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Thursday, October 08, 2009

The Cost of Mistakes

It is dawning on more and more people who read this blog (and, I hope, thinking parents everywhere) that a lot of the success (or even rollout) of the new SAP rests on the shoulders of voters.

Meaning, that the BTA III levy contains the money to fix up the 5 reopening buildings. Three are in the north end, 1 in QA and 1 in the SE. Viewlands and Rainier View would open later than the other 3 which are needed ASAP to deal with enrollment issues.

Yesterday, being a glutton for punishment, I attended another Work Session just after Tuesday's Work Session on the SAP. This one was for the levy. I have some fairly jaw-dropping and interesting news.

The jaw-dropping part is that the cost of fixing up these buildings has grown and they still need a final figure for Rainier View. The original "placeholder" figure in the levy budget for 5-6 buildings was $34.6M. It is now at $48M. As Director DeBell pointed out, it is the largest single component of the levy. The largest single component of a levy that is supposed to benefit schools across the district, that is supposed to be for big maintenance items on existing school buildings (among other things), is going to reopen old buildings that clearly are in horrible shape. Oh yes, and we get to pay more at Viewlands because it was heavily vandalized.

I'm not even sure where to start here.

First, yes, I know these schools need to be reopened.

Second, here are the figures for each building:

Sand Point - $7M, proposed functional capacity by 2015 - 250 with portables (it's a small building)
Viewlands - $11M, capacity by 2015 - 420 (they didn't put with portables but I think that has to be the case)
Old Hay - $7.5M, capacity by 2015 - 350
McDonald - $14.9M, capacity by 2015 - 370
Rainier View - $7.4M, capacity by 2015 - 305

Third, we are repairing buildings which are not great to begin with. RV and Viewlands and McDonald are almost not worth sinking that much money in but we are desperate. I almost think it would be better to lease space and rebuilt them, in a basic manner, under BEX IV. We are not just sinking a million to fix up a building but we are pouring MILLIONs into each building.

Fourth, again, levy money comes in chunks, not all at once like bonds. So, the very first money (and I'm not even sure we get $50M straight off) will go to repair these buildings. Everyone else in a building that needs maintenance gets to wait longer.

Fifth, the head of maintenance said at a Board committee meeting that they don't really do any basic maintenance. All they do is put out fires. So with the commitment of this chunk of money, we put out a huge fire (except that we are not enhancing worthwhile buildings, just making them usable).

Sixth, where is the so-called cost savings from closing buildings and getting bad ones off-line? We closed some schools last year but not many buildings. And now we are putting more buildings into the mix.

Accountability.

I have proof that the district knew there would growth in the north end several years ago. They knew and did nothing. Why? Maybe they thought it would be small growth and they could just get away with stuffing classrooms. Maybe they thought that a new SAP would shift south-end kids attending in the north back down to the south and there would be room. (Although not very many south-end kids go to elementary schools in the north compared to middle/high schools.)

I have no answers as to why the knowledge of north end need for capacity was not addressed before now.

I know that the district, even after the loss of a levy in the '90s, starting cutting back on basic maintenance. We now spend less than 1% of our General Fund on it. The BTA will NOT get us out of the hole. It's like putting your finger in a dike and now, bringing more bad buildings into the mix, just makes it worse.

So past Superintendents and Boards knew this was happening. You can go back to the Times or PI archives and read person after person saying, "Boy, we really need to address that backlogged maintenance." The first one I read was when we were at about $100M. We are now at $500M and counting.

You can say, "So what good is to blame? It's done." Very true. I guess I could do a public disclosure request to finger the Superintendent and Board members who started us down this path. I could do a timeline to see when and by how much the basic maintenance budget continued to shrink. And then we would all know.

I don't care. What I care about is to stop the bleeding. We CANNOT continue this way. Okay?

It has to stop and it has to stop here. We need to demand that the Board direct the Superintendent to raise the basic maintenance budget to 1% (really 2% but 1% would be a good faith move). We need to demand oversight on the BTA and BEX monies with a twice yearly accounting, in clear numbers of where the money is going.

Where to find the money? Well, as parent Meg Diaz points out in her fantastic analysis, certainly central administration. There are about 44 people at the headquarters who make over $100,000. I'm not even sure that's true for the City.

