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Thursday, January 29, 2009

Times Weighs In (Did De Bell Tip His Hand?)

The Seattle Times had a column, a story and an editorial this morning about the closures.

The story was about if the district doesn't lose any students in the closures (or very few) and how much money they could save over 5 years ($12.6M). From the article:

"The district also hopes the economy will work in its favor, said school-board member Harium Martin-Morris. "A lot of people who might have chosen private schools in the past won't be able to do that as much."

Hmm, I said that here and it got pooh-poohed. The economy is getting worse so time will tell.

What did De Bell say?

"Board President Michael DeBell points out that the district plans to open one new school as well as close five in an area where it might attract more students — and more money. That school will be a new K-8 in the northeast part of the city, where a number of schools are overcrowded, with long waiting lists.

And he says he probably will support amendments to Goodloe-Johnson's plan aimed at reducing attrition. "We want to try and make sure that the families affected know that the district values them and cares about them," he said."

Okay, so he's giving the amendments that "reduce attrition" a good hard look. I'm thinking that's Carr, Sundquist and Maier's amendments.

A good laugh here:

"District officials say they're confident they can retain all the students now enrolled in schools slated to move or close. They plan to create about a dozen "design teams" to work at most of the affected schools.

That said, the district hasn't included costs for those teams in its calculations, saying the work will be done by staff members along with their other duties."

First, of all, every school does not need a design team. It didn't happen last time so why this time? Oh yeah, they promised. They need to give a lot of attention to the APP splits and the new K-8. That's where the attention is really needed.

Not including costs for these teams and it's just part of staffers duties? Uh oh.

The Times' editorial board thinks amendments are fine but are pretty dismissive of the Board's work here.

"A final closure plan for some Seattle schools set for a vote Thursday night threatens to disintegrate under the weight of confusing and competing amendments by the School Board."

"One, authored by board member Sherry Carr, would impact so few students that Carr would have been better off getting the affected students waivers."

"Another, by Mary Bass, proposes removing Central Area schools from the closures list, essentially gutting the plan and any potential cost-savings.

Bass' argument that the Central Area bears the brunt of the plan is disingenuous because it ignores how much the community stands to gain as a gifted-education program moves closer and money is freed for struggling schools."

What does "moves closer" mean? Moves closer to what?

But glory be, they did point out how underused AAA is going to be and why wasn't there a creative amendment for that?

But then they talk about the rainy day fund:

"Fiscal challenges facing the district cannot be ignored. Nor can the district's rainy-day fund continue to be a source of finger-pointing. The fund has been tapped and likely will be again. But fiscal prudence requires leaving the savings largely intact. The district will be grateful it held onto the money the next time orange water flows from faucets or the district finds itself on the losing end of a multimillion lawsuit, both things that have occurred in the past."

The district doesn't pay for lawsuits out of the rainy day fund; they have insurance. I'd have to go back and check but I don't think the pipes got fixed out of that fund either. I do see the point that if this isn't a crisis, what is? But I'm thinking most people think of a crisis as time-sensitive so this one has time to be fixed in other ways so why tap the rainy day fund?

I'll be at the hearing tonight for the final verdict.

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