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Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Letter from the Superintendent

May 22, 2009

Dear friends of Seattle Public Schools:

The weather this month has been typical of Seattle in the springtime: warm and sunny one day, then cold and rainy the next. We know it will lead to summer, but sometimes it is hard to remember those bright, sunny days when it’s the middle of May and the skies are gray.

Perhaps mirroring the weather outside, we’ve had a mixture of sunshine and rain clouds here at the Seattle Public Schools this month as well. On the bright side, more than 900 people showed their support for our schools by participating in the Alliance for Education’s 2009 Community Breakfast. But that good news has been tempered by the difficult decisions we have had to make recently to lay off teachers and other valued staff members in response to the State Legislature’s unprecedented cuts to K-12 funding.

ALLIANCE FOR EDUCATION 2009 COMMUNITY BREAKFAST
Our work in Seattle’s schools would simply not be possible without the support we receive from families, neighbors and community leaders. Those supporters were out in force this week to celebrate our schools at the Alliance’s annual Community Breakfast, raising nearly $240,000.

During my keynote speech, I highlighted the many successes that we have achieved together during this past year, and summarized our progress in implementing our strategic plan, Excellence for All. I invite you to take a look at our 2009 Annual Report to the Community to view some of those accomplishments.

As Patrick D’Amelio, the Alliance’s President and CEO, and George Griffin III, the Alliance’s Board President, noted in a recent opinion editorial, that level of community support combined with exciting improvements throughout the District have led them to feel “confidence and hope for the future.” They shared the success stories of several students, from Cleveland and Rainier Beach high schools, who are heading to college prepared with rigorous AP courses, noting that, “expanding college-ready classes is just one example of how Seattle Public Schools is committed to bringing outstanding curriculum to every school, in every neighborhood.”

I know how much our students depend on all of us working together to ensure their success. Thank you again for your ongoing support, and special thanks to Patrick, George and the Alliance for serving as a focal point for community support for our students.

CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS UNDERWAY
This spring and summer, the District will be negotiating new contracts with a number of our labor associations, including the Seattle Education Association and the Principals’ Association of Seattle Schools. Because these negotiations are so important, we have developed guidelines that express our commitment that the negotiations process will be:

* Respectful. The District and Unions will negotiate in good faith and with a common goal — ensuring the success of our students.

* Transparent. We will post the current contracts and the District’s key proposals for the negotiations on the SPS web site.

* Fair. Our greatest resource is our staff, the people who make learning happen. Our negotiations will acknowledge the dignity of their work and the value of their contributions to our schools and students.

* Informed. Our negotiations will incorporate up-to-date studies from local and national experts. In addition, to ensure that we are sharing accurate information and to preserve good faith, ONLY members of the District’s bargaining teams will speak about the ongoing negotiations on behalf of the District.

To keep our community informed about our current contracts and the District’s proposals for negotiations, we have posted current contracts and negotiations proposals at our web site. You can visit www.seattleschools.org and click on Labor Relations.

2009-10 BUDGET AND REDUCTION IN FORCE
Like districts throughout Washington state, Seattle Public Schools has been greatly affected by the current economic crisis and the State Legislature’s recent budget cuts. In our case, these factors have led to a projected $34 million budget shortfall for 2009-10.

To close this gap, we have cut central office expenses by $3.8 million, implemented operational efficiencies, streamlined transportation to save $2 million, frozen cost of living salary adjustments, implemented a hiring freeze, and made difficult decisions about closing schools. Savings from school closures will amount to $50 million over the next five years in operating and capital costs, including nearly $4 million for 2009-10.

We will also use $10.2 million of reserves to address the budget shortfall. This action will leave us with a reserve balance equal to 3.8% of our general operating fund — within the range specified by board policy.

