Disqus

Thursday, January 21, 2010

Open Thread on Board Meeting

(Update: Charlie and others discuss the meeting on the thread I wrote about the Transition Plan vote. Check there for more.)

I have not finished watching my tape of the School Board meeting. There was an article in the Times this morning about it. Apparently the Transition Plan passed, 6-1 (with Betty Patu voting against). Both Director Martin-Morris' amendment for Thorton Creek and Director Carr's amendment for JSIS passed. And, South Shore got its own Geographic Zone amendment for next year. Nice.

So here's an open thread for the meeting.

Here are my notes:

  • I must have missed it but apparently Kaaren Andrews of Madrona is leaving mid-year for Interagency. There were several speakers about this including many children. This mid-year stuff strikes me as hard on everyone and particularly for the poor principal coming in. A good point was made when one speaker said that Ruth Medsker, the middle school director, told a parent that "it was in the best interests of the district" to move Ms. Andrews and the parent's reply was, "Yes, but what about the best interests of Madrona?"
  • Meg Diaz did a great job in explaining how STEM at Cleveland would be financially hard on the whole district. (Interestingly, there was a lot of backpedalling on this issue during the STEM presentation by Dr. Enfield. The Board should take note of both Meg's remarks and the backpedalling.)
  • Chris Jackins, another district watchdog, brought up the issue that there is a WAC about districts not creating racial inbalance through enrollment plans. He claims this would happen at 12 schools in the district.
  • Lots of TOPS speakers who are worried about the transportation issue. I thought our blogger, Johnny Calcagno, did a great job in calmly laying out the issues. Looking at how the additions to the Transition Plan, which came on a Friday before a holiday weekend, got in there, well, you have to believe this was planned.
  • Several seemingly exhausted parents spoke on the issue of grandfathering siblings. There were a couple of people who I think were on their last energy and I felt for them. One speaker, Walter, pointed out the long list of who could get in - home schooled kids, private school kids and kids new to the district - just not siblings. On this issue, I think it would have been worth trying to put older sibs at the younger sibs' attendance area school and see how it played out. If the goal was everyone who wanted a neighborhood school at that school, they should have tried it. They seemingly have little data to support their claims and the district is waiting to see how it plays out. Why not play it out at the attendance area schools?
  • Dan Dempsy pointed out that New Tech Network, which we are buying into for the next 4 years for $800,000 for the STEM program, has a lot of flaws.
  • There was one speaker, with lots of support, who asked for the reinstatement of Career Counselors at the high schools.

73 comments:

zb said...

"On this issue, I think it would have been worth trying to put older sibs at the younger sibs' attendance area school and see how it played out."

I thought that they were going to do this -- on parental request, and with the caveat that the K sib applied only to the older sib's school.

Doesn't the transition plan state this?

"If the incoming K student applies just for the older sibling’s school during Open Enrollment and is assigned to the new attendance area school instead, the older sibling will be assigned to the attendance area school upon request (assuming services needed are available at that school)."

(from page 10 of TransitionPlan.PDF, downloaded a couple of days ago).

seattle said...

I have to say that I really like Betty Patu. I wasn't sold on her initially but she has won me over. She has gumption and she isn't afraid to speak out. Plus she is totally willing to vote NO despite the rest of the board voting yes. And she repeatedly said, and I am paraphrasing, that her job is to represent her constituents and that her constutuents have been bombarding her with emails and calls and that her votes must represent her constituents.

I was also impressed with KSB last night. I was not a fan of hers, but am warming up to her. I do appreciate her asking alot of questions and she was the only other director that voted NO with Betty Patu on one of Betty's amendments (I think it was 5 years of transportation for all tier 1 k-8's)

I didn't miss Cheryl Chow and her huge rubber stamp one bit!

TechyMom said...

Does the board post meeting minutes? I looked but couldn't find them. The agenda page says that there is a link to minutes "on the left." There is no such link.

Charlie Mas said...

Other random notes.

Director Patu went on for a bit about how she entered the discussion of the new student assignment plan at the tail end and didn't know much, if anything, about it. So, for anyone who wondered how much she was paying attention to school district issues for the past year prior to being elected, the answer is: "Not at all."

Director DeBell has discovered alternative schools. While I can carp about how it took him four years to do it, I'm just happy that he has. Director DeBell continues to show real growth. He also voted in favor of Director Smith-Blum's amendment to extend transportation grandfathering to five years for K-8s.

I'm starting to see some realization on the part of Board members that one way to encourage people to choose a school is to pour some sugar on it. The staff still wants to push people from building to building, but the Board is starting to see the benefits of pulling people from building to building. So, for example, Director Carr mentioned that while there would be costs associated with making McDonald and Sand Point more appealing, there are also costs associated with the overcrowding at Bryant and View Ridge. Dr. Vaughan definittely sees advanced learning programs as a means for attracting families to schoools.

Dr. Vaughan also made reference a couple times to the idea that the new ALOs shouldn't just be "words on paper" but an actual program. Well, at least he has acknowledged the problem. But who will confirm that these programs are more than just words on paper? Who will certify the reality and effectiveness of these programs? Not him. It's his job, but he has never done it. To be fair, I'm not sure that he has the staff to conduct the review and I know that he doesn't have the authority to de-certify a program.

Lori said...

interesting, Ann. I've never watched one of these meetings until last nite, and I only watched from about 845PM on. But I got a totally different read on Betty Patu. Yes, I admire her heart and her passion and that she is standing up for her constituents and speaking with their voice.

But, she was totally ineffective. She put poorly worded amendments out for debate and no one knew what the ramifications of those amendments would be. Last nite was not the time for generalities. Last nite required careful, specific language and an understanding of the procedures.

