Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Tonight's Meeting

It could be high drama tonight at the Board meeting. The overwhelming majority of speakers intend to speak on the High School math adoption. The Times has come out with a steady state editorial asking the Board to be careful, to listen to the public and to make sure their reasoning is sound.

I am hoping, no matter what the vote, that I do not hear any Board member saying this has be done because time is running out. We make far too many decisions in this district based on staff giving this reasoning. I know the need for new and better textbooks at the high school level but as my son starts on his final leg of high school, I am aware that other parents will just start their journey in SPS in the fall. Those students need to have good valid textbooks awaiting them when they get to high school.

But, as usual, there are other interesting items on the agenda. One is an addition to Hamilton to accomodate the music students coming from Washington who will help build and strengthen Hamilton's program. From the agenda item:

"Due to recent and unforeseen school closures and consolidations the Hamilton International Middle School building requires modifications to both the building educational specifications and the construction contracts to accommodate two instrumental music classrooms not included in the original building program."

They are asking to spend an additional $750,000 for the two classrooms. Now this works out okay to some degree because both the Hamilton and South Shore projects have realized some savings. However, Facilities staff have already drawn money out of BEX III projects to pay off the ever-continuing costs of the Garfield renovation. Now they need to use some contingency money for this project. My point is that the money is starting to run down and it's always a little worrisome when projects aren't even near completion.

Another agenda item is to award a bid for work at Ingraham that had been approved not under BEX III but under something else (it's a bit unclear what they are referring to and I think that's by design). If we had all wondered where the money to appease Sealth came from (remember? the district threw more improvements at their building in an effort to make them feel better about (1) not getting a renovated building a la West Seattle or Ballard and (2) that they weren't really told that they would be having a joint campus with Denny), here's where it came from.

"This work is to paint the school interior, to replace carpet and to install new carpet and linoleum at classrooms and corridors. In addition, vinyl asbestos tile and mastic will be removed. The work was slated to be performed as part or the Infrastructure Improvements under the 2007 bond/levy program. The bond funds for this work were re-allocated to the Sealth High School Improvements as part of the influx of $10 million to Sealth as previously approved by the Board. The Ingraham Indoor Air Quality improvements can be funded within the approved construction budget of the Ingraham High School project because of favorable bid results for the addition work. "

This is exactly what I speak of for the upcoming BTA levy when I say that the money is shifted around and then it is very unclear how money is spent and from what source. It is great that the district has realized some savings from favorable bids but the problem is with the latest tree ruling, what does that do to the schedule or indeed the entire plan? I look to see the Ingraham project ending up needing more money.

And hey! out of left field (go Mariners) here's an amendment to a Board policy (that comes not from the Board but from staff):

"Summit Vending is a third party vendor for the Cold Beverage Vending contract. Due to the constraints of the School Board Advertising and Commercialism and Distribution of Competitive Foods Policy, this is the only type of vendor that can bid on full service cold beverage vending.

The Board adopted procedure currently states that exclusive pouring rights contracts with bottling companies are prohibited.

These constraints severely restrict the number of vendors who can bid on this contract. The District will benefit from open competition to all vendors. Increasing competition among vendors, which would result in improved service, would require a change in the current School Board Advertising and Commercialism Procedure (E02.01).

Following Board adoption of this motion, staff will begin the process of advertising a proposal for cold beverage vending with implementation scheduled for August 2009."

So this is both troubling and difficult to dissect. What I do know is that when the Board passed this policy it was in defense of students' health. What happened, though, is that many high schools lost thousands of dollars on profits from vending machines (naturally, because we stopped selling soda). This really affected schools that needed this money for their ASB (Associated Student Body). I know Franklin, for one, was very upset.

What would be deleted from the policy?

"Exclusive “pouring rights” contracts with bottling companies are prohibited. Any contract already in effect shall be terminated effective prior to the beginning of the 2005-2006 school year."

