Friday, February 22, 2008

Weird statements about Denny-Sealth

I received an email from a teacher at Sealth in which a number of intriguing items were brought to my attention.

First, here is a mysterious statement from the minutes of March 9, 2007 meeting of the BEX Oversight Committee:

"Denny-Sealth at $125M is the most expensive project the District has attempted and is probably the first of a new model of addressing middle and high schools together."

What new model? Co-located campuses? And what high schools are they going to address together with a middle school? After BEX III, the only high schools that won't have had recent top to bottom renovations will be Sealth, Rainier Beach, and Ingraham. As Fred Stephens said at that meeting, "At the end of BEX III, every high school will have received improvements."

Here's another funny statement from those minutes: "This group [the BEX Oversight Committee] learns of every major BEX issue or concern before it goes to the Board."

Hmmm. Really? And how do they learn of it? From the staff and the vendors.

Check out this entry from the minutes of the October 12, 2007 meeting:

"• Director DeBell: There are community concerns around the interface between middle and high school. The design seems to reflect solving of those concerns. Eighth grade parents are especially concerned about safety.
• Robert Evans responded that there have been many public meetings and problems are being resolved."

Many public meetings? How many? Problems are being resolved? They don't look that resolved to me.

When the committee next met, in December, there was a lot more discussion about stakeholder opposition to the project.

Here's something interesting. It is a presentation that Don Gillmore, of Seattle Public Schools, made to the Council of Educational Facility Planners International (CEFPI) in October of 2007 in Toronto. It is titled "Planning Non-Traditional Schools - An Evolutional Process".

Here are some interesting quotes from that presentation:

Slide #3: "Planning process now involves all stakeholders in all school plans
Stakeholders analysis process involves all partners in a non-traditional school"

All stakeholders were not included in all school plans. What the heck is he talking about? The decision to co-locate Denny at Sealth was made before any stakeholders were consulted about anything.

It was interesting to see Mr. Gillmore characterize Denny-Sealth as a non-traditional school. I don't think we have heard that characterization locally. On slide #5 he notes that Denny-Sealth will be "District’s first combined major middle school and high school campus" that it will have a "2100 student population". He also noted "Community skepticism regarding 6-12 campus". But how could there be skepticism when all stakeholders have been involved in all school plans?

On slide #14, he again notes: "Community resistance to combining campus". Slide #15 has an eloborate and complicated "Goals Diagram". One of the four main goals on the diagram is "Project Support By the Community". I don't think that goal has been met.

On slide #24 Mr. Gillmore touts the benefits of his process including "People feel heard".

At the CEFPI conference in Toronto, the planning process for Denny-Sealth was put forward as a "successful planning process to identify stakeholders, establish goals, and develop and prioritize strategies for implementing objectives in a very efficient timeframe". The planning process for Denny-Sealth is being presented internationally as a successful process.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I didn't know of any of this (it is impossible to read every single district document although Charlie is giving it the old college try). Am I surprised? No.

Facilities folk to a lot with the facts: twist, manipulate, ignore, make them into half-truths. It's just unbelievable.

An audit of the BEX program is coming sometime. I believe if there was one it would be discovered that, like the Port Commission, there is no malfeasance. But favored vendors, movement of money that is untracked and cost overruns are likely items that would be found.

It may come sooner or it may come later but I told the Board that they want to be out in front of this issue and not caught behind the eight-ball. Whether they listen, well, that's their choice.

Anonymous said...

As one person pointed out, one third of the BEX oversight committee is from Heery. I wonder why there isn't a teacher on that committee? It certainly looks as though there is a conflict of interest there.

As to the power-point from Toronto, I think many parents and future parents of both Sealth and Denny might be surprised that their childen will be attending non-traditional schools.

It is one thing to have a community create a school, as is what happened at Summit K-12, it is another thing to have Gillmore & Company force a non-traditional school on to a community by creating a construction boondoggle that has only created division.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for posting this - we received the same thing and it's in queue as part of a general "Denny-Sealth, days to go till the final vote" update we are working on - your link will be even more helpful than us just reposting what we received, with less-informed analysis as we don't have your expertise!

Melissa Westbrook said...