In the end, do we need fancy buildings? Do we need academic coaches and Broad residents? No. I can't tell you how many times in the last 3 days I have heard staff refer to consultants and other outside help. It needs to stop or at least pause. If we are bare bones and paring down, all we need are decent, safe buildings with good teachers and administrators to guide those teachers. We need to take away the big plans because with big overarching plans comes more staff and more outside help. I'm not saying don't have a vision or direction but pull back on it.

Otherwise, I am NOT voting for the levy. If this district needs a smackdown to get its attention, that's what it may take.

Einstein said that the definition of insanity is to keep doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results. By that definition, this district is insane.

(P.S. One other interesting bit of information at the Work Session. John Marshall is listed as "Essential interim - Emergency site". They also have Columbia down as being vacant for 3 years - tbd. Hmm.)

54 comments:

ParentofThree said...

Shock and awe.

SolvayGirl said...

Ditto...if this gets out to the general public, and I believe it should, there's no way the levy will pass.

Sue said...

The levy shouldn't pass. I never thought I would hear myself say that. This SAP won't work without it, I get that. But a concerted effort to fail the levy would have (obviously) far more impact as parents in this district than anything else we could do. Parents could ask for:

Opening Lincoln as a high school

Ensure the same number of AP classes, honors classes, band and music teachers in the south end high schools as there are in the north end high schools.

Reduce the number of coaches in the district by 40%

Reduce the number of administrators by 36%

Take the savings from that and put it into basic maintenance on the schools.

Release an audit of funds to the public each year.

Demand a seat on the school board for someone from the City Council

Write those into the levy bill, and then I would vote for it.

I am tired of the PTA's and the Seattle Council PTSA asking for our money and time to pass the levy, when, especially this year, we see how their is simply no accountability.

it is time for each school to say no to the levy, to the donations for the levy and to the Seattle PTSA as a whole, until the levy language gets changed.

Of course, I think every student should get their own pony too, but thought I would shoot for what would seem reasonable.

(Just my opinion)

Dorothy Neville said...

Same here. Although it will feel close to home and personal to know that I'm helping vote down the opening of new schools that are needed right in my backyard. (although I no longer have a school age child. that actually makes it worse, feeling like I am potentially hurting others and not affecting me. but if we don't stop the madness that doesn't help anyone.)

But I am in the heads must roll category here. If the district shows good faith in rolling some heads and cutting down to the bare minimum in central office, I will change my mind and vote for the levy.

44 people making over $100K? Add the cost of benefits and that balloons even more. Unconscionable.

Anonymous said...

I hear all of you, and I understand. But I'm conflicted. I have a child suffering the consequences of overcrowding in the NE, I have neighbors who can't get into the neighborhood school and have to drive past 3 or 4 other schools to go where assigned. As someone relatively new to SPS, all I know is that we need capacity up here and we need it now. Hard to vote "no."

I guess this is what they are counting on. That enough people will feel like I do, that voting "no" is cutting off your nose to spite your face. I don't want to reward failure and years of lacking accountability, but I don't want to vote against kids either. Sigh.

Sue said...

Lak 367, I hear you. I have kids in the north part of town, in the same situation.

I too am tired of overcrowded classrooms, kids who can't get in to their neighborhood school, and all that you mentioned.

But I just cannot continue handing this district my tax dollars when they won't clean house at the Stanford Center, when they won't audit themselves, and when they won't open a high school up here for crying out loud.

Unknown said...

Keepin'On: do we really need Lincoln as a high school? Now that the "plan" is out, I can't tell whether that is really needed (and if so, if it is the highest need). My understanding was that they wanted to house McDonald there until they can reopen the real McDonald. I am not arguing your point. I am just curious as to why you see "Lincoln as a high school" as a deal breaker at this point.
I agree with your "bring equity to the programs offered in North/South end," and I TOTALLY agree with the reductions in central district staff and the audit results. I say -- end ALL the consultants (including those busy standardizing high school LA reading, etc.), cut way back on coaches and administrators, etc.
I would not demand a city council person on the board -- as I am not sure what their agenda would be, and this board needs to be focused SOLELY on education and what district parents, students and taxpayers want (just my opinion, though). I think that maintenance ought to go up to 2% -- if not all in one year, then maybe in 2 or 3, but fast, or we just keep losing ground.

Phernie said...

It's interesting to consider that voting no on the levy could be a statement not only against the ineptitude and lack of district accountability with regard to building maintenance, but also a protest vote against the new SAP. Those unsatisfied with their new school assignments or lack of sibling grandfathering, for example, will have a new bargaining tool to engage the district.

ParentofThree said...

