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Friday, May 22, 2009

Info from the Seattle Council PTSA

  • CPPS has a petition against the RIFs in Seattle Public Schools. Here is the link.

  • News that the district shortfall has gone from $25M to $34M (mostly due to state cuts). (Interestingly, I read that the district can use the interest from the capital fund for instructional purposes. I'll have to look into that and see if it could help get some of these teachers back into the class room. Naturally, that would be hypothetical because the district won't do it but who know? If they got enough pressure, maybe.)

  • Seattle Special Ed PTSA General Meeting
    Tuesday, May 26, 7-8:30 p.m.
    John Stanford Center Auditorium, 2445 3rd Ave. South
    Keynote speaker: Superintendent Maria Goodloe Johnson will speak on the future of special education in the district, followed by a Q&A session.

  • Seattle is College Bound!
    June 6; doors open at 8:30 a.m. (light breakfast); program starts at 9 a.m.
    Seattle University, Campion Ballroom (http://www.seattleu.edu/ces/­_docs/1032.pdf)
    All 7th, 8th and 9th-graders and their families are invited to this broad-based early college awareness event. The College Success Foundation will provide college access information to all families and aims to sign up all eligible students for Washington’s College Bound Scholarship. Scholarship info: http://www.hecb.wa.gov/paying/waaidprgm/CollegeBoundScholarship.asp

    General event questions: Michelle Alejano, mcalejano@collegesucessfoundation.org, 206-550-1484.
  • Summer language camps
    July 13-24, 9 a.m.-3 p.m., Monday-Friday
    To register: www.cultural.org/wlp/camp.php
    Cost: Classes are free but there is a non-refundable $25 registration fee

    Associates in Cultural Exchange is offering free, two-week Arabic, Urdu and Persian summer language camps at Northgate Elementary. All three camps are free and include fresh lunches.

    More information: Maka Janikashvili, director of World Language Programs at makai@cultural.org, 206-217-9644, ext. 201

15 comments:

TechyMom said...

There's an angle I haven't heard discussed much in regards to the RIFs. There is growing concern nationwide that as the baby boom teachers retire, we won't have enough young teachers to replace them. Recruiting and retaining young teachers has been very difficult, and yet, here we are, firing a bunch of them.

So, here's a concrete proposal that might help, and that might be acceptable to the union. What about offering early retirement, voluntarily, to teachers who are close to being qualified for retirement, say within 5 years? Do that before laying off anyone.

Here's another. Require that teachers intending to retire give notice in the spring, before the state budget comes out. Then, when there are RIFs, you'll already know who intends to retire, and you won't have to have this awful, months long reshuffling process.

seattle citizen said...

When I saw the news and link in this post that CPPS had a petition against the RIFs, I was gladdened. But it turns out that it's not a petition against the RIFs; it's a petition against the union and seniority.
As usual, it decries seniority based RIFs and re-hires, and extolls performance-based hiring.
It also asks for merit pay.
As usual, it neglects to suggest the metrics that would be used for these.
As seems to be usual for CPPS of late, it bemoans the union.
Here are the four points that the petition asks the district and the union to consider:

1. Delay the immediate assignment of replacement teachers until the effects of attrition and retirement are understood. Keep successful teams intact.

2. In the new contract between the teachers’ association and the school district, change the layoff policy to prioritize effectiveness. Put in place a system that promotes, rewards and protects teamwork, expertise, best teaching practices and each site’s unique programmatic needs.

3. Ensure that all kids have consistent access to highly effective teachers.

4. Give our principals the tools they need to support and retain effective teachers within their individual schools.

Number four seems to suggest, given the desire to suppress union seniority, a charter-like autonomy in hiring by principals (without seniority, and barring a fair and effective tool to assess "effectivenss," and absent union protection, a principal could hire and fire at will, ignoring the larger issues of managing and staffing a large, multi-site district that requires a flexible staffing as programs open, grow, shrink and close.

I'm sure there are those who feel I am defending all union practice: I am not. But while there might be a healthy debate about teacher evaluation, and positive discussion about this, to say that the CPPS is offering a petition agsint RIFs is inaccurate, to say the least. They appear to be offering, instead, a petition against the union in toto

Ananda said...

The union will fight to the death to keep senority status. I don't think that teachers can be induced to retire early given that the retirement system is controlled by the state, and there are rules about both how long you have to be in and against gifting public funds. Plus, in this economy, I don't think many people are going to choose to stop working unless what is offered in return is huge.

SolvayGirl said...

Techy Mom said: "Here's another. Require that teachers intending to retire give notice in the spring, before the state budget comes out. Then, when there are RIFs, you'll already know who intends to retire, and you won't have to have this awful, months long reshuffling process."