Yes, she wasn't on the board when all of this was being developed, and she offered that as an excuse, but if I remember correctly from this blog, she didn't attend any of the board meetings during the school board election time frame, which would have been an ideal way to get up to speed both on issues and procedures. Instead, she showed up unprepared, it seemed to me. She even said so much herself when she said something like "I'll do a better job next with amendments now that I understand" I think she even apologized. Frankly, I was a little embarrassed for her and felt she was naive if she thought heart and passion alone were going to carry the day.

We need effective leaders NOW; we don't have time to watch her ride a steep learning curve.

(and honestly, the "NO" vote was a completely safe vote for her to make; nothing bold or unexpected there. Her goal should have been to sway others to her position and she didn't)

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, but I think that the district hasn't played that up a lot and I have to wonder why. If it allows sibs to be together at their designated attendance area school, why didn't the district point to that as the true answer?

I've had people ask me if we traded Betty Patu for Mary Bass. The answer may be "somewhat".

I still have to listen to the rest of the meeting but I, too, was impressed with Director Smith-Blum. She asked some good questions on STEM.

zb said...

"If it allows sibs to be together at their designated attendance area school, why didn't the district point to that as the true answer?"

It's there, in the transition plan -- where should it be, to make that clear to parents? I read that quite clearly as saying that with a sib in a non-attendance area school, you can give a shot at getting the K kid into the non-attendance area, and, if that doesn't work, default back to the neighborhood school for *both* of your kids, if you wish.

I know this does not help parents who have children with special needs who can't be served in their attendance area, or those who find their attendance area school unacceptable. But, the rule seems pretty clear.

seattle said...

Yes, I agree with you Lori.

Initially I didn't like Betty and was actually put off by her. She wasn't very knowledgeable on district issues, wasn't showing an interest in learning them, seemed to be focused only on under represented populations, and she was not very articulate. I didn't vote for her.

I guess it was her heart and passion that was endearing to me last night. And her continual references to representing her constituents. I'll take that over cold as ice, Cheryl Chow, anyday.

Though Betty has grown on me, and I think her heart is in the right place, I acknowledge that she was completely ineffective last night. We need competent, articulate, influcential, directors that can get their points across and move others to support them.

Central Mom said...

Supplementary comments...

Now I've seen clearly how STEM is being financed on the back of BEX, which is borrowing from the hoped-for BTA. Not on my vote, it's not. Directors still skeptical, so (very) small chance it may be struck down.

2 YEARS TRANSPORTATION GRANDFATHERING PEOPLE. TOPS really shined a light on the fact that Staff did this with LESS THAN 2 BIZ DAYS' NOTICE to the public. But...I really don't think the public is fully grasping what happened yet.

The District signaled more clearly than ever that it has NO INTEREST in supporting any additional alt schools...not even Montessori. (Language Immersion excepted, but they don't call LI "alternative." Ridiculous.) Alt School Coalition...if you don't get active NOW, then consider yourselves Dead.

The District is going to pit SP against McDonald for one language immersion placement next year. No one gets one this year. I really disagree with pitting parents against parents. Step up and engage, Staff, and offer HELPFUL guidance. The language immersion roadmap thrown out there was clearly done on the fly to cover various Staff posteriors in the program placement discussion. So transparently tacky that it was laughable.


I agree w/ Charlie. Something very creepy and wrong about the SouthShore amendment being posted in Patu's name when she clearly didn't write it. Who on Staff did this?

Lori said...

CentralMom says: The District is going to pit SP against McDonald for one language immersion placement next year.

More, please. I must have missed something. Both schools are opening as traditional schools with the option to add LI the following year. How is that pitting the communities against each other? Did they actually say that only one of the schools could get LI?

zb said...

"Chris Jackins, another district watchdog, brought up the issue that there is a WAC about districts not creating racial inbalance through enrollment plans. He claims this would happen at 12 schools in the district."

Which schools? And, those of you who are more savvy, I'm guessing that I can answer these questions myself if I look for minutes/meeting stream somewhere?

I've done free lunch analysis on the elementary shools, and how they'll be affected by the new SAP (according to SPS projections). By my calcs, there are 5 elementary schools with FRL>greater than the district average which will have higher FRL populations after the nSAP: Graham Hill, Concord, Sanislo, Kimball.

Overall, the projections from the new SAP create greater equity among FRL populations in the elementary schools. Of course, these are projections, and, most schools don't change very much.

zb said...

Oops, 4. Ranier View will also have FRL>district average, but they're new.

Central Mom said...

Well Lori, they say they both have the option to do so...but the (suddenly produced to cover posteriors) LI roadmap only shows 1 LI program going into the North End for 2011-2012. OK, maybe the chart could be interpreted that any N school who wants a program can have one, if they meet the criteria, but that's not my interpretation at all. The TEXT reads "Plan for 9 Schools." Count the placements on the grid. North End isn't getting more than one elementary, and BTW that shuts out the possibility for Viewlands getting anything at all. And boy, that corner of the city really deserves something. Viewlands TOTALLY got the short end of the stick in so many ways in the past few years.

Anyhow, if Staff means differently, they need to clarify NOW.

And all the words above the roadmap grid have been part of Karen Kodama's presentation for "a while." So all that's new is the conveniently hidden placement grid, attached to an obscure part of the website.

http://www.seattleschools.org/area/
board/09-10agendas/012010
agenda/nsaptransitioninternationalschoolsattachment.pdf

Melissa Westbrook said...

ZB, you miss my point. Yes, it's in the plan but clearly, clearly not all parents have or will read the Transition Plan (yes they should but again, not the point).

If the district wanted to get the point across about something that is favorable, they would have touted it. That they didn't/don't makes me a little suspicious.

