So you've had the primer on BEX and BTA. So let's get specific on the BTA and what it will and will not do.

First, some flyer corrections/omissions (some of these given to me by Schools First).

1. Front page under Operations Levy. Voters have not supported the levies every three years "since 1976". There was a gap in the early '90s for capital.
2. Top of page 5 under Technology: the amount for STEM technology was left off - it's $1.1M (or was on the preliminary list)
3. Same page, under Core 24 graduation requirements. It says " needed to support new state graduation CORE 24 requirements." That should be PROPOSED new state graduation requirements. CORE 24 isn't law and it's in danger as a bill. Rep. Sharon Tomiko-Santos of Seattle doesn't want it and is fighting it.
4. Page 6 - Meany/Nova enhancements. Odd but SBOC is also in that building. Why wouldn't they be mentioned?

General points:

How the levy breaks down. In simple terms, according to the levy flyer, it's like this:

$270M total, of which
$140M is Buildings
$ 34.9 is Technology
$94.6M is Academics (which is a loose term because it covers a lot)
  • this BTA gets us little in reducing in the nearly $500M maintenance backlog. It attacks maybe 10-15% of it. And remember, maintenance just keeps coming.
  • This BTA would likely do more maintenance for more schools except that (1) the district is bringing 5 schools back into the "open" category and (2) they are spending large amounts for fewer schools and (3) the district has chosen to put money into items that have nothing to do with maintenance (and that doesn't make them bad choices but hard to understand at some level given our maintenance issues).
So let's break out where the money is going (not line by line but with more specifics). As I go through, I'll contrast the preliminary list with the flyer list (because things have changed and I called this to Harium's attention and he didn't know how much things had).

First the "B" Buildings portion of the BTA at $140M.

The real total available for buildings is $108M. The other $32M is for Construction Escalation (calculated as 4% per year for 6 years) which is around $30M and Capital Program Costs (BEX IV planning, election costs, delinquent tax collections) which is around $2M.

So what gets done for $108:
  • $18M for "major preventive maintenance and paintings of buildings" Now this could not have happened in previous BTAs as the state law did not allow painting of certain types to be done under capital levies but the law was changed recently. The state expects that the districts would take care of their basic maintenance under their operating budgets. (And indeed, that is where our maintenance money resides, in the operations budget, but the district doesn't say that in the levy flyer. Not even a mention.) Oh yes and when I asked the head of maintenance about it, he didn't know it was there and had nothing to say. Seems strange no one would let him know so he could start planning.
  • Roof replacement and seismic diaphragm (paneling under the roof structure): $10.7M for 11 buildings. Under the preliminary list this was slated for $17M and 17 buildings. So those other buildings don't need new roofs now? Also there is a bit of confusion because Montlake was on BTA II for a roof and it's here again. Ditto, Washington. Ditto Salmon Bay.
  • Fire suppression/sprinklers/ADA/life safety: $15.5M for 17 projects at 15 buildings. The difference here is on the up side: it was at $12M for 11 buildings on the original list.
  • Seismic mitigation: $13.2M for 3 buildings. The original was for $17.8M at 7 buildings.
  • Energy efficiency and green projects: $27.7M for 6 buildings. This one is quite problematic. The original discussion at the Board Work Session was about trying to do some green projects at schools that needed work but wouldn't be eligible for a BEX redo. (These are John Hay, Olympic View, West Woodland, Adams, Leschi and Muir.) The green roofs and underground heat pumps would cost roughly 3x what a regular redo would. It was stated that the district wouldn't see savings for at least 10, 15, 20 years depending on what kind of green project they did. Several of the Board members felt 15 years out was too much given the cost. Harium told me that he felt there had been some push back from the Board on this issue. The price on the preliminary list for roofs and heat pumps for these 6 schools was $21.6M which seemed like a lot given all our maintenance needs.
So now it's $27.7M for 6 buildings just for heating - 3 underground heat pumps and 3 high efficiency boilers. That's a heck of a lot of money for just 6 projects and they are not even doing roofs. So if you are keeping count, that's 6 roofs taken off the roof replacement list and now add these 6 roofs and that's 12 roofs that were on the original list that now won't be done. That's a lot of schools that the district thought needed a roof
repair/replacement and now are getting nothing.
  • the Capital Eligible Fund which funds routine replacement of equipment for kitchens, gardners, and custodians went from $7M down to $4M. Keep in mind, somehow a John Deere mower managed to disappear from the maintenance yard in the last year.
  • * Communications/security system: $100K for 1 building (Roosevelt). It was $150K originally and had 3 schools on the list. (Oh irony because I fought for four years for this.)
Second, the "T" Technology at $34.9M. Not a lot to say here as we all know the realities of the technology age we live in. You have to keep up and upgrade. However, a few things to note.
  • We pay some salaries out this fund including the head of technology. (Same with BEX.)
  • Harium had been quite unhappy to learn the district had no off-site data storage in case of disaster. There is money in here for that.
  • The first of the money for STEM appears here at $1.1M.

