Monday, November 24, 2008

So Where Else Can We Save Money (Other than Closures)?

So over at Denise Gonzalez-Walker's education blog at the PI, she talks about "leadership by example" and comes up with so good (and startling examples) of where the district spends its money. From her blog:

"At the same time (July), the board voiced optimism over the "creation of several new positions, such as a math manager and a director of school improvement." Yep, more executive-level staff.

Goodloe-Johnson isn't the only one enjoying generous salary increases. When Chief Academic Officer Carla Santorno came on board in April 2006, her salary was $142,653, according to a Seattle Times article. A little over a year later, the Times lists her salary as $150,821--over a 5% increase. More recently, OSPI data accessed via the Seattle Times searchable database
shows Santorno's 2007-08 salary at $183,408--over a 20% increase since being hired on in 2006."

Over a 20% increase since 2006? Wow.

Look, all of us know that education is not easy. We DO have a large, urban district that is both complex and complicated and we need to keep good people. But, we are in hard times. This district has had money problems for years so it's not like we didn't know it in 2006.

There should be a hiring freeze - across the board in every department - and salary freeze (or only COLAs).

What I would like to see is a budget forecast - where we are, where we are going and how to get there. If, as the Times suggests, I-728 money should be taken away, what does that mean and how will it affect the classroom? BEX projects should be scaled back and be more modest (that means no Smart Boards, for example, which are costly to buy and costly to keep and most teachers don't even use them well).


Michael Rice said...


One thing to consider (and I am very interested to see this plays out), but the SEA and SPS will be hammering out an new contract this summer.

Charlie Mas said...

I don't see how the superintendent can suggest that teachers shouldn't get a raise every bit as big as hers.

reader said...

That was then, this is now.

Jet City mom said...

interesting that in a district with ongoing budget concerns- that admin continues to accept very generous salaries.

Compare that to some of Washingtons university presidents who are turning down increases or even cutting their pay.

I wonder what the pay rate is for administrators of schools in India & China?

Dorothy Neville said...

Classof75- about Two Million Minutes:

The Indian and Chinese students profiled in that movie are in private schools. The director/producer admits that the public school options available to them (especially India) are terrible.

Remember. The premise of that movie is that India and China are doing a terrific bang-up job with the top ten percent of their students. The other ninety percent are very poorly educated. It just so happens that their populations are ten times ours. So the director is making this weird comparison, about how they are educating 45 million students much better than we are educating our entire population of 45 million students.

Back to the topic, I agree, the raises are obscene given the overall budget.

Jet City mom said...

Dorothy thanks for pointing that out, I had just been sent the link and hadn't had a chance to view it yet.
Misleading data sounds like.

Michael Rice said...


Sorry for the multiple posts, but I have a vague recollection that last year the SPS finished with a $60 million surplus. I have to admit that I don't follow this sort of thing as I should, but I know many of the contributors to this blog do. Am I not remembering correctly? If I am, is this surplus figured into the the budget for this year, so in reality there is something closer to an $80 deficit? I'm sorry I don't have the numbers straight, but I know someone does and they can help me out here.

seattle citizen said...

Michael, I believe the district had maybe a 30 millon surplus last year. What I don't know is if this ncluded the "rainy day" fund, the emergency money saved for, well, emergencies.

The district, sensibly, wants a 3% or 4% reserve for emergencies. We might still have this (25 million or so) and still have deficit: they don't want to spend the emergency money for a deficit, they'd rather jigger the budget. A tactic I agree with; we need a reserve.

TwinMom2003 said...

On the topic of administrator salary increases it is unconscionable from several perspectives:

1. First, there is the glaring disparity of having some of the highest paid administrators in the country, in contrast to the lowest paid teachers in the area.

2. The complexity argument does not hold water as justification for amount of salary and administrators if you compare SPS to the operation of other large school districts, a county, or a state.

3. In tough times other companies cut back. In the last two years of my employment before children my tech employer was doing poorly and there were across the board pay cuts -- certainly no raises or even a COLA. There were other cuts such as no employer matching to 401k accounts. At current my husbands employer is struggling and there have been no raises in a year and a half - again, not even a COLA. To accept pay increases - and this is directed at the administrators, not the teachers - when your "company" has poor performance and struggling with funds is again unconscionable.

There are small economic efficiencies that could be pursued - enough of them might add up to quite a bit...


Look at the websites for three different schools in the district and you are likely to see three different calendar programs. It is much more inexpensive to purchase a single calendar program with many licenses, than to have each school purchase their own.

At Bryant, parent volunteers maintain the website and the grounds. Why not learn from Bryant on how to engage parents in such an involved way and implement it around the district.

And on a larger scale...

