Showing posts from June, 2009

SBOC and the Meany renovations

There are some planned renovations to the Meany building on the School Board's consent agenda for this week. The Friends of the SBOC have a variety of concerns about this contract. First, they want the district to define and develop instruction and delivery models before begining design or construction work at Meany. Second, they want to clarify the funding sources for the work. They don't want the funds allocated to building a school (under the 2006 agreement) to be spent on a seismic retrofit project. That should come from the BTA II and not reduce the funding for the SBOC to remake a building to suit their purposes. Third, they want to see a protocol for community engagement. If the Board does not clarify all of this and get some assurances, the SBOC will get hosed. Since this item is on the consent agenda, it is likely that there will be no discussion of it at all. That puts SBOC on the fast-track to getting hosed.

Curious: Newest Times' Editorial

Here is an editoria l from Friday's Times upbraiding (reminding?) the Board of their duty to review district actions. It is astonishing in its wording. From the editorial: "The Seattle School Board needs to be reminded of its responsibility to perform due diligence on every policy initiative requiring its approval. This was not done when the board acquiesced to Superintendent Maria Goodloe-Johnson's request to spend $756,000 on a consultant to help revamp high school curricula." But how do you really feel? "The board's 4-3 vote for the contract came at its June 16 meeting. Every board member had a question about the contract. Some had several. Answers were wrapped in educational jargon so thick it may have been tempting to approve the contract simply to halt district staffers from offering more pedagogical statements. Board member Steve Sundquist acknowledges he and his colleagues were not up to speed on the contract. Yet, he voted for it. Compelling hi

Broad Resident: Why?

So I'm doing various odds and ends on the computer and I remember, "Oh yeah, I was going to look at the Broad Foundation website and see if there was something about a Broad Resident." (As you may recall, the Superintendent's budget for next year includes $127,000 for an senior adminstrative staff position and what was termed "a Broad resident".) I had sent an e-mail to COO Don Kennedy asking about this issue but didn't get a reply yet. We're in the poorhouse as a district. We have to close schools and we have to RIF teachers but guess what kids? We can help out some person (who has to have an advanced degree such as an MBA, MPP or MPA) to get a job that pays between $85,000-95,000 with full benefits) for two years. The website says: "The Broad Residency subsidizes 50 percent of Resident salaries, and districts and CMOs pay the balance and provide benefits comparable to a full-time employee in a similar position. " "The Broad Resi

Board Work Session Part Three: Boundaries

After 3 hours the Work Session finally got to boundary discussions. This included the PowerPoint as well as a sheet which I haven't found yet online. One side as high school enrollment, overall and by clusters (which is very interesting) and the other side has what Tracy termed "dummy data" to illustrate what might patterns might occur because of the new SAP. As Tracy said, this is very complex. They listed 8 steps to the boundary planning process (slide 53). Then slide 54 listed the first step - Identify Factors (like proximity, walk zones, demographics, etc.) As I have previously said, t he Board is not going to rank or weigh any of these so you may think proximity is the most important but that's not how it will be for the Board. Keep that in mind. (I'll have an update on the proximity issue. As Tracy ran through it, I had a scenario in my head. I e-mailed her to ask her if I got it right and I'm waiting for an answer. Basically she said they ar

Eight Closed Buildings - What Will the District Use Them For?

I just saw this article in the Seattle PI. Not sure what to think but wanted to pass it along. A couple of these buildings were in the last closures and others are closed as of right now. From the article: The Seattle School District can allow many new uses in former schools without convening a special committee, city planners said Thursday. The District asked for the clarification with regard to eight closed and closing schools: Genesee , at 5012 S.W. Genesee St., Columbia , at 3528 S. Ferdinand St., T.T. Minor , at 1700 E. Union St., John Marshall , at 520 N.E. Ravenna Blvd., Horace Mann , at 2410 E. Cherry St., Viewlands , at 10525 Third Ave. N.W., Hughes , at 7740 34th Ave. S.W., and Fairmount Park , at 3800 S.W. Findlay St. "What we were looking for at at this point was simply to expand the potential uses of these eight specific closed schools," district spokesman David Tucker said. I guess the thing that I still shake my head over is how many closed, leased or in

Do the Hokey-Pokey and Get Better Math Scores?

