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Sunday, March 02, 2008

The Big Picture

I had debated about when or if I would write this particular post but I decided I'd stay true to speaking out. It's why I blog.

Last Wednesday, the Board approved Option 2 for Denny/Sealth. I could go on about why this is a bad decision on so many levels, both for Denny/Sealth and the district, but you can go back and read what Charlie and I have written about its possible outcomes. (I will admit -it just might work but the problem is that the district has sent it off on the wrong foot, in so many ways, that it is unlikely to do so. And that is one of the reasons that it shouldn't go forward.)

There are two bigger picture issues to this particular challenge that I want to address. One is the Board and the other is voters.

The Board, most of them, spoke eloquently although without great passion, about the project. Director Carr pulled out the multi-purpose "reasonable people will disagree" bromide. (That was almost as useful as Cheryl Chow's previous statement "I don't need 100% buy-in on this project.) Of course, these are true statements but not necessarily useful to making a case.

No, it was odd that despite saying they were voting for the proposal, many of their statements acknowledged the myriad of problems in getting to this vote. You would have thought, listening to each other, that it might have given them give pause to say, "boy, this is a lot gone wrong here. Maybe we need to rethink this."

To wit:

Michael de Bell - there is "a lot of risk" is going forward.
Sherry Carr - "the academic benefits were not the reason for this proposal", acknowledgment of the lack of Board policy and lack of good community engagement "it absolutely could have been done better", Option 3 would have "been $15M more than planned" (meanwhile Option 2 is $10M more than planned).
Peter Maier - the project "is better for the broader community" without explaining why

Option 3 - doing the repairs on Sealth and rebuilding Denny on its own site, - well, the stats on doing that never really saw the light of day. Despite BEX staff saying that we would lose $20M on Option 3, BEX staff never quite got around to explaining, in hard cold figures, how much money we are losing from tearing out previous BEX II work. It is interesting how when BEX staff want to prove a point, they only take it in the direction they want to see happen instead of providing full information.

And, that the Board didn't hold their feet to the fire for this information.

(Director Harium Martin-Morris said he couldn't vote for this project for the simple reason that he had run on: that he couldn't vote for anything that would not help/push forward academics for students and the teachers who teach those students. This project has no academic vision, plan or outline as the Board AND Carla Santorno all acknowledge. This district has to have an absolute laser vision on the clear academic benefit in all that they do. All they will acknowledge on this project is that there are potential benefits.

As well, Director Bass acknowledged, without saying it directly, that she is tired of staff putting everything on a rush, rush basis. She said that this push of "the train has left the station and is starting down the track" cannot be the constant driver for decisions.)

That is key because the two things that bother me so greatly about the Board's actions are that they acknowledge up and down a wall that things were handled badly but yet they couldn't even turn to the Superintendent and say "We need to see better handling of these things in the future and expect to see new processes for them AND that staff needs to clearly understand that we will NOT go forward on any new plans if these are not followed."

There, that wasn't so hard. No name-calling, no humiliating anyone in public, just the public acknowledgment that this district will not go about business as usual.

But that didn't happen.

Because, once again, I think we have a Board that doesn't want to or doesn't realize that they are the supervisors of the Superintendent. This doesn't have to be a micro-manage or Sarge Marge role, that won't work. But yes, the Board can explain Board policy to the Superintendent, allow her to carry it out and then, if she seems to going on the wrong track or ignoring it, clearly letting her know the consequences (and I don't mean firing her; I mean letting her know that funding won't happen if policy is not followed).