I just reviewed the Gilmore presentation to the conference in Toronto in Oct. 2007. There was some awfully odd things in it.

First, it talked about Secondary BOC which has been on the BEX docket for YEARS. What has been accomplished? Very little and, as I have mentioned, its $14M from BEX II got eaten up by Garfield's cost overruns.

Then, it seems he was talking about New School and the slide states:
- "non-profit must fund 50% of operating budget"
- "new building and classes half the size of district average"
-"high school on-site"

Oh. So it finally comes out what New School Foundation's money buys. A new building and smaller class sizes. Thanks, Don, for clearing that up.

Anonymous said...

Thanks Melissa for the reference to the New School Foundation. I was unaware of exactly what NSF is and thus unsure about what was implied in the presentation. Because they appear to be building that school from the ground up with heavy Foundational support I guess teacher voices are not as critical in the pre-planning. That's not a slam against us teachers, just a reality that if a grade level is only being added each year then by design there were very few teachers to start, but by adding just one grade level per year there surely is teacher input in the program development even if not as critical in the initial construction.

From your lead I found a press release with the quote, "Together, the rebuilt New School, the new facility for South Lake Alternative High School, Dunlap Elementary School, Rainier Beach High School, and the Rainier Beach Community Center facilities, will constitute a remarkable Pre-K to 12th grade educational and recreational complex for families in that region of our city."


What is interesting is that the New School is being built grade level by grade level is also the model we found for how almost all the 7-12 schools were built. Not a merger of already existing campuses but a slow intentional development of the concept. Although I'm still very concerned about the concept of a 6-12 model, at a bare minimum it would help if we were at least developing it in the manner that all the other models were built and not this rush to merge them and hold them accountable for it working out manner.

As a side note, those of us who have investigated 6-12 schools consistently find they are either private schools, magnet schools with admissions processes, alternative schools (even BOC falls in that category somewhat) or charter schools. None are like where we are at in terms of populations/experience/plans.

We are continually asked about our "research evidence" to support our opinion that this is not a good idea to merge the campuses - of course, there was no "research evidence" to support the start of this process in the manner in which it was done at Sealth. With the New School it is being done one grade level at a time so surely somebody in the district has done their homework, just not applying it consistently.

Of course, the drums have already started sounding that it "can work" if implemented correctly. I see the insinuation that it's us teachers who will be to blame if it does not.

Several articles on the school are linked at http://www.newschoolfoundation.org/news.html .

Charlie Mas said...

To see in very clear terms what the New School Foundation's money buys, note the relative positions of Parents and the Foundation on Mr. Gillmore's Power and Influence graph. The Foundation has more of each than Parents.

dan dempsey said...

It was said:
........probably the first of a new model of addressing middle and high schools together.

Wrong not new just different for this time and area.

A car with stone wheels instead of metal wheels and rubber tires is not new just different for the time and area.

This car would provide a bumpy unacceptable ride for anyone in it and thus we see no stone wheeled cars because manufacturers are smart enough not to produce them because the public would not buy them.

Unfortunately the district may not afford the community any opportunity to avoid riding in the stone wheeled pony cart of Denny/Sealth.

As I mentioned in Bellflower CA there is a 7-12 middle school / high school with more than 3000 students. It is exists because of historical processes not by conscious logical thought processes. (They inherited this stone wheeled car and due to inadequate funding and high real estate and construction prices are unable to buy metal wheels and rubber tires - so it is a very uncomfortable ride.)

What would be new would be the district addressing a task with open and transparent processes aimed a discovering the best course of action in a given situation.

NO NO NO not "probably the first of a new model of addressing middle and high schools together" The first of an effective new model for this district is in the previous paragraph - and it is so new the district leaves it untried.

dan dempsey said...

Does Planning and decision making work like this everywhere or only in Seattle?

From Melissa Westbrook on the Blog:

"The biggest news is that COO Don Kennedy, after an overview of the computer systems in use and their challenges, recommended waiting a year for any assignment plan changes even if only for high school. He did not say stop planning but to not go forward with implementation as previously scheduled.

He was blunt and clear about what could happen if they do not get the software technology updated; the entire system could fail and it would be a disaster. By entire system, I mean the hardware/software they use for the enrollment process; it is beyond antiquated. (It's called a VAX system and there's one on display at the Computer Science and Engineering building at UW... as an artifact.) As you can imagine, postponing the assignment plan wasn't really well received. More on that later."

