorno. That's an interesting idea to create a 6-12 school without creating the program first.

This is one of the first big challenges to both the Superintendent and the Board. The Superintendent, at the presentation of the project by staff to the Board, seem to be set on the project as is. President Chow took pains to say she didn't need "100% buy-in". (I had to roll my eyes at that one as it seemed silly. Of course, no one can expect 100% buy-in. It seemed something of an intimidation tactic to the other Board members to me.) I personally believe after all the shoutin' is over, the Board will vote for the project to be a co-joined building. (Oh heck, Mary Bass might just be the cheese who stands alone but even she might want to look like one of the gang.)

But there are an awful lot of hurdles to get past (or overlook or rationalize as the case may be). One is simply that voters got different information from the district. Why would the district do that? Why tell 45,000 households one thing and not put it in the voters pamphlet which reaches all voters? I've heard many people say they toss most campaign literature and read only the voters pamphlet. After all, it is the official election guide. (And, as an aside, what was Peter Maier's role in this? He was head of Schools First which likely had some voice in what was printed.) Doesn't it trouble any Board member that shrugging this off might bode ill for future votes?

Two, did anyone ask the parent community if they wanted a 6-12 school? It's a pretty key issue for any parent especially if the district changes the assignment plan and it becomes more difficult to access other schools. It's also problematic in that the district has no real plan to explain to these parents.

Three, if they go with a co-joined building, that means a couple of things. Work done on Sealth under BEX II and BTA in the last 5 years will either be destroyed (tennis courts/softball field) or altered (Commons and library). The district is saying that delaying the project is costing money; well, they are going to have cost taxpayers money for work done that will now be changed. Also, there will be tremendous security issues for a 2100 student community complete with two staffs. There have to be video cameras and quick/secure ways to lock down the building and separate the two communities. The district hasn't shown itself to be very good at addressing these issues, even post-Columbine and post-V-Tech. Roosevelt and Cleveland are good examples. Also, there is less flexibility in a co-joined building. What if the 6-12 program doesn't work or isn't accepted by families? What then? Whether you rebuild Denny on-site or move it next to Sealth, two buildings provide more flexibility.

Also, what about the teachers (especially at Sealth)? If most of went to work and were told that our physical workplace would be altered again (after already being partially remodelled) but this time to co-join with another building so that our company would co-join with another company and no one asked us our opinion or thoughts on how to make it work, wouldn't we feel unhappy? I haven't heard Sealth teachers say no but rather than they are deeply troubled over not having any real understanding of how it will work.

Also, the Facilities staff is offering a second option that would throw $5-10M more at the Sealth project (a buy-off?). I say $5-10M because at the Board presentation it was $5-10M but at the BEX Oversight Committee it was $5M. Interesting that staff would say different things at different meetings. More to the point, where would this money come from? According to staff, construction costs are going up daily and yet they can find this extra money? Sure but it'll likely come out of some other project's budget. Raise your hand if you're Hale, Hamilton or New School.

Why should you care? Well, you should care if you are either a Seattle taxpayer or voter. You paid for work at Sealth that now will be changing less than 5 years after it was put in. You were not told, clearly, what you were voting for in the official voting guide and yet the district thought it important enough to give some voters a clearer picture. If the district can come in and make a huge decision like co-joining two schools without any input from the community, the parents, the students or the teachers, we should all worry. We could be next. And, as I mentioned, if they are trying to make the Sealth project more expansive, then finding $5-10M isn't like finding change in the sofa cushions.

The other interesting meeting is not actually a meeting but a Board Workshop next Wednesday, the 6th, from 4-8 pm (yikes!) on the Student Assignment Plan. This, folks, should be interesting and, of course, important to parents. This is where we might actually hear some nitty-gritty or see preliminary boundaries for schools.


Anonymous said...

You should address who has the contracts. I would definitely want to control the budgets but more importantly controlling the bond construction money. Squeezing more money out of construction costs in an already slow moving economy is a safe bet.

This hasn't anything to do with classroom education or getting results in the classroom.

What it does address is who's running what budgets.

e.g. the three clusters will be comprised of the group of schools defined as have the highest potential for school construction development in their areas (term used loosely).