I like her thinking. I was just thinking about similar issues when reading all the assignment posts.

The system is definitely bass-akwards in regards to the timing of RIFs, etc. How many people selected a school after touring because they loved a particular teacher, program and/or principal? How many of those people now find that particular teacher, program or principal gone from the school they chose?

I know that things work this way because of the timing of budgets, etc., but it does seem crazy that everything at a school can change after February tours and choice. That's especially true of the RIFs. The system that lets terrific teacher go, only to end up with the need of refilling their spot in the Fall is crazy. It does destroy teams, displace eager new teachers and bludgeons staff morale. There's got to be a better way.

TechyMom said...

But, why? What is so wonderful about making decisions based on seniority? It seems arbitrary to me. It seems far less fair than basing it on performance metrics. I can see it as one factor, because experience does correlate to ability. But experience is not a measure of ability. Measuring based on a combination of seniority, parent and student reviews, peer reviews, manager evaluations, continuing education, awards, certifications, special assignments like low-income schools, special projects like running the PTA or teaching after school classes, all laid out in a defined formula and discussed with the teacher on a regular basis, seems like a far more fair way to determine pay, promotion, and termination. I wouldn't want to work in a pure seniority environment. Can someone explain why they would? I'm not being snarky, I just really, really don't get it.

Mr. Edelman said...

At the meeting for RIF'd employees, a consultant (Theresa Kinney, I believe) from Lee Hecht Harrison spoke to teachers about their seminar on retraining, changing careers and switching to the corporate world. One teacher asked if she was advising us to get out of the teaching business. The teacher pointed out that he had just gotten into the teaching business. At this point, she became very defensive and claimed the seminar was just for those teachers who wanted to make a career transition.

Another teacher asked who was paying for the seminar. She replied that the district was. The teacher reminded her that when the district pays for something, we pay for it.

At the very least, the consultant was insensitive. However, I can see how some may want to switch careers. In my opinion, things are not going to get better any time soon. The budget cuts in SPS are the result of the legislature's budget for the biennium. Prospects for the next biennium could be even worse if revenue is still down and there aren't the federal stimulus dollars that have kept the cuts from being even worse.

At the meeting, we heard some figures that are worth chewing on. Don Kennedy, the CFO, said that there are currently 210 displaced (not RIF'd) employees who are looking for jobs. These are senior people who have lost their jobs due to building closures or displacements downtown or some other reason. Specifically, 33 displaced language arts teachers are competing for 5 open positions. Of course, these 33 language arts teachers will now be offered positions vacated by the RIF'd teachers.

Glenn Bafia, Executive Director of the SEA, said that they know of about 3100 teachers who've been RIF'd statewide so far, with between 350 and 360 classified personnel RIF'd. These numbers will increase as districts report in.

Amy Valenti of Employment Services said that SPS typically loses about 340 jobs per year through attrition. Thus far, we've lost 90. While teachers may retire over the summer, it's not unreasonable to assume the total number will be fewer 340. I don't expect, for example, 28 language arts teachers to retire.

The reality is that if you only have a social studies or language arts endorsement you may be out of work for years. Rather than go into the corporate world, one option is to use the time you're laid off to work on a high-demand endorsement. Otherwise, if you're young and unattached, you might consider going to an out-of-state job fair or an international job fair. I know an intern who landed a job right out of grad school this year--in China.

Mommasnark said...

Seattle Citizen says, "absent union protection, a principal could hire and fire at will, ignoring the larger issues of managing and staffing a large, multi-site district that requires a flexible staffing as programs open, grow, shrink and close."

Maybe I'm naive or wrongheaded about this, but it seems like the principal is exactly the right person to be in control of hiring and firing. I'm not sure why holding this power/responsibility would necessarily mean ignoring other factors (such as district wide issues or special programs).

At my private school, the principal and head of the school is not solely responsible for hiring, but does spearhead hiring and firing processes. He knows the school, the students, the parents, the larger aims of the school. Who better to decide when a teacher is ineffective enough to be asked to leave?

As it is now, many public school principals' hands are tied when they know they have an ineffective (yet "senior") teacher on their staff, or when they have an open position to fill that often has to go to someone with more years in the system, rather than the best possible person for the job.

I have the greatest respect for the teachers at my school who have been there 20, 30 years. But they are still outstanding teachers, still excellent models of what great teaching looks like. This is not always the case.

There has to be a better way in the public system. There just has to be something else we can do to keep the strongest teachers, regardless of clock hours or years in the system or what have you.

Mr. Edelman said...

Has it occurred to only me that the reason the district is laying off 172 teachers is as a bargaining tactic? Look at how it's got you all talking.