Third, the "A" is Academics at $94.6M. (Historical note: this was originally for Athletics. It morphed into Academics/Athletics and now just Academics as they consider athletics part of academics.) Everything in this list is needed but there are some questions that can be asked.

  • Student Assessments (MAP): $4.3M - this went up from the original list by $300K
  • Core 24 : $3.5M - My comments on this are (1) it's not law and not even near law so it's a lot of money and (2) 7 out of 10 of the comprehensive high schools have or will have very new science labs and computer labs (built within the last 10 years). What exactly do we need and why?
  • Early Learning Classrooms: $3.2M. So how could I be against pre-K learning? I'm not. However, this isn't maintenance and there is no federal or state law compelling this. We also get no state matching money to do it. I wish we would wait and put the money towards maintenance. That's just me.
  • Capacity Management and planning: $48.1M. This is the big one for the 5 reopening buildings. On the one hand, it does clear some maintenance but (1) these buildings were closed and in a different category for care and now they are back on the "open" list and (2) this $48M doesn't clear out the entire backlogged maintenance on these buildings.
  • STEM - $1.6M - the reading of this is vague, mostly to "support creation" of STEM. They claim more science classrooms and computer labs but Cleveland is pretty well equipped as it is.
  • Athletics: $19.2M. The one and only thing you can be sure that gets done on the maintenance schedule: the fields and the tracks. Look, I get we need these fields and tracks and we have an operating agreement with Parks. But there is some irony that the only thing that gets done, on time, every time, is the fields. And there seems some confusion again because it looks like one of these was done under BEX III and yet appears here again. Note: this is not for playgrounds.

So, in some way, every school gets something (and that would be under Technology upgrades that are system-wide). Is it building maintenance per se? I would argue - not really.

So here's one breakdown for how much money is for a small number of buildings:

$48M for 5 reopening buildings
12.2 for Meany
27M for 6 buildings for energy efficient heating
26M for 6 other buildings =

$113M for 18 buildings

Here's how it breaks down per building for actual building maintenance (highest to lowest):

- McDonald $15.4M
- Meany 12.2M
- Viewlands 11.1M
- Salmon Bay 7.5M
- Old Hay 7.5M*
- Rainier View 7.4M
- Sand Point 7.0M
- Ingraham 5.6M**
- Laurelhurst 4.0M
- Lafayette 3.8M
- Eckstein 3.5M
- McGilvra 3.3M

*(SBOC, a middle/high school was in this old elementary building for years with very little done to it. Now, they are gone and they are revamping it and spending a lot of money to upgrade it. It makes you wonder why this wasn't done sooner.)

** Ingraham has been on every single BTA and BEX list since they started. I really feel for this building that has had a lot of piecemeal work done to it and is in danger of losing its BEX III addition. If the next hearing date on the grove of trees causes yet another delay, this project will likely not happen under BEX III.)