I saw this little blurb of an article in the Science section of the NY Times called "Children: Self-Control Presages Math Gains in Young". I thought it was interesting. From the article: "Claire Cameron Ponitz, a research associate at the University of Virginia , led a group that tested 343 children with the Head-Toes-Knees-Shoulders task, in which children perform the opposite of an oral command (for example, the correct response for “touch your toes” would be to touch your head). Higher scores, the researchers write in the May issue of Developmental Psychology , indicate a greater ability to control and direct one’s own behavior, an ability essential for success in the structured environment of a kindergarten class.Those with higher scores on the fall test generally reached higher scores in all areas in the spring, but showed significant gains compared with other children only in mathematics, not in literacy or vocabulary." I thought the point of the researc

Board Work Session Part Two: Capacity Management

This will be the shortest piece mainly because not much was said and frankly, I am just taken aback that (1) this seems to be something that should have been done years (if not decades) ago and (2) some of this work HAS been done and I'm confused why it seems like it is starting from scratch. Kathy Johnson of Facilities did this presentation. She talked about creating "trigger metrics" for opening/closing schools/criteria, when boundaries need to be changed, portable placement and capacity mitigation measures. Well, first, yes it would be nice to have a set of criteria to use for opening and closing schools given that we have now had 3 rounds of closures (2 that actually occurred). And portables? This is the same group that said we couldn't afford them and that they weren't available even if we had the money. Do we have that many left over here and there to move around? Michael asked her what the metrics would be founded on and Kathy said that they want

Board Work Session Part One: Demographics

I am going to try to give some analysis to what was presented yesterday at the Board Work Session. As I mentioned previously, the first part was Demographics with many charts presented by district demographer, Rachel Cassidy. (FYI, all the Board was there except Cheryl Chow, out of the country, and Harium Martin-Morris on Board business.) There were a number of things both on the charts and in Rachel's remarks that didn't quite ring true to me. I am not trained so she probably has good reason to come to her conclusions. Slide 8 about factors driving enrollment. One of the factors listed was "dropout and graduation rates". I thought this odd simply because I'm not sure that most people, when enrolling their student, think about this. Or maybe it was meant as there is more room in high schools because we have a high dropout rate. Slide 9 was a chart showing births and kindergarten enrollment. We lose about 2,000 of these kids from birth to enrollment. She sa

Get Involved with a Campaign

I encourage everyone to take an active role in one of the school board campaigns this summer. You can contribute, volunteer, display a yard sign, and talk to your friends and acquaintances about the candidates and the issues. Two years ago some of the school board campaigns raised and spent a lot of money. It felt wrong to me. I think that school board campaigns should be grassroots efforts. That said, this blog is a grassroots communication tool and I think it should be available to the campaigns. It's certainly self-serving, but I would be happy to post requests for help from candidates here. I have tried to be very even-handed about the School Board races on the blog and I intend to continue to be even-handed about them on the blog. If any of the other candidates want to use the blog to ask for volunteers I encourage them to do so. They can add a comment to this post or, if they prefer, I will faithfuly relay their requests in another post. I hope I haven't abused my pri

Sliding Scale SAT Help

From the online Seattle PI: "Three students, working with the Cambridge, MA based SAT prep company, Ivy Insiders, Ben Schmechel, a sophomore at Princeton University, Michael Dunn, a senior at Yale, and Megan Ji, a sophomore at Dartmouth College, are looking to change the way families approach and handle this future defining test. Recognizing the implicit disparity, as well as the increased financial difficulty for many families as part of the current economic recession, Schmechel, Dunn, and Ji, through Ivy Insiders, are moving such traditionally expensive test prep to a more variable sliding scale, "Pay What You Can" model. Last year, the 1,600 students around the country who were part of Ivy Insider classes averaged a 265-point gain‹results which beat those of national test-prep averages by a factor of nearly 2. Having scored in the 99th percentile themselves, averaging a score of 2300, Schmechel, Dunn, and Ji are seeking not only to change the way students prepare

