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Showing posts from July, 2008

And You Think We Have Problems

We subscribe to the NY Times and so I keep up a bit with education challenges in the NYC area. It does boggle the mind to think of a school system so huge with so many kids. Apparently, it is run in a fairly autocratic manner but then, I'm not sure I blame them. Interestingly, the NYC system has many magnet schools that - gasp! - are not inclusive and you have to test/apply to get in. And they are all full, go figure. There's one big difference between Seattle and New York. Denise Gonzalez-Walker over at the PI education reader blog supplied a link to the NYC parents' blog. They have a great guy who writes very funny satirical articles and, as well, there are a lot of hard-hitting ones as well. (They even have a running grade vote for how the Superintendent is doing. Hmm, something to think about.)

Disclosing Teachers Names

According to an article in today's PI, the Washington State Supreme Court has ruled that public school teachers who have unsubstantiated allegations of sexual misconduct are exempt under the Public Disclosure act. The ruling was 6-3. From the article: "The majority says a teacher's identity should only be released when alleged sexual misconduct has been substantiated or when that teacher's conduct results in some form of discipline, even if only a reprimand." I might go read this ruling and the dissent which apparently says the majority is ruling contrary to the act and that the ruling will put children at risk. I get this ruling except for one thing. My thinking is just that if a teacher has the accusation "substantiated" (I'm thinking that means evidence and the teacher is brought to trial) or the conduct results in discipline from the district then you should release the name. But if neither thing happens, either from the legal system o

Fun for the Kids at the Volunteer Park Conservatory

If you're in that dark Tim Burton mood (or have kids who like the dark edges), here's some fun stuff. This article was in the PI about the feedings for the carnivorous plants at the Volunteer Park Conservatory. Also, Waldo, the Corpse plant is blooming as well. Within the 40-year lifespan, the plant may bloom only 2-3 times. It's stinky period has likely passed but it's one cool plant.

Wonder Why The District is Silent on this Issue

This blurb appeared in today's Times: "Fuel and energy costs are rising so quickly for the United States' public school districts that nearly one in seven is considering cutting back to four-day weeks this fall. One in four is considering limits on athletics and other extracurricular activities, and nearly one in three is eliminating teaching jobs. In the first detailed look at how fuel costs are affecting schools, a survey by the American Association of School Administrators found that 99 percent of 546 superintendents contacted said they're feeling the pinch, and 77 percent said they're not getting any help from their state." I've read more and more of these stories, most of them about how states are limiting bus service (this is the first I have heard about 4-day weeks). And yet, our district, with a very liberal transportation policy, is mum. Does the district seriously have the money, for the next 2 years until we have a new assignment plan tha

Robin Williams Film Updated

Apparently there will be some on-the-street filming of a Robin Williams movie this week. It will happen on Wednesday, the 30th, on 45th between Bagley and Meridian in the Wallingford district between 6-9 p.m. Forty-fifth will be closed off to traffic in that area. All the businesses will be open on 45th so I'm assuming you can watch. It's a good opportunity for kids who are interested in film-making or production. Films are very much a "hurry up and wait" situation. As well, it's amazing the number of people it takes to make a film. And who knows? Maybe they need extras.

Reading: Online Versus Hard Copy

This article appeared in the Sunday NY Times about literacy, digital versus print. (Note: I had originally found this in the Seattle Times which printed an abbreviated version of the article. I thought it better to print the article in its entirety. Apologies for any confusion.) "Nadia checks her e-mail and peruses myyearbook.com , a social-networking site, reading messages or posting updates on her mood. She searches for music videos on YouTube and logs onto Gaia Online, a role-playing site where members fashion alternate identities as cutesy cartoon characters. But she spends most of her time on quizilla.com or fanfiction.net , reading and commenting on stories written by other users and based on books, television shows or movies. Her mother, Deborah Konyk, would prefer that Nadia, who gets A's and B's at school, read books for a change. But at this point, Konyk said, "I'm just pleased that she reads something anymore." Children like Nadia lie at

Another new principal for Aki Kurose

Seattle Public Schools has announced the resignation of Ana Ortega, the principal at Aki Kurose Middle School. Mia Williams, currently an assistant principal at Denny Middle School, will serve as interim principal until a permanent hire can be made. Ms Ortega served in the position for one year. For those keeping score at home, here is the lineup: Aki Kurose, Principals: 2006-2007 - Bi Hoa Caldwell 2007-2008 - Ana Ortega 2008-2009 - Mia Williams 2009-2010 - New Hire, TBD It will be extraordinarily difficult for the school to experience a turn-around or implement any sort of lasting reforms with a revolving door at the leadership. Incoming principals will have to implement the Southeast Initiative plans of their predecessors, many of them made by someone serving in an interim role. It presents a challenge, particularly with those elements that require a high degree of investment from the administration and the staff.