Does anybody think that they *just* realized Tuesday that they needed to re-open schools and that they need the levy money to do this.

No, they have known, but now are creating a panic/crisis among the voters to get the levy passed.

It is all perfectly timed and believe you me, the board is well aware of what they are doing.

SolvayGirl said...

I don't know how realistic it would be to have a City Council Member on the school board, but it definitely makes sense to have the city more acutely aware of what the District is doing.

When I moved to Seattle in 1993, the city was making all of the "Top" lists—especially as a place to raise a child. We haven't seen that placement in close to a decade. Quality public education is something that businesses consider when they are looking for a location for headquarters, etc. Those businesses bring in jobs, which bring in revenue, etc. I believe it would definitely be in the interest of the City Council to have more of an insider's view of how our School Board and the District staff interact. It certainly couldn't hurt.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Lak367, that is exactly what they will say. You vote against the levy, you are voting against kids. (Or, as Board member whispered to me when I came out against the BEX III list, "You're hurting kids."

I want fiscal responsibility. I want kids in good, safe buildings (which is part of education). I want basic maintenance done so that we DON'T end up letting things go and the repairs cost us double what they would have if we had kept up.

It is penny-wise and pound-foolish to keep on this road.

Chris S. said...

I'm with you, Melissa. I do have kids in very crowded NE schools, and even from a purely selfish point of view I don't see how this levy is going to help them. We're still going to be crowded for the next few years. The ones who should be voting yes in self-interest are parents of babies & toddlers, and they probably will. I actually think both current and future parents would benefit from voting "no" in hopes of a better-run district AND some additional capacity 5 yrs down the road.

Since WV=ventin I'll also say I have heard MGJ say so many times "I wish I could wave a magic wand.." I could p*k* and it seems that's all she ever does (presto! Cleveland is a STEM school BTW can we have 2.5M for computers) and obviously she's a SQUIB...

Charlie Mas said...

One thing that Keepin' On wrote I really like:

"Write those into the levy bill"

Let's have some accountability and let's have it by law.

Let's demand a levy that has a minimum commitment to basic maintenance written into it.

Let's insist that the District address safety issues first. Demand a levy language that prohibits spending on anything else before all of the waterlines are fixed, all of the mold and asbestos are removed, and all of the buildings are made earthquake safe.

wseadawg said...

Here is what will happen: The levy will fail, then the Board and Superintendant will cut the most visible and popular programs, to make is really suffer for cutting off their funds, just like Ron Sims always did when a tax cutting initiative passed.

Its petulant and snotty, and it's exactly what the princesses - male and female - in SPS will do if they don't get their way. Count on it.

Will we stomach it? Will we rally to throw the bums out, drive out the "consultantitis" infection spreading like gangrene throughout the district, stop wasting money on pet projects, etc., and actually demand money makes it into the classroom? Will we confront the Alliance for Ed and the BRT and tell them that, while we appreciate their support, we do not want them and their oligarchs who contribute about 2% of the entire budget to hold 100% sway over policy?

This will be a real big gut check for everyone who cares about real, free public education. Are we ready and willing to do what it takes? It will hurt in the short-run. Can we stand it? That's what we all need to ask ourselves.

wseadawg said...

Melissa: I hope you told that board member to burn in hell for using such a slimy, low-blow on you. I've heard so much feigned concern from them by now, I could vomit. Spare Me. Puh-Lease.

SolvayGirl said...

But isn't the BEX just about buildings and maintenance? They can't use program funds to repair/reopen buildings, can they?
Melissa: you are the BEX guru. WHat can they do in retaliation?

ArchStanton said...

I'm ready to vote No, if only to send a message. As for hurting the kids; if I'm not mistaken, they'll just come back with another levy if the first one fails. (They have in the past haven't they?) So, eventually, they'll get some money. Maybe we can get some accountability.

Dorothy Neville said...

Doesn't this deserve national press? A well established blog community of public school parents seriously discussing voting against, even campaigning against a school levy?

How often does that happen?

Before the last levy (which I voted against, in support of Melissa's view) I never thought I would vote against a school measure. Now, even though it may be very painful, I think I have to vote my conscience here and say no.

Anonymous said...

Thank God we have you to call the shots as you see them. Meg Diaz's report on the out of control spending in central administration is amazing, especially the apt comparisons with other districts. How do we make the board see it and act upon it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wseadawg, you make an excellent point because of one thing; you would have to be sure to tell people to vote for the Operating levy but not the BTA. Are people bright enough to get it? Can you help people separate the two enough to get what you want from BTA and yet protect the Operating levy? I'm not sure that's possible. Maybe for parents but not the general public.