Board Work Session: Demographics and Boundaries

Thanks to some clever eyes, I got to the Work Session on time (well, they started 15 minutes late so it worked for me). I grabbed the handouts and sank in my seat. Well, I started to sink lower as I read. Excuse the middle school jargon but OMG! Now, wait, it's not bad news but this Powerpoint (down the page under Past Meetings) was one of the most data-heavy I have ever seen and that wasn't even with the presentation. Honestly, I think without some explanation it may not be easy to understand. I'm tired and don't have the energy now (and I think it's a definite two or three part thread) but basically, Rachel Cassidy, the demographer, laid out many charts explaining where we are and where we are going. I got lost at several points because (1) I didn't always understand the charts and (2) I didn't absolutely agree with her conclusions. More on this later. There was then a section on capacity management that I'm not sure needed to be here. I

SAP: Boundaries Part 1

Just a reminder of the first SAP Board Work Session where boundaries will be discussed is tomorrow (Thursday) from 4-8 p.m. at the headquarters.

FYI: Sibling Chart

Just checking in at the new SAP page at the district website and saw something I hadn't seen (or missed) before. At the top of the page to the right is a listing with links to different information. One of them is a spreadsheet of sibling tiebreakers used from 2006-2009. Note the words "to" and "from" in the chart; I missed it and wondered what Group 1 and 2 meant. "To" means incoming and "from" is students from that reference area.

School Librarians: Worth It?

There was this article in the Seattle Times today that got me to thinking: "To some Bellevue parents, it's hard to believe that all five of the city's high schools made it onto Newsweek's list of 100 best schools in the U.S. — and all five are about to lose their school librarians. " How was this decided? "The decision was made by each one of the school principals, said School Board President Chris Marks, and the board does not intend to overrule them because "principals really ought to know what the actual needs are, and serve them the best," she said." "Littrell-Kwik and others say they wish Bellevue had used a process like neighboring Lake Washington School District, which held several large public meetings and conducted an online survey, to help decide where the cuts would be made.' Public meetings to ask the public's opinion and an on-line survey? Good job, Lake Washington. Now I generally hold school librarians in h

Dr. Goodloe-Johnson on KUOW at 10 a.m.

The Superintendent will be on KUOW 94.9 FM at 10 a.m. to answer questions. Note: this will be after the news from Canada so more like 10:15 a.m. (Question: when you e-mail staff with questions, do you cc your Board member? If so, when you get a reply, did the staff member cc the Board member? I find that staff do not cc who I did and it makes me wonder why. Likely to be just a lazy error but it would be to their benefit if they let the Board member know they did reply to the e-mail.)

She's Not the Only One

There was this funny/sad article in the NY Times about Blackberry manners in today's world. I had to admit that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson behavior at Board meetings with her Blackberry crossed my mind. Then I got to this part of the article: "Still, the practice retains the potential to annoy. Joel I. Klein , the New York City schools chancellor, has gained such a reputation for checking his BlackBerry during public meetings that some parents joke that they might as well send him an e-mail message." There's a thought - we could either text her during meetings or hold up newspapers and pretend to read when she starts talking and see how she likes it.

Candidate Forum

From Pat Murakami, a SE education/community activist: Everyone is don't have to live in SE Seattle to attend. Host: SE Seattle Community Groups Location: Aki Kurose Middle School 3928 South Graham Street, Seattle 98118 When: Wednesday, July 22, 6:00pm to 9:00pm Phone: 206.774.9146 Join us for the most interesting Candidates' Forum you've ever attended. Your presence sends a message to the candidates that we care about the issues of SE Seattle. Over 25 SE Seattle organizations are co-sponsoring a Candidates' Forum for City of Seattle Positions - Mayor, City Council and City Attorney races as well as School Board Positions 5 & 7. Join us at 6:00pm for a 'Meet and Greet' with the candidates or visit briefly with your fellow community members. The forum starts at 6:30pm and ends at 9pm. C.R. Douglas of Channel 21 will moderate. Channel 21 (The Seattle Channel) will be filming the forum. Attendees will participate in a mock election. Ca