In the meantime, the SEA is arguing that there is $22 million in reserves and another $22 million in interest on the capital fund which could be used for the operating budget. One hundred seventy-two times $80k equals $13.76 million, considerably less than $42 million. Here is Olga Addae, President of the SEA:

"The school district chooses their budgetary priorities and maintaining staffing should be the top priority. We know the District is maintaining a higher reserve than necessary. The most conservative estimates are that it will be $22 million at the end of the year. There is also another $22 million in interest from Capital Projects that can be put into the Operating Budget. Seattle Public Schools has the financial ability to maintain stability in our schools and keep educators in their jobs. Seattle Education Association, 4,800 educators strong, disagrees with the decision of Seattle Public Schools."

The bottom line, friends, is that these RIF's will affect academic performance and the graduation rates. If the Board and the superintendent choose to play games with funding teachers' jobs, then they are responsible for the consequences.

Every student achieving, everyone accountable.

seattle citizen said...

Mommasnark, I don't think you're naive: I wasn't too clear. Principals and site councils, BLTs, site-based hiring committees should and do have (or had?) a lot of control over new hires (but only if there are no displaced or riffed staff floating about the system.
The employee pool is bigger than the one school: There are educators and admins who have been hired by Seattle Public Schools (ultimately) after being hired by a school's committee or an admin downtown.
A private school is typically just the one school, or a K-12 feeder of two or three. The principal (and her or his boss: a board, parents, a church organization or what have you) is free to let an employee go because he or she is the boss of all the employees in that smaller system.
The district has eighty (?) schools, more programs, downtown offices, coaching and academic support staff...The principal at an SPS school might, with assistance from a committee, select a candidate, even push for one, but once hired the person is hired by the district, the bigger system.
I think this is good. The system, because of its size, can find econonomies of scale - for instance, it can buy more stuff cheaper. It can leverage long-term and various real estate. Of course, as a public system, it has the power of state money etc. This helps students, it helps staff. The pay is oftentimes better than a private can offer, and the benefits too.

I know, I'm long-winded. Grab a cuppa joe and see Part II, next post...

seattle citizen said...

Evaluation SHOULD be going on, by the principal and her/his bosses, at ANY school, as often as possible. New systems of collaboration, both at the private and public schools, suggest that the recognition that there needs to be transparency about practice is helped by such things as Data Teams (small groups of teachers comparing instructions and assessments): educators practice out in the open, subject to a sort of organic peer evaluation.
Perhaps there needs to be more, and current discussions such as this might elicit some. Many of the evaluation tools listed earlier in this thread by Techymom are interesting:
"Measuring based on a combination of seniority, parent and student reviews, peer reviews, manager evaluations, continuing education, awards, certifications, special assignments like low-income schools, special projects like running the PTA or teaching after school classes, all laid out in a defined formula and discussed with the teacher on a regular basis"
Some are somewhat sketchy: parent and student reviews for eaxmple: which parents will actually submit critique or review? which students? All? Will this be done via survey? What of those parents (or students) who are disengaged and just not answering? What of those who have a game plan in their head that the educator didn't stick to (the parent's game plan, that is)?
Peer reviews, as mentioned, might be employed during the course of Data Team work, for instance. While rife with opportunity for intentional or accidental misuse, I actually think a modification of this is the best, while it would be enormously expensive:
State hires a large force of neutral evaluators (tough, yes, that neutral part.) Eval teams constantly circulate, hitting each educator perhaps three times per year. Maybe even unscheduled. Evaluators actually gather good quantitative and qualititative data from each educator: Lesson plans that day, audio clips of presentation, evidence of the week's work, educator and students alike, perhaps anonymously of students but demographics would help in judging bias or trends in meeting the needs of students not heretofore identified - does a teacher focus more on girls or boys? African Americans or Ethiopians or Euro-Asians? Is there a bias, in other words.
All this data (ALONG with principal's oversight...of course!) would be packaged up, sent to the un-employed WASL scorers, and evaluated back at base. THEN ratings on various metrics, options for remediation, and timelines for consequences.

That's what I'D like to see...why on earth would this process have anything to do with the layoffs, when the sporadically happen, and why SHOULDN'T the system hire back its own already evaluated staff, who have been working and improving in the system, who know the team, who know the students, who live (barely) in the city and know the tempo, the players, the stakeholders...
This is what confuses me: people seem to think that it behooves the district (or any organization, for that matter, or a company) to regularly bring in fresh blood (allow the newbies to compete over the bones of some poor educator's position, and IF THEY'RE QUALIFIED, whatever that might mean in the not too distant and scary future..."Fresh"? "Cheap"?) when in faxct, I think, it is good sense to hold on to the ones YOU'VE BEEN EVALUATING REGULARLY (sure, lay them off if necessary, but when a job in the system reopens that they are qualified for, hire 'em back! right away!
Evaluation and lay offs should not occupy the same frame of mind: dedicated, knowlegeable staff should be rehired asap.

whew.
Whaddya think, WV? Was Cromwell? Well, he's been dead many hear, now he's cromwas!