ParentofThree said…
The SBOC had $10 million earmarked in the last BEX money pot - but we all know that the money was never spent on the SBOC program.

So, given that example, what guarentees do we have that any money will be spent as they say it will?

That is something that really concerns me, along with the Garfield cost overruns.

And that is why I am leaning towards a NO vote on the Building Levy.
another mom said…
SPSMom- There are no guarantees and there is usually language written into the measure allowing changes and alterations in the projects. They do need some flexibility,as unexpected problems may surface once things are underway, especially in older buildings. That being said,the cost overruns -maybe lack of good management?- on projects like GHS is appalling. Coupled with lack of real attention to the backlog of maintenance makes me a no vote on BTA. Thanks Melissa for the great summary!
Joan NE said…
Here is the list of projects slated for BTA III funding that will pave the way for High Stakes Testing.

Final BTA III projects list:

$ 1.6 STEM*
$ 0.8 10 HS Computer Labs for Core24*
$ 1.1 10 computer labs for SAS*
$ 2.7 Core24: 10 science facilities
$ 3.2 Test Licenses for SAS
$ 1.9 Procure and deploy Acad. Data Warehouse
$ 1.3 Disaster Recovery*
$ 1.0 Centralize SDS* and aquire additional SAN* capacity
$ 3.0 Increase bandwidth to High/Middle/Elem schools
$ 3.2 IT support: Increase the [IT:school] ratio to 3 yrs
$ 4.3 Student Information tracking and central SID*
$ 1.0 Standardize architectural design; procure and implement
$ 1.2 Technology project management
$ 2.0 Records Management Plan
$ 3.3 Techn-SAP enhancements: includg budg. devel., enhanced data analysis and reporting capability; upgrading business software
$ 1.1 STEM @ Cleveland HS
$ 2.3 Hardware and software infrastructur-web server deployment

$35.0 TOTAL for what seem to be non-essential projects

*Acronyms and explanations.

STEM: Science, Technology, Engineering, and Math

Core24: See below.
SAS: Student Assessment System

Disaster Recovery: Disaster recovery for priority systems, including off-site storage; alternate data center capability, and priority systems software/hardware and required network

SAN: meaning not given in document
SDS: Student Data Storage
IT: Instructional Technology
SIDL: Student information database
DDDM: Data-Driven-Decision-Making
HST: High-Stakes Testing

Core24: The state is contemplating, but has NOT YET PASSED legislation that requires Core24. Curriculum Alignment at HS level culminates, under CORE24, in 6 required "core" courses in each year of HS, unless students are able to earn Core24 credits other than through "seat time." District will create standardized computer-delivered assessments for some (or all?) aligned core courses. Students must pass these assessments to receive credit for the course. Unless the District goes to extended day, there will be no opportunity for electives in highschool.
Joan NE said…
SPS parent says: "What's the problem with High Stakes testing? Doesn't that mean standardized tests? I think standardized tests are good. I don't mind paying for this through the BTA levy"

My answer: Standards and standardized testing is fine, but using standardized test for High Stakes Testing is NOT good for kids and schools. It leads to a narrowly-focused TEACH-TO-THE-TEST regime. IT also leads to an assualt on title-I schools called "intervention."
SPS Mom, I'll have a separate thread on SBOC. They DO still have money but it's about $10M instead of the original $14.

I don't have any problem with assessments as long as they are there to HELP students, not be punitive to either student or teacher.
Joan NE said…
BTA III passes ..$35M in BTA III helps SPS more quickly embrace High Stakes Testing...District becomes very enthusiastic about Title-I school "intervention," using the methods favored in Broad-Hijacked districts, and described in the Race-to-the-Top final program announcement.

SPS Parent says: "What's so bad about school interventions? Some schools are badly underperforming. I think they need to be shaken up. The staff in such schools are resistant to making the change that are required in order for the school to improve. That is why the District needs to step in."