I also wonder, as Maureen and other readers have, about the issue of if you accept your attendance area enrollment, you don't have to do anything. That leaves a lot in limbo. Why not have a postcard sent with the assignment asking, "Do you accept this assignment?" Enrollment would then at least have an idea of how many people plan to take their assignment. Not that people couldn't change their minds but I would think the majority of the cards that say yes would stand.

Who wrote the South Shore amendment? I can't say who but I'm sure that it was directed by the New School Foundation. The MOU between them and the district says that the district will try, in the enrollment plan, to help them keep their specific enrollment. I'm not at all surprised.

(Although why they don't name South Shore after Sharples is a mystery to me. New School took their name off, South Shore is generic and it's a brand-new building.)

StepJ said...

Lori,

In the Program Placement portion it says that only 1 of the new North end schools will get LI next year.

On the positive side the Sand Point and McDonald groups have good lines of communication and I trust will be a united front vs. succumb to this divisive tactic.

Central Mom said...

That's "pdf" at the cutoff part of my link above...

Central Mom said...

StepJ, I think you're being a little bit less skeptical than you need to be. That chart looks 5 years out. North End = One Program. Period.

Sounds like interested parties are going to need a LOT of interaction on the District on this one.

ParentofThree said...

"He also voted in favor of Director Smith-Blum's amendment to extend transportation grandfathering to five years for K-8s."

What was the final vote on this admendment, I fell asleep.

Unknown said...

This was my first exposure to a board meeting start to finish, and our second year in Seattle Schools… Charlie, Melissa, Lori, I agree with your take on the meeting last night. I’m amazed at how most of the district testimony comes across as complete BS, the board as unknowledgeable of their constituents, the schools, lacking professionalism, and/or all of the above, and the parent testimony for the most part unprepared and unfocused. This was a major metropolitan school board meeting? I’m shocked that these are the people in charge of our children’s education, and managing the funds to get that accomplished. Some, like Patu, seemed to have the right motives, but were ineffective and unpersuasive. What were things like in the glory John Stanford days? If the district were a well-oiled machine then, what made it that way, and what needs to happen to achieve that again?

zb said...

"If the district wanted to get the point across about something that is favorable, they would have touted it. That they didn't/don't makes me a little suspicious."

Are you saying they're effectively lying in the transition plan? or that they'll hide it so that people can't take advantage of it?

I agree that people don't read the transition plan, and that not saying that clearly leads to headlines like the Times headline which flat out states that siblings will not be guaranteed attendance in the same school, and then goes on to state a number of other misleading outcomes.

I'm inclined to believe that they're seeing a complicated morass of possibilities, and have thus written the possibilities badly. But then, I usually see incompetence rather than conspiracy.

zb said...

Thanks all you folks who are linking to these pdfs -- I still find that I can't find things where I'm looking for them at the SPS site.

Gouda said...

I would also add that TOPS got a 20% set aside for Eastlake residents. Good ol' Jules James initiative in action. Sigh.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Given everything else going on, this is a small, unimportant point, but the reason South Shore did not choose Sharples as the name is that parents voted on the name-and Sharples wasn't chosen.

It's been a few years, and I don't recall what the preliminary options were, but the choices were based on district rules about names, and the parent group made them. We then voted on those that survived the "primary". South Shore was chosen as an option because it related to the location.

Whether you feel this is fair or right, at least now you know WHY.

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, they aren't lying. They just aren't making it easier for parents to understand especially on such a major point.

I agree; is it incompetence or by design? I don't like either answer.

Thanks Agribean but they still have a a name to use on a building and that's a shiny new building. And, it's not a matter of fair or right; I never said that. It's just wondering out loud with such a generic name as South Shore and they have a name they could put on it, why don't they?

Unknown said...

Patu's amendments last night were poorly worded, vague, and introduced at the wrong time. I am very heartened that she apologized--is there accountability somewhere at last, even if it's just a "my bad"? We'll see what her next amendments look like, and see if she's grown. I'm also liking what I see in Smith-Blum in her willingness to challenge staff.

DeBell noted that anyone who voted in the majority can request a revision to the resolution voted on at any time. In theory, Smith-Blum and Martin-Morris could bring up a change to transportation grandfathering next meeting rather than waiting a whole year and leaving families in limbo.

One other thing that struck me--did anyone else know that the Southeast Initiative is being cut?

Finally, this is an idle suggestion, but the District could rename Whitman for Sharples. It would be a politically-correct move, but I don't know if it would be popular.

Eric

Chris S. said...

Melissa, did you say you helped with the city-wide PTSA "value statement" that is being voted on tonight? (Roosevelt, 7pm?)
Do you have anything to say about it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

I did help draft that along with many other groups. I posted a thread on this on Jan. 13 under Seattle Organizers. I was going to post the Values Document tomorrow.

It's a pretty plain Jane document but we didn't want a lot of jargon or length. We all gave input from our different viewpoints. Most of all we hope that parents/communities values will be part of the process. There may even be an opportunity to give input on the negotiations as they go along (that's up for legal review) and that would be great for the stakeholders at the end which are parents.

I urge you to read and, hopefully, support the document. You can always send your own thoughts to the Board or SEA or the district's HR guy, Brent Jones.

Charlie Mas said...

Di, you're dead right. The whole thing is amateurish. That's largely because there are very few people in the process who are qualified for their jobs.

The Board members are all unpaid volunteers. None of them had to meet any qualifications to be elected. Most of them are just well-intentioned. Two of them have about a month of experience. Four of them have only two years of experience. Director DeBell is the senior member of the Board with four years of experience. He's only just now starting to figure stuff out. The rest of them don't really have a grip on much of it at all yet. The Board, therefore, is easily manipulated by the staff.

