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Showing posts from August, 2009

This Week at the School Board

As usual many interesting items on the agenda for the Board meeting on Wednesday. One is to sign off on the money spent on Rainier Beach High School upgrades. I have no quarrel with the money spent but I am on-board with Kay Smith-Blum's idea of making these items/powerpoints more understandable. The chart on the money spent at RBHS is almost unreadable and I'm going to waste somebody's time at the district tomorrow by asking them to explain it. Kay is right; it should be in plain English that anyone could understand (educational jargon not withstanding). One item of special note to me on RBHS improvements: "Building security improvements via new CCTV system." Now I get that RBHS may have more security challenges than Roosevelt but might the district throw us a bone and give us our first security system? Also, in tiny type under Calendar reminders was this: Board workshop on student assignment plan boundaries, Tuesday, October 6, 4-8p, Auditorium You

Got Your Calendar?

So I received my new school calendar and there are some interesting items in it. First, hate the new size. Kinda of awkward to handle. Second, theme anyone? Coming in at #1 (with a bullet and mentioned no less than 20 times): accountable/accountability. Number 2? "Improving services for our students in special ed, advanced learning and bilingual programs." Given how little information there is available on the website about what or how this is happening, the jury is way out on this one. Under Measuring Performance, page 2 "Every person employed by the District is accountable to contribute to our central goal of student achievement." Really? How are they held accountable? They sling that word around like hash at a diner and yet, who is ever really accountable? Three, is it me or does the text in this calendar have problems? It does not seem to be not well written. I also note a couple of items that are either confusing or incorrect. On the Family Engag

Seattle Joining Other Districts in Suing State

I heard this on KOMO-tv and it apparently came off the AP wire; Seattle is joining 29 other districts including Kent, Spokane, and Federal Way to sue the state to demand they pay the full cost of education. The trial starts tomorrow and is supposed to run for 6 weeks. From the AP story: "Attorneys for both sides say the economy will have little or no influence on the outcome of the non-jury trail, scheduled to begin on the first day of the school year for many district and to continue for six weeks of testimony in King County Superior Court before Judge John Erlick. Senior Assistant Attorney General David Stolier said both sides will be arguing its interpretation of a state Supreme Court ruling from more than 30 years ago in Seattle School District v. State that said Washington state must fully pay for its definition of basic education. "In some ways this case is a continuation," Stolier said. " Apparently, 45 out of the 50 states have sued their state gove

Times Weighs in on Equipment Questions

The Seattle Times had an editorial this morning (with a few surprisingly good comments) about the recent relevation that SPS seems to have quite a few items missed with some outright stolen. From the editorial: "This is a problem of weak inventory control and reporting systems. The district must adopt an attitude that their money is the public's money. Anything less shows breath-taking contempt for anyone who ever voted for a levy to buy school equipment." This is true no matter what. All the land, the buildings and the equipment in them are the property of the people of Seattle. The district wants to pass the next BTA which does have a number of equipment purchases in it. And, on the one hand: "Some of the thefts were not reported to state auditors, as required by law." On the other hand: "An internal auditor was hired two years ago to ensure the district complies with state auditing rules. State auditors say they are pleased with the improv

Martin-Morris Thread on Alts at Blog

Seattle Citizen let us know that Harium Martin-Morris has a thread at his blog about the Alternative Schools audit. Thanks for the update.

Are They Kidding?

(Update from KUOW on Friday) "A quick clarification on a story KUOW aired about a recent survey on building conditions in Seattle Public Schools. The survey showed a backlog of maintenance problems in many public schools, especially for schools built in the 1950’s and 60’s. Yesterday (Friday) we reported a school official as saying that money for preventative maintenance comes from levies. Money for preventative maintenance comes from state funds. It is levies that are supposed to help pay for seismic renovations in the Seattle public schools." (Updated with link to KUOW report.) I was listening to KUOW this morning and here comes the voice of reporter Phyllis Fletcher saying that the district has released a new report on SPS facilities. She explains that the reports says that the buildings built in the '50-60' are really going downhill fast. (Well, yes, they are very old buildings at this point.) That basic maintenance hasn't been done and well,

Put Them on Notice

There's been a lot of wondering outloud here; what can we do about the influence of foundations, in particular the Broad Foundation, in our district? We read about the disaster that was Broad's influence in Oakland and we know the deafening silence from the Superintendent about what her relationship is with the Foundation. She has expanded her relationship with Broad and now serves as a member of an Advisory Board. We have two current Broad residents (whom the Foundation expects the district to hire at the end of the year). We already have one former Broad resident who works for the district. The district is also paying the full salary for one SPS employee who has no ties to Broad (at least that I know of), apparently out of the goodness of their heart. Not. So I have told the Board that we need more transparency. I will e-mail all of them soon and see what replies I get. Additionally, I sent an e-mail to David Esselman who is an associate director at Broad's edu