My answer: The schools that are targetted for intervention are nearly always Title I schools.

The Title I schools have high proportions of students that qualify for free and reduced price lunch. In SPS they usually are also the schools with the highest abundance of students of color. (BTW, the NSAP helps to strengthen these patterns in SPS schools.)

At present, SPS chooses to use its Title I funds only for "School-Wide Programs" (SWP). Under Federal Law, Title-I funded SWPs MUST BE ambitiously reformist. The Feds require schools with Title I SWPs to focus teaching and learning on boosting student scores on state standardized assessments.

In other words, the Feds require that these schools convert to test-prep factories.

Guess what? The schools that get targetted for intervention are the schools that already have teach-to-the-test programs.

The interventions described in Race-to-the-Top are just more of the same, except may be even more agressively so, but here's the catch:

The interventions describe in RTT are socioacademically disruptive. This adds injury to injury.

The conventional forms of intervention are not successful. They are harmful for the affected students.

I bet that students who experience school intervention have a reduced probability of on-time graduation and higher drop out rates than students in similar schools that are given humane, constructive help to raise achievement.

Please write to state legislators and tell them that you don't favor Education Reform of the kind that the bills before them will bring to this state. These bills will bring our state laws in line with the priorities expressed in Race-to-the-Top. RTT is not progress. It is racist.
Joan NE said…
Melissa, you wrote "I don't have any problem with assessments as long as they are there to HELP students, not be punitive to either student or teacher."

I agree completely.

My point is that unless

1) parents understand the danger of High Stakes Testing, and can influence the projects this $35M is paying for, and how the District will use the resources and infrastructure that these monies will pay for,

2) it is certain that this $35M will bring High STakes Testing to SPS.

I sense that you may not be clear about what High STakes tesing means. It is something that few people know about. Every time I bring it up, people think it means something benign and constructive.

HST is not benign and beneficial.

HST is not constructive. The evidence on this is clear.

HST is a MISUSE of standardized assessments.

I hope that parents and students in SPS don't have to learn through direct experience what is wrong with HST. We can head this off if we try to understand what it is, and then effectively oppose it.
Meg said…
So... looking at the district's data, the Meany building has a maintenance bacaklog of $21.5M and seismic mitigation needs of $5.4M. I guess it's great that they're getting $12.2M, but... it doesn't even cover half of the total repairs the building needs. Here's hoping it at least covers earthquake safety issues.

It looks like there are an awful lot of buildings with over $2M in seismic mitigation needs that have been neglected. Again.
TechyMom said…
Joan NE,
It seems like you're saying that all IT spending in the levy is related to HST. Can you provide some evidence of that?

Disaster recovery, as an example... The district doesn't have its data backed up off-site. That means that if the buildng burns down, they lose that data... Things like your child's high school transcripts, records of who is enrolled at what school, payroll data, and yes, test scores. That's an IT blunder right up there with, oh, I don't know, running mission critical applications on a VAX in 2010. So, while I'm not exactly surprised that the district hasn't done this yet, I am very glad that they plan too.

So, why is all of the IT spending about HST? A lot of it looks like deffered maintenance to me.
Techy Mom, don't mix up deferred maintenance with systemic maintenance. The technology portion is upgrades you need to do regularly and the district has done this pretty systemically. (Not everyone, all the time but every BTA has had technology upgrades districtwide. That's how they get to say that the BTA touches every school. It certainly isn't because of building maintenance.)
TechyMom said…
Much of the centralized and offsite data storage is new work, and should have been done 10 or more years ago. It's badly overdue. I'm still looking for proof that this has anything to do with High Stakes Testing.
Dorothy Neville said…
Melissa, I thought Techymom was quite clear. Not having off site backup in unconscionable. That is deferred maintenance.