State Auditor to Perform Performance Audit on District Capital Program

I was reading the BEX Oversight Committee meeting minutes for June 13, 2008 and came upon this: "The State is hiring a consultant to conduct a performance audit on the capital program." This, of course, comes as no surprise to me. For a long time, I have felt this program had serious oversight problems. However, I haven't been able to verify through the Auditor's office if this will also include fraud, waste or abuse within its scope. One issue is the lack of credibility within the department. For example, despite the fact that even on the BEX III campaign materials it says that most projects were on-time and on-budget (which in itself is a change because there was a stubborn insistence that ALL BEX projects had been on-time and on-budget), in the May minutes of the Hale BDT it says "There are no current anticipated budget overruns on any BEX II or III projects." That statement (by Don Gilmore) begs the question of how Facilities would explain t

BEX Updates

So perusing the BEX page, I read through the various "updates". I put quotes because they are all different from one another, some have nothing since 2007 (hard to believe) and some have some interesting information. Of course, some of what is being argued over in the NE, namely capacity, could have been helped (or at least the district would be on stronger ground at this point if they had done something) by putting a NE elementary on the BEX III list. (Two schools, Laurelhurst and John Rodgers, had been on a list of schools considered. Also, Thorton Creek has been talking about being a K-8 for a long time and they have a large amount of acreage to do it on.) We have parents in the NE saying they wish there was more capacity and another middle school to take the pressure off of Eckstein (many are hoping for a K-8). Well, that might have happened except the choice was made to build New School K-8 a mile from African-American Academy K-8. From Hale's project min

How Green Is Your School?

Good article today in the Times about an Eastside high school trying to go green. Here's some info from the article: "Buy a hot dog at an Interlake High School Saints game this fall and save the Earth. Really? Well, at least save some electricity. That's because Interlake's new concession stand will be powered by solar energy. Interlake is one of 12 schools, including Redmond High and Thomas Jefferson High in Auburn, to receive grants from Puget Sound Energy (PSE) for solar panels. The utility plans to give out at least 10 more grants to schools in the next few years. "There seems to be a lot of demand and excitement in the schools," said PSE spokesman Andy Wappler. "[Solar] is like the 'It Girl' of energy." Also, "Like City Light's solar panels, the main goal of PSE's program is education, not production. Most panels installed through the school grants are 1- to 2-kilowatt systems. Even Interlake's 4-kilowatt sys

District Audit Information Released by State Auditor's Office

There were two recently released audits of a couple of areas of the District by the State Auditor's office. Both are interesting. One is a federal audit but it includes many sources of funding I had never seen before (Department of Justice and other federal monies). It had come up because the district had a grant from UW for a program called Gear-Up (which I think is to help struggling students be aware of college) and had improperly used funds from this program to finance a trip to New Orleans for 23 students and staff (ostensibly for community service). The district thought the trip met the grant requirements but the state auditor's office said it didn't. The other audit was about the district not overseeing payroll properly (which, if you read the audit, is something the district has been warned about before). A district employee padded a timesheet to the tune of $9,000. The Auditor referred the problem to the King County prosecutor's office and recommended

Yet Another Blog to Check

With fairly good regularity I check a number of online discussions about Seattle Schools starting with this blog but also the P-I's SoundOffs, the P-I's education beat writers' blog School Zone , the P-I reader's blog Chalkboard , and another P-I reader's blog that I also recommend Learning Connections , (see if you can guess my user ID on the P-I's online discussion boards) Director Martin-Morris' blog , the West Seattle Blog , CPPS, and a couple of Yahoo discussion groups. With slightly less regularity I check Crosscut , The Weekly, the Stranger, and the occassional Seattle Times discussion board. Well, now there's another source as well: Examiner.com . I will be blogging there as well as here. I would guess that there will be a lot of cross-posting. The major differences are that I presume a more general audience there and there's a real picture of me instead of a japanese cartoon character or a satirically appropriated picture of someone else as

