Thursday, October 16, 2008

Once again, the District is at risk

Every year the Board routinely passes a motion about every school having a school improvement plan. Every year it is a lie. Every year it puts the state basic education funding - $200 million - at risk.

Here's what the motion says:
"I move that the Seattle School Board approve the method of review of C-SIPs outlined by the Chief Academic Officer, accept the Chief Academic Officer’s certification that each school in the District has complied with WAC 180-16-220, and approve the schools within the District."

You will notice that the motion is very careful to say that the Board does not, itself, attest to the fact that each school in the District has complied with the law. No. They only vote to approve the method used by Ms Santorno to confirm the fact and they then accept her certification of it. Based on this certification, they attest to the state that each school has a plan that complies with the state law.

There is, however, no reference anywhere in the motion or in the supporting materials about Ms Santorno's "method of review". What is this "method of review" that they are approving? We don't know.

Moreover, we do know that it is highly unlikely that even ONE of the nearly 100 school Continuous School Improvement Plans complies with the requirements of the state law.

I strongly encourage you all to read the law: WAC 180-16-220.

You will see that it requires every school to have a school improvement plan, that every plan must be based on a self-review, that students and families must have an active role in the self-review, and that every plan must contain specific elements including discussions of the use of technology, educational equity, non-academic student learning and growth, and family involvement.

Most of our Continuous School Improvement Plans are missing most of these elements. All of them are missing at least one of these elements. We are unquestionably out of compliance with this law.

Of course we have been out of compliance with this law for years without notable negative consequences. So what difference does it make? The State Board of Education is supposed to enforce this law and they pointedly refuse to do so. So if the cops won't bust you for it, then it must be legal, right? At least for all practical purposes, right?

Well that sort of pragmatism will only take you so far.

There is another state law, RCW 28A.645.010. This law allows any citizen to appeal any decision of a school board to superior court. If a citizen, pretty much any citizen, pays the $200 to file in superior court and serves the District with a notice of the filing, they can challenge the Board's approval of this motion.

I know that the District staff isn't concerned about compliance with the law, and the Board isn't concerned about compliance with the law, and the State Board of Education isn't concerned about compliance with the law, but I suspect that a superior court judge might actually have some respect for the law and expect it to be followed.

By failing to comply with this law, the schools, Ms Santorno, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, and the Board create a risk that any citizen with an axe to grind could hold up 40% of the District's budget for several months - the time it would take for the District to comply.

I have warned them of this risk for three years and I warned them again this year, yet they refuse to comply with the law. I don't know why they roll these dice.


dan dempsey said...

Seems like if no one is ever held responsible why be responsible.. is the SPS attitude.

Try the board policies D44 and D45.

These admin folks just do not care and it appears the board does not care to be bothered.

Michael said...

So, are you going to put up the $200 to take it to Superior Court, or are you just going to keep whining about it?? If you've brought it up for three years, surely you've found a way to save $200, or surely you've found a way to get some oversight agency (such as the state auditor) to look at their compliance with this legal requirement.

Oh....you haven't? Why not?

Charlie Mas said...

I have contacted the State Board of Education, who are the people responsible for enforcing the law. They refuse to enforce it.

I have not brought a Court action myself because I don't see how depriving the District of $200 million will help the students.

BullDogger said...

Charlie, it helps students by protecting community and family rights expressed in the law. If nobody enforces those laws districts are free to do (or not do as in this case) whatever they please and the law is meaningless. Not challenging what's going on is what hurts students. The district will make a lot of changes very quickly if $200M is at stake. Students will benefit from the district's new found "respect" of the law.

I think threatening the district's $200M is exactly what's needed. I agree with Michael... we're all just whiners if we don't act.

I'm in for $50.

Charlie Mas said...

Do you really want to go for this?

Does anyone else really want to go for this?

Let me ask - to what end? Do you think anyone could use this as a hammer to compel the District to alter any policies, practices or budgets? I may daydream about that, but I don't seriously regard it as possible. Before the case comes before the judge the District will be confident of their victory and will not be looking to settle. They will not make any offers. After the judge decides - even if you win - the District will not be offering you any favors to drop the case because it will be too late.

So you can't get anything out of it (other than compliance with the law).

And at what cost? It is going to cost more than the $200 filing fee. It will cost money to have the District properly served (most of these cases get thrown out due to inadequate notice to the District - they are notoriously hard to serve), and it will cost money in legal fees. Legal costs will start at $1,200 and only go up from there.

So there are certain expenses (which may be recoverable if you win), and very little to be gained.

So if it is so pointless and no rational person would undertake such an adventure, why do I consider the District to be at risk? Because there are people out there who would do it just for the chaos it would cause, for the disgrace it would bring on the District leadership, and for the adventure. I don't happen to be one of them.

dan dempsey said...


I filed a case against OSPI and the SBE for failing to follow SB 6534 in the developement of the new State Math standards. I've made it through preliminary legal processes and this case will be heard in Thurston County Superior Court at 1:30PM Jan 30, 2009 before Judge Hicks.

Total cost thus far $200 filing fee and some driving around. Don Orlich author of School Reform: The Great American Brain Robbery and a few others are lending a lot of support to this.

Read the complaint here.

As long as no one objects it appears in a variety of situations that the laws will not be followed.

This does not need to cost thousands. Win or lose you can alert the district that their actions are not acceptable to you and others. That is just another step in correcting the actions of unresponsive administrators and officials.

I urge action over inactivity in this regard.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Or Charlie, you might find determined parents who are willing to go the distance. We saw that in the QA/Magnolia parents and their fight with the district over the racial tiebreaker that lead all the way to the Supreme Court.