There are no qualifications required to give public testimony either. Those people are also unpaid volunteers. Names are put on the list on a first-come-first-served basis. Better speakers may be available, but they didn't call early enough. The people who speak have only three minutes - which is almost but not quite enough time to make a cogent argument. Usually, people are moved to testify by strong emotions. It is the rare speaker (see Meg Diaz) who gives a logical, well-researched argument based on facts and principles and delivered on a topic within the Board's authority.

The staff, for the most part, are in over their heads. Due to chronic budget shortfalls the District usually has unqualified people working in most of the positions in the central office. They were promoted from within under the Peter Principle (actually the Peter Principle squared as they get promoted an additional level beyond the level of their incompetence when their boss leaves). Since the District has been essentially un-managed for the past ten to twenty years, no one on the District staff has the skill set necessary to analyze data, make a rational decision, or articulate the rationale for their decision. Instead, the whole place is a nest of vipers engaged in a cut-throat game of internal politics. Internal politics drives and dominates every decision.

dan dempsey said...

Instead, the whole place is a nest of vipers engaged in a cut-throat game of internal politics. Internal politics drives and dominates every decision.

That is the principle skill set of those in upper central administration.

Unknown said...

If I believed Dan and Charlie, then I would have to wonder why any right thinking parent who had any disposable resources whatsoever would ever allow their child to remain in such a hell hole as SPS. So I just wanted to make sure that the alternate voice was hear -- those many of us are pretty satisfied.

No, it's not perfect. It's an underfunded urban district. There's lots that's wrong. There's lots that could be much better. There are certainly decisions made with which I disagree, and which aren't in my own, personal best interests. People could be better communicators. More touchy feely. They could always do what I want, instead of what some other groups was advocating for. Etc. Etc. Etc.

But on balance I'm satisfied that a very complex system is doing reasonably well. It's always easy to stand on the outside and tell those working inside how you'd do it better if only you were in charge and had all the time and resources, and didn't have anyone with a contrary point of view advocating something different. But that's not reality.

They're not crooks or criminals or at their 'Peter Principle' level of incompetent. By and large they are smart, hardworking people whose motives are good and who are doing pretty darn well with a small pool of resources. And I mean the Senior Administration, the Board and the staff.

SolvayGirl said...

Sorry Rosie...but they are only doing "pretty darn well" with a select group of schools. They're doing pretty darn lousy down here with middle and upper level schools in the southend, and many of us are using our meager resources to keep our children out of the system entirely via home schooling, independent schools and out of district schools. Others lie about their addresses to get into Garfield, or drive their kids up to Hale, etc.

Evidently you're satisfied with the education your child is receiving through SPS and that you hold the central staff in high regard. I've found it's the teachers in the trenches who should get the credit in spite of the mismanagement that comes down from staff, and I've had dealings with CA from Olchefski on, so I've got a bit of experience under my belt.

Central Mom said...

I, too, while appreciating Charlie's critique, think it gives no room for hope. But neither am I as magnanimous as Rosie.

I don't think central staff, as a whole..not as individuals.. is doing a good job. I think they try hard, but the lack of technology and process infrastructure, solid, consistent mgmt. leadership and outside accountability shows.

I think the current superintendent is competent. Perhaps slightly more than competent. But I think she's a mismatch for Seattleites who for better and for worse want to be involved with the process of decision making. MGJ does not agree with this on the whole, I believe. She acts autonomously far too much for my comfort. She's overseen the big change to neighborhood assignments, and I hope she chooses to elevate her career elsewhere, soon, in a city that better-matches her style.

But what can you say? Weak subjects end up with autocrats. That's how she landed here. Voted in by a wimpy board and cowering parents with a district in disarray.

Here is where I hope the cycle might break: the current board. It is the smartest board I've seen in 10 years. Newbies, yes, but focused on doing right by both high educational standards and better fiscal management. I would say that at this point Betty is too far on the side of caring about "the kids" and not understanding operational complications. And I would say that Peter seems too focused on finances than the kids. Everyone else falls on the continuum, and that is normal and good.

I am looking to this board to speak up for the community and for parents. This is where the cycle can change. I hope.

Chris S. said...

And Rosie, one could argue that the thriving schools are thriving in spite of, rather than because of, central leadership. I have heard a current board member admit that the past decade or so has been one of "benign neglect" by district leadership, and in that vacuum, some communities prospered based on the contributions of principals, teachers, kids, & parents. If you have seen specific improvements in the last 3 years you can credit CA. If. Maybe.

Lori said...

Hear, hear, SolvayGirl on this comment: I've found it's the teachers in the trenches who should get the credit in spite of the mismanagement that comes down from staff.

I couldn't agree more with that statement. In our short SPS career, we have already had wonderful teachers, the kinds that parents dream will teach their child. You can dislike the system as a whole but still appreciate and hold in high regard the folks on the front lines.

Charlie Mas said...

Okay, I was a little harsh.

The Board are volunteers without much in the way of qualifications, but that's okay. The job doesn't require anything more than that.

The speakers, likewise. I LIKE the amateurism. This is what democracy looks like.

As for the staff, well, they don't have skills that they haven't needed. If the superintendent or the Board start demanding real rationale - which they haven't done yet, but they have threatened to do - then the staff will develop that skill.

All of this, of course, is isolated in the JSCEE. The work that happens in the schools is almost completely disconnnected with the work done in the headquarters.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I think Central Mom has it right. Rosie, you must be new or very compassionate.

I want to echo Lori because it is something I have told people - most recently some members of the editorial Board at the Times.

Most parents are happy with their school. Oh, not completely but pretty satisfied. Most parents do not like the management of this district. Not all, but many. That's it in a nutshell. I can't tell you how many people have said, "If they would just leave my school alone, we're doing fine." It's the intervention of the district that many people fear because they think the district will muck it up.

It is that belief in OUR schools, our teachers, our principals that keeps most of us in public education. But because the district controls the processes, the resources and the policies, we have to pay attention. And sometimes it's just depressing.

zb said...