Robin Williams Filming at the Old McDonald School

This article appeared in today's PI. To wit: "Writer/director Bobcat Goldthwait ("Shakes the Clown," "Crank Yankers") and his friend, actor/comedian Robin Williams ("RV," "License To Wed"), have begun a 25-day shoot in the Seattle area, most of it taking place at a former elementary school in Wallingford." I won't tell you the plotline - it's crude and not particularly interesting. Also in the article: "The film crew is set up this week at the former F.A. McDonald School, thanks in part to WashingtonFilmWorks, which had a hand in Goldthwait's decision to shoot here. Since last year, the state has offered financial incentives to production companies. If feature films spend more than $500,000 on expenses such as food, housing and labor, WashingtonFilmWorks will pay 20 percent of the costs back to the production company." I called the district to see how much they were charging for the rental but the proper

Can This Be True (Or Did These Schools Just Change Naturally)

Question for Special Ed parents: Do you know if some schools are quietly doing away with Special Ed services (for whatever reason)? Does it seem like schools are trying to do less? I ask because as I was perusing the many responses to the Times' article about the situation of twins not getting into the same school in the NE area (there were about 60 responses most of them venting against Seattle public schools and most without clearly understanding the facts), there was this post: "Ann Seattle wrote: "A fine school, but last year 93 families were vying for 44 kindergarten slots--20 of which are for special needs kids." So ...are you incredulous that children who receive special education services should have a shot a school that YOUR child should attend? Do you think they should be locked up on an island somewhere in quarantine? Guess what? After first grade McGilvra expels those children. McGilvra, like Bryant, has "opted out" of serving children who

That Crazy Assignment Plan

This article about one family's woes with the SPS assignment plan appeared in today's Times. Basically a family enrolling twin kindergartens found themselves with each girl assigned to a different school in the NE. The sibling assignment only works, as it was written by the Board some years back, when a sibling is already in the school (this is a problem for people who move here as well who are trying to get both kids into the same school). And, of course, the Enrollment office usually finds them a placement for both kids at the same school but, in this case, it's not the school the parents want. And, with the vagaries of how the waitlist goes, they had been on the waitlist at Viewridge but because they asked to get on the waitlist of the school one of the twins had been assigned to, that twin went to the end of the line at the new waitlist school. The Board could rewrite the sibling preference amendment now. We'll have to see what they do. However the interest

Me and the Mayor

So I'm just finished exercising and I get in the car. There's the Mayor on KUOW with his monthly visit. Just as I turn on the radio, there's a caller from NE (Lauren) who called in about worries about the overcrowding in the NE elementaries (5 of 7 have taken on a new kindergarten class with more - according to the district demographer - coming. She wanted to know how the Mayor was working with the school district on this issue. He didn't answer the question. He said it was a great problem , if it was true, to have because the trend has been the other way. He said that he meets with Dr. Goodloe-Johnson once a month (good to hear) and that he was the chair of the last couple of levies and one reason was to "expand capacity in those areas that are necessary". He said he wanted to make sure that the schools have the money they need to carry out their mission. Naturally, my ears perked up because very little of the capital improvements will expand capac

PI Editorial On Super's Raise

Well, it's not just me and Charlie. The PI had an editorial today about the speed of the intro/vote for the Superintendent's raise and they agreed with us. They even mentioned this blog by name. From the editorial: "The board made an awful choice in introducing the proposal for a 10 percent increase, to $264,000 annually, and approving it the same day. It's progress of a sort that the board can be unanimous. But we can't fathom the lack of opportunity for public comment in a community where, we've been told, Seattle Public Schools' progress depends on the involvement of everyone." And, in trying to fathom how this came about, there was this: "Board leaders cited a need to extend the contract before Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson entered her second year. Did a software glitch push July ahead of June on board members' electronic calendars? Was expressing support for the superintendent's first year of work (impressive to our mi

Doing Better Than the Governor, State Super and the Mayor (Updated)

(I just wanted to add a link to the Times' article on this issue. I have to say that the Times was pretty bland on the reporting. I think it was worth it, in the PI's story, to report that the superintendent is making more than most top officials in our state and city. The PI also pointed out how rushed this vote was which should trouble anyone given the "community engagement" mantra at the district.) So the Board passed the Superintendent's raise last night and she's doing pretty well now. According to the article in the PI today, she will be making $264,000 a year (plus $700 a month car allowance and a $20,000 retirement annuity). Here's what Cheryl Chow said at the meeting; "Dr. Goodloe-Johnson has demonstrated a clear focus on children, effective leadership, professionalism, energy and passion for the work. ... We are pleased, in fact we are very pleased, with her first year of leadership at Seattle Public Schools," she said."