I've been asked several times to explain the capital programs at SPS.  This is going to be a first posting and a short one just as a basics about the programs.  (I'm going to go into finer detail later for anyone who is interested.)  Please help me out if I get anything major wrong. The district has several different pots of money but basically for us there are two; the operating budget and the capital budget .  The operations budget covers just about everything day-to-day including buildings except for the following ( big maintenance, renovations and what's in them that's non-human).   That is covered by the capital budget. The state (and to some degree, the fed) covers the operations budget except for about 23% that we go to voters every 3 years and beg for.  As you can probably surmise, losing 23% of our budget would be catastrophic so the operations levy is vital.  (But is this any way to run a district?  Again, I say to the Legislature; shame on you.  It should n

Director Carr finds her voice

I watch the Board pretty closely and I have noticed a change in Director Carr. She is beginning to find her voice. In this past week she made - and got passed - two clear amendments to the Student Assignment Plan and the Capacity Management directive that spoke directly to public concerns and was also really effective at the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting speaking on behalf of community participation in the curriculum alignment project. Sherry Carr is, perhaps belatedly, becoming the Board Director that a lot of us hoped and thought she would be. She is starting to advocate not only for the public, but also for the public perspective. I know that we can all think of times in the past when she did not, but I see a shift in her of late and it has been really positive. I really wish more people could have seen her at that Curriculum and Instruction Policy meeting. She was really brilliant. Not only in the perspective she was working, but in how successfully she work

C & I Policy Committee meeting of June 22

I attended the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting yesterday evening from 5:00 to 8:00. Wow! What a really frustrating meeting! On the good side, the Board was very clear that the District staff needs to be more open with the public about what they are doing, how they are doing it and why they are doing it. Moreove, they were clear that the public needs to have a voice in shaping the decisions. Director Carr in particular was very clear and effective on this point. Director Sundquist made the point very well at the end of the meeting. A number of Board members made reference to the anxiety in the community about the LA alignment, but only Director DeBell put his finger right on it: people like and want alignment; it's standardization they don't want. The Superintendent appeared to totally miss the point. It shot right past her. The meeting opened with a discussion of the players and the roles in the materials adoption process. The Board's role is to prov

Steel drums issue

Y'all may have seen the article on KING 5 about SPD being called during a dispute over ownership of school instruments. If not, it's here: . The Summit K-12 Parent Group has been working for the past couple of months toward dissolving as a non-profit, and that includes accounting for all properties, some of which are steel drums - for which paperwork exists. Numerous attempts have been made to achieve resolution on this subject, and at one point, we were told by the District that "anything loaned to a school to use is the property of the District unless you have paperwork to prove that it was only on loan, and the District doesn't have to prove ownership at all." Since then, we have provided our documentation regarding the purchase of the instruments (not all of the drums - some are the District's, and some belong to the teacher, and some are property of a former Sum

Opportunities to Speak with Board Members

From the West Seattle blog: "If you’ve got concerns, questions, ideas - West Seattle’s School Board rep Steve Sundquist is having another public coffee hour, 9 am this Wednesday,Uptown Espresso in The Junction." Also, Michael DeBell has a community meeting on Saturday, the 27th from 9-11 but I don't know where. You could call the Board office, 252-0040, to find out.


This article appeared in the NY Times about the Secretary of Education, Arne Duncan, and a speech he will make this week to charter school leaders. I thought this was a good basic starting point for charter discussion. From the article: "In an interview, Mr. Duncan said he would use the address to praise innovations made by high-quality charter schools, urge charter leaders to become more active in weeding out bad apples in their movement and invite the leaders to help out in the administration’s broad effort to remake several thousand of the nation’s worst public schools. Since 1991, when educators founded the first charter school in Minnesota, 4,600 have opened; they now educate some 1.4 million of the nation’s 50 million public school students, according to Education Department figures. The schools are financed with taxpayer money but operate free of many curricular requirements and other regulations that apply to traditional public schools. Mr. Duncan’s speech will com

Summer at the Library

I just wanted to provide the links to the Seattle Public Library and their summer programs for kids and teens . They are free and provide a link to reading activities plus fun.