My second point is the damage done in voters' eyes. What has/will happen because of the Denny/Sealth project could make people wary of voting for levies/bonds (more than any research or speaking out that I could ever do). Namely,
  • to ask for, and receive, money from the voters in BEX II and carry out the projects at Sealth, only to now want to rip out/alter some of that work just a few years later is a huge problem (I'd estimate at least $2-3M worth of work). Oddly, neither the staff nor the Board want to speak about it but it's the truth and the truth usually does win out, sooner or later.
  • The district stated to voters that there were air/water quality issues on this BEX that HAD to be addressed and used that as leverage to get the BEX III passed. But with a wave of a hand, the district now turns around and says that they need the money for another project (Denny/Sealth, not an emergency mind you) and that some schools air/water quality issue (Summit, Salmon Bay and Ingraham) can wait? That's something of a bait and switch. Either it's important or it's not. This all comes out of the Infrastruture pot of money which is also resurfacing playfields. So resurfacing playfields is more important than addressing air and water quality issues? (Or maybe that particular pot was loaded with projects that weren't at all urgent and it was a slush fund for BEX staff in case they ran out of money. I got so much grief about speaking out against BEX III precisely because it covered these air/water quality issues and yet I don't hear a peep now.)
  • That last issue also brings to mind the issue of how Ingraham has $22M in BEX III and yet they were also listed as a school to also have air/water quality issues addressed? That's somewhat confusing.
  • So I had wondered why the BEX staff would have asked (and the Board granted) the right to take every major project's 15% contingency fee and put it in one big pot. Well, that would be because the $20M Reserve Fund for BEX III is almost gone. That's right, only a year out of voting this in with nothing built and the reserve fund is almost gone. (Nearly $15M has gone to "cost escalation" at Hamilton and New School and staff just took nearly another $3M to fix up Lincoln, Boren, Columbia and Hale as interim sites.) That 15% contingency fee pot is about $54M which sounds like a lot but the way the costs escalate and overrun, it likely will not last long. (Ironically, Denny's project which comes at the end of the cycle, may be the one to suffer.)
  • In the Voters Guide, voters were not told, either in the "pro" statement for BEX III or in the official (no word length) description of the bond measure, about co-joining Denny and Sealth. This is a huge issue because I can't tell you how many people told me (and I was surprised) that they toss all campaign literature and only read the voters guide. It is the official word of the elections so you would have thought it would have mattered to the district to get it right. Unless, of course, they did write it exactly as they wanted to because they didn't want voters, especially in West Seattle, to say, "hey, what's this?".
We have a nearly $500M maintenance backlog. It runs from roofs to flooring to boilers; you name it (and many of you probably could because you are sitting in buildings that are very bad off). Staff would tell you it's because levies failed between '92-'95. What they don't admit is that, according to OSPI, 2% of the General Fund should go to Maintenance. However, somewhere in the last 10 years or so, it got scaled back to 1%. Okay, sure, there are probably good reasons but we are now in a place where we are treading water on repairs. There is little to no money for landscaping, either putting it in or maintaining it (the general public has a real concern over how the buildings look from the outside). Maintenance says if they did get the 2%, they could catch up and keep up.

So, to my final point, we will have a BTA levy coming up in 2010 (which used to be Buildings, Technology and Athletics but is now Buildings, Technology and Academics) which is a bit of a catch-all maintenance levy. Last time they asked for $178M and usually only half of that goes for maintenance and the other half for technology/academic upgrades.

They won't be asking for any $178M this time, not if they want to catch up on the repairs. Even putting the full amount towards repairs wouldn't do it. So how much can they ask for? What about the credibility gap they have now created between the district and voters?

These issues may be the the ripples from Denny/Sealth that can hurt the district in the long run. Someone in the district might want to think of a better plan than just saying, "it's for the kids".

34 comments:

dan dempsey said...

I have so many problems with this situation I do not know where to begin.

Where is the data from a similar large Urban middle /high school on the West Coast that show this to be a reasonable idea? I did not hear the board request that information? and yet five voted for this.

Many of these folks ran on their business background and professional accomplishments. There was no evidence of any useful skills displayed here.

If those 5 directors cannot furnish a working example of a large urban middle/high school using that design in an academically proven way, they should be recalled. To allow the administration to continue flushing our dollars away on unproven follies must be stopped.

dan dempsey said...

Peter Maier - the project "is better for the broader community" without explaining why.

A continuing characteristic on the part of many board members is the inability to hear anything that the broader community says, while proclaiming what is good for the broader community.

Look for Mr. Maier to continue the tradition of public inaccessibility while issuing blanket proclamations endorsing every single action that the hired professional experts recommend.

The unwritten qualification that most school board members in this state satisfy is:

The ability to float down stream like a dead leaf. As they float along they produce no wake and display no sign of life. What of academic value has the SPS board produced in the last two years? It is like they do not exist - the Superintendent proposes and they follow like sheep.

This is absolutely incredible. The Superintendent recommends building a large urban middle/high school of 1800 students and although she is unable to cite a single successful example of an institution similar to what is proposed and the CAO presets three data-mined studies that clearly do not even apply to what is proposed. The board has no problem rolling the dice on this $125,000,000 long shot. A huge experiment will now be conducted in which our children get to be the Guinea Pigs.