Busy Board Meeting Tonight

The agenda for tonight's Board meeting is pretty full (although there is room on the speakers list). One item of interest is Report on the Superintendent's Contract as put forth by President Cheryl Chow. Here's part of what it says: "I move that the Board of Directors accept the Executive Committee’s recommendations to amend the Superintendent’s employment agreement to: 1. Extend the existing employment agreement between the School District and Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to June 30, 2011; 2. Increase her salary 10% (4.4% COLA and 5.6% increase); 3. Provide for the possibility of receiving additional compensation in future years in the amount of up to10% based upon attainment of incentive goals established jointly with the Board; and 4. Provide for a mutually agreeable annual performance evaluation cycle . I further move that the Board provide President Chow with the authority necessary to implement this action. ISSUE The School Board’s Executive Committee has been devel

Drug/Alcohol Use Prevention Workshops in the Fall

This from the NE Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking: The NE Seattle Coalition to Prevent Underage Drinking is pleased to announce the following free Guiding Good Choices workshops for this fall. Guiding Good Choices is a research-based drug/alcohol prevention program designed for parents/guardians of children ages 9-14. Session 1 Where : Eckstein Middle School When : Wednesday evenings, September 10, 17, 24, October 1, 8 Time : 6:30-8:30 p.m. Session 2 Where : University Family YMCA @ Magnuson Park When : Tuesday evenings, September 16 - October 14 Time : 5:30 dinner, 6:00 – 8:00 workshop Childcare available for children ages 5-12 – must RSVP Session 3 Where : Children’s Hospital & Regional Medical Center When : Thursday evenings, October 2, 9, 16, 23 and 30 Time : 6:15-8:15 pm Priority is given to parents/guardians who have a child at Eckstein Middle School or who live in zip codes 98105, 98115, 98125. To register , please em

The Super After Her First Year

This article appeared in today's PI. There's isn't a lot here particularly in the Q&A but I give her credit for being open about her impatience with the Seattle process and people wanting to vent. That said, if she wants to take this district in a different direction, she needs to know where we have been and what mistakes have held us back. She does say one interesting thing: "We have 45,000 kids and 93 buildings. So we have to decide what the tradeoffs are and what's important. Do we want high-quality programming and access for all students, or do we want lots of small schools all across the city? If we consolidate and provide more resources, then everybody gets a better education." That sounds like more school closures to me. I have to wonder how she would execute any closure and consolidation plan. She also says something funny (and telling): "Days when I'm frustrated, I just want to sell clothes at Nordstrom's. I love Nordstrom

New Internal Auditor position

There is a lot to like about the new Internal Auditor position that the Board will create this week. This position answers a dire need. This position reports to the Board. This position has a clear mission. This position has the authority needed to fulfill the mission. If you weren't aware of this development you should definitely check out these documents: School Board Action Report Internal Audit Policy G23.00 Internal Audit Charter Now, this is wonderful... but * this position should have been created five years ago when it was recommended by the Fiscal Integrity Committee following the budget fiasco * there was no apparent stakeholder engagement - internal or external - (at least not in the last five years) involved in any part of this effort * there wasn't any public or media communication around this effort * it's unclear what sort of audits the Internal auditor will conduct. Does the scope extend to performance audits? To compliance audits? Still, let&

Another disturbing story

Yesterday's Seattle Times included another story about sex crime against a child in a Seattle Public School. The accused is an instructional aide at Aki Kurose. The story in the Times is a bit sketchy on the timeline. The activity has alledgedly taken place over the past two years. A student witnessed it, took cellphone pictures of it, and told his mother about it. Two mothers of other students also told the police that they witnessed inappropriate touching. They say that they reported it to "a school official". It is unclear from the Times article who reported it to the police. It is also unclear from the article when it was reported to the police, but the article does say that the accused was placed on administrative leave when the police began their investigation earlier this year. Although charges were filed yesterday and an arrest warrant issued, the accused was not arrested because he is out of the country. In fact, the police have yet to speak with him. So what