Kent Teachers To Go on Strike

This article about the teachers' strike in Kent was in this morning's Times. There are, as of 11:17 am about 357 comments after the online article. That is a huge number of comments and most are that the teachers are greedy and the teachers' union is the problem for every problem in education. The district did offer a raise over a couple of years but the teachers are also asking for smaller class sizes. Eighty-six percent of the teachers voted to strike. Classes in Kent are supposed to start on Monday. Kent is the 4th largest district in the state and their teachers have never gone on strike before. From the article: "Michael Imbruglio, a chemistry teacher at Kentlake High, said he saw 150 students each day this past school year, compared with about 90 the previous year, when he taught in the Federal Way School District." So I'd have to check but Federal Way is likely the same size as Kent; that is a lot more students to be handling in a day (altho

Mel Westbrook interview on Publicola

The SoulNerd at Publicola , Sable Verity , interviewed Melissa Westbrook on school district matters. Part one of that interview appears here . You can read the whole interview on Sable Verity's site.

Musing and Melancholy

Maybe it's the passing of Ted Kennedy, maybe it's the end of summer (well, at least for our kids but when their summer is over, isn't ours?), maybe it's just personal challenges but I am feeling down for the count. (Say what you will about the Kennedys and their flawed lives - as if we are all living lives of perfect virture - they were a family that gave a lot to public service in America and that's no small thing.) Maybe it's the news from LA - how can one district declare both "it's out of our hands" and "uncle" all at the same time? How can they give up, really give up on so many kids and let the invisible hand of capitalism do a better job? Are competition and choice really the keys to great public education? It all feels like a dizzying experiment but one where the lab tube got dropped and all that is in it is slowly spreading out across the floor (the USA being the floor). In the end, who will win from this? Will it, firs

LA Schools to Outside Operators: Come on Down!

In a jaw-dropping (some might say defeatist) move, the LA Unified School district Board of Education voted to turn over 250 campuses to charter school and other kinds of private operators. This is about a fourth of the district's schools. The vote was 6-1. Here's an article from the LA Times. Those 250 campuses include 50 new multi-million dollar campuses. Why did this happen? "The premise of the resolution is first and foremost to create choice and competition," said board member Yolie Flores Aguilar, who brought the resolution, "and to really force and pressure the district to put forth a better educational plan." There you go - competition. A business model because we know that business does everything well and hence our great economy. The Gates Foundation and their Transformation plan initiative as well as their small schools within high schools are now national models, right? Education is a lot harder than it looks. "The vote occur

Concerns About the Alternative School Audit

Here is a letter from members of the TOPS community to the Superintendent and the Board expressing their concerns about the upcoming Alternative Schools Audit. Portions of this letter were presented as testimony to the Board at their meeting on August 19. I would be very interested in learning what response the group has received, if any. I believe that their concerns have merit and should be addressed. What do you think? August 17, 2009 Dear Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and President DeBell, Vice President Sundquist, and Directors Bass, Carr, Chow, Maier, Martin-Morris: We are parents of students who attend TOPS @ Seward K-8 School. After months of having our questions about the Alternative Schools Audit go unanswered, we recently sent the District two different Public Records Act requests and received documents from Joy Stevens on July 15th in response to our second, more detailed request. It is deeply disturbing that it requires legally-binding public disclosure requests

Unreported thefts

Here's a story from the Weekly on unreported thefts from Seattle Public Schools. The focus of the story and the focus of the State Auditor are on the District's failure to report the losses to the auditor. I think the greater concern is the District's failure to report some of the losses to the police. It smacks of collusion with the thieves.