However, since parents vote in large numbers AND we have simple majority, the split vote could carry the day.

SolvayGirl is right; operations is separate money from capital. However, if the operating levy failed, it would be terrible. And, yes, many programs would be cut and there would be a lot of teeth-gnashing and hair-pulling. We might see a takeover of the district by the City. Of course, just as it is advocated, if you really want to change a single school then you have to shake up the whole building, maybe the whole district needs a shake-up.

In the end, what needs to happen BEFORE any vote is lots and lots of pressure. Pressure from parents, from community groups, even from establishment figures saying, "We need safe buildings, we need accountability and we need it now. District, your move."

SolvayGirl said...

I believe that with the right amount of home-grown PR, we could get the message of the two very separate and distinct levies out to the general public—especially if we could get the PTSA and/or The League of Education Voters behind it. I've already sent an email to Phyllis Fletcher at KUOW to urge her to investigate all of this.

Melissa: Is the Levy carved in stone? Can the District
change it now to add in some accountability, etc.?

Sahila said...

Just be very, very careful here that you dont play into the hands of Broad et al, who advocate and push for city/mayoral control of schools, because then there will be even less parental/community engagement/influence and you will see even more public money going to private business...

I think heads should roll - the first one being Broad Board director and SPS Superintendent MGJ, who as well as failing miserably to protect the interests of SPS students, obviously is in a position of conflict of interest in holding her current position whilst being a member of the Broad Board, and for whose resignation from either position (to remove the conflict of interest) the SPS Board has so far failed to call.

(Is this current situation a covert plan to wrest control of SPS away from the community and into Broad hands - dont laugh - check out what's happened in other districts around the country)

And then threaten the Board with recall/legal action on the grounds of malfeasance/dereliction of fiscal/fiduciary responsibility unless there is a change in how things are being done at Admin, and a hold on all policy changes including the assignment plan, until parents/the community are fully engaged... we should push for the establishment of community committees on all major issues, with those community committees feeding back their findings to the Board for voting and implementation... we already know we cant trust the Staff to provide accurate, unbiased information...

It is time to hold them all accountable, it is time for some form of revolt, but be careful that you dont lose all influence altogether through unforeseen consequences...

Note: The term fiduciary refers to a relationship in which one person has a responsibility of care for the assets or rights of another person. A fiduciary is an individual who has this responsibility. The term "fiduciary" is derived from the Latin term for "faith" or "trust."

A fiduciary relationship exists with individuals who handle money or property for others.

Maureen said...

Have you all seen Meg Diaz's Powerpoint?
Central Administration Efficiency in Seattle Public Schools

Wow! Will be seeing that in the Seattle Times?

Her blog Dolce and Nutella is pretty great too (search for the Midwest Succotash and Garlic Chicken - yumm! and easy!).

Melissa Westbrook said...

SolvayGirl, as of this date, no the levy is not set in stone. That is because they are still hashing out, with the Board, the amount to ask and what, in theory, would get done with the money. I don't think you can necessarily put in the levy language the kind of accountability we are looking for. However, nothing stops the Board from enacting such requirements before the levy goes to the voters.

It would take some political will and courage. Does our Board have it? Will the new Board (which will be in place by the time the levy goes to voters) do it?

ArchStanton said...

Have you all seen Meg Diaz's Powerpoint?

Wow! Nothing like some clearly presented charts and graphs to paint a clear picture. Props to Meg Diaz.

I'd love to see that made widely disseminated.

Shannon said...

I know this is very shocking to everyone who thinks about these issues and is willing to process numbers BUT The Public is pretty complacent and I think the issue needs to be made much more concrete and critical to attract support.

To your readers, its a widespread issue - part of a pattern of mistaken priorities, entrenched philosophies and critical missteps. However, few people share that big picture. To them, the big picture is their children's future.

AS a test I explained the facts to my husband whose understanding of public school is that we send our kid there.

His response?
"You can't say you can't have the money because you are incompetent. You have to say you can only have the money with strings attached otherwise you are just hurting your kids."

Even when I explained that there was no way I knew of to change the wording... he felt that these managers are not primarily responsible for the past indebtedness and trajectory.

He did say he would vote for a new school board - none with anything to do with the current status and would REQUIRE a basic % to maintenance.

