Friday, March 27, 2009

Program Placement update

At the March 18th Board meeting Courtney Cameron told the Board that she would release detailed information about the decisions made on the nine program placement proposals, including the rationale for them. There is now a link for that information on the Program Placement page of the web site. Unfortunately, the link doesn't work. It connects to last year's decisions.

I'm sure the link will be fixed soon and we will all be able to see the rationale for each of the program placement decisions made for the coming year. Then we will see how they comply with the policy that governs program placements.

The link is now fixed. You can read the Program Placement decisions here.

There is some interesting stuff here.

First, under a section titled "Communications" it says:
Families and Community Members:
The approved recommendations will be posted on the Program Placement website:
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/progplace/index.dxml. Individuals who submitted requests will be notified by email or by a phone call. Specific departments will work with principals, teachers, families, and students to determine where students can receive appropriate services.

The interesting part of this, of course, is that I submitted a request but was not notified, not by email nor by a phone call.

Second, here is the rationale given for denying the request I made:

This request was submitted in the fall prior to when any decisions about the capacity management were made. No change in location is recommended for the 2009-10 school year.

Bob Vaughan, Manager of Advanced Learning, will continue to work with schools to improve services as he begins to implement recommendations from the Advanced Learning

You will notice that there is no rationale in that rationale. Apparently the request was denied simply because it was denied. There are no recommendations from an Advanced Learning Review for Bob Vaughan to implement because there was no Advanced Learning Review. There was only an APP review that specifically DID NOT cover Spectrum.

Moreover, I have no idea how the Program Placement Committee reached this conclusion about Dr. Vaughan's work since Bob Vaughan told me that they never invited him to the Committee to discuss the proposal.

This really stinks.


Anonymous said...

What a joke.

I don't really have anything to add as far as the district response, just an echo of your complaint, i.e. There is no rationale in their rationale, and there was no Advanced Learning Review. The recommendation dealt with Spectrum, which, as you say, was not covered in the review.

When garbage like this spews forth from the administration time after time after time, why is it tolerated? When the board(s) ignores empty and/or circular rationale they enable and even empower the district to continue on the path of doing whatever they want regardless of rationale or public support. Again and again.

Why does it happen? Is it because the board doesn't care? Do they just not have the time to look into every little detail? Are there back room agendas that the public doesn't know about? Perhaps the board is afraid of looking "dysfunctional", but at least the previous board occasionally stood up against nonsense rationale.

Board members are not full-time paid positions. I think they should be. We elect the board to represent the public interest, and to ensure the administration acts responsibly. Not to ask patsy questions and give everyone pats on the back just for doing their job.

With the current system it's difficult to imagine someone working at a full-time day job and still able to juggle family and life with the needs of being a responsible board member. It takes a lot of time, effort and diligence to dig into the details and compel the administration to at least make a good effort to rationally justify their actions.

For all the talk, there is no real accountability. If there is no downside to lying to the public or repeatedly making poor decisions based on false or misleading (or non-existent) data, then there is no incentive for the behavior to change. Imagine how a child would grow up who never heard the word "no".

dan dempsey said...

none1111 said:
For all the talk, there is no real accountability. If there is no downside to lying to the public or repeatedly making poor decisions based on false or misleading (or non-existent) data, then there is no incentive for the behavior to change.

Quite an interesting game, the Admin supports pre-determined plans through deception and then claims a transparent data driven process. Not to mention that everyone will be held accountable.

It seems at this point in time that almost everyone is aware of these repeated actions on the part of the district and yet we are incapable of changing anything.

There is more to it than a part-time board that does not have the time, when the board violates board policy with introductory/action items passed that are non-emergency with only one meeting.

It appears the rubber stamp is always out and often times ready for action at a moments notice. {Rationale? you must be kidding there is no rationale for the board violating board policy}.

The State attorney general is correct: there is no accountability other than to the voters (and so far baby that ain't much).

Sahila said...

So many people complaining --- on and on, ad nauseum --- about something that is so obviously broke and hurting our children...

When are people going to get of their collective butts and DO something... at this point, DOING ANYTHING would be better than sitting around bitching and whining....

If half the energy that was spent writing on this blog was directed into action, things would be different...

The reason nothing is changing is because the District and Board knows we wont actually do anything, so they dont respect us as stakeholders and they ignore us and/or play these ridiculously infantile and insulting games....

Charlie Mas said...

When Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was newly arrived she did a live blog thing on the Seattle Times web site. I asked her what accountability would look like. No part of her answer mentioned any sort of consequences for staff. It was all about having clearly defined and objectively measurable goals and then comparing actual outcomes to those benchmarks, but it ended there.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, do let the Board know about this because that's one thing that is important to do. Have a record that you did and, if possible, do it publicly (i.e.at a Board meeting).

Funny but I had been thinking how new families to SPS have said, "Oh you should learn how to work WITH the district and not against them. If you would not be so sharp in your rhetoric, they probably would work with you." I don't hear that much anymore because I think earlier and earlier families realize that the district is going to do what it wants no matter how civil the discourse or how impassioned the plea.

The Board. None1111, it could be all of what you said. I note that Mary and Harium have shown a willingness to stand up and be counted. But the bottom line is that they have only one real power and that is over the Superintendent and they either (1) don't want to stand up to her because it looks disloyal or (2) know she would go to the press and make them look like they are...micromanaging her (which apparently is the absolute worst thing you can do to someone you hire AND you, as an elected official, are responsible to taxpayers for.

Sahila, do tell. What should we do? Seriously because on the one hand, if more people did speak up and put a lot more pressure on the Board, it might help. On the other hand, a lot of people have tried in the past and with not much traction. There are handful of "real" things that can be done like a WASL boycott, voting out Board members, and the big gun - not voting for (or even voting against) levies and bonds. The rest of the time the district can be quite shameless in what they say and do and have little fear of the public.