I had no idea that "Effective New Leadership" would look like this, but then the BEX III voters had no idea their money would be spent like this.

It appears that the deceiving of the public is not only rampant but is now openly advocated by 5 board members as the spending of $2 million by Mr Gillmore & friends on development of a project not described to the public is "A OK" with them. After all it was an Irene Stewart idea - so lets follow along with the tradition of no communication and administrative edicts.

dan dempsey said...

Someone in the district might want to think of a better plan than just saying, "it's for the kids" .

Holding the children hostage has worked well in the past. Will it not continue to work in the future?

Anonymous said...

The "open-concept" South Shore was another district experiment. This link http://www.seattleschools.org/area/historybook/south-shore.pdf
tells its history.
Pretty funny that the explanation of why they didn't continue open concept is a pat, one sentence answer; "...open concept no longer worked for the program..". Maybe they should copy that down so that in 2030 or so they can use it for Sealth/Denny.

Charlie Mas said...

For all of the talk about the co-location of Denny and Sealth as the fiscally responsible option, it was not.

It is never fiscally responsible to buy something you don't want.

The economic benefit of accelerated construction - spending the money before inflation erodes the buying power - is available without co-locating Denny and Sealth. That same benefit could have been realized by allocating the $75 million they were going to spend on Denny to other projects that are ready to go. The benefit comes from spending the money quickly, not from spending it on a co-located Denny-Sealth. Among their better choices were (and are): the Secondary B.O.C., fixing up Wilson-Pacific for the John Marshall students, finishing up the work needed at the consolidated schools, putting back all of the projects that were eliminated by cost overruns, finishing the water quality projects, migrating the student assignment software from the VAX system, or a small portion of the $500 million in backlog maintenance jobs. In three years they could rebuild Denny at Denny using BEX IV money. The current Denny building will last another three years.

The Board - if no one else - should have realized that the Denny-Sealth project was badly planned from the start. When you have two schools that both need to use the same interim site, then it is a bad idea to try to plan to renovate both of them at the same time.

The Board - if no one else - should have realized that you don't force co-location on a community. The community clearly does not want it and never did.

The Board - if no one else - should have heeded the stakeholders. And the Board should have compelled the central staff to do so as well.

As Mel wrote, the damage is done.

There are five Board members who can never again claim to value stakeholder input - because after this it is abundantly clear that they do not. It will be a tragedy if any of them are re-elected. They have already achieved lame duck status, some after just a few months in office.

Capital bonds and levies will be subject to a level of scrutiny which will make them significantly more difficult to pass and signficantly more difficult to administer. I don't think they should put any projects on the levy until AFTER they have demonstrated community support for them. Moreover, they cannot claim emergency status for any project unless it is a true emergency. There will be fights over the project list like never before.

The BEX Oversight Committee is in for a LOT of trouble over this. Those people utterly failed to confirm stakeholder support for this project and they should be the object of a great deal of backlash for their failure.

Again we are asking: where is the accountability?

dan dempsey said...

Accountability????

Where is any thought?

---------------------
In education,the judgments of experts frequently appear to be
unconstrained by objective research.


Even the popular media have recognized this converging body of research. As James Collins
wrote in Timemagazine in
October 1997: “After review-
ing the arguments mustered by
the phonics and whole-language proponents, can we make a judgment as to who is right? Yes. The value of explicit, systematic phonics instruction has been well established.

Hundreds of studies from a variety of fields support this conclusion. Indeed, the evidence is so
strong that if the subject under discussion were, say, the treatment of the mumps, there would be no discussion.


There’s nothing wrong with testing
the NCTM approach to math education.
But should NCTM’s standards become the coin of the realm
before they have proven their efficacy in rigorous experimental settings?


In education,the judgments of experts frequently appear to be unconstrained by objective research.

Denny/Sealth or Math adoption or West Seattle six-period day mandate - take your pick these decisions were unconstrained by objective research.

Until education becomes the kind of profession that reveres
evidence, we should not be surprised to find its experts
dispensing unproven methods, endlessly flitting from one fad to
another.

“Some people expect educational
research to be like a group of engineers working on the fastest, cheapest, and safest way of travel-
ing to Chicago, when in fact it is a bunch of people arguing about whether to go to Chicago or St.Louis.”

A mature profession is characterized by a shift from judgments of individual experts to judgments constrained by quantified data.

The SPS administration under both Mr Manhas and Dr Goodloe Johnson are clearly immature.