I think that demand is a strong one. Everyone knows that if you don't patch a leak it gets worse and it is easy for homeowners to relate to that.

ArchStanton said...

His response?
"You can't say you can't have the money because you are incompetent. You have to say you can only have the money with strings attached otherwise you are just hurting your kids."


To which I would respond: "We are already hurting the kids by letting this go on."

It seems an appropriate analogy might be the choice between continuing to enable a cancerous tumor to continue to grow and spread in order to avoid the pain and discomfort of the treatment necessary to be rid of it.

Which do we fear more? The cancer or the treatment?

Jet City mom said...

this gets more and more surreal- I think Tom Hanks has already done the Money Pit and we all know how much the SSD stays on budget-figuring we are going to be spending at least $2,000+ per child each year just on the space- (& that is if the building stays open for 20 years), but I know the area has many strong local actors- that ought to save us some dollars.

I hear people saying they can't get into the neighborhood school- we bought our house because it was three blocks from the neighborhood school- but the district plan has children taking the bus to the next neighborhood instead.

I also know that we ( the district) have been careless with other peoples money- close one building, don't take care of it- oops.

We just have a levy to pay for our mistakes- handy eh?

After all this is an affluent area- we are all dying for a way to " give back".
^( sarcasm- incidentally)

Anonymous said...

Hold on everyone.

Let's all take a deep breath and think about this.

Let's not cut off our nose to spite our face as my mother would say. Voting against a school levy is not the answer.

We are in desperate need of funds to make our schools earthquake safe, free from mold and handicap accessible. Many of our schools could crumble from an earthquake at 5.0 or greater, our children are breathing mold infested air from ventilation systems that have not been cleaned in years and there are children struggling to open doors and safely use a sink because our schools are not up to handicap code.

My daughter now sits in a building where I know that the glass above her in a skylight could shatter and bring shards of glass pouring down on her and others if there was an earthquake. We live in a seismically unsafe zone, the same zone as San Fransisco and Los Angeles.

Those levy funds need to go into the buildings that are unsafe and in desperate need of repair.

The NEXT levy can be for opening new buildings. Does the cost of opening these other seven buildings include upgrading to today's earthquake code standards? I doubt it.

DeBell always knew that there was overcrowiding in his area. Now he wants to take the funds that have been allocated for all of the other schools, the schools that the rest of us are concerned with, to take care of his schools? I think not.

Who were the people who approved the cost overruns for Garfield High School? I was in the lunch area on Tuesday evening and was amazed at the space. The light fixtures cost at least $3,000 each (they were custom designed and manufactured), and that would be on the low side. The space looked like a stage set out of a 50's frothy musical with Fred Astaire dancing his way down the gracefully curved staircase.

Many of us told the board during the school closure debate that everything did not have to happen at once. The edict came down so fast that no one really had time to consider the ramifications of the closings and moving around of programs. Now we know that everyone needed more time to consider the pro's and con's of such a decision brought down by our superintendent.

We need to slow down again and clearly look at what is truly needed, get a perspective and set priorities.

Secondly, as Sahila noted, this is exactly the type of situation where the Broad will come in and save the day with mayoral control, merit pay and charter schools. It happened in Oakland (where they finally kicked them out), San Francisco (where they decided not to let them in), Los Angeles, Chicago and New York. When an urban center becomes cash strapped and there is so much chaos that no one knows what to do, you will find that these "venture philanthropist" organizations will step in and take control, setting up franchise charter schools. (See

http://seattle-ed.blogspot.com/

for additional information.)

Let's not let that happen here.

We can control what happens in our school district. We as parents, teachers and students need to use the power that they have to determine our own destiny and that of our children.

Maybe a council of schools made up of parents and students (for the alternative high schools) representing each school could be established where we could hammer out priorities, have these discussions and come up with resolutions. We, as parents, need to work together to handle these "crisis" that seem to be continually coming up by way of the superintendent and her staff.

another mom said...

Melissa,

Thank you for the post. This has been bugging me for a while. They should be worried indeed. This information will get beyond this blog. " You will hurt children," is neither a defense nor a good campaign tactic.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Dora, I respectfully disagree.

One, the Board cannot and will not wait for the next levy to reopen buildings. The need is now whether or not it hurts other buildings.

Two, the failure of the BTA levy will not cause chaos. The failure of the operating levy would. We're not advocating that.