I too think the system is functioning, and that means a lot. I talk to many parents who are basically satisfied with their schools. I think that's one of the issues with blogs like this, they have to be dominated by those who are discontented (and I know often for valid reasons) or who believe that that squeaking is the only way to make the wheel run smoother. That's OK. But, we have to remember that the folks who are generally satisfied, and don't care about making things better don't spend much time here.

If the problem with the oversight board is that they lack qualifications and experience, exchanging them each year as they don't perform miracles isn't going to accomplish anything. The same is true for the superintendent. Which major city *does* have a superintendent we like? Do we want Michelle Rhee from DC? Joel Klein from NYC? Carole from Portland? Huberman from Chicago? Would we have been happy if Arne Duncan had come here instead of going to DOEd?

How about if we could reincarnate John Stanford?

I think we expect a lot and don't give people much time to deliver. And, our interests are not the interests of everyone in SPS, or in Seattle, or in Washington, all of whom are stakeholders in the SPS.

Unknown said...

If you knew me, you'd never call me compassionate. And with a 9th grader and a 7th grader, both of whom have been SPS since day 1, I'm not new.

My perspective is that for years, those of us with loud voices have largely gotten what we want from the District. There was always talk of equity and equality, but when push came to shove, middle class folks got what they wanted, and the lower income folks got left by the way side. All city choice with unlimited transportation, for example, was great for those of us who advocated like heck for our kids, and fought to get them into whatever school we deemed best. For folks who didn't have the ability/energy/resources to do so? The process really didn't do them any favors. If there was a "good" school nearby, it was full by the time they got around to figuring out they had to ask in February to get their child in. So their kid got schlepped to the not so good school.

For better or worse, it appears that now the District really is trying to give the advantage to kids whose parents can't be advocates. And I think that's a terrific idea that we all should be cheering about. Because parents like me, and like those who post on this blog, will figure out loopholes and advocate and fight to get their kids where they want them to be. Or to improve the schools where they find themselves until they make them into something good.

Yes, maybe I'm wildly optimistic and even crazy-compassionate (though I doubt it). But immediately reaching towards "gloom and doom" and questioning the motives/abilities of those involved, as most posters here seem to default towards, doesn't seem to get much accomplished. Why not try it, see if it works out, and then improve it. Because I think/hope we can agree that the current system isn't doing our most challenged populations any favors.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"I think we expect a lot and don't give people much time to deliver."

"Why not try it, see if it works out, and then improve it."

Call me doom and gloom but I have waited for 15 years for a few things to change and nope. And the "try to work with the district", well, I've tried six ways to Sunday. I've found, as many parents have, offers to help get rebuffed even when it's labor and/or expertise.

Meg said...

I haven't been watching district-level goings-on for very long. I don't think everyone downtown is venal and corrupt. But (you knew a "but" was coming, right?), I think there are too many people that work at JSCEE who work in an isolated, insular bubble, divorced from the realities of life in the Seattle public schools. In a lot of those schools, things are good. But from what I see, that almost always has more to do with the building staff and the school community than any assistance or insights from downtown.

And straight-up truth from downtown is not frequent. Rather than say the unpalatable truth about upcoming cuts directly, the Superintendent has directed principals to "inform their communities" about budget implications. Is there a reason she cannot say out loud that WSS cuts - all $6M of them - very likely mean RIFs? A little over 60 teachers are likely to get the chop with that. WSS is directly related to the classroom, but how much careful illumination in presentations have you seen so that the public can clearly understand that and advocate for something else?

I haven't seen a thing. Nor, in the "budget enhancement" category (things that will increase the budget gap), have I seen CEL and SILD spelled out as professional development. There's been a little justification that much of the coach money has been "grant funded," but not much about what the other spending options are for that grant money.

Do I think everything's a lie? No. But I gotta say: trust, but verify.

dan dempsey said...

Dear Rosie,

#1. I see a lot of hope for the school board.

a.) Mike DeBell is much better with 4 years experience under his belt.

b.) Cheryl Chow never improved with experience. She was always a rubber stamping cheerleader for the central administration. Betty Patu is a great improvement.

c.) Kay S-B has excellent communications skills and is a quick study. She possesses analytic skills and is ready to direct the Superintendent. She will be able to build coalitions to support and act on her analysis. Eventually I think the board may actually direct the superintendent. This will be a big improvement over "Broad" directing the Superintendent.

#2.) In my year at West Seattle HS, I saw many incredible hard working accomplished teachers. Almost everyone of which felt the Central Admin made things worse for them rather than better. I certainly would have been pleased to have kids in many of the classes at WSHS.

===================
In regard to k-12 math I would want kids nowhere near Seattle Schools, with the exception of Schmitz Park at this time. I would certainly say that the results that Craig Parsley has achieved at Schmitz Park are phenomenal. The fact that Schmitz Park's Singapore Math program exists in spite of central admin says it all.
===================
Many SPS Math teachers are now using other math materials than the "New Discovering adoption" in high school.
===================
The student assignment plan could be fabulous if the district's directors would abandoned the pursuit of centralized nonsense and went with the OKI model for site based management with school principals supported by and responsible to the neighborhood school's board of trustees. We are talking responsibility for producing significant academic improvement in students at their school.
============
Seattle Schools spend almost $1000 per child on Central Admin.
Olympia SD spends $530. Multiply that difference by 46,000 students and it is around $22 million.

With a better structure about $20 million of that could be in neighborhood schools, instead we buy centralized chaos with it.

seattle citizen said...

zb,
"we have to remember that the folks who are generally satisfied, and don't care about making things better don't spend much time here."