The SPS operates in Washington state under Dr Bergeson and OSPI, all three are major advocates for continued immaturity.

Much of the above is based on a paper by Douglas Carnine:

Why Education Experts Resist
Effective Practices
(And What It Would Take to Make Education More Like Medicine)

-------------------------------
Visit two homes for quantified educational data:
The Math Underground
SchoolTruth

Write your legislator advocating for the State Board of Education to take over the Math Standards revision. Dr Bergeson has spent about $1 million and has three unacceptable widely different drafts to show for it. The most recent on Feb 29.

dempsey_dan@yahoo.com

Charlie Mas said...

One of the lessons of this experience is that we can't just vote for the money on a capital bond or capital levy and then fix the project list after the election.

That's what some people, notably Peter Maier, said when people questioned the BEX III project list. It's clear that work is being done on these projects - worked that cannot be reversed - long before the election ever occurs.

It's also clear that the Board regards "what did the voters approve" as a legitimate question - nevermind the fact that the voters approved allowing changes.

So when the project list comes around for the next capital levy, BTA III, that will be the time to get involved and fight it out. The District will have to open up that process more than they ever have before and conduct more authentic engagement on it than they ever have before. There will be no trusting them on any of it. There will be no "just vote yes and we'll fix the list later". It will all have to be fought out and resolved in advance.

So what is the state of the planning for BTA III right now? That vote will come when? In 2010?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I believe the next BTA is 2010 (but not sure what month). And oh yeah, I think they're planning right now.

I very much remember two things, vividly, from speaking out against BEX III:

One was walking into KUOW with Peter Maier. Peter and I had known each other through school issues off and one for years and had parked next to each other. But as we walked in he said, "You know, you're hurting kids." And that did hurt because that's the last thing I ever wanted to do.

And then, to have him vote yes on Denny/Sealth, knowing the extra money for Sealth was coming from the Infrastructure fund in BEX III that was for VITAL air/water quality issues was painful.

So who's hurting kids now, Peter/

The second incident was at the end of that KUOW interview and the regular journalists who review the week's news on Friday were there. One of them was Danny Westneat from the Times who told me, "Melissa, we don't care where the money goes, we just want the money."

On the one hand, I get it. I really would like nothing better, honestly, than to just be working at my child's school, believing that the people large and in charge at district headquarters were capable of making good, decent choices for our students.

It's what we all have to believe about our elected/hired leadership if we are to function as a society.

However, at some point, you have to be a grownup (and I speak to Danny Westneat here). You have to say, "Wait a minute. One minute you say the money is desperately needed here and the next minute, when you have the money, that need is gone."

I cannot forfeit my right to speak out. It is not a matter of just one project I might not agree with on the list. It is beyond that and if BEX III hasn't taught people this, I don't know what will. Obviously, some people have a lot more blind faith than I do and that's your right but don't ask me to back down.

Anonymous said...

I don't recall hearing anyone ask you to "back down", Melissa. I just heard a heck of a lot of people disagreeing with you. You have every right to speak out, and vote any way you see fit. But when you clamor for media attention then you have to be prepared for the backlash, especially when you try to take away something as needed and coveted as BEX funding for our public schools. It's like saying "your momma" to the public.

No matter how much you disagree with where the money goes or how it is spent, it will never over ride the desperate need for the funding. Our buildings are in shambles. Crumbling. It's utterly embarrassing. And, many buildings have gotten water and air quality upgrades.

Most of us believe that whatever we can get, is great. We may not agree on where every penny is spent, we may not agree on which schools are first or last on the list, and we may not agree on many other things. But the majority of us do agree that we need BEX money desperately.

So, you keep speaking out. Nobody is going to ask you not to. Just don't expect buy in from the larger community. It ain't happening.

Stop trying so hard to cram your views down our throats. We've heard you. We know your view on BEX. We just don't agree with you.

I don't mean any disrespect to you. I value your advocacy on many issues. I value this blog. I am just tired of you forcing this issue.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't need to force the issue; the district keeps doing that all by itself. And since we have levies and bonds come up frequently, then it is going to keep coming up as a topic.

But tell me, Tired of the Bex Woes, you're really okay with the district saying these air and water qualities issues had to be done and then they don't do all of them? Resurfacing playfields is more important to you? Because I really want to hear it said out loud by a parent.