Although we worked extremely hard to keep budget cuts away from the classroom, it was necessary to implement a Reduction in Force (RIF) earlier this month, which resulted in notices to 172 certificated staff members (approximately 5% of the District’s total certificated work force) as well as 59 classified staff members (instructional assistants and office support workers). RIF notices for our represented staff are determined by provisions in our contracts including seniority and category of employment. Earlier this spring we informed 29 non-represented management staff (about 8%) that their jobs would be eliminated.

Our teachers are at the heart of this District. They make a difference in students’ lives every day and are vital to our success. And staff who do not work directly with students in the classroom are also vital to student achievement because everyone at Seattle Public Schools is here to support our students.

I am hopeful that many of the staff members who received RIF notices will be able to be called back for next year in response to retirements and resignations. However, I recognize that retirements and resignations may be lower than normal this year as people hold off on making decisions until the economy stabilizes.

I have been deeply saddened to have to make decisions that may result in the loss of wonderful teachers and other staff members. They are valued members of our community, and I want them to know how much our community appreciates their service.

PRINCIPAL APPOINTMENTS
Earlier this year, I made a number of principal appointments in response to decisions about school closures and moving programs. I recently announced an additional series of principal appointments. Accountability for the performance of our schools is one of my most important responsibilities. In making these important decisions, I take a number of factors into account including individual principal’s skill sets, the needs of the school, individual principal’s requests, and the districts commitments to our principal corps.

In some years, the principal appointment process has incorporated extensive involvement by school communities. This year, however, in light of District budget reductions, school closures, and a significant number of principal requests, we simply didn’t have the opportunity to incorporate more extensive community engagement in the process.

Some people have asked whether community involvement is required in the appointment of principals to alternative schools. School Board policy C54.00 (related to Alternative schools) describes community participation in the selection of instructional staff, support staff and administrative (office) staff. This policy does not apply to principal selection, however, which is a decision that rests with the Superintendent.

I am proud of the principals who lead our schools, and I am confident that every principal at every school — both those who are continuing and those who have been newly appointed — will work cooperatively with students, staff and families to maintain and create powerful and effective learning communities. I know that staff, students and families at each school will join me in welcoming these new school leaders and will work together to help every student succeed.

While we have weathered our share of difficult storms this year, all of us at Seattle Public Schools remain committed to providing an excellent education for our students so that they all graduate from high school ready for college, careers and life. And I remain, as always, extremely grateful for the dedication of our staff and for the support from the community.

Sincerely,

Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D.
Superintendent

15 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Wow! I am so glad that she cleared up that confusion around Policy C54.00. Now we know that when people talk about school administrators, they mean the administrative office staff in the schools - the secretaries. Man! That really changes the meaning of a whole lot of things that I have heard people say over the years about administrators when I thought they were talking about the principals. To think that they were talking about the office staff all that time.

Think of what this means for Policy C21.00 on the adoption of basic instructional materials.

It says that "The selection of basic instructional materials to be used in the Seattle Public Schools is the result of the combined judgment of, administrators, educators, committee members, parents, families, community members and Board members."

That Policy says:

"1. The Instructional Materials Committee (IMC) is established in conformance with state law (RCW 28A.320.230). Members shall be appointed to two-year terms. The IMC shall consist of, administrators, educators, Curriculum and Instruction Department staff, and parents, and families.I have to wonder if there are any administrators on that committee. I seriously doubt it.

Anonymous said...

That part jumped out at me, too. (Well, that, and the eleventy-billionth time I've read about "Excellence for All" and the Alliance for Education breakfast.)

So, at AS#1 we actively recruited and hired our current principal (now being reassigned), but barely got involved in the hiring of the administrative assistant. Who knew were were doing it all wrong?! Yet they didn't stop us back then....

Now, as you point out with Policy C21.00, it seems our admin assistant, in addition to tracking late/truant kids, arranging transportation, attending meetings, helping the principal, should be weighing in on curriculum adoption. Poor thing. Our admin assistant will need an admin assistant!

dan dempsey said...

Hey MG-J must looking for a Supreme Court appointment, I hear Obama wants activist Judges.

Interesting use of (parentheses) by MG-J.