True, but there are also those people who don't spend time here (on the blog) because:
a) they are discontented and have given up;
b) they are discontented and have little access (no tech, no English lang, etc);
c) they are unaware of some of the problems people discuss here because: communication is spotty OR they are new to the district/country and just don't know how things work
d) some parents just aren't that interested or involved

SolvayGirl said...

Seattle Citizen
you forgot
e) They believe everything they read in the Seattle Times.

southmom said...

Melissa, I can't thank you enough (and Charlie) for your continued, terrific analysis of the district. One area I wish you'd delve into more is the situation in South Seattle middle and high schools, and the inequities here. Sibling placement is huge, but we feel it pales next our complete lack of options - i.e. Rainier Beach and an unproven and not yet funded STEM program at Cleveland. I know for many who live north that it's low on the radar screen.

ParentofThree said...

"Many SPS Math teachers are now using other math materials than the "New Discovering adoption" in high school."

Can you elaborate on this, how do you know that this happening? How are they getting away from using the mandated text? I think it is important to let the board know this is happening.

seattle said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
seattle said...

Southmom, Besides STEM, can't you get into NOVA and Center? How about Franklin? How about trying for the 10% set asside seats at all of the other comprehensive schools in the district? Or, can your child test into APP? It seems like you have about as many options as I do, and I live in the NE. My HS option is Hale, but we can try for NOVA, Center, or the 10% set aside seats at other comprehensive schools. Like your HS choice, my HS choice (Hale) has many faults too. No orchestra, tiny band, no honors classes, few AP courses, and problems with violence.

As for Middle schools I don't think any of them, North or South, are really great, though some are more tolerable than others.

Joan NE said...

Melissa - forgive me for inserting a comment on unrelated topic - I don't see any thread yet where this fits in.

I received reports about last night's PTA general meeting, at which a vote was taken on the Community Values Statement.

I agree with the priorities and values stressed in the CVS.

From reports on the meeting, though, it sounds like PTA leadership, and, of the many orgs that participated in writing the CVS, most or all endorse Race-to-The-Top (RTT) and the version of merit pay, performance management, and standardized testing that RTT--and our District leadership--favors.

Can you tell me if this is correct?

Charlie Mas said...

Sully and others may be interested to know that, among the program placement information presented to the Board along with the transition plan, was information about music programs.

If I understand it correctly, every middle and high school will offer orchestra starting next year.

Can someone who is paying close attention to music programs confirm or correct that?

Joan NE said...

Charlie - here are my notes on the music proposal, with my interjections in capitals:

Opening statement of presentation: Families quite concerned about access to good music programs.

[My note: So the purpose of presentation, evidently, is to explain how the District will try to ensure equitable access to good music programs under the NSAP.]

1. ability based ensembles at all ms and hs [SOUNDS GOOD]

2. use existing staff [IN GENERAL WOULDN'T HAVE APPROPRIATE TRAINING] to increase equity and access to broader range of music offerings

e.g. reduce general music classes [IS THIS A GOOD THING?].

This allows additional secondary schools to add orchestra programs e.g at west seattle HS [SOUNDS GOOD, EXCEPT SEE COMMENT ON #3]

3. reduce elementary instrumental music instruction

[SOUNDS VERY BAD!! MEANS REDUCED DEMAND FOR MUSIC IN MS AND HS AND THEREFORE DISTRICT WILL BE ABLE TO SCALE DOWN MUSIC PROGRAMS IN MS AND HS, TOO!!!]

Q to families concerned about access to good music programs: Does this plan address this concern in a constructive, reasonable, equitable way?

Melissa Westbrook said...

"From reports on the meeting, though, it sounds like PTA leadership, and, of the many orgs that participated in writing the CVS, most or all endorse Race-to-The-Top (RTT) and the version of merit pay, performance management, and standardized testing that RTT--and our District leadership--favors."

Joan, no, it is not correct (and thanks for bringing it up because I need to get this document on the blog).

Our coalition did not discuss RTTT money or performance management or standardized testing (so obviously no endorsement).

Our document is deliberately simple and short. We wanted to put forth, in the most basic manner, what we all find to be community values for our district. We deliberately did not dive deep because we aren't the ones to define the criteria or benchmarks used for teacher assessment (except that we do say for RIFs that we do NOT want seniority to be the only criteria used).

SolvayGirl said...

SUlly
I know Hale pales in comparison to Roosevelt, but RBHS is well below par (at the moment). Many families from our area have chosen Hale over RBHS, Cleveland or Franklin.

Sure we have some options, but none are a certainty. With the new SAP even Center School and NOVA will be harder to get into--especially if the District establishes Geographic Zones for Option Schools.

The point is, we have a bad MS choice (Aki), a bad HS choice (RBHS), and maybe HS choice (Franklin--all of the students who would have been assigned to Cleveland will now go to Franklin; it will be full) and a big question mark in STEM.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Solvay, I don't know that I would agree that Hale "pales" in comparison to Roosevelt. They are very different schools but both do have pretty solid teaching corps and solid test scores. That they choose to present some academics in a manner different from each other may please some and turn away others but I think that Hale is still a pretty good school.

Unknown said...

Why not the IB program at Ingraham? Those students seem pretty motivated, pretty happy, and they get into terrific colleges. Plus, you can't beat the school for ethnic diversity.

SolvayGirl said...

Sorry Melissa, my comment was badly worded. I assumed that Sully thought Hale paled and preferred Roosevelt. The friends I have with kids there are VERY happy, and I agree it is a good school. What I was trying to get at was that you couldn't compare Hale to RBHS.

BTW...wish they had let you talk more on KUOW today. I noted that they made a big point about how the levy was "just a renewal" with NO mention that it was for a higher cost and therefore would ADD to our taxes.

Rose M said...

Joan NE,

The music staff & parents that have been upset about music programs in the NSAP are not happy with the new proposal.