You're really okay with taking money that we need so we can actually get our assignment plan changed so that BEX staff can persuade the Board that Sealth will be better off? I really want to hear someone say that is okay.

And you are okay with not getting information that the district knows about its plans in the voter's guide? Because I really want to hear someone say it out loud.

Saying, well, some stuff gets done, well, then you fall in the Danny Westneat camp of it's okay as long as we get the money.

How about we get the money AND have it well spent?

Anonymous said...

No, I don't agree with the district not doing the air and water quality fixes that they said had to be done. And, no resurfacing playgrounds is not more important than the air/water quality issue. in my opinion.

And, yes I want to see the information on the BEX in the voters guides.

I am not arguing with you on these issues. I think they are valid and worthy of conversation. Even worthy of taking the board to task on them. These issues, however, did not have enough weight or merit for me to vote no on BEX, and turn away the funds that are so desperately needed for so many other projects in this district.

We are not in Tele-tubby land, we will never all agree on how the money should be spent, which schools get renovated first or last, etc., but the overwhelming majority of us do agree that we need BEX funds, even with it's shortcomings. We wouldn't turn it away.

So, yes, in answer to your question, the major, overwhelming majority of us are in Danny Westneat's camp.

Is that clear. Now you have heard a parent say it.

Anonymous said...

Continued from above.

Melissa, you are constantly berating the board and administration for not engaging with or listening to the public/community on projects like Denny/Sealth. You criticize Chow for her quote "we don't need 100% buy in".

Do you realize that just like this district, you too, are ignoring what the overwhelming majority of voters want. You are saying "i don't need 100% buy in", heck you don't even need 5% buy in.

voters wanted BEX. We passed BEX. Why is that so difficult for you to accept??

Anonymous said...

The "100% buy in", public engagement, please engage me, everybody counts and should be heard ad naseum, elected or not, crowd... has done great things for transportation in Seattle. When 99 finally falls down, we can all thank the 100%-buy-in-ers for that too!

Anonymous said...

Give me a break. Nobody expects 100% buy-in. But don't kid yourself, the levys and bonds for the school district do not pass by even 80% and if the district continues to spend like a drunken sailor on port leave, the taxpayers are going to say no. I am tired of money being spend recklessly. I'd rather donate my time, energy and money directly at the schools and make a difference that way because I think the district is seriously out-of-touch with the real needs of the schools. And here's a wild idea; how about firing about half of the administrative staff at district headquarters and not paying for any more expensive studies. Last time I checked, common sense didn't cost a dime.

Melissa Westbrook said...

1) BEX III did pass. To pass the levy/bonds, you have to get 40% of the people who voted in the last election to turn out. (If you don't, you can have 90% vote for a levy/bond but if you don't get that 40%, it won't matter.) Thing is, the number of people turning out to vote has been going slowly down even in the BEX III bond. Seattle, after San Francisco, has the lowest kid population of any major US city. We are dependent on our friends and neighbors who don't have kids to vote for our levies and bonds. Something to keep in mind.

2)In the early '90s, a couple of levies did not pass. It's not the most farfetched thing to suggest it could happen again. It would be interesting to take a poll in West Seattle about how they feel about bonds and levies at this point.

3) Someday, one of you at your child's school may face what Sealth is facing (having a program forced on you) or maybe your favorite program will be taken away or they will not fix something you think is at a dire point in your building. It's always easier if it's a school you have no association with but in this district, just wait long enough and it just might happen at your school.

So I'll leave it at that except to say that the Board is not the only route to change.

Anonymous said...

"Someday, one of you at your child's school may face what Sealth is facing (having a program forced on you"

Are you kidding me...that happens all the time.

Hale, and it's lack of a strong band program, lack of self contained honors or AP classes, and unconventional philosophy is forced on me. My kids can't get into Roosevelt, the other high school in the NE part of Seattle. So it's not like I don't understand the Sealth issue. I do. I hate being forced into something. But that's not at all what I was talking about when I posted above. I was talking about supporting BEX III.

dan dempsey said...

It is said:
The voters wanted BEX.

The question is did the voters get what they voted for?

The bigger question is did the district even ask the voters for what they had decided to spend the money on?

This district appears to specialize in deceiving the public. I find it absolutely amazing that there is so little fact checking. Then when the facts are checked and deceivers exposed, who even cares?