The real C54.00 when read says:
2. Program design includes a shared decision making model.
Indicators:
School community participates in the selection of instructional, support and administrative staff.
• Students, families, instructional staff and principal collaborate in decision making about the school’s vision, mission, policies, rules, budget and curriculum.
• Families, staff and students, as age-appropriate, have equal voice.
• Students, families and staff participate throughout the planning, implementation and evaluation processes.

The above was adopted on
June 21, 2006So who is the interpreter of the LAW? Hey these are only School board policies. They get ignored all the time. Or is that violated all the time? I am so confused.

Anyway that curriculum word showed up again. Are we talking instructional materials here or the State Standards?

I was told the State Standards are the SPS math curriculum (granted I thought EDM was the curriculum and the Instructional materials).

So I guess the Alternative schools can just scrap the state standards if they wish because it says:Students, families, instructional staff and principal collaborate in decision making about the school’s vision, mission, policies, rules, budget and curriculum.

I urge all alternative schools that have grades k-5 to trash the Washington math standards as the curriculum and choose the Singapore Standards from the nation of Singapore as your curriculum.

These standards are written in English...so no sweat with copying them.

Then guess what? There is an absolutely great (curriculum) set of instructional materials written in simple English (good for ELL also). The name is Singapore Math.

Let's have the school administration (whoever that is) call a meeting and get on with the decision making (trashing) about the curriculum.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Why oh why did I hear Alice in Wonderland quotes as I read this.

The Mock Turtle
Reeling and Writhing, of course, to begin with, and then the different branches of arithmetic -- Ambition, Distraction, Uglification, and Derision.

Alice
I don't believe there's an atom of meaning in it.

Alice
It would be so nice if something made sense for a change.

I say this in jest but I can absolutely hear Dr. Goodloe-Johnson's voice in this (except for the first paragraph).

Hiring freeze? Only on the operating side. On the capital side there have been two hires. But really, if you keep saying it over and over, well, then I guess it's true.

And yes,we all know that principal hires are, in the END, determined by the superintendent. But the people in the building never get a say? This is the new thing because it certainly hasn't been true across the years. I'd like to see this happen in one of the high schools.

I don't really have time to watch over the contract negotiations but I'm hoping Andrew K and some readers will and let us know how it's going.

ParentofThree said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ParentofThree said...

"Some people..."

With all due repect Maria L. Goodloe-Johnson, Ph.D., these "people" were actually parents the Alternative School community, who helped write the policy and who wrote it with the intention of be involved with the hiring of principals...and you know it.


Could you show just a bit of repect for the parents when you show total disregard for written policies.

Really, it would have just been better to ignore it.

Sahila said...

Got to give her her due - she's really, really good at the spin....maybe that's why she's getting $260K+ per year.... must mean something that she can create so much chaos with so much wailing and gnashing of teeth going on all around her for the entire process, still get to where she wants to go and in the process have different groups begin to attack each other - divide and conquer - and then still produce this document as though all's right in the world and it was just a bit of a thunderstorm and the clouds have floated away and the sun is finally shining....

What a crock!

But you've gotta admit - we've helped her do that.... we cant seem to get our act together to work together.... lots of groups trying to stand up and hold the line but we're all fractured and splintered ...

and this is where we are today - where will we be tomorrow, or next week, or when the next school year starts and there's no end yet in the economic recession and they use money (or lack thereof) as the justification to push through further change none of us think is a good idea and want?

Time for a Seattle-version of MLK and the 60s and 70s anti-racism, anti-war movement... after all, this is about our kids, ALL OUR UNIQUE, HUMAN KIDS, and their futures, not about moving widgets around a gameboard to win some kind of monetary prize.... contrary to MGJ, educating our kids is not a business that should be producing a profit....

Sahila said...

Dear Board members - how can you all sleep at night?