Some of the instrumental music teachers have been meeting with anyone & everyone at the district level to try to work out a way to support musicians whose program ends when they rise to a new school. They have offered ideas from a CTE tie-breaker, allowing kids to travel during the school day to participate in a different school's music program, having teachers who are qualified in specific arenas travel from one school to another, extended school day for music for which several schools congregate, etc. They designed a plan that would support current programs, & kids & grow into other schools at the same time. They feel completely shut down. The kids who have committed so much to these programs feel betrayed. Why build them up only to cut them down?

I understand that this is not the biggest problem the district has right now. And it does not involve my children. But I think the message sent to these kids by the district is very clear. "Do not strive for excellence, because if we find it, we will stamp it out. "

Maureen said...

Eric said:
DeBell noted that anyone who voted in the majority can request a revision to the resolution voted on at any time. In theory, Smith-Blum and Martin-Morris could bring up a change to transportation grandfathering next meeting rather than waiting a whole year and
leaving families in limbo.


Eric, can you (or anyone else) elaborate on this? Are you referring to a Board Policy?

ttln said...

As far as I know, and I could be wrong, NOVA has an interview process prospective students go through before they are "admitted." Staff meets with every kid who thinks they want to go there to see if the school is a good fit for them. Some kids need a structured environment (they won't do work, or go to class without someone on their backs all the time or ringing bells going off reminding them to move)- NOVA is not for them. If a kid is an independent learner and self motivated- then NOVA may work for them. So, don't count yourself out until you call Mark at NOVA and ask if the interview process is still in place.

Anonymous said...

RE: I would certainly say that the results that Craig Parsley has achieved at Schmitz Park are phenomenal.

I can say from personal experience that Mr. Parsley and Singapore Math at Schmitz Park ROCKS!!

The new assignment plan denys access to a large part of the traditional SP neighborhood, and seems designed to just drag down schools like this (aka achieve "parity" at the lowest common denominator).

Joan NE said...

The plans for music education, math education, the preceding comment by KA, and many other comments are consistent with the view that "closing the achievement gap", professed by the Broad Foundation as their overriding goal, is achieved mainly through artificial means. One of the means is by "bringing down the top."

In this district, as we do not have charter schools, another means is making schools more mediocre so that all those that can afford it leave for public school. There are a few other strategies besides these that are in play in our district.

If the Broad Foundation (and their local agent MGJ) geniunely cared about helping low income and minority students get high quality education within public schools, we would see very different priorities in this District.

Joan NE said...

Harium gave a lovely strong speech last night. Based on that, it was a sure thing that he would support KSB's proposal for 5 yr transportation grandfathering for K-8's. Then MDell surprised everyone by casting a third vote (after Patu and KSB) in favor. This unexpected development forced Harium into giving up the cherade of being friend of alts. He voted against the ammendment motions, with no explanation given.

dan dempsey said...

Dear SPS mom,

You said:"Can you elaborate on this, how do you know that this happening? How are they getting away from using the mandated text? I think it is important to let the board know this is happening."

I know it because I sat in a small meeting with one SPS School director and an SPS Math teacher.

My reading of the SEA contract is:
Teachers are required to teach the curriculum but they are not required to use the district's instructional materials.

As one teacher said about Everyday Math .... How can I be evaluated on student performance in math when they force me to use EDM and the SPS pacing plan, when no one in their right mind interested in improving student performance would do such a thing.

Teachers and Director will remain anonymous.

dan dempsey said...

About the "mandated text" thought.

The students of Ballard's Ted Nutting have consistently performed the best of Seattle High Schoolers on the AP Calculus test. Ballard uses "Explicit Instruction" in most of its Pre-Calc classes and in Nutting's Calc class.

Take a trip to Ballard. Nutting's students will be using a Calculus book that is not "Discovering". Ted is big on instruction and learning Calculus, the kids do not have enough time to discover it.

Issac Newton and Leibniz discovered Calculus. A kid might not be so lucky.

hschinske said...

There isn't actually an interview process at Nova -- you have to have gone on a tour (an all-day thing where people take you to classes), and you have to sign papers saying that you understand how Nova works and so forth. But there is no selection or vetting of students by staff. Given the number of students who take more than four years to graduate, presumably they do have a lot who have trouble completing work.

Helen Schinske

owlhouse said...

Students/families interested in Nova can attend an open house Friday 2/12, 10-11:30a or Thursday 2/25, 6:30-8:30p. Orientation is a "next step" where prospective students spend a half-day (4hrs?) at school for a tour, meet and greet, discussion, Q and A... Sign up for orientation at an open house or by calling the office-206-252-3500

Siblings Parent said...

zb,

From my public testimony preceding the January 20 Board Meeting vote: “Dr. Goodloe-Johnson, your Draft Transition Plan squarely rests on a bizarre policy: Forced grandfathering of older siblings of preschoolers and even the preschoolers themselves, away from their own attendance area school and into the grandfathering school. I trust that you can now explain to the Directors, to parents, and to the public why your Draft Transition Plan does not contain the following guarantee: ‘Upon request, grandfathered attendance area older siblings at any grade will also be assigned to their attendance area elementary school for 2010-11, whether or not their younger sibling has already reached school age.’ Without this Section II.B amendment, the Draft Transition Plan is based on a false mathematical premise and will itself create the so-called “capacity” problem it refuses to resolve.”

zb, grandfathered older siblings of preschoolers who wish to transfer into their own attendance area school are not covered by the Transition Plan provision you cite. That language is deliberately and nonsensically limited to older siblings of incoming Kindergartners, and even then absurdly requires that younger sibling to apply to the grandfathering school, and to be refused space there, before the grandfathered older sibling would be guaranteed an automatic transfer into their own attendance area school.