On the last one, I was quite surprised that even though the last BEX bond measure pasted easily, the number of people voting went down. This should worry the district but likely doesn't.

Parents could boycott PTA fundraising and just join as members (thus keeping it alive at their schools) and say to the district, "Why do you expect us to be doing basic funding when you don't listen to us?"

But, in the end, sheer inertia stops most people and an unwillingness to stand up and be counted stops the rest.

suep. said...

I agree--we do need to do something. They are not listening to us and there is no accountability.

Here are a few ideas--

Actively recruit and support candidates to run against School Board Directors Chow, DeBell and Bass who are all up for reelection this year. We need new ideas and committed people who will truly represent the chief SPS stakeholders--parents and kids. Not politicians and apologists.

WASL boycott--get the word out far and wide.

Mass rally outside the John Stanford Center demanding more accountability to the chief stakeholders--the parents and children of SPS.

Actually, why don't we just take over JSC while the School Board is on its daylong retreat, which is coming up---?!

Or, as some have suggested, why should SPS administrators get such a grand and expensive building, while our kids are being taught in school buildings the district doesn't maintain? Put admin in Old John Hay on Queen Anne Hill, and put Summit in JSC!

I agree that the School Board Director should be a paid position, maybe part-time. That way the directors can truly focus on the issues and do their homework, instead of relying on secret-agenda driven 'data' supplied by the anonymous SPS admin people in JSC.

And why do we need 7 members--why not 5? Fewer people to have to convince of listening to reason.

How about some Citizen Liaisons on the School Board--people like all of us who can have a say or at least be allowed to introduce ideas and concerns within the meetings alongside the Board members, instead of being relegated to a 3-minute speech to an unengaged Board and Superintendent?

How about an Audit of SPS Admin at JSC? They keep auditing all our programs and schools (and then ignoring the audits' recommendations--for example, the University of Virginia's audit of APP which advised against the cohousing the district is now proposing to do at Lowell and Thurgood M.), why don't we audit them? Where IS all the money going? How is it broken down? Taxpayer funds, govt. funds, Special Ed and APP funding--how is the district spending it? Why are they constantly in the red? Where are the flow charts, pie charts & receipts for all this? What are everyone's salaries at JSC? (We already know the Superintendent is making $264,000 plus benefits). Is this money well spent? How much money has been spent on Garfield and the New School? How much on T.T. Minor, Meany or Lowell? Where DID the money promised to SBOC go? How much would it cost to cook healthy meals onsite instead of feeding the kids stale and overly packaged central kitchen airplane food? What if it's CHEAPER and HEALTHIER to cook food onsite? --etc etc

Why don't we parents take over SPS entirely? We seem to be the only ones who really seem to care about the kids and are truly committed to the schools.

Outright boycott? Refuse to send our kids to school the first day or week of September?

Taxpayer revolt?

Tack a list of grievances on the front door of JSC?

Any other ideas anyone?

Charlie Mas said...

I am leaning heavily towards running for the Board in District VII, now represented by Cheryl Chow.

I have some things I have to do this Spring before I can make an announcement and I have to resolve some professional challenges, but if I can, I will run.

If I run, I will be in it to win it.

I'm not sure that we need to replace Michael DeBell in District IV. I think he is starting to become impatient with the staff's dishonesty and excuses. He has until November to step up or step down. I don't think we need to replace Mary Bass in District V.

Two years later four newcomers will be up for re-election. Harium Martin-Morris, is, of course, golden. I see Steve Sundquist's patience wearing thin as Director DeBell's has been. So, likewise, I think we may see him step up some time soon. He is acting much more responsive to community concerns. It would be great if Sherry Carr could find her voice, but it is so lost now that I fear it will never return. She has not served as she campaigned and, like Mr. DeBell and Mr. Sundquist, needs to either step up or step down. Peter Maier just has to go. There is no hope that he will reform. He is a loud and proud tool of the staff.

dan dempsey said...


I like your analysis. I do not find much to disagree with in what you said.

The coming high school math adoption will be an excellent limus test. If any board members support an "Admin" recommendation of "Discovering" after it has been labeled "Mathematically Unsound" and "Unacceptable" by the state, it will be quite clear those directors are only rubber stamps.

I ran against Steve Sunquist and found a lot to like about Steve during the campaign. Since his election not near as much to like. I agree if Steve finds a voice other than the rubber stamp he could be quite good.

I liked Harium from the first public meeting of candidates at Pathfinder. He said a few things that I disagreed with and then after speaking with several folks he had modified his positions. Harium is a good listener and thoughtfully develops his positions.


Charlie Mas said...

I have been in contact with
Director Sundquist about this matter for some time. He has been great - very responsive.

I got a message from him today in which he said that the District pretty much just skipped the program placement process this year because they were so occupied by capacity management. He wrote that he has met with the Superintendent, the CAO, and the program manager for Advanced Learning to make a pitch for a Spectrum program in the West Seattle-South cluster. They all agreed that one was needed and they will work to make it happen for Fall of 2010.

So there is the program placement process that is promoted to the public but is totally fake, and there is the real program placement process that takes place in private meetings. Good to know.

And everyone is totally cool with that. Also good to know.

So, next time I want to propose a Program Placement, I won't bother with the form or the deadline or the submission process, I'll just try to get a meeting of the real decisionmakers and pitch them.

Mark Ahlness said...

As for your program placement proposal that disappeared... Next time, let the community and school in on your proposal, ask for backing from them, and I guarantee you will have enough support and noise to be noticed... it was a good proposal, and it would have been strongly supported. Don't know if it would have made a difference, but thanks, and good luck - Mark