When is enough, enough?.... Now you have the Jane Addams saga/farce continuing.... schools may be re-opening (when we were told there was no money for that), the District saying it made a mistake/was surprised by the ballooning demographics in the north end - WE PARENTS TOLD YOU THAT WAS HAPPENING, WAY BACK IN OCTOBER AND NOVEMBER - REMEMBER THE ESP VISION PRESENTATION/MODEL, PRESENTED BY MEG DIAZ?....

When are you all going to take responsibility for this mess, call it for what it is and say enough is enough - stop all these changes, vote NO CONFIDENCE in the Superintendent and her staff, go back to the drawing board and start over? You do have that power, I believe. Why are you not using it?

Surely more tinkering is only going to make the whole mess worse...,. and dont you owe this to the kids and families, teachers and communities this fiasco has impacted so badly?

Leave everything as it stood before October 2008 (including transportation and bell times and principals and teachers/staff)... reassign the kids that have enrolled in the new Jane Addams at their local schools and give those schools the resources to handle the influx...

Take into account the demographics for the region, redraw the boundaries and then begin the process of making decisions about what schools (if any) should be closed/modified....

Use the rainy day money and the money announced last night as coming from the Obama government to support this stay of action...

This process needs to take as long as it takes to do it right, with the best possible outcome for the largest number of children and families...

Please, find your spines and make some ethical decisions that truly reflect your obligations to the children of this District....

Ben said...

Yeah, but. Now that the feds are giving us hundreds of millions of dollars (which, we're told, will help "offset" the schools' budget deficit), where does that leave us?

Now that the TImes is saying enrollment will be up (with schools closed and teachers laid off), where does that leave us?

Now that there's word that Jane Adams K-8 will actually become a middle school, where does that leave us?

seattle citizen said...

And IF we get some more funding back, will riffed educators be able to move back into their existing positions? A lot of broken teams out there...

WenD said...

"Savings from school closures will amount to $50 million over the next five years in operating and capital costs, including nearly $4 million for 2009-10."

Really?

ParentofThree said...

""Savings from school closures will amount to $50 million over the next five years in operating and capital costs, including nearly $4 million for 2009-10."

Yeah, I saw that also. Won't opening a moth-balled school in the northend cut into that savings?

Melissa Westbrook said...

All these "savings" - are they documented? You save when you close buildings and yet there are many costs (and the district admits that they under-projected the costs in the CAC round of closures). The new BTA III(and yes I did hear the request for an explanation of BEX and BTA and it's coming) has over $10M for closed and interim building repairs.

I asked for a BTA II project list with costs. It seems that someone, somewhere in the district has to track how the levy money is spent so it seems like a simple request. It's things like:

-how many projects are completed and their projected and final costs
-how many went over their costs
-what projects went under cost
- what projects didn't get done and why (what is the plan for them if they were important enough to appear on the list)
- if money was sent to some other fund (like BEX)
- what's left to do and how much to spend

But no, they can't give that information up because they are too busy. Now I can file a public disclosure request for it. But it is unnerving to know that this is not tracked in a simple manner. What if the Board asked for this information? What would they give them?

It's public money and saying you "saved" money shouldn't be hard to prove on paper.

Gluteus Maximus said...

RE: Reduction in Force at Madison Middle School:

This is false economy. A good school counselor builds relationships with the more troubled students and simultaneously watches for early warning signs of bigger problems. S/he and is a key part of the safety net and may prevent violence or tragedy from taking place, Eliminating the position of a middle school counselor at Madison is INSANE.

Stu said...

Saw this very funny blurb on seattletimes.com this morning...couldn't think of a better place to post it:

PULLMAN, Wash. —

Pullman School District Superintendent Paul Sturm will not take a $5,000 annual salary increase that was supposed to go into effect in July.

He told the Moscow-Pullman Daily News it wasn't appropriate to take the increase when teachers won't get cost-of-living increases as the district copes with a tight budget.

Sturm's current salary is $128,000.
It's just such a foreign concept! Could you imagine our Superintendent not accepting a raise, or perk, or car allowance, or stipend.

-stu