M.A.P. 101

A question was asked about MAP (Measures of Academic Progress) , a new computer tool that students in grades K-9 will be using in 79 schools for assessments in reading and math starting this year. It will be used 3 times a year. Refer to my thread on the last School Board meeting for the latest updates from staff to the Board. The district will be discontinuing the district DRA requirement in grades K and 1, discontinuing the Edusoft math benchmark assessments in elementary and middle school, and discontinuing the PSAT in 9th grade. Here are some links and additional information. PDF overview Memo from Dr. Goodloe-Johnson to all principals From the SPS updates for the Strategic Plan: Districtwide assessments will allow teachers to consistently track student progress and use assessment data to provide personalized instruction. Information about student academic progress will be available to teachers more frequently and in a more timely manner. Progress made this quarter includes:

School Board Meeting Highlights

I realized that I never got around to talking about last Wednesday's SB meeting. These are just highlights and bits and pieces. one speaker pointed out that there was carry-over money from Title 1 that should have gone to Summit and Cooper (but now they are closed). Staff later tried to say that it couldn't have been used anyway but it seemed a lame excuse to me. a couple of speakers (one a teacher) about the need for teacher evaluation. The teacher said teachers themselves should be involved because "teachers know what makes a good teacher." A woman named Christine Chew from College Access Now spoke about their program which mentors high school students through the college application process. It was great to hear about this successful program in our schools (currently at Garfield and Franklin and hoping to expand to WSHS this year). Sixty students in the program applied for college; all got in. That's a 100% success rate. Director Chow mentioned the prog

Not As Clever By Half at KUOW (KUOW's Answer)

Not to drag this out but just so you know what KUOW says on the issue of Joel Connelly resorting to name-calling to make a point on last Friday's Weekday, I wrote to the station. Here's what Katy Sewall, the Weekday producer, had to say: "The name calling by Joel Connelly was regrettable – but it is an opinion round-table. We do not control their opinions, or the opinions of our callers. It is our right as listeners to solidly disagree. And as a producer, right for me to take note of what is working and what isn’t. " But that seems to say, in KUOW's opinion since it is an opinion round-table, anything goes. Good to know in case anyone ever wants to call Mr. Connelly, Ms. Balter or anyone else on the panel a name. I honestly wonder if someone called in and called Mr. Connelly say, a gasbag, if one the panelists wouldn't object. I bet they would. Also, Ms. Sewall and the host, Steve Sher, control the time that callers have. If I had been given the ch

Community Meetings

Wow! All of a sudden everyone is doing Community Meetings. From the Board Calendar section of the School Board meeting agenda: District II Community Meeting (Carr), Saturday, September 19, 8:30-10a, Greenwood Neighborhood Service Center (8515 Greenwood Av N) District I Community Meeting (Maier), Saturday, September 19, 10:30a-noon, Lake City Public Library (12501 – 28th Av NE) District V Community Meeting (Bass), Friday, September 25, 6-9p, Garfield Community Center (2323 E Cherry) District III Community Meeting (Martin-Morris), Saturday, September 26, 9:30-11:30a, Diva Espresso (Lake City Way & 80th NE) So, to be fair, Mary Bass has been doing her community meetings nearly every month for eight years. Harium has been keeping "office hours" at a Coffee House on about a monthly basis as well. But it is something to see Directors Carr and *gasp* Maier doing community meetings in September. I don't know what structure these meetings will take, but I presume there

Merit Pay is the Way According to the Times

The editorial board at the Times weighs in this morning (and I mean a heavy-handed weigh-in) in an editorial on the subject of merit pay for teachers. They imply that all threats of strikes would be gone with merit pay. Don't teachers sometimes strike over other things? "There would be room to discuss other workplace concerns that, let's face it, don't compel teachers to hit the pavement." And this: "We might actually get somewhere on education reform if the first word out of the gate wasn't money, particularly in a recession." First of all, it's always about money, teachers or no teachers. Second, this country, this district isn't moving forward on education reform because of teachers? Because that's the implication I read into that sentence. Their suggestions? "Professional standards for judging teachers ought to include not just test scores, but classroom observations and — taking a page from higher education — feedba

Race To the Top and Randy Dorn

This Tacoma News Tribune article had a letter from Randy Dorn about the Race to the Top money: From: Randy I. Dorn, State Superintendent of Public Instruction Re: Race to the Top money A recent editorial by The Everett Herald as well as a report by the League of Education Voters might have created some confusion that I want to clear up. Washington will be applying for Race to the Top money. The exact requirements needed to receive the money have yet to be announced. But, as I’ve said many times before, we are confident about our chances based on what we’ve heard from the U.S. Department of Education. While Washington voters have said no to charter schools, this state features many schools that are similar to the charter school philosophy, such as Aviation High School in Des Moines and the Tacoma School of The Arts. We have a system in National Board Certification that is more popular every year and rewards teachers for additional work. Our new data system tracks students b

Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire

I recently read a book I had meaning to get to for a long time. It is by a current 5th grade elementary school teacher named Rafe Equith who teaches in a L.A. school that is the second-largest elementary in the U.S. The book is Teach Like Your Hair's on Fire . Mr. Esquith has taught for 24 years. I had been a little suspicious that this was a charter school but no, it's a regular (albeit year-round) school in L.A. Here's a link to the school website and to Mr. Esquith's website . Jay Mathews of the Washington Post wrote about him and here's what he said: "I think he is the most effective, energetic and creative working classroom teacher in the country. Other great teachers have come close to his level and won some of the same awards. But they have left their classrooms to write books that become movies, or testify before Congress, or teach at better-paying universities or start new school organizations." Mr. Mathews explains it better than I cou

Updates from Around the District

Our friends over at the West Seattle blog report yet another principal change. Alki Elementary principal, Joanne Hill, is on leave and former Loyal Heights principal, Clover Codd, is coming on-board after her year of leave from Loyal Heights. No word from the district on how long Ms. Hill will be gone. The current principal at Loyal Heights was Cashel Toner but she has now moved on to Leshi and Wayne Floyd will be Loyal Heights' new principal. In 2007-2008, this was what Mr. Floyd was doing (from the School Beat newsletter): "Wayne Floyd, interim Principal at Cleveland High School, has been appointed to lead the District's implementation of the College Board EXCELerator schools as part of the Southeast Education Initiative, a program to ensure that schools in South and Southeast Seattle provide high-quality choices for students and families." It's not clear where Mr. Floyd was from 2008-2009. You can follow the trail with Jo Lute-Ervin who was principal a

Curriculum & Instruction Policy Meeting

I'm going to try to dash off a few highlights from this meeting (and hoping to get to the Board meeting later). Directors Chow, Martin-Morris and Carr were there, with Harium chairing the meeting. There were at least 8 staff there. The agenda included grading policy for giving credit to middle school students for high school courses curriculum alignment - delivery of a white paper textbook adoption and materials anaphylaxis policy (which I previously reported on so will skip here) math intervention; what was done over summer and plan for this year (I left so I missed this part The discussion did not stay in this order so I may skip around a bit. Dr. Enfield (our new CAO) started by saying that it had been a good day for principals with training on the integrated service delivery model for Special Ed and bilingual students. There was no fleshing out of this issue so I don't know what was done. Then Harium talked about fewer minutes with more Action items. Less of what he

Not As Clever By Half at KUOW

I actually have several other posts to write but something happen this morning that I wanted to share. First, I received a phone call from Mary Bass. She just wanted some feedback from me on what I think I'm hearing here and other places about her performance as a director. We arranged a time to speak later. Then, I'm listening the weekly news round-up on KUOW. I knew they would likely be talking about the primary election results so I was interested. There was Joel Connelly from the PI, Eli Sanders from the Stranger and Joni Balter from the Times. They were discussing how Joe Mallahan and Mike McGinn were behind the learning curve about being the mayor and needed to come up to speed. I decided to call in and see if I could mention that the same holds for the School Board candidates (as well as mention my discussion with Mike McGinn about his viewpoint about the schools). So they were more interested in the my conversation with McGinn and I explained that I talked to

BTA Web Site

The BTA (Buildings, Technology, Academics) levy now has its own web site . This less flashy, more blue collar brother to the BEX (Building Excellence) levy, pays for big ticket upgrades like HVAC, windows, roofs, but not for the high profile (and controversial) total renovations that BEX covers. That said, buildings fall into disrepair and get closed because the District doesn't allocate BTA money to them. Not only does BTA cover safety stuff like seizmic retrofits, but it also covers quality of life stuff like waterlines. Historically, BTA allocation decisions were made just like all other Seattle Public School decisions - based on internal politics. There has been an effort of late to find real reasons for the decisions. Now is the time for the jackals to fight over the dead antelope that is BTA III. Get in there and tear off a haunch for your building!

Transportation Thread

As requested; discuss.

Where Were They?

I attended the Board meeting last night (stayed until 8:30 but man, those chairs in the auditorium have got to be the worst ever designed). It was pretty sparse and I'd say there were equal numbers of staff to public. There was a lot of interesting discussion which I intend to write about in a separate thread, The Times had an editorial this morning about the people who ran for SB and made it to the general election. Half the editorial was spent slamming Mary Bass which, in the least, made it a very uneven editorial. Why not save the space and say, "Don't vote for her, she's no good." if that's all you've got. Below is the comment I posted online after the editorial: "I am a long-time activist in the district and write for the education blog, Save Seattle Schools. Just this week the Board started powering up back up from the summer hiatus with various committee meetings and last night, the first Board meeting in months. Mary Bass had t