Don't think of them in terms related to school improvement, underachieving or quick fix to raise API clusters.

Think of them as the one's with the most potential for building where there will be less opposition from the community and then look around and see where all the LLC's held by Broad and ??? are land holders or where new LLC's are being established by the land acquisitions being negotiated.

Start by getting a realtor friend to run a profile once a month that tract the changing of owners of 3+ acre properties within the boundaries of SPS. Ah, now your wising up my friend.

Anonymous said...

Here the writer questions why Gates would support a strong-arm superintendent like Phillips. duh, the Broad Foundation trained her. the funding for the penguin suit was not quite right, but that is a minor detail.

Why does Bill Gates respect Ms. Phillips? Gates respects Phillips because he believes her PR spin: that through her strong-arm methods, she has had a positive impact on Portland Public Schools. Also, Gates respects Phillips because Portland's media has yet to expose the truly abysmal results from her various initiatives.

Vicki Phillips was one of the highest paid urban superintendents in the nation, with a big PR and Communications staff, another public relations arm (CPPS), and a Foundation with its own PR staff (Portland Schools Foundation) – all there to sell her programs and "vision."

Vicki Phillips did not treat her teachers or principals with respect. On February 1 and 2, 2007, principals were brow beaten by Phillips and her staff for not silencing teacher dissonance. Tax dollars were spent to dress up a PPS principal in a penguin suit, and to purchase copies of a book called "Our Iceberg Is Melting" for all principals. The book recommended using doomsday analogies to motivate, and talked about being relentless in initiating one change after another. Here's a link to an article from the Willamette Week entitled "March of the Penguins" on this subject: http://www.wweek.com/editorial/3314/8539/

Other large failed initiatives, built on a foundation of disrespectful tactics, include: school closures; the re-re-configuration of Jefferson; and K-8s for non-white students, with full middle school offerings still in place for whites. {Board member Dilafruz Williams and others discussed the results of these initiatives at the school board candidates debate last Thursday night. The debate will be re-broadcast on Channel 28 every Tuesday and Thursday at 6:30 pm from now until election day.}

The media has also not analyzed the disposition and status of various Gates, Foundation and federal grants (such as the Magnet Schools Assistance Program Grant for Ockley Green) overseen by Phillips. Here's a link which outlines a few of our questions regarding the Ockley grant and where the money has gone: http://www.neighborhoodschoolsalliance.org/node/333.


Education's most valuable product is the one-on-one relationship between teacher and student. School reconfigurations, educational consultant middlemen, standardized testing, "best practices," and economies of scale are all distractions from the core mission of supporting the teacher / student relationship.

The methods employed by Gates in his business dealings have no place in education. The last thing public education needs is a rich bully like Gates strong-arming urban superintendents, principals and educators into Gates' latest educational fad. Gates is aware of Phillips' strong-arm methods, and he knows these methods will be helpful in getting his way -- when he gets around to determining his next educational experiment.

OSPI's relationship to Carkhuff should have alerted you. There are officials who know its not just about new age hocus pocus that the public should be upset about.

Its a fact, Bergerson, Carkhuff, etc. worked together prior to her employment as Superintendent. The misallocation of millions of dollars went not only to Carkhuff, but benefited herself and others as well. This alone should have been reason to open an investigation.

In the Frank Tazzone fraud involving a Long Island School District. The audit revealed 26 individuals had actually benefited from the $11 million embezzled. Only $7 million was eventually recovered. They had been embezzling for more than a decade. Only 5 school officials were charged and another unidentified person. They were only caught when Tazzone's boyfriend turned him in. Tazzone was not definitely not shrewd enough to be the architect of such a scheme.

Further investigations showed individuals in two nearby districts also engaged in embezzling.

Think about this too - why has the WEA not taken a stance on this issue? Who's now running the WEA?

with so many loose strings and a lobbyist as industrious as Abramoff joined together with Nyquest, Lapin and Reed, its easy to see how many people could be involved. Where's there's one fraud, there's always more and it goes up exponentially the longer you dismiss it. Monkey see, monkey do - that's the workings of a criminal mind.

Anonymous said...

