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Friday, May 29, 2009

Two Things (Action and Inaction)

Inaction
As possible evidence that there seems to be a scramble on downtown, there is no agenda yet for next week's Board meeting. I generally find that it is up by Friday so that people can see what is on it and figure out if they are eligible to speak (per Board rules). I'll keep checking in see if it comes up by the end of the day.

Action
(This is a post I wrote from another thread but if this is to happen we need to get the word out now.)

SEA Education Rally
Wednesday, June 3, from 5 to 6 p.m.
JSC, 2445 3rd Ave. S.

I would support going to the the SEA rally simply because:

- we are all concerned about the layoffs whether you agree with everything the SEA says
- there are likely to be many teachers (i.e. bodies) - go to make the statement that we are unhappy with the direction of the district
- it is one of the last times before school lets out to get a large group together

There could be hundreds of people at the rally and it would really send a message. Also because it is the SEA rally, there will be cameras so that means attention. Go corner a reporter and ask to be interviewed. They are always looking for new angles and new faces. Find out who Linda Shaw (of the Times) and Nick Eaton (of the PI) and Phyllis Fletcher (of KUOW) are and talk to them. (I'll see if I can get them to wear a nametag :) )

Tell people on the playground or in the parking lot. E-mail or Facebook friends. Ask your PTA to put it on the electronic Parent Bulletin if you have one.

Bring a sign, bring a kid.

21 comments:

ParentofThree said...

Here are the items on the 2008/09 Agenda docket under, Work Sessions, Reports & Workshops

6/3/09 Executive session re superintendent evaluation
6/17/09 Executive session re negotiations
6/24/09 Public Hearing on Budget

Questions: is the 6/3 exec session open to the public?
What exactly does the 6/24 public hearing on Budget mean to the public?

Roy Smith said...

Executive session by definition is generally for issues that are not open to the public.

owlhouse said...

Thanks, Melissa. I agree- parent and student voices will be an important part of this rally- and need to be heard.
Post to neighborhood blogs too. The larger community has a stake in the challenges our schools face. I'm optimistic that increased pubic engagement could help generate solutions.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, You rocked on KUOW just now! Thank you for speaking out on our behalf. We parents do NOT have faith in the superintendent. The increased K enrollment does NOT demonstrate faith in the school (but rather increased numbers of children in the city and a bad economy)). We are concerned about the SAP NOW.

You covered it all. Thank you. I don't know where else to put this post!

Mother of MS and HS students said...

I think this rally is focusing on the wrong message. As parent whose kids have had some really great teachers and some really terrible ones, I want to see the city focus on protecting EFFECTIVE teachers -- not all teachers.

We all know there are teachers who need to be let go.

In times of less money, it is even more important that the School District use its money wisely. It infuriates me to see the district guided by policy that make them spend money retaining poor performers while laying off high performing teachers.

I think the SEA will start to see that they do not have 100 percent parent support on their no layoff call.

beansa said...

I just heard you on KUOW Melissa. Thank you for calling in. I was driving to work and just when the steam was about to start coming out of my ears, you turned up to talk some sense.

Too bad Charlie hasn't declared yet, would have been a good opportunity to get his name out :)

TechyMom said...

I'm a big fan of performance-based pay, promotion, firings, and RIFs. However, those are long-term discussions.

Right here, right now, I think we need to fight all the RIFs. We have a huge increase in enrollment. This is not the time to let *any* teachers go. We need them all, and probably to hire some more. Let's RIF more central admin staff, not buy textbooks, turn down the heat, whatever it takes to keep enough teachers in the buildings so that we won't have 30-student kindergartens and 40-student freshman algebra classes.

Once that's taken care of, then yes, we should be talkign about performance measures with the union. There's federal money attached to these kinds of issues. We need to move on this. And, we need to stop the current batch of RIFs.

I plan to go to the rally, even though I'd like to see performance considered in the mid-to long term.

Sahila said...

I posted this on another thread - sorry for the repetition, but it seems to me the time is now for us as a community to do something - summer vacation coming up will put the brakes on any impetus that's forming now...

I like the idea about getting as much support out for the June 3 rally... as Owlhouse writes on another thread, there are issues already identified there that have enough validity and impact on everyone to generate at least some sense of unity...

I also like SolvayGirl's idea of rolling school boycotts - I would hope that many parents who might not be comfortable with extended boycotts could work with the idea of one day at a time.... and that if we all worked together we could get a rolling, cyclical campaign going around the district, so that individual or clusters of schools are empty only one day out of every two or more weeks, for example....

Imagine - empty schools, empty buses doing their rounds, stopping at empty bus stops because they still have to do the route ... imagine the publicity, imagine the costs (PR and financially) to the District... and maybe the school communities closed for the day could spend part of that day protesting in front of the John Stanford Centre...

If I was the Super and the Board and the community kept this up for a while, I would be taking a step back...