Three, I don't think Broad or anyone else could step in. Why? Because this would be a choice that the voters made, not the district. I don't want to wait until the district gets to the crumbling point. I want, as a parent and a voter, to step in now and stop it. We need to show the district administration AND the city (and that includes the two mayoral candidates) that parents DO care and we DO wield some power in our district. The only power we have is our vote.

We could not create a council of schools fast enough. There is too much churn going on in the district to pull that together, in my opinion.

What we, as parents and voters, have on our side is the truth. It is an ugly truth but to keep silent just because we want the money is to buy into how the district is being run (at least from the facilities side).

I was the cheese who stood alone at the last BEX election. It wasn't fun then and it won't be fun now. But I won't stand silently by.

another mom said...

The state law will need to change before we see charter schools. Initiatives to allow charter schools have been turned down by state voters multiple times. Seattle will have a new mayor very soon; he will be very preoccupied learning how to run the city. I seriously doubt either candidate wants to take on the schools and then give them away to a venture philanthropist.

Demanding accountability by voting NO on the capital levy is the strongest message a voter or parent can send. Meg Diaz beat them back with their own data not once but twice. They do not listen.

If the success of the new SAP is important to the current Board and Sup,they need to begin tackle a half billion dollar maintenance backlog, oversight with twice yearly accounting of how/where the money is going, and stop taking for granted that the taxpayers will keep the money coming. I am with Melissa, it is time to stop the bleeding.

Sahila said...

Be careful.... you just watch taxpayers react to this with a demand that someone capable take over the District; they'll bitch but not do anything when you're messing with boundaries, but when you show up this colossal financial screw-up and ineptitude you just watch people who dont know about Broad/Gates et al - some of us are working on a map of where Broad has infiltrated into school districts and communities all over this country - being manipulated into calling for a mayoral takeover of schools, and joining campaigns to get a pro-charter vote through; its just happened in Los Angeles - Broad-connected Mayor and parent groups indirectly supported by Broad money, pushing hard for the School District to turn over 250 public schools to charter organisations, most of which are backed by Broad and its affiliates...

WV = unloud.... kinda ironic...

TechyMom said...

What about an initiative? Would it work to create an initiative, separate from the levy, that requires the recommended % of the budget be spent on maintenance? (was it 2% or 4%?). Maybe add a premium to take care of some of the deferred maintenance? Would it be legal? What about requiring in that initiative the reduction of coaches and central admin staff by a significant amount 30-40%), enough to bring it in line with Tacoma or Anchorage, to pay for the new maintenance budget? Any lawyers out there?

TechyMom said...

An initiative could even specify the central admin dollars per student spending, and limit it's growth to the rate if inflation.

Meg's charts may not impress the board, but I bet they'd impress voters.

Anonymous said...

Mike Finn is talking about mayoral control of our school system. Fortunately, Callahan is not.

There are lobbyist in Olympia now according to a column by Dick Lily who are speaking to our state representatives about charter schools. Several of us will be going to Olympia as well to lobby against charter schools and for the No Child Left Behind money because of our alternative school programs that we have in Seattle.

The Broad is here in Seattle, there is no doubt about that and their agenda is charter schools. All it would take is a mayor open to taking control of our schools for the Broad to step in and save us all.

See:

http://articles.latimes.com/2006/jul/15/local/me-broad15

http://news.newamericamedia.org/news/view_article.html?article_id=9d63e10ab93741e115e9364fecf29b77

http://purereform.blogspot.com/2009/05/broad-foundation-influence.html

It is the chaos theory. (Read the introduction to "The Shock Doctrine" by Naomi Klein.)If the public comes to think that SPS and the school board can't manage our schools, then they will consider mayoral control of our schools.

Arne Duncan is pressuring our states using the $5B Race to the Top funds to have charter schools in every state.

See:

http://www.blackagendareport.com/?q=content/send-clowns-3-stooges-gingrich-sharpton-duncan-hit-road-corporate-%E2%80%9Cschool-reform%E2%80%9D

As for levy funds, as you stated previously Melissa, it would be a difficult campaign to inform the public about the two different levies that they are to vote on. If these levies don't pass then where will we be? What would that look like?

Melissa, you are right, there is not enough time to form a Parent Council now but out of such situations very positive things can happen. The more I think about a Parent Council, the more I like it. Maybe that could be discussed at a later date.

Fortunately this is a place where people can agree to disagree. I think that there is a way to handle this situation without putting off much needed building upgrades. What about the rainy day funds? What about setting a list of priorities on which buildings need to open now and which can open at a later date?

Jet City mom said...