See, the VAX migration started sometime before 2005. One fellow, Travis Colton says on his online resume that he was in charge of a fourteen million dollar project to move student data from the VAX. Fourteen million dollars and a portion of the Vax dependency was supposedly addressed. Colton left in 2005. Ratchford came on in? 2008? and claims that although the migration was supposed to be ongoing, not much had happened since the student data migration that Colton claims was finished in 2005. Yes, there is probably a spaghetti mess of program dependencies between the VAX and other systems. Yes, it would take time to do it. But my guess is that no one with the expertise or the clout actually was running IT with the least bit of professionalism. Ratchford sounds like he's finally doing something? Who knows.

I've had some email with KSB about this. She's the only board member who dug in a bit and asked questions in response to my email. She thinks there needs to be a professional oversight committee on IT, like there is for facilities.
Joan NE said…
Techy mom- I will see if I can find out more about the Disaster Recovery line item. Maybe it isn't about high stakes testing. But even if I miscategorized that budget item or some others, I think that we can't let down our guard about HST. There is still tens of millions of dollars in the levy for projects that can contribute toward establishing HST.

The District and Board will say that all the projects in the list I made support "Academic Assurances."

Sound like a good thing, doesn't it?

And/or they will deny it is about HST. They will say it is about accountability and standards. I agree accountability and standards are good, constructive, and desirable, provided the priorities are implemented in a good, constructive, fair way.

I know from seeing what is happening in other districts around the country that the Broad Foundation (MGJ's sponsor, remember) is a strong proponent of HST.

Just their saying that they will not use the projects for HST is not very reassuring to me.

So if the capital levy passes, I hope parents are vigilant about sniffout out and keeping at bay HST.

If it doesn't pass, I hope that the District comes back within the year with a capital levy ballot measure that we can support with reservation.
Oh, I get it. I wasn't thinking of off-site as maintenance, more of good business practices. Yes it is important and that's why I mentioned it in my post. I think most people would assume the district had already done it but again, not the most well-managed district.

And there is no real oversight for facilities. The BEX Oversight Committee, I would say, looks over the BEX projects but do they ever really pushback? No. They raise some good questions and then let them go. The number of stock answers that the district gives them to their questions (which they accept at face value) is huge.

As to BTA and maintenance and capacity management? What oversight? The Board? They didn't even know the BTA list had changed. Please.
Charlie Mas said…
I cannot believe the huge amount of money being spent on three heat pumps and three high-efficiency boilers. It's just stupid.
SolvayGirl said…
Charlie: I'm going to ask my husband about that issue. He's an energy analyst with City Light, so he should know if the cost is reasonable.
SolvayGirl said…
OK...I asked, I won't use his exact words, but it involves male cow excrement.

First off, City Light usually pays up to 70% for projects like that if they can be shown to decrease energy usage (ditto for lights, etc.). So he questioned the high cost. Has no one at the District talked to City Light? He said the $4+ million per building seemed excessive, "That would be a really BIG heat pump," and would not pay for itself during the life-expectancy of the equipment.

So, Charlie, your initial reaction this this cost seems spot on.
Oh Solvay, the district ask anyone else's opinion? You must be kidding? Yes, and this project, on the preliminary list, was 6 buildings for roofs AND heating for $21M and now it's $27M for just heating (and 3 of them are boilers and not underground heat pumps). I can't believe the Board is just letting this one go but clearly that $500M figure doesn't phase them a bit.
SolvayGirl said…
The District actually has an Energy Analyst assigned to them (not my hubby), so they should always be working with City Light whenever they are doing a project that involves energy. City Light subsidizes retrofits for large industrial users—gives millions of dollars away a year to help the City become more energy efficient. It's absurd that the District does not appear to be taking advantage of this program.
Joan NE said…
Please consider signing the petition that calls for BTA III oversight committee, or answering four simple question in one or both of the two levy opinion surveys.

Even if Board ignores the petition & surveys this time, it sets a precedent for future levies...could make it harder for the District leadership to run roughshod over what the community wants.

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