The CAO's job appears to be to suppress relevant data and present bogus misleading studies. The majority of the board never bat an eye at these fraudulent practices. Simply voting a bobble-head unquestioning yes, to all the admin proposes, appears to be what the public wants to see in their elected board.

In education,the judgments of experts frequently appear to be
unconstrained by objective research.
I find this extremely disturbing.

Much of the Seattle public seem to prefer their hired education experts to be ministers of disinformation. This portion of the public is just happy to get the crumbs that fall from the table.

Just go for the money, perhaps some of it will be spent in the right places. If it is not, well at least it was spent. Public engagement perhaps, but it appears more like the Dr Maria Goodloe-Johnson vision of holding everyone accountable.

Melissa and Charlie dig for the relevant data. This takes a lot of effort and I applaud them for it. Yes they attempt to rock the boat. When the boat is headed in insane circles and going nowhere someone should be rocking it. Sorry that many feel inconvenienced by the rocking, but I sure hope the rocking gets a lot stronger given that the fraud and deception levels are escalating.

The Math Underground
http://mathunderground.blogspot.com

Anonymous said...

It would be interesting to take a poll in West Seattle and see if they would pass another BEX bond??

Let's think.....

West Seattle can get a huge chunk of money to rennovate and upgrade two of their largest schools. They will not all agree on how to move forward with the renovation or configuration and it will be the topic of many hours of debate. The school board and administration will not provide adequate community engagement, and will proceed with the project with or without buy in from the community.

OR...........

West Seattle gets nothing. No money. No renovation. No upgrade. Their buildings remain in their appalling, falling down, conditions.

Seems like a no brainer to me.

Anonymous said...

Anon
You are right that Sealth and Denny are 2 of West Seattle's largest schools; if you count the grade schools too. By many West Seattleites Denny is considered less desireable than Madison and it is not because of the building. My son is at Sealth. Sealth may not be as beautiful as West Seattle High School and its music program does not make the papers either. It has a brand-new (read: Unproven) IB program. It WILL lose classrooms in this co-location. This I learned at the PTSA meeting last week, from the principal of the school. Sealth has a large population of special needs groups (ESL, IB, Special-ed) on top of the large general population. This requires more classrooms than an average high school. When those portables are torn down we will lose classrooms that will not be replaced without taking space from someone else in the Sealth community. So, who will go? The ESL kids? The special ed kids? The IB program? I believe this is a poorly planned remodel that is being rushed; it is heavy on theory and weak on follow-through. All of the discussion of the benefits in heavily dependant on a community and teaching staff jumping in to help...the same community that was against it in principle from the inception.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 9:56 is your dissatisfaction with the renovation plan at Sealth enough to make you vote **no** on the next BEX bond?? Enough to vote no and halt all renovations and upgrades for all schools in the district??

Would you have preferred it if the bond did not get passed this last round? Is your position that no renovation is better than a renovation that you don't approve of?? That in addition to Denny and Sealth getting no renovation at all, no other school in Seattle that made the list would either?

I'm curious.

Anonymous said...

Anon at 10:25. I did not post as anonymous, but am guessing your question was to me. Yes. This (and other mishandlings by SPSD) will make me vote no on subsequent levies and bonds. I do not feel that it is smart to "reward" a system that seems to have no real accountability. This is not just a matter of not liking the Denny/Sealth situation. If any business came to me and said that they needed money to fix dangerous things (water pipes, air quality) and then took that money later to fix something else I would consider it dishonest. Dishonest people (or organizations) do not deserve my trust. I am not against renovating schools, but the way our district goes about it needs to be reformed.

Anonymous said...

OK, so lets say we all vote no on the bonds, for a couple of rounds. What happens to our buildings???

Is it OK to have subject our kids to poor water and air quality (many have been upgraded via BEX), is it safe to have our children in seismically unsafe buildings (many have been retrofitted via BEX)?? Do we let them just continue to deteriorate until they crumble?? Until the boilers stop heating?

Hey lets have a hunger strike too!!

So you think the district is dishonest. You think they have misspent the funding. Your answer to the problem is to just stop receiving the funding??? I guess I'm thick headed because I just don't get it.

Anonymous said...

Anon @ 1:43
I appreciate your passion, but I do not agree with you and do not expect you to agree with me. I know many families that have children who attend private schools. Many of the buildings that house these private programs are old public schools that are in even worse shape than our schools. They do not have the ability to just go to a seemingly endless supply of money as our public school system does. Other, smaller public school districts do much more than ours with less money. And, no, it's not just because Seattle is more expensive to live in, it is the choices that are made by the people in charge.

