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Sunday, August 30, 2009

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 Engagement and Community Page it says:"Review this calendar and mark the dates for family events, holidays, breaks, early dismissals, and student assessments or other required testing."
I know that students don't have to take the WASL (or whatever we are calling it this year). I don't know if the MAP is "required" either. It seems a little push to make parents believe that testing is required when it is only in high school.
  • There was also this on the same page:
"Learn the protocol on school/classroom visits and parent-teacher conferences."

Where is the protocol written down? Maybe some schools do put out guidelines on how they want to see parent interaction at schools. I never got that memo.
  • And this under Fiscal Responsibility:
"Tough decisions on school closures will allow us to save $50M over five years in capital and operating expenses."

I would like to see the data and spreadsheet on that estimate. I know they are including not having to remodel very bad buildings but hey, they still have to maintain them.
  • They also include a brief MAP overview; it looks like it will be done in Sep-Oct., January and April-May. Hmm, I checked the calendar thinking that the April-May time would run into the WASL and guess what? WASL for grades 3-8 is "tba". I'm guessing that is because the state isn't sure what it is doing yet. The schedules for the high school WASL are in the calendar.
  • Looks like the new Student Assignment Plan will be continuing early registration for K, grade 6 and grade 9 starting in Oct.-Nov. There is also a bit of hedging because it states:
"...is being phased in beginning with some assignments for September 2010."

I thought the whole thing was a go for 2010.
  • It states that they will measure progress against goals and introduce a districtwide performance scorecard. School-specific scorecards will follow next year.
  • Under Change in School Hours, it states that all K-8s start at 8:20 a.m. I hadn't heard this as a final decision but it seems fair.
  • On the page talking about PTA it states:
"...members served on advisory councils and education teams, raise funds for special projects..."

If only we raised funds just for "special projects" and not desks and carpeting.
  • Last interesting item:
Under the address listings, there is one that is called Alternative/Non-traditional. The only "alternative" school listed is Thorton Creek, everything else is "non-traditional". Every other school that would be considered alternative is listed under K-8 with no notation as if every K-8 were just regular ed. Additionally, it is noted which schools are Montessori (but not in the address listings) but not which schools are foreign language immersion.

12 comments:

Anonymous said...

I didn't read the calendar as closely as you did, but I also dislike the new size. I don't see any benefit to it -- the calendar boxes actually seem a little smaller than the old style and are largely taken up by the huge numbers. On a quick glance-hrough I didn't see any new, important information. So why use more trees and ink?

The old style has been in use since at least 2000, and it has worked so well (for me, at least). I appreciated the addition of pages for the summer months a few years ago and in my opinion it didn't need any further changes.

adhoc said...

Why the huge numbers? It makes the calendar useless to me as I can't write in the boxes.

As far as I'm concerned they could have just sent out a flyer with important dates and new info. on it and saved a ton of money.

Seattle Ed said...

I want to see the breakdown on how they figured SPS would be saving $50M by closing school buildings last spring.

I still haven't seen the breakdown that DeBell asked for on the backup for determining the rif's. The original numbers for that decision was based on old data and not the updated information that was provided by our SPS' demographer.

The updated information provided by the demographer in a board meeting held in late spring showed an increased enrollment of 1,200 students. 1,200 students more than originally anticipated. The determination of the rif's was not based on the demographer's information that was presented in the same meeting when Don Kennedy presented his rif information.

DeBell asked if the rif numbers were based on the demographer's new information and Mr. Kennedy said that no, the rif numbers were not based on the new information but that he would have that information to the board in the next meeting. I went to that financial meeting, but no additional information was provided. In the following board meeting, there was no additional information provided by Mr. Kennedy.

Because of what I have seen in a brief period of time, I am leary of numbers provided by SPS on anything including something as critical as how much money was saved on moving students and closing schools.

There is a minus column and there is a plus column when figuring out savings on buildings. I want to see both sets of information. I want to see a breakdown.

What we know is that for this year's budget, we saved $5M in the closing of schools and the relocation of programs. That's nothing compared to the budget shortfall that Mr. Kennedy says that we have and doesn't include the cost of upgrading buildings to make them ready for programs such as SBOC and Nova.

I agree Melissa, transparency is needed with these numbers.

Unknown said...

Note that the lunch menu is now part of the calendar. Last year, the lunch calendar was separate. That, I believe, is what drove the new size. I too don't like it and just spent a few minutes cutting the whole thing apart.

add said...

One thing I DO like is that there has been a change to the November parent-teacher conference schedule for Elementary and K-8s. Now, instead of the week and a half of 2-hour early dismissals, there will be NO CLASSES for students the Mon-Tue-Wed before Thanksgiving break. Conferences will be scheduled on those dates. So much better in my opinion!!

Anonymous said...

I noticed that there is a room number after my daughter's name on the mailing label, which corresponds to the grade that she is going into. Guess I don't have to wait until Thursday to find out who her teacher is next year! :-)

h2o girl said...

I am thinking that the K-8 start time is missing something - if you look at the end times there is an hour range; I believe the start times should have an hour range as well. As far as I know, Salmon Bay is still starting at 9:10. We have an orientation on Thursday evening, I will find out then.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I actually put in a call to Transportation about why the time for K-8 start in the calendar is different from what the website said. They didn't seem to grasp the importance of this and I was told,"We don't have anything to do with any calendar." I did call Communications which told me they would have Mr. Bishop in...Transportation call me.

The thing is that the website,both the SPS and individual school sites, seem to have the right start times. But, every single parent or guardian in this district gets the calendar. Do they read it? Who knows? I'd bet the K-8 schools are getting calls.

At any rate, this is proofreading, pure and simple. On something like start times, they can't get this right?

add said...

There is also a discrepancy on the paper calendar and the SPS website calendar with regard to those November 23-25 Parent-Teacher Conferences. The paper calendar very clearly says (twice) that elementary and K-8s are CLOSED for conferences while the website just says "P-T Conferences" and does not indicate "no school". I sent a message to the District Communications office and asked them to correct that.

h2o girl said...

Ah yes, proofreading, a lost art it seems. (And not just with SPS of course!) If you look at the paragraph under the start times, it says to find your specific school go online to the pdf of the times on the transportation section of the district website. However the pdf url listed says "proposedtranstimes." I went to find it and saw that there was also a pdf with "approvedtranstimes." Not sure if there are differences, but wouldn't you think they'd direct people to the approved times rather than the proposed ones?

h2o girl said...

Oh and I'm still waiting for my kid's bus route and time info - has anyone else received theirs?

TechyMom said...

You can get your bus info by calling the transportation office during business hours and talking to a human. Why the automated system doesn't have the same data the human does is beyond me (yes, I know, they're separate systems and someone has to port the data... who designed THAT?!?!)