For each particular family with preschoolers, the precise length of this utterly pointless and destructive period of forced grandfathering before they could request any guaranteed transfer into their own attendance area school will quite randomly be measured by the exact gap between their grandfathered older and preschool younger siblings. For example, under this silly and harmful Transition Plan policy, a 2010-11 First Grader with a two-year old preschool sibling would never be offered any guaranteed transfer into their own attendance area school until 2013-14, when that preschooler reaches incoming Kindergarten age, by which time this grandfathered older sibling will be entering 4th Grade. Why should that grandfathered older sibling of a preschooler not enter his own attendance area school into 1st Grade this upcoming Fall 2010, so that he can flourish there, if his attendance area family chooses to commit now to their attendance area elementary school? And remember, Fall 2010 enrollment is largely a one-time chance for the district to attract many families of grandfathered older siblings with preschoolers int their own attendance area elementary school, because as these entering 1st Graders rise into higher grades they will be increasingly less likely to transfer voluntarily.

Walter J. Walsh

Megan Mc said...

Walter,
Your argument makes perfect sense but I can think of at least one situation where it would cause a capacity nightmare: current Jane Addams kindergarteners trying to get back into their attendance are schools of bryant, wedgewood, view ridge.the district assigned around 100 kindergartners to the school and they are banking on the sibs of those kindergartners following them to JA where there will be no problem accommodating them. Therefore your proposal would screw up this plan by giving all those forced assignments an out into the schools they were denied access to in the first place. I am not saying I agree with the district; I am just pointing out a rationale for why they won't do the right thing.

hschinske said...

Owlhouse is almost certainly right about orientation being a half-day rather than a full day. I misremembered.

Helen Schinske

Joan NE said...

I took notes on Harium's speech in favor of 5 yrs of transporation grandfathering. A few minutes after this speech, he voted against KSB's cost-neutral transition plan ammendment proposal for same for K-8 schools.

Here are the notes. This is not a perfect quote of course, but it is pretty close.

"While I believe that saving 2 million dollars is a good thing, but if we are grandfathering our elementary school children who are currently in grade one, and keep them in the school they are in, until they age out, and also say, but we won't provide you with transportation, and especially since we said until a week ago we would guarantee the five years out-of-attendence-area tranpsortation. So we literally did pull the rug out from under them, we moved the cheese. Makes it diffucult for us as leaders when these [changes come unexpectedly]. I know this is a tough economic time, but it is just two million dollars, versus thousands of families being affected. It is only 2 million."

Joan NE said...

Melissa, what worries us about the Community Values Statement is that it will be used by the League of Education Voters as showing that SPS families are in favor of the reforms called for by RTT. There is a very strong push to get RTT friendly legislation through the STate legislature in this session.

If this was not the intent of the good folks who helped to write this admirable document, then these people have been and are being used and abused.

To restate, my colleagues and I worry that LEV will use this doc as evidence of support for proposed legislation that is going to have a degrading effect on public school education, and more worrisome, will be especially harmful for low-income and minority children.

I have studied the RTT final program announcement. I think it is totally reasonable to call it a racist agenda, and designed to drive tax dollars out of the public K-12 domain and into private hands, including those of tutoring companies, charter operators, charter management organizations, and into a new private teacher training industry that one of the draft bills in Olympia would create.

Any reasonable person who would take the time to read with diligence the RTT program announcement, and the draft legislation that RTT is inspiring, can see judge for themselves whether what my interpretation is reasonable.

I wish someone would do this and write back to this blog. I hope that someone can convince me that my worries are unfounded, and that the RTT is a very good, constructive agenda.

Joan NE said...

Melissa - I just noticed you already have a thread about the Community Values Statement.

"Seattle Organizers: Values Statement for Teacher Contract Negotiations""

I would like to continue the dialogue about this some more, so I am going to shift over to that thread with my next post on this.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Joan, who is us? Who are you speaking for? Again, I say there is nothing about RTTT in the Values Statement. The League of Women Voters won't say any such thing and I have to wonder, as I have answered this before, why you keep repeating it.

I am going to be writing another thread on this with a link to the Values Statement tomorrow.

Joan NE said...

Melissa - I am sorry I wasn't clear. With "LEV" I was referring not to League of Women Voters, but to League of Education Voters. Sounds like a grassroots organization, but isn't. I think you mentioned on a different thread that LEV was involved in the CVS somehow.

To answer this question: Who is "us"? Who am I speaking for?
I am collaborating with a group of about half a dozen parents who have become well-informed about the Broad Foundation, League of Education Voters, Alliance for Education, the downsides of charter schools, merit pay, high stakes testing, etc. etc.. We are quite alarmed about the direction SPS, and now the State in its bid for RTT, are taking. We are developing a plan to educate the public about this.

I noticed that the CVS says nothing about RTT. I like the CVS.
I bring up RTT because it seems to me that the CVS plays into the pro-RTT agenda and into efforts to bring unconstructive, even harmful forms of teacher evaluations to SPS.

I don't think that this was the intent of most people--including yourself--who participated in drafting this document. That is why I say good people are abused to the extent that the doc is misused in the way I describe.

The CSV is so general that those who want to can interpret it as evidence of public support for forms of teacher evaluation that are deprofessionalizing and that favor a high stakes testing regime. The most credible experts in the nation say clearly that HST is NOT best practices in education.

We are worried about how the District & PTA leadership may misuse the CSV to influence the upcoming negotiations, and how LEV may misuse it to help their lobbying effort for RTT legislation in Olympia.

To clarify, high stakes testing represents misuse of standardized tests. Standardized tests can be very constructive, but not when they are used as part of a High Stakes Testing regime. I am not opposed to standarized tests. I am opposed to high stakes testing. Merit pay is a part of the high stakes testing regime.