I would rather see this money buy books, pay for staff that actually make a difference (teachers, teacher's assistants) in the school for the students. You can insinuate that I do not understand or do not care but that is not the case.

If the water and air quality were important enough that they needed to be done and there was not enough money to complete all of what was promised with this bond then why didn't they cut back on other projects, just like most people would do if they were remodeling.

By the way, why does my individual vote upset you so? Are you worried that maybe I'm not the only one feeling this way? It really is kind of funny because only last week, I was being accused of being a hand-wringing predictor of doom if I didn't back Denny/Sealth and now I'm being accused of not worrying enough about safety (seismic upgrades, water etc). My argument is that the money should be FOR the safety items, not experimenting.

Anonymous said...

I'm not trying to sway you at all. I just don't see your point of view at all. I'd like to hear what you would say to the the parent of a student killed in an earthquake in one of our buildings that would forgo a retrofit because you just didn't like the way they spent the money. Imagine if it were your child. And why you would bring up private school buildings is leaving me scratching my head.....I don't really care one ounce about private school buildings. They are not the publics concern.

Melissa Westbrook said...

In terms of accountability, voting against a levy or bond is the only way. The Board/District will not provide enough community engagement on these issues so what is there left to do?

As someone rightly pointed out, when you are remodeling and you run out of money, you don't take it out of your budget, you scale back. I have never seen the district scale back on any project except to simply not do some of them.

I find the post saying what would happen if we don't fix seismic and water issues to be ironic. I have made this point over and over. But if the district says it is wants the money for these projects, then they should use ALL the money for these projects and not divert it. Then MORE of these environmental health issues would get addressed.

One way to get more done would be to go back to 2% (OSPI recommended) of the General Fund for Maintenance rather than the 1% we have cut back to now.

What seems to be the divide here is not the issue of need - we all agree there is tremendous need. It seems that some believe that the district needs a wake-up call on facilities/maintenance issues and others are grateful for what we get. And, that the only way to deliver that wake-up call is to vote against the next levy/bond measure.

That seems to be where we stand.

Anonymous said...

Anon
We live in earthquake country. Every single day, every single one of us is at risk. Does that mean we don't leave the house and stay under desks or doorways because of it?

There is not limitless money to make everything seismically safe all at once. Do you live in a seismically upgraded home? Do you work in one? Not all buildings can be fixed at once. This is the first time the district has EVER ATTEMPTED to work on this many schools at once. Does that mean that those students are more valuable than the elementary students who are in the older schools that have not been fixed?

The buildings that have already been worked on were decades older than the ones slated for work from Bex III. Just because these buildings are next on the list does not mean that they are in the horrible shape the schools build pre-WWII were in.

I think you and I both know that the average child is more at risk riding around in a car than there are from a possible earthquake in a school. Or in a school bus without seatbelts going on a field trip. Or riding the Metro bus to their Hight School. But I don't hear an outcry about that.

Desiring financial accountabililty is not risking kids and I feel it is a low, emotional argument to say that it is.

Charlie Mas said...

Anonymous at 2:39pm asked:
"I'd like to hear what you would say to the the parent of a student killed in an earthquake in one of our buildings that would forgo a retrofit because you just didn't like the way they spent the money."

I would say: "Wow! Can you believe that the District spent hundreds of millions of dollars to build a few showplace schools but didn't spend the money necessary to make all schools seismically safe? Those people sure have their priorities messed up. It's a pity they wouldn't listen to responsible members of the community who begged them give the safety work a higher priority than the construction of fancy palaces."

What would YOU say to the person whose child is harmed by a consequence of the maintenance backlog while you support spending the bulk of the construction money on the replacement of functional buildings?

Anonymous said...

Charlie, I agree with you and I agree with Me on 28th ave in that the BEX III money is being spent carelessly. I agree that all seizmic upgrades, air quality and water issues should be resolved before everything else, short of any hazardous fixes. What more can I say, we agree on that.

We disagree however, on whether or not we will support the next BEX. I will support it, Me on 28th ave will not. I will support it because I think any progress, even the kind that we made and are making with BEX III is better than no progress. We are getting many new schools with this BEX, and some water and air quality resolutions. We will get more with the next BEX. We are moving forward.

If we vote no we get nothing. I always thought something was better than nothing.