Ananda said...

Displaced teachers are the result of building-based budget setting as well as things like the Pathways positions beging eliminated. A friend is (was) a Pathways Dean, and explained that many were LA teachers. Because SEA objected to the District keeping the position as is, schools had to repost a different position with a different job title that the former Deans had to apply for. That put not only LA teachers that were displaced into the pool, it put a lot of the Deans in that pool too. Some schools rehired the Deans into the new position, some didn't, and that added to the number of LA teachers in the displaced pool.

Mr. Edelman said...

Ananda,

Here's my understanding of the Pathways thing. The Pathways Dean position is basically the same as the academic intervention specialist position that replaced it. The comprehensive high schools retained a 1.0 position that was part of the WSS formula. If a dean lost a position, it probably has more to do with the building principal not wanting that person anymore. The only person I know who has lost his dean position has a math endorsement. There may be others, as you suggest, but I haven't heard of any.

More to the point, the Pathways program was eliminated. Some of the classroom teachers had language arts endorsements. However, the district offered .6 classroom teacher positions (funded by LAP money) which could be used for reading, writing, or math intervention. It's unclear what the high schools did with the funding for those positions--I saw only four jobs advertised that seemed to be funded by the .6 LAP money. (In two cases, building money may have been added to the .6 to make it a larger position, I don't know.) I believe that two of those teachers who took the .6 positions have now been RIF'd.

Does this seem confusing? Does this seem an odd way to fund a vitally important intervention program? Welcome to Seattle Public Schools.

Every student achieving, everyone accountable.

anonymous said...

My husband was officially hired by Microsoft, and though the larger corporation is his employer, he works in his department, and answers to the manager of his team. The manager of his team is entirely responsible for the running of his department. Within the department the manager, along with a team of co-workers, interviews and chooses new hires. The manager assigns their duties, oversees their work, and evaluates their performance. He also (acting within the law and Microsoft policy) can discipline and/or fire them. And who better to do this than a direct manager who intimately knows the needs of his department and who knows the competence and quality (or lack thereof) of his employees?

I believe that a principal is the manager of his/her department, the school. perhaps along with a BLT (which consists of the principal, some teachers, parents and sometimes students), a principal should be able to discipline, hire and fire his staff. He should be able to truly and effectively evaluate performance of his staff. Who better to do this? Someone outside of the school building? Someone who doesn't know the needs and demands of the community that the school serves? Someone who may doesn't work with the teacher on a daily basis? If you put the principal in charge of a school and hold him/her accountable for the performance of that school then he/she needs to have the authority necessary to make sure that it runs efficiently and effectively.

Charlie Mas said...

Responsibility and authority need to be linked. Un-linking them leads to dysfunction. If we are serious about making people accountable for outcomes, then we need to offer them some control over those outcomes.

It troubles me when the people who design systems never consider that the system may be at the root of systemic failures.

I wish everyone could read Deming.

Quick story: I have a friend who used to live in Santa Cruz, California. I lived in Davis. To get to Santa Cruz I would have to drive over some mountains on a two-lane highway - Highway 17 - from San Jose. The traffic was horrible. It was bumper to bumper, start and stop, a couple of car lengths at a time, with some aggressive drivers trying to change lanes frequently. I hated it.

I would sometimes complain to my friend about it, and he would always say "You just don't know how to drive it." After he had said this a few times, I kind of blew up at him. "What do you mean I don't know how to drive it?! It's bumper to bumper and door to door for six miles with no turn offs or exits? I don't have a lot of choice about how to drive it!" He told me that I shouldn't drive it when it's crowded like that. "What am I supposed to do?" I asked, "Stop in San Jose and watch a movie until the 17 clears up?" He answered "Yes."

Sahila said...

adhoc - your analogy has logic except when you take it to its natural conclusion.... tell me, if a community knows its school best and what it needs, shouldnt the community then be able to fire a principal the community thinks isnt doing a good job?

And if you dont trust the principal to do a good job for the school - based on unfortunate experience or the fact that he/she isnt a good fit for the philosophy of the school, then how can you trust their hiring/firing decisions - wouldnt he/she gradually move the school even further off its once-agreed-on-by-the-community track?