I have a question for the district regarding buildings and their function.

My kids as well as many others in Seattle attended have private schools for at least part of their preK-12 education.

Schools that were housed in former city print shops- in buildings that housed Catholic schools in the 1960's, actually several schools that shared space with religious organizations on the weekends and temples/churches don't generally put money into the buildings outside of the initial construction- so the buildings were functional- but you have to be creative with space in order to get the most out of it.

Still some of the private schools have admission rates lower than Ivy league universities- it is obvious that education that people will pay thousands for doesn't have much to do with the space.
( Although I will take the old Garfield over the new Ballard building 24/7 & hasn't Chris Jackins et.al. been trying to tell them this for over a decade?)

So why are we so loose with our budgeting?



I would agree we need to open some shuttered buildings- but I think we need an outside company to manage the buildings- people that know what the heck they are doing and will maintain them as well as provide security so the taxpayer owned buildings are not trashed and so they are also accessible after hours to the communities that support them.

There are more high school students in the area around Rainier Beach than almost any other high school according to some interpretations of district data ( and why does it vary so much depending on which dept you get it from?)- The building at least from the outside and the athletic facilities/theatre ( which is what I am familiar with), is fine, so why are all these students going someplace else?

Give me the $2,000 a year that it would cost per child to reopen one of the elementary schools- I will put it toward maintenance on my 102 yr old house & I will shut up about facilities.

Dorothy Neville said...

The more I look at maps, the more I contemplate how the boundaries for Eckstein and Ballard seem too generous, the whole Sandpoint Elementary weird border to include as much of the low income housing in the area as possible, sparing Laurelhurst and Bryant from disruption while reducing their FRL numbers... (see my comments on Harium's blog about that.)

The more I think about this, the more I think that it's calculated to appease the maximum amount of voters and minimize the chances that there'd be an uprising and backlash against the levy.

SolvayGirl said...

I agree with EmeralKity...
My child went to private MS and is now in a private HS (rather than Aki/RBHS).
Neither of her private schools has fancy facilities. At the MS, many of the classes took place in portables (nice ones though), and her high school is in an old SPS building that was sold. It has had some renovation, but it is nowhere near the palace that Garfield or Roosevelt is.
What both schools do have is GREAT teachers and academic/arts offerings.
Why is SPS spending so much money on the outsides and NOT the insides?

Sahila said...

Melissa, I dont think we should stay silent... I think we should shout this from the roof tops, but I think we should be careful about what action we take with that shouting...

Dont take action that allows other groups/interests to step in and take control...

We need some legal advice about what we can do vis a vis MGJ and the Board... about forcing them to pause with this agenda, about forcing them to confront and explain these discrepancies and mistakes, about forcing them to include the community at every step, from this time forward....

I think a Parents Council is a good idea (beware from where we get support for this idea and who we link up with, as other 'parent/community' groups already are tied in to Broad/Gates)...

We should get together as a community, commit to some basic values and goals and then come up with a plan to pressure the Board to ditch MGJ, to call Staff to account and to truly partner with the community to determine what change really is necessary...

I have repeatedly said to Harium that the Board ought to be using the expertise and resources we parents (in arguably the most educated city in the country) have to offer, and to slow down... there is no need for this breakneck speed...

Anonymous said...

Sahila, I like the idea of a Parent Council because as you said, we have people who are well educated in related professions who could bring much to the table. I know attorney's, architects, analysts such as our illustrious Meg Diaz, accountants, educators and other experts who are parents also and can provide different and creative solutions to the challenges that we face. Parents who do not have an expertise in particular areas would also be of tremendous value to a council because of their perspective on how their children are doing in a particular school or setting. We need to advocate more strongly for our children in an organized manner that would provide us with the power to impact how our children are educated and the physical environment that they are in.

The school board is not doing this and neither is our superintendent. I think that we need a balance of power and that should be with us, the parents.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Okay, you get a Parent Council together, air grievances and present the Board with a draft plan. Then what?

TechyMom said...

Maybe that Parent Council could draft an initiative?

Charlie Mas said...

The simple facts are these:

The superintendent and the Board are the people making the decisions.

Neither of them give a damn about what you think.

They will go ahead and do what they want to do without any regard for your input, your opinion, or even the facts as you see them.

So what you think doesn't matter. Not at all. Not now, not ever...

UNLESS

you can make them care about what you think.

The only way that you can make them care about what you think is if you can interfere with their ability to do whatever they want. The only way you can do that is with your vote.