School Districts and Federal Stimulus Money

From today's Times, an article about how districts around the state are spending federal stimulus money. I guess I was confused because I thought at least some of it was for capital spending. From the article: "Washington schools will get an unprecedented federal windfall over the next two years — up to $400 million for special-education and low-income students. The temporary influx of money is certainly welcome. School officials have long complained that the federal government doesn't give them what they need. But the federal cash has also put some school officials in an awkward spot. The state budget crisis has forced schools to cut training and class offerings and lay off hundreds of teachers. The Legislature slashed $600 million from Initiative 728 funding, approved by the voters in 2000, to hire teachers and reduce class sizes. So due to limits on how the new federal stimulus money can be spent, the additional money means many districts may wind up maintaini

The Function of the Central Office

Two things have got me thinking about the School District Central staff. 1) The unspeakable crime of standardized materials for the express purpose of committing the greater crime of scripted lessons. This is a natural result of Parkinson's Law and the incessant creeping growth of administrative systems. 2) The audit that found that Seattle Public Schools had significantly more supervisors and administrators than other districts and the way that cuts came to the Central office. First it was going to be $5 million, then $4 million, then $3.8 million. Now we learn that the positions cut were not the supervisors or administrators but clerks, janitors and copy machine repair people. Here's what I'm thinking: We need to take a fresh look at the purpose of the Central Staff. Then we need to narrow their mission - severely - particularly when it comes to Learning and Teaching. There are three legitimate roles for the Central Office in Learning and Teaching: 1) writing curricul

TT Minor

By request, a thread on the effort to save TT Minor from Mr. Lemur: "A concerned (and tireless) parent has been speaking with the school board and has received a commitment from School Board President Michael DeBell that if she can find 300 students to attend the school, he will keep TT Minor open. They have received 200 plus signatures so far but they need more! The intent is to keep TT Minor open as a regular elementary school with an further emphasis on art and foreign language instruction. There is talk of partnering with Pratt for art and other partners for music instruction. The free pre-school would remain as well. There are forms to fill out available at Tougo Coffee or you can call 206-323-7413 for more information."

STEM at Cleveland

What is the District hoping to accomplish with this change? Are they hoping to draw more students to the building or meet some unmet demand? I am troubled by the decision to move forward with the STEM program at Cleveland without an assessment for the demand for a STEM program at Cleveland. Who wants this? Who will enroll in this school? Will the enrollment be greater or less than the current enrollment (706)? Are they hoping to improve the quality of education for the students at Cleveland? If there isn't any significant overlap between the students in the proposed STEM program and the students now enrolled at the school, then how does the introduction of this program help the current Cleveland students? Are they trying to balance capacity management? I'm concerned about how the new student assignment plan will work in southeast Seattle if Cleveland is an option school. There are 1,812 high school students (Fall 2006 data) who live closer to Rainier Beach than any other hig

Farewell to Summit K-12, 1977-2009

Following is the letter I have just sent to the Board, the Superintendent, and the Summit K-12 community: I have had the honor of being Chair of the Summit K-12 Parent Group this year. Thank you, Summit, for the 9 years you have been in our lives, and to all the Summit staff, past and present, for giving of your best to my children. As it is the last day, I wish to thank the entire Summit community for pulling together to make this last year a good one for our children, and to take a moment to write some words to the Board, too, about our experience. My children and their friends - along with all of the Summit K-12 family that consists of teachers, parents, staff, students and alumni - have been grieving in various stages since September of 2008. The first grief was that which comes with knowing a move is pending. This was all too quickly followed by the grief that accompanies a loss - particularly a loss that could easily have been prevented. Unfortunately, insult was recently

Open Thread

Tomorrow's the last day of school. This year in the district is ending on something of an exhausted note, no? Beyond just getting your kid (s) through another year of school, we've had a pretty good rollercoaster ride with the district itself. But is there any rest for the weary? (I did see a few of you at the B52s last night so I know some of us know how to have fun.) I hope whatever happens this last day that it contains some fun (at least for the kids). Go home and play Red Light Green Light in the grass or watch a dumb movie or just have a ______(beer, glass of wine, Valium, prayer, yoga position, whatever floats your boat). Summertime is indeed my favorite time of the year and if I do manage to go someplace hot (and none of this "oh my God it's 80 degrees, it's hot" nonsense), I'll be happy. Do have a great summer.