This Denny/Sealth thing has all the earmarks of an internal compromise between factions -- it's murky, it meets no identifiable needs and there doesn't seem to be any constituency for it. If there was more transparency, we'd have some idea who's really for it and why.

I honestly don't know if it's a good idea or not, but the SPS families sure do get tired of getting bigfooted all the time.

By the way, there's a big APP meeting coming up next week, I hope somebody from the blog will be there.

Oh, and Anonymous at 1:57 -- what's the relevance?

Anonymous said...

She is the head of the education for the entire state of PA. Yet, she is going to be a supt. of just one school district in Portland ,Oregon where they have problems with such things as dirty schools, mice, and rat droppings. What's wrong with this picture?
Why would someone give up the power to set educational policy in PA to head up one school district in Oregon? Maybe "Fast Eddy" Rendell wanted her to get out of Dodge ASAP. The big question is: Why?
Now that federal prosecutors brought indictments against 11 people in Philadelphia, including Mayor Street's attorney Ron White and former City Treasurer Corey Kemp(http://www.philly.com/mld/philly/9051342.htm?1c) they will now have time to focus on what the FBI has uncovered during their ongoing probe of the School District of Lancaster. Stay tuned!

Isn't that where they did a piloting of Everyday and IMP. I recall the Principal Investigator making random visits to Washington to measure progress for another major grant. Alias the "thin man".

At the elementary school level, Everyday Mathematics in Pittsburgh offers
an illustrative example since it is better documented than most. CRESST
Report #528 (http://www.cse.ucla.edu/CRESST/Reports/TECH528.pdf)is widely
quoted as evidence of success of the curriculum in Pittsburgh and
instrumental in support of the decision to extend its use to Philadelphia
and to New York City. The fact that Pennsylvania has state testing, the
PSSA, was never mentioned much less the data actually used(!) in the
glowing presentation of success at "Strong Implementers" (of Everyday Math)
in the Report. Instead, the New Standards Reference Exam in Mathematics
was the assessment "instrument" used; meaningless at best and misinforming
being the more accurate. Identification of the schools themselves has been
carefully guarded - and they do (I know some of them) exhibit disturbing
PSSA data - their names have not even been released to the district's board
of directors.

A very similiar pattern exists in all the evaluative research that has been done on textbooks.

Could there be some widespread collaboration between curriculum writers and real estate tycoons? If there were such a thing as conspiracy, I think it would be a perfect match.

Anonymous said...

PORTLAND -- A report by the Pennsylvania Auditor General's Office reveals wasteful spending and lax administrative oversight in Lancaster City School District when it was led by the current superintendent of public schools in Portland.

The 67-page report by state Auditor General Robert P. Casey Jr.'s office, released on Monday, covers 1997 to last year.

It faults the performance of superintendents Vicki Phillips, who later served as Gov. Ed Rendell's education secretary, and Ricardo Curry, who pleaded guilty to federal charges in September related to putting his relatives on the district payroll.

Phillips quit Rendell's cabinet in April to take over as superintendent of schools in Portland.

The yearlong investigation concluded that nearly 70 percent of $3.2 million the Lancaster City School District spent on educational consultants from 1997 through 2003 went for services that lacked a written contract. Most of the recipients were selected by Phillips or her staff without input from the school board or business staff.

Only Curry monitored the $59,500 that was paid to his sister, girlfriend, brother-in-law and close friend for consulting services and grant administration, the report said. Curry hired three of the four while he served under Phillips when she was superintendent.

Investigators classified as "questionable" thousands of dollars' worth of credit-card purchases made in 2003, including charges by Curry for 67 meals, hotel rooms in Lancaster or Philadelphia, and store gift certificates. Other administrators charged the district for music CDs, Karaoke audiotapes and Palm Pilots.

The report also criticized $119,000 spent in 2002 and 2003 for 267 cell phones issued by the district, including $5,918 incurred by Curry.

An eight-month, $382,000 grant for cultural translation services was awarded in December 2000 -- without authorization by the school board -- to a nonprofit corporation related to three Lancaster-area churches.

Records for the program, which involved helping at-risk students navigate the school district and social-service agencies, were later destroyed, Casey's team said.

Investigators said they could not verify a single hour of the 27,000 hours billed to the district under the grant, even though Curry reportedly signed off on the final grant-performance report that was sent in October 2003 to the U.S. Education Department.