Your vote on the levies.

Your vote in Board races.

Your vote on any initiatives to dictate elements of the School District budget.

Everything else is whistling in the wind.

reader said...

You forgot about:

You can sue them if a law has been broken or a civil right has been violated.

reader said...

... unfortunately, that is usually the most effective way to have a voice. Also the most expensive.

Anonymous said...

Regarding a Parent Council:

We become the watch dogs.

We become a more unified voice.

We lobby our city and state representatives as necessary. The board and the superintendent might not listen to us as individuals but they will listen to others in higher office.

We speak to the press on issues as a unified voice.

There are a lot of small groups of parents here in Seattle and most of us have similar agendas.

This council will not develop just for one immediate purpose and then dissolve, but would continue and grow. It's one thing to discuss information on this blog and others, and this information is important, through knowledge comes power, but it's another thing to organize and use what we have to make the changes that we need.

Sahila said...

http://blogs.seattleweekly.com/dailyweekly/2009/10/the_costly_seattle_schools_shu.php

Not sure if this has been posted elsewhere... apologies if it has...

with thanks to Dora Taylor and Sue Peters and Meg Diaz for the many, many hours spent in gathering information about what's really going on and making it available for the rest of us...

That's not to discount the work of all the other watch dogs and truth-tellers in this community...

But what I like about this work here, is that the light is being shined on the lie, for all to see... and it will be interesting and instructive to see how MGJ and the District handle/try to spin their way out of this...

Charlie Mas said...

I tell you what. Let's put it to the test. Go to the community meeetings. Go to Board Director's community meetings. Get meetings with the Board and the District Leadership. Write to them. Call them on the phone. And tell them this:

"It appears to me that the District leadership doesn't give a damn about what the community thinks, doesn't give a damn about what the community wants, and doesn't give a damn about what is best for the students. Instead, you all appear to be working for your own political or idealogical ends."

They will insist that you are wrong. But you can ask them to name any instance when the desires or priorities of the community outweighed the desires or priorities of the staff.

Not with the Denny/Sealth relocation.

Not with the blown budgets on capital projects

Not with the relocations of schools (Van Asselt, APP, NOVA, S.B.O.C., etc.)

Not with any of the dozens of unfulfilled commitments to students and families

Not with the explosive growth of the central administration

Not with the delay in re-opening schools in the north

Not with the failure of the Southeast Initiative

Not with the missed deadlines of the Strategic Plan

Not with the failure to maintain buildings and the explosive growth of the backlog of needed repairs

Just when, exactly, have the desires or priorities of the community outweighed the desires or priorities of the bureaucrats in the John Stanford Center?

Melissa Westbrook said...

What's hilarious is that I missed the lack of alignment between the Denny region and the Chief Sealth region (someone here did point it out and it just didn't register so good catch). Why are we spending so much effort and money to co-join these schools only to break off some of the Denny kids to go to West Seattle?

Charlie Mas said...

Wow! A capacity of only 250 at Sand Point?!?

That won't do. Is there room for growth?

Dorothy Neville said...

Charlie, as Melissa pointed out somewhere, the Functional Capacity of Sandpoint will be 250 and that includes four portables.

mkd said...

The cost to maintain the painted bricks at Garfield was discussed at length during the recent school board candidate debates. However, the lack of enough text books (some classes have not) at Rainier Beach only emitted promises "to look into it." I guess they still are because nothing has changed. In addition to no books, I wish they would have addressed also addressed RBHS overcrowded classes, sometimes exceeding forty students, big enough that "rowdy" students feel comfortable acting up without consequences. And what about the adults learning alongside freshmen and sophmores?

BL said...

Melissa,
I'm with you on this one--I'm ticked.
Last year, based on enrollment projections, MG-J was desparate to take capacity for 2,000 students off-line. And, of course, all that capacity management work resulted musical principal assignments absent of appropriate community involvement. (Would Discovery Math have gotten pushed through if the exhausted board had not been pulled through the wringer over school closures?)
Now, only months later, we are told they need to reopen buildings to create needed capacity for 1,600+. Undoubtedly, the game of musical principals will follow.
I think something very fishy is going on here. Sure, I get that (aside from Van Asselt and Rainier View--What's that about?) the closed and reopened buildings are in different parts of town, but I imagine that programs like Summit and AS#1 could have been moved South and capacity could have been managed through transportation rather than closures and openings.
I know, I know, water under the bridge, but this whole thing makes me angry and very suspicious.