Efficiency of operation -

Enrollment: My understanding is that a completely custom application is being built to replace the VAX system? Completely custom is the most expensive option both short and long-term. You can certainly obtain a pre-packaged application and make some custom changes to it to meet your needs. A pre-packaged application will already have a basic database structure, user interface, and reporting capabilities. To do all of that custom is more expensive to start, more expensive for day to day operation, and more expensive to maintain. As an example - if you want a report from a custom system you would need to engage a programmer to write you a new report -- if you wanted to change a field of information on the report - again, have to request a programming change. Whereas a pre-packaged application will have standard reports that can be run by users, a query tool to compose your own custom reports, and also pre-programmed interfaces to very robust reporting tools such as business objects.

Textbooks: The trend is to have textbooks available for electronic download - has the district explored this approach vs. purchasing hardbacks?

Transportation: I suspect the 500 lb. gorilla in Seattle. There seems to be many ways to look for efficiency cuts here. It could be extreme - such as none. Or, more simplified in having fewer, and more straight line routes - where the student would need to go a bus stop on a main artery vs. the buses weaving all around neighborhoods.

Denise Gonzalez-Walker said...

Regarding teacher pay, on October 3rd the Seattle Times reported that Seattle teachers received/are receiving 9-10 % raises this year, under a contract agreement that their salaries should be among the top 5 highest in the state.

Article here: http://tinyurl.com/5y7q7b

The article also says:

"Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson, however, also noted in a prepared statement that the increases are part of the district's increasing costs, which are rising faster than its income. Even when the contract was signed five years ago, it wasn't clear where the district would get the money to cover the raises.

At a school-board meeting Wednesday, the district's chief finance and operations officer reported that the budget for the 2009-2010 school year looks like it will have a gap of about $25 million between expenses and revenues.

This year, the board used about $12.6 million of reserves to balance its $556 million budget, which helped cover rising costs plus the addition of about 100 full-time positions."

Okay, so I'm not the smartest kid on the block, but if enrollment is stalled/declining-- meaning less kids--why do we need 100 new full time positions? Class sizes surely aren't going down...

Charlie Mas said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Charlie Mas said...

Here's a link to the full story in the Seattle Times from June 24, 2008.

Here are the parts that answer Denise's question:

"The biggest expense increases for the 2008-09 school year come from adding jobs and providing raises to teachers and other certificated staff such as librarians and nurses.

This coming school year is the last year of a five-year contract for certificated staff members that was designed to bring their pay into the top five of 12 surrounding school districts, said Linda Sebring, the district's budget manager.

It's not yet clear exactly how much it will take to reach that goal this school year, she said, but the district has estimated it will need to give teachers about a 3 percent raise. That's on top of a cost-of-living raise teachers also receive.

The teachers contract also requires the district add some of the 102 new jobs that the budget proposes. (That's a net number, after counting the elimination of some administrative jobs.)

About 50 positions, for example, are needed to fulfill contract requirements for the number of teaching assistants for special-education and bilingual students.

The district, however, also plans to add 41 jobs to decrease class sizes in elementary schools and to provide a full six periods in high school.

The district also wants to add 18 teachers to the three schools in its Southeast Initiative — Aki Kurose Middle School, Cleveland High and Rainier Beach High."

dan dempsey said...

I am still trying to figure out what Carla Santorno did to merit the big pay increase?

Was it her unilateral selection of Everyday Math which she slipped by an uninformed school board?

Was it her plan to continue with the "Fidelity of Implementation" to EDM and in the process ignore arithmetic fluency and the board's intent on using Singapore as a Supplement (even though there is no space to teach anything but the incoherent jumbled EDM in 75 math minutes per day ... 15 minutes was to have been Singapore Supplementation).

Check how much money is spent on both math professional development that is specific to EDM and the huge cost of annual EDM consummables now that the two year sweetheart freebie period will be ending.

The idea to ignore the State math standards k-8 and the National Math Advisory Panel recommendations for yet another year seems to be coming from the CAO.

I guess a 20% pay increase for the CAO is holding everyone accountable as well as the SPS ever holds any administrator accountable.

Steve Sundquist made it perfectly apparent that the district was running in a 12+ million deficit situation for the next school year that was to include these raises and SPS needed to take money from reserves at the time of the Goodloe-Johnson 10%+ increase and contract extension to balance the budget for the coming year. It is not a case of that was then this is now. There were large financial problems at the time of the MG-J contract extension and pay increase.

It appears that this public action to extend MG-J's contract and raise her salary, which was in violation of School Board policy (because of insufficient notification introductory/action slam dunk in one meeting), was done so the board could congratulate themselves on picking such a fine superintendent. Seriously what was accomplished in Dr MG-J's first 12 months that justified a contract extension and 10% salary increase (it even included performance bonus clauses)?

The district remains top heavy according to the state auditor. Clearly MG-J has done little to deal with that situation and the board just exacerbated the problem with salary increases to top level administrators.

There is a continuing lack of community involvement in most aspects of planning in this district: Denny/Sealth, past School closures, etc. etc. So how is this going to change for the current closure discussions?

There are several places to look for savings but in the SPS clearly few are looking or have been.