The only downside with this is that summer is nearly here - not much time for this particular idea to be planned out and implemented.... but we could begin it now and continue it in the fall... these issues are not going to be resolved over summer.... however, we need Plans B and C to happen as well...

owlhouse said...

Well said, TechyMom. Ongoing evaluation and RIF process are distinct issues.

Kkguthrie- I'm sorry you and your child have had some terrible experiences. My student has been blessed, but I know how painful a year(years-?) with a bad teacher can be. But...mechanisms to evaluate teachers are in place. Teachers set academic learning goals, that require measurable results. Principals are charged with teacher evaluation. Unsatisfactory evals lead to improvement plans and/or dismissal. The union does not support tenure. They favor a seniority system that allows teachers with a few successful years (as evaluated by principals) some protection and autonomy. Teachers aren't seated for life. They are afforded a base level of job security that allows them to challenge bad policy, advocate for improved student services and the like.

Anyway, supporting teachers as they find a voice against the RIFs in not blanket support for all SEA positions. It's a loud and united call for a change in priority of funding, and a step towards fully-funding education in the state.

Sahila, maybe summer gives us time to identify concerns and solutions? Time to plan actions?

reader said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TechyMom said...

Anonymous, do you think that the RIFs should procede? Does it help students with disabiltiies to have fewer teachers at the same time we have more students coming in?

I disagree with SEA on a lot of issues, maybe even most issues. But, I agree with them that the RIFs should not procede. And I will stand with them on this one issue.

seattle citizen said...

Here's an announcement from Cooper:

"The Cooper Elementary School community
cordially invites you to join us for our
 
Open House
 Closing Celebration 
 
Sunday, June 7, 2009
2:00 - 4:00 p.m.
Cooper Elementary
1901 SW Genesee St
 
Classrooms open
Arbor Garden tours
Memory Book stations
Old photos and memorabilia on display
Refreshments in the cafeteria
Bouncy Houses on the playground
 
 
For more information, please call the Cooper office at 252-8170"

BullDogger said...

Maybe I'm not watching this blog close enough (so help me). How can the district not RIF teachers?

The state has cut funding to schools. The city levy is at the maximum. The district was already in an extended position when the downturn hit. Teachers make up the biggest share of employees. Businesses under this income pressure are doing the same.

Mom used to tell me money doesn't grow on trees. Is that no longer true at SPS? Is our desire for services unbounded by the constraint for money?

I'd like to see some creative approaches to keep our teachers. At the end of the day though $$ must add up. I support effective teachers but cannot show support to the SEA protest. Seniority vs. quality is the primary result of the RIF. SEA and the district (the other contract participant) could correct that with the right agreement.

wseadawg said...

I agree performance, quality and the like are important and improvement benchmarks in those areas are warranted long-term. I'm concerned that focusing on them right now emboldens this administration that it has the teachers right where it wants them heading into contract negotiations. What about commitments from the administration to adequately support teachers so they can do their jobs and be "effective?" Where's the talk about that?

In the short term, I want advocates of those things to keep in mind who is in charge, and how purgings of popular long term teachers might be done under the guise of "performance" or "effectiveness" for things like speaking out on behalf of students or union activities. We need safeguards to prevent giving blank checks and loaded guns to the wrong people with the wrong agendas.

Consider who might be driving the bus before you board it.

TechyMom said...

How can we not rif teachers?

We could put a 1 year moratorium on textbook and technology purchases. We could rif coaches and central staff people. We could reduce the sup's salary. We could turn down the heat. Prep meals centrally (doing this as planned may have saved a couple teachers). We could refuse to buy EDM consumables and project the problems on the overhead for kid to answer in notebooks.

We could tap the rainy day fund, or use the capital interest. We also have 400 extra students, each of whom gets, what, about $5k.

BullDogger said...

Techmom.

Some of these ideas are good and some not so good.

No technology spending: this hurts the future. Reference the VAX museum piece. Technology that increases efficiency and/or improves service delivery should be encouraged.

No Book spending: I know of a high school where AP history students can't take the book home. They were at least 6 weeks behind going into the AP test. Any student who does pass this test will be very lucky. I suspect other book shortages exist in all subjects. Be careful here.

Reduce Sup Salary: Go for it but don't make her leave. You may not like her but this ship needs a captain.

Consumables, Meal Prep & Heat: All worth a try. Maybe a handful of teachers could be saved.

Rainy day fund & capital interest: Seems like stealing from future students. SPS must be sustainable. This economic climate could be the new long term pardigm.

400 extra students: Positive news but it brings 400 students worth of new services to provide. I wouldn't hang your hat here.

Money in must, in the end, equal money going out. I'm still thinking a whole lot of teachers need to go.

The issue of "are we losing the right teachers" still remains unresolved. Seniority based layoff diminishes the average quality within the remaining teacher ranks. The district and SEA need to find a way to change their failed model. Parents, unfortunately have no voice. Voters though may when the next levy comes due. That fact should motivate SEA and SPS to come to some reasonable middle ground before real crisis is upon us.

suep. said...