Tentative Agreement for Teachers

Yesterday, the teacher's union, Seattle Education Association (SEA), and the Seattle Public Schools (SPS), reached a tentative agreement on a one-year contract. A summary of the agreement will be posted on the SEA web site next week and the full agreement (with the actual contract language) before the end of the month. Here are some key features: For all staff: BLT decision-making authority and seniority rights remain intact Two flexible use personal leave days The contract is for one-year, and a new contract will be bargained in 2010. For certificated staff: Learning Improvement Day (LID) restored A 1% pay raise The District's performance pay proposals have been removed The District's proposals for "flexible staffing" have been removed A $1,500 ESA national certification bonus All special education staff will get ten additional IEP hours For classified employees: Two additional paid professional development days (equal to a 1% pay raise) 201 and 220 day c

FYI

Please note that all Seattle Public Libraries will be closed from August 31 to September 7 because of budget cuts. From their website; No Library services will be available during the one-week closure. No items will be due and no fines will accrue. The last day to check out Library items or use the book drops before the closure is either Saturday, Aug. 29 or Sunday, Aug. 30, depending which library you use. Please call your branch for more information. No book drops will be open. Do not leave books and items outside Library locations during the closure. You will be responsible for theft, loss or damage to Library items left outside buildings. There is no need to return items during the closure because no items will be due and no fines will accrue. No access to the online catalog. You will not be able to search the catalog or databases, place holds on items, or check your Library record. No access to the Library Web site. No staff members will be working to maintain and troubl

I Stand (Semi) Corrected

So this issue of the Kay Smith-Blum's billboards was bothering me. I reported that in two places on her public disclosure information, she spent about $6500 on billboards. One reader said he had been told by the campaign that they were $1200 each. It seemed puzzling to me that she would report one thing and her campaign say another. After a bit of detective work, mystery (somewhat solved). The billboards were $1200 so that means there weren't just 2 but 10. Where they all are, I don't know except that clearly she didn't buy them to put them all in the Central district. So, in essence, she was already running for the general election in the primary. More power to her. I do find it hard to believe that she will run on just a website, some billboards and public appearances. (She is running a green campaign so no mailers or yard signs.) I predict we'll see some tv spots from her. It's also a good example of how much money to expect to be spent in this

School Board Meeting

Tonight is the first Board meeting in a couple of months. Pretty full agenda but only 10 speakers signed up (including me). As Charlie noted elsewhere, the Curriculum and Instruction committee (more on this later) meeting on Monday had 3 Board members, lots of staff and 3-4 parents/community members. Charlie was the only SB candidate there. I put that in my notes because here we have the Board starting up with work, work that affects many students (they talked about giving high school credits to middle school students and the high school curriculum alignment among other things). Wouldn't you think that would be something candidates would want to get up to speed on? I'll be interested to see how many candidates from yesterday's primary who are moving on to the general election will attend tonight's Board meeting (besides Mary Bass). Agenda items include: -Superintendent's report with a MAP update - the first public report by our new CAO, Susan Enfield, on

NCLB Opt out letters

Thanks to Deirdre at NE Cluster schools blog for the link http://www.seattleschools.org/area/eso/nclb_0910.pdf No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and School Choice Quick Overview – August 2009 WHAT IS AYP? If you got a letter saying that you can choose to send your child to a different school, it means that overall your child’s assigned school did not make Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) in gains in student achievement on the Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL). AYP is defined by specific state and federal requirements in particular predetermined categories. If a school misses even one of these categories, then it does not make AYP overall, even if the school as a whole has made gains. DO I HAVE TO CHANGE MY CHILD’S SCHOOL? Many people want to know if they HAVE to change their child’s school. The answer is NO, your child does not have to change schools – that decision is up to the parent or guardian. I WANT TO CHANGE MY CHILD’S SCHOOL. WHAT DO I DO? If you want to transfer your c

Open Thread

It's election day and we're selecting candidates to move on to the general election. Did you vote? Did you check out mayoral candidates stand on education (more than one had something about it at a website)? I have no real predictions for School Board just because of the squirrely nature of the SB elections. Based on reading multiple websites, I sense that Mary Bass' base is weakened and she may not make it out of the primary. However, she is also the incumbent AND is well-known in her district. I don't sense that Kay Smith-Blum has a big base in the primary and, despite throwing a lot of money out there, she may not make it. But voters may say, "Now for something completely different..." and go with her. Or with Andre Helmstetter or the soft-spoken Joanna Cullen. I do believe that if Mary doesn't make it, it will likely be Andre and Kay. In District 7, very hard to predict. I don't live in that area but am told that there were a lot of