I say this is difficult to dissect because I don't know enough about these contracts or the ramifications of eliminating this paragraph. This policy also states that parents have the right to be informed about commercialism at their child's school and yet this intro item has nothing about next steps which might include clearly explanation what this would mean to the schools and the students. I hope the Board asks for this information.


hschinske said...


I will have a kid at Hamilton next year, and he will be in the music program, and I sure don't think that kind of money is justified. They could buy a house down the street for that, even in Wallingford.

Helen Schinske

anonymous said...

"This is exactly what I speak of for the upcoming BTA levy when I say that the money is shifted around and then it is very unclear how money is spent and from what source."

I honestly don't understand what is so wrong with this? If the district saved money on one project why shouldn't they be able to use their discretion on how to use it on another much needed project? What should they have done with the savings on the Hamilton project?

And personally, I really don't care if the district uses the Infrastructure Improvements money from the 2007 bond/levy program or the $10 million previously approved for Sealth to rid them of asbestos, paint and re carpet. As long as the money is being used for what it was intended for (improving buildings) then I'm OK with the district making some changes in how it's spent.

Dorothy Neville said...

I have no idea if the numbers make sense. But Stephanie (on design team and an architect, IIRC) spoke at a recent board meeting, listing off the things that really must be done, like doors that open wide enough to move large instruments and other things that make tons of sense. Things that the original architects would not have thought about, since they didn't consider music classrooms. Changes that if they don't happen during the remodel will significantly impair the facility from a music education standpoint. Way better this is considered now. If the Hamilton remodel were finished and then the APP move? Sounds like it would have been problematic to retrofit for music classes.

Why not repurpose the kitchen though, given that schools aren't going to need those anymore. :)

TechyMom said...

This may be a dumb question, but what makes a Music room so different?

I recall having music classes in a regular classroom, in a portable, in a multi-purpose room, on the audiorium stage, and in a fancy-shmancy brand new music room. I don't recall it making much difference.

What does that $750,000 buy? Do we really need it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

If you read the agenda, putting in the two music rooms changes the design of the building. Everything shifts, I guess. It may be architect fees as well as construction as well as change order fees.

Adhoc, if the district put out a quarterly or twice a year document that details the BTA and BEX money expenditures, I wouldn't be as worried. But you can't have that much shifting around of money from bond to levy from year to year and not wonder if it is being used well. And, my point was that the money got shifted away from Ingraham from one pot and that means they are using a new pot of money for the new additions plus the carpeting, painting, etc. based on favorable bids. That project has been somewhat stalled so that means some extra costs. Plus, the ruling by the City may mean the design changes. Ingraham may still need all the money allotted in its pot and since some of the money is now going to a previous project, they may end up taking money from someone else's project.

So tell me, who is tracking all this? And the answer is probably 2 people in the entire district know where all the BTA/BEX money has gone. Again, it's the public's money.

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

I, too, wonder about the policy constraint that the District not enter into "exclusive pouring rights" contracts. Is there really only one company in the area that can refill the drink machines? How credible is that?

anonymous said...

I thought I read somewhere that there was a BEX audit? Is that the case? How about a BTA audit?

Charlie Mas said...

"It could be high drama tonight at the Board meeting."

And yet, there may not be any drama. It may be that the Directors don't feel that they have anything more to say about high school math textbooks and they will just vote. Three will vote "no" - Directors DeBell, Bass, and Martin-Morris - and four will vote "yes" - Directors Sundquist, Carr, Maier, and Chow. They could choose to do it without any discussion or fuss. They have each already signalled their votes and they could decide that further discussion is not in the best interests of the District.

Wouldn't that be something, if, as with the Superintendent's raise, they all decide not to discuss the vote at all.

Charlie Mas said...

In the end, most of the Board members made speeches, with the "yes" voters reading prepared remarks.

It was odd to see how much trouble some of them had reading their own words.

Apparently Cheryl Chow went with her first draft because she said that the Board's primary job is to hire and evaluate the Superintendent about twenty times. If that's true then I expect to see a lot more supporting material with this year's evaluation.

If the Board really wants to take on the job of governance they have a lot of work to do that they haven't been doing.