We can work with the board BEFORE the next bond, and let them know of our dissatisfaction with the way the money was spent this time around. This is a new board, and just maybe the public will have an impact. We can demand seismic upgrades and water and air quality issues resolved before one penny is spent on new construction.

But lets also not forget that their are two sides to every pancake. What you, Me on 28th ave, and I think are the right choices may not be what others think are the right choices. There are those that want new shiny buildings. There is evidence of that as you can see by the over enrollment of schools the first few years after a total renovation. Families clamor to them.

Anonymous said...

The John Marshall building was earthquake retrofitted a few years back. The place is built like a tank. The condo buyers will be quite sfae.

Anonymous said...

In general I agree that safety upgrades should be done before complete remodels or new construction. But someone also has to keep an eye on the big picture. If a school will be completely rebuilt in the next 5-10 years, does it make sense to spend $$ on upgrades there (it may or may not)? I thought that was part of the argument against renovating Sealth--it just got a new boiler, etc.

I do agree that now that the crisis is (apparently) over, the budget for upkeep should return to 2%. Decreasing it was a classic penny-wise pound-foolish decision.

Anonymous said...

Yes, let's not retrofit any more buildings as there is always the possibility that the building will get sold in the future. Let's not upgrade those old lead pipes either...the kids there right NOW don't need lead free water, what's a little brain damage?? The building might get sold in the future. Or maybe the building won't sell, maybe the lead will affect the next few generations of kids as it has affected the last few generations. Heck if a few generations drink water contaminated with lead so should the next few. And black mold....hey, too bad. Kids are resilient. They don't need clean air. And, the building might get sold down the line, so let's not invest any money on our kids today.

The true question is did the district know that Marshall was moving out of it's building at the time they did the retrofit??? The If not, where is the fault. To date, we still don't know what answer is NO. So, where is the fault??? And to top if off we don't even know if the district will sell the building. It may very well house a new school.

I'm tired of the grunting caveman mentality, really. It's hard to believe that there are actually functioning adults who think like this.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anonymous 8:30, I'm sorry but you are dreaming if you think anyone can influence the BEX list (except for maybe private entities with money). The Facilities people have this worked out decades in advance and it only gets minor tweaks from the Board.

I remind you that many people said about BEX III, "oh just vote the money in and we can change it afterwards." No we can't.

If you vote against it, it does not mean you won't get the money. It means the district won't get the money NOW. It means they have to listen if they want it passed.

The only two times that voters/parents can really get the Board's attention are Board elections and levies/bonds.

dan dempsey said...

As far as elections go. The last one gave us Harium - Hooray!!!

That will hardly get the attention of those who repeatedly vote for the GroupThink party line.

Have these folks need to resubmit a levy or bond, that might get their attention.

The mindless political juggernaut continues to steam-roll the populace. Melissa is suggesting that lying down on the sidewalk beside the steam-roller is not a great strategy to effect changes.

Anonymous said...

"The true question is did the district know that Marshall was moving out of it's building at the time they did the retrofit??? The If not, where is the fault. To date, we still don't know what answer is NO. So, where is the fault??? And to top if off we don't even know if the district will sell the building. It may very well house a new school.

I'm tired of the grunting caveman mentality, really. It's hard to believe that there are actually functioning adults who think like this."

At first glance, I thought you meant we should fault the district for not planning ahead, but I think you mean that since the district didn't know it would close Marshall, it couldn't be faulted for doing retrofits then closing the place. But I think the point is why isn't there more long-range planning to accomodate just this issue? Can we fault SPS for doing work that is then torn out again? Sure, if it appears haphazard. I'm not faulting the district for closing Marshall, but I was ironically saying that a building that is relatively intact is being closed. No, we don't know what will happen to it. That's part of the problem, too, closures happened before long-range planning. Marshall was closed because either:
a) building condition or excess capacity;
b) program somehow bad (see "reviews")
c) another program (programs) might better utilize it;
d) the property is worth many, many millions.
No one knows. We should. The process of dismantling a thirty-year old program was not conducted in a systemic way, nor did it follow board policy on such matters. THIS is the problem, that no one knows why Marshall was closed and what's to become of its building. There is talk of a newly reorganized "safety net" system, but this is not in place yet but Marshall is already closed (they forze its enrollment; the place is basically a shell, with very few students in it.) This indicates a "cart before the horse" approach that does not seem thoughtfully planned with long-range thinking, program-wise of facility-wise.