BullDogger said..."Reduce Sup Salary: Go for it but don't make her leave. You may not like her but this ship needs a captain."

Sorry, but such a blindly submissive attitude toward someone who is paid by our tax dollars to help determine the academic future of our children is dangerous and irresponsible. It's not simply a matter of "not liking" Goodloe-Johnson that has led many of us to reach a vote of No Confidence in this Superintendent -- it is a profound sense that she is in fact not a good leader. She does not respect parents, does not tolerate dissent of any kind, and moreover, is spearheading bad and destructive decisions, leading the good ship SPS straight for the rocks.

We don't need such a "captain" -- we need a steward. Our children are a precious resource, and parents are chief stakeholders in the District. But jerking parents and kids around with poorly justified closures, splits and changes that ignore demographic trends or Best Practices, and laying off teachers unnecessarily does not amount to good stewardship of our School District resources.

As for the RIFs, you are missing the larger point -- NO teachers should be laid off, new or experienced. Our kids need them. If it really wanted, the District could find the means to keep them, but it is choosing not to. Why?

And now that the District is reporting an increase of 400 kindergarteners in the fall, it makes even less sense to lay off teachers.

There is a process in place for removing ineffective teachers. It involves principals evaluating teachers. I for one am glad that the teacher's union exists to protect teachers, one of the most under-respected, underpaid and overworked professions in our society, from the capricious whims and mismanagement of "captains" like Dr. G-J.

TechyMom said...

Some may be good ideas, some bad. There are probably also lots of things I didn't think about or don't know about. My point is that there are a million little things you could cut first before cutting teachers and other direct student services. That is, IF, maintaining direct student services is the priority. It seems like the priority is to make one big cut rather than a bunch of little ones, and the only reason I can think of that is that it's less work figure out how to do it.

If we can find money for new (bad) math books, and now for new LA books and EDM consumables, we could find money to keep teachers in the classroom.

400 more students and 200 less teachers is also not sustainable. (And that's actually 400 above projected enrollment, which was already above this year's enrollment)

We don't need a budget that's sustainable in the long term. We need one that will get us through a couple years of a bad economy and the resulting low sales tax revenue. We need to do that while disrupting students lives as little as possible. I just don't see a priority of minimal disruption on the part of the district. And that, IMHO, is unacceptable.

BullDogger said...

I think you're right about saving money anywhere you can. SPS has a culture that looks for home runs and gets too little done in the process. Many fundamental base hits would go a lot further. Isn't "continuous improvement" somewhere in their (ignored) values statement?

On the bright side, I suspect 400 more students will bring back 20 teachers in the fall. SPS has likely "overwarned" teachers because of lead time issues. The number easily could be half the original come Sept. Will income improve 2 years out? I hope so but personally I don't plan on borrowing for a car or house until I see the signs.

Sahila said...

TechyMom said:
"We don't need a budget that's sustainable in the long term. We need one that will get us through a couple years of a bad economy and the resulting low sales tax revenue. We need to do that while disrupting students lives as little as possible. I just don't see a priority of minimal disruption on the part of the district. And that, IMHO, is unacceptable."...

I so agree, as I do with gavroche's, last post...

We should use the rainy day fund and that interest lying in the capital fund to tide us over this hump with the minimum disruption to our kids and communities, we should be using this next two years or so to lobby government - state and federal - to increase education funding - this year, nationally a paltry 2% of tax income, whereas military spending gets 44% - and to put education funding on a stable base, not reliant on the fluctuating sales and property tax levels and we should be using the next few years to have a really good look at educational best practices (read the alternative education policy document accepted by the Board -
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/policies/c/C54.00.pdf and

http://learningalternatives.net/wp-content/uploads/legacy/Seattle_alt_ed_survey.pdf -

for what that might look like, sussing out the city's educational/demographic needs for the next 10 years, redrawing boundaries if necessary and then making decisions about assignment plans and facilities management - opening/closing of buildings, supporting programmes etc...

IMO, there never was a need for this slash and burn approach - I think the Superintendent found the economic situation to be a convenient excuse/justification for pushing through her (Broad) education reform agenda....

suep. said...

And I agree with Sahila. The frenetic slash and burn method of this Superintendent is reckless and senseless.

Meanwhile, here's how the (pro-charter) Broad Foundation -- which trained Goodloe-Johnson in its "Academy" -- defines the role of a school superintendent:

"The superintendent is responsible for the education of every student in the district. Additionally, the superintendent oversees the budget, curriculum and instruction, human resources, labor relations, facilities and community relations.

The superintendent must develop a vision and strategy that encompasses all of these elements and must engage a number stakeholders—district staff, teachers, parents and the greater community—to do what is best for students."(http://broadacademy.org/about/role.html)

It would appear that Supt. G-J has forgotten that bit about engaging stakeholders and that little detail about "what is best" for students.