"It's not simply mismanagement or mistakes," Casey said. "There's a certain amount of arrogance here that you, as a public entity, don't have to be held to the same rules of accountability."

Curry resigned in January after admitting the district paid $13,000 to his brother-in-law, who had served jail time in Delaware for burglary, auto theft and cocaine possession.

At a news conference in Portland, Phillips blamed Curry, saying she was "disappointed that one person's wrongdoing could cast such a cloud."

She said her experience in Lancaster taught her to monitor district policies more closely to make sure that protocol was being followed.

She contended the district had written agreements with all but "a small number" of consultants, referring to relatives hired by Curry.

Portland school board member David Wynde said the board knew about the allegations in Lancaster when they hired Phillips, but was convinced that she was not involved.

(Note from MaryAnne Motter Cullen- Phillips' statement (above) that the district had written agreements with all but a "small number" of consultants is flat out a lie. I personally reviewed almost 60 files of consultants and none had a written contract.)

Anonymous said...

In case you missed it, they've hired Portland Public Schools Chief Vicki Phillips as its new director of U.S. education programs. According to the press release, Phillips will "complete the school year in Portland and begin work at the foundation August 1, overseeing and expanding upon more than $3.4 billion in strategic education investments and partnerships."

Anonymous said...

New Anonymous (1:57, 2:28, . . .): Am I correct in believing there is a new person here posting with a more national perspective? Could you please pick a nickname? I would really appreciate it! Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Let me give you an example, because what I hear Mr. Evans saying is that the cost of putting a middle school on a high school campus with a renovation is $100 million.

In san diego (2006), the cost of three new elementary schools was $76 million, with a $3 million overun. Salem, OR it was $13m. In addition, one of the elementary schools shared property with another school for a savings of $11 million. These are numbers from 2006. A new middle school in Santa Cruz is $28m; a new Boston high school is $45m and this is way overpriced. I don't see how Seattle taxpayers are saving any money - you would be saving money instead building two new schools instead of renovating an old school to accommodate more kids. but maybe I'm missing something. Who controls the bond money? The district or the city. Well, there's your answer.


Anonymous said...

From a management pov. it would be an educational nightmare. I can't imagine. One of a kind.

The estimated annual cost of all of California's dropouts is $46B or about 1000 'fabulous' high schools. Sealth had better be 'super fabulous'.

Anonymous said...

Maybe the city wants the property that the middle school sits on. Who's buying land around the middle school?

could it be that DMS is adjacent to a major athletic complex, featuring a 4000-seat outdoor stadium, and a community center and pool operated by the City of Seattle.

for shame.

Anonymous said...

The question is not what you gained, but what you are losing.

Anonymous said...

With a $100m you could build a new elementary school, a new middle school, and a new high school. the plans are already made and you could start construction tomorrow.

Anonymous said...

So who's on the Seattle SB who's remotely connected to the Broad Foundation.

Don't forget David Wynde is the School board member who said the PSB was aware of the accusations against Ms. Phillips.

Since the Portland Schools Foundation is a big fish in Portland's educational pond, it's big news when PSF picks a high powered charter school proponent from Chicago as its new executive director.

The choice of Connie Van Brunt sets a disturbing precedent --the apparent need to look nationally for educational leaders. Don't think that the Portland School Board won't be influenced by PSF's decision. David Wynde was a PSF board member before his school board stint, and PSF has been a staunch supporter of Vicki Phillips and school closures.

Portland School Board co-chair David Wynde has vehemently denied that the Portland Public School District's affiliation with the Broad Foundation is indicative of what some see as the district's rightward tilt toward privatization. Neither the Broad Foundation nor its founder, Eli Broad, he claimed, are conservative or particularly right-leaning.

School closures, privatization, and hiring outside consultants means loose purse strings and easy money. Hopefully you'll find yourselves some help, you won't get it from the DOE or OSPI.

Anonymous said...

Hey, anonymous:

You are exhausting, you are off-topic, you copy and paste long articles instead of just linking to them, you spin wild conjectures without grounding in reality, much of your writing presumes a knowledge base which is not present, and you are - in a number of cases - factually wrong.