Superintendent Recalls RIFed Teachers

The Superintendent has recalled 57 teachers. From the press release : Enrollment and program needs at schools result in the following categories of teachers being recalled: * 28 elementary teachers * 10 language arts high school teachers to replace a portion of the Pathways teaching positions that were eliminated (Pathways teachers support remedial programs for students not meeting standard on the WASL). * 8 language arts/social studies middle school and high school teachers * 4 teachers of elementary gifted education * 3 bilingual teachers * 4 science teachers

A Sad End for Meany

According to the Seattle Times , there was a melee at the promotion ceremony for Meany's 8th graders. From the article: "Graduation ceremonies at a Seattle middle school were interrupted Tuesday when two girls incited a disturbance and attacked an off-duty police officer, according to Seattle police. Dozens of police were called to Meany Middle School on Capitol Hill to quell the disturbance, delaying the event for about a half-hour, Seattle police spokeswoman ReneƩ Witt said. Police also arrested two girls, ages 14 and 15, for causing the stir. Both girls now face criminal charges. The 14-year-old faces felony assault of an officer and a trespassing charge, while the 15-year old could be charged with trespass and disruption of school activities, Witt said. The disturbance happened shortly before 6 p.m. at the school, Witt said, when the 14-year-old girl, who had been ordered to stay away from the school earlier in the year, showed up at the graduation and started makin

End of school update

I said I'd write here monthly about how we're doing with the transition from Summit K-12 to wherever we'll be next year. I think I'm behind. It's hitting me this week that this is the last week of our school. We're dissolving the Parent Group, supporting our children and the staff as best as we can, and grieving all at the same time as we're trying to plan for the coming year. The District has already painted over the name on our school...before the moving up ceremonies for our kids. They've also placed a muck board out front and had people with blueprints roaming the halls determining what will change before we're even out of the building. The overwhelming opinion I've heard so far is that the social Neanderthals downtown never did care about our school, and they wish they'd shut the only K-12 public school in Washington down years ago. I still haven't received an answer to the question of how my kids are getting to school half of

Two Big Amendments Proposed for SAP

Two huge amendments to the SAP for tonight's Board meeting, both from Sherry Carr. First one is about siblings. On page 6, delete the following text: - The transition plan will include procedures so entry grade siblings and older siblings have the opportunity to be assigned to the same school (which may be the new attendance area school) if requested. This does not assure assignment of the entry grade sibling to the older sibling’s current school. - If the parent/guardian indicates that the priority is to have the siblings attend the same school and space is not available at the older sibling’s current school (or for both siblings at any other schools requested), the siblings will be assigned to the new attendance area school. And insert the following: The issue of “grandfathering” incoming kindergarten siblings is not part of the Student Assignment Plan itself, but is an implementation issue. It is the Board’s desire to address “grandfathering” of incoming

Update: Thanks Everyone for Your Help

Anyone interested in weighing in about the SAP vote tonight? KING 5 news is looking for a parent whose child(ren) will be affected by this plan. That's not me so let me know if you are interested. Send me an e-mail with your phone number to: You need to be available today, probably by 2 or 3 o'clock (they will come to you to interview you). Thanks!

2009-2010 School Calendar Available

FYI, the 2009-2010 school calendar is up at the district website. First day of school is Wednesday, September 9th and the last day is Tuesday, June 22nd (we must be the latest running school district in the country).

City Council Town Hall (District/Board, take notes)

I attended the City Council Town Hall on Monday and folks, what an opportunity (for those 20 of us who showed up - I was very surprised). Seven out of the nine members were there plus Harium and Peter. The format was going to be to break into small groups to discuss one of three topics; Urban Forests, Excellence in Schools and Youth Violence. And guess what happened? We were such a small group that President Richard Conlin said, "Let's just talk as a group. We'll vote on which topics interest us and drop one if there is little or no interest." This NEVER happens at district meetings so I was amazed at how well they took note of how to make this meeting work best. As it turns out, it was a great meeting with lots of discussion (yes, we asked questions and - hold your breath - the Council answered them. Yes, it can be done). Interestingly, all the topics tied together in a fashion. There were people from the Ingraham neighborhood who said that the district c