I can hardly wait for how "the above" gets spun by SPS Admin.

Here is my entry in the win a meaningless job downtown sweepstakes.

Dear Dr Goodloe-Johnson,

Please accept:

My official entry in the: you can be the next minister of disinformation sweepstakes, which follows.

In the interests of what is best for all children we realize that we need to wait to assess the impact the assignment plan could have in its current form. For the good of all we realize that it will be best for everyone concerned that we thoughtfully develop the best plan possible. Unfortunately there is just not enough time to create the plan and placements that our children deserve for next fall. We beg forgiveness for yet another failure to perform.

Be ready for our complete student assignment plan, which we will produce with deep understanding and compassion for implementation in the 2009-2010 school year - Honest we promise it will be killer dude and worth the wait.

Clearly I am not a trained professional. I will eventually be able to do this job as I am currently enrolled in:

JSCEE BS 101 - Introduction to spinning and lying.

JSCEE Phil 112 - Training your conscience to be down with the acceptance of willfully deceptive practices.

JSCEE Eng 240 - Really Persuasive writing- How to make the patently absurd seem reasonable.

JSCEE Stats 540 How to throw out meaningless irrelevant numbers and convince people. Then use these as a "data display" to drive an absurd action that is totally unrelated to any thoughtful analysis of the truly relevant data.

I am only taking four classes at this time because I am performing a worthwhile task for the betterment of society by teaching students in a public classroom setting.

If you employ me at the JSCEE in this position as "Minister of Disinformation",
I promise to never do anything worthwhile for society ever again.



Note to the Anon (who bashes me)-

Do not bother to criticize this tongue in cheek post - it is satire.

Just begin to gather signatures on the involuntary commitment papers.

Oh you saw my name and did not read this post - how refreshing a thoughtful logical action.



dan dempsey said...

Deepest apologies I got my dates confused we shall not have this available for 2009-2010 school year. Maybe some other year later on down the road, but I guarantee it will be fabulous if and when it ever arrives.

Is that vague and imprecise enough to win the "Minister of Disinformation" job?

dan dempsey said...


That power point is just plain unbelievable - I found the next to last page really informative.

It says: "Parents Feel Heard"
Over the last few years it has become most apparent that the board and the superintendent and staff have no intention of heeding community input. Thanks for the confirmation that the goal is to make parents feel heard.

Like most of the other SPS goals, the district does not fulfill it very well. Finally we have it published. The goal is to have parents feel heard. Shouldn't the goal be put to use public input to develop the best possible facilities and programs.

Anyone who has observed the sham of public input process knows that "Using Public Input" has never been the intention. Now after two absurd math adoptions, the bizarre WSHS 6 period day mandate, the school closure decisions, and the new student assignment plan, we have the most bizarre plan of all. The non-traditional grades 6 through 12 school experimentation by facilities on South West Seattle children and families.

This is similar to a conversation I had with the Math researcher William Hook of Univ. of Victoria. In regard to research and experimental studies there are applications that need to be made. Bill's immediate question in regard to using Everyday Math was does the SPS admin plan on filing paper work for experimenting on children as there is no data that shows using Everyday Math on the population demographic of Seattle would show EM use to be anything other than a big experiment on children.

So now we have the Facilities School Building experiment on Children -- and no interest in public input and no interest in the language of either the ballot or the voters guide.

F, R, A, U, D spells Fraud.
That's my opinion and in case anyone wants to know I don't feel heard.

This may be the board's last chance to show effective new leadership for after this it may be lame ducks-ville because none of these folks will likely be re-elected after voting for option #2.

Will the board just keep listening to the advice of their hired professional experts? The experts spew forth nonsense, then the board stamps their approval.

I used to think Thank God we don't have an elected school board. This decision may show that whether elected or appointed makes little difference.

dan dempsey said...

Correction from above
Goal is to
.. have People feel heard.

....Brings out hidden agendas
....Keeps people present and thinking from different perspectives
....Gets to the heart of the matter
....Prevents derailing
....People feel heard
....Helps to prioritize