Please stop.

We don't freakin' care about Gates, Phillips, Broad, Carkhuff, Tazzone, or any of these other people who have NOTHING to do with us or our situation. Go start your own blog on corruption in public school contracting and leave this one alone for people to discuss issues directly related to Seattle Public Schools.

Seriously, you can register and start blogging in less than ten minutes. Then you can have a blog for the purpose you want to write about instead of diluting the purpose of this blog. Or you can join in with the intent and purpose of this blog. Please pick one.

Anonymous said...

Thinking like a Broad foundation staff employee would.

From what I figure, Phillips' $24 million in "sustainable" AKA permanent cuts was her justifification for shutting down several neighborhood schools.

Never mind what shrinking the district infrastructure would have contributed. Perhaps a few million dollars toward closing the $57 million budget gap (2006)

The astonishing part was the real number, was actually closer to $14m, so why was there a $10m gap between her numbers and the actual numbers and why was there still almost a $45 million budget shortfall.

Some people never learn.

Anonymous said...

Anonymous at 5:30:

I am not a Broad foundation staff employee. I don't really care if you keep submitting, but I want you to pick a name so I can skim through and skip reading your posts.

Anonymous said...

anon529, why would any sane person want to put two schools into a 'refurbished' old school and spend $100m. Neither school is large - about 1500 students altogether. A campus that size would be very small - certainly you could build a school that size for less than $30m.

In addition, you are disturbing two campuses of students. Few districts would attempt this, so obviously the superintendent has no control over the project or else she is somehow involved in another arrangement with the city.

You should correct the other anonymous poster if some of the facts are wrong. The ethics of governing public institutions are a higher standard than the ethics in business. Some people having difficulty adapting.

Anonymous said...

Districts that have fiscal control over bonds to build or refurbish schools, do the same type of renovations for a fraction of the cost. Superintendents would try to retain school property, not have fire sales. Land swaps are risky, ask Palo Alto concerning portables encroaching on city property.

Even so, learning would not be impeded. Honest people would not focus on test scores, they'd measure progress by what was actually accomplished, not make it up as they go along.

Every time you liquidate assets, the money sloshes out like spillt coffee.

If you believe the city, then have I got a bridge to sell you.

Foundations will go unnamed.

Anonymous said...

Districts that have fiscal control over bonds to build or refurbish schools, do the same type of renovations for a fraction of the cost. Superintendents would try to retain school property, not have fire sales. Land swaps are risky, ask Palo Alto concerning portables encroaching on city property.

Even so, learning would not be impeded. Honest people would not focus on test scores, they'd measure progress by what was actually accomplished, not make it up as they go along.

Every time you liquidate assets, the money sloshes out like spillt coffee.

If you believe the city, then have I got a bridge to sell you.

Foundations will go unnamed.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Last post, what are you trying to say? I'm not sure I'm following you.

Anonymous said...

You have to be more specific.

What does the school board charter say regarding land swaps? Does it have to be voted on publicly? Which entity has control of the bond?

Is there a charter movement afoot interested in carving out a stand-alone school district? If so, has Seattle been declared desegregated and free of court oversight?

What is the long range plan for DWMS? Why does the new building cost so much? How large are the two properties and what is their value? Thinking like the superintendent I would do my swapping in North Seattle, so who owns 3-acre plots up there.

A new middle school is $30m, probably less, because the population is so small. There is probably a realtor lurking by, go ask them.

Anonymous said...

You might not know that these questioniable and objectionable (quasi-forced?) social policies having to do with cultural assimiliation (race-mixing) developed by so-called patriots during the 50s and 60s. The result of which were failures and led to wider economic disparity and violent backlashes.

Seattle is relocating families from a stable diverse, ethnic community to look for another school.

Even from within the African-American community there are two sets of beliefs regarding assimiliation going back many generations.

Anonymous said...

Side note on the Denny/Sealth meeting preps - see the second half of our latest post -- there still is no comprehensive info page on the project anywhere to be found on the district website. And the buildingexcellence.org site never did go up.

Charlie Mas said...

Let's not forget that the BEX Oversight Committee is scheduled to meet on February 8. These meetings are open to the public.