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Monday, January 18, 2010

Should the Board Vote in the Transition Plan?

I'm not advocating either way on this issue. What I want to point out is that a number of new additions have cropped up in the Transition Plan without any public notice or input. I doubt if more than 20 parents know about them.

I asked Michael DeBell if the Board only sees most presentations the day of the Board meeting and he said yes. I don't know about you but when I am reading something I have to make a decision on but I need to read through something, ponder it and then look through it again. I certainly can't be reading it, listening to a presentation and then trying to put together good questions.

Now these transition changes are not the day of (but some amendments might be) but the additions to the Transition Plan are just a scant few days before.

How is this fair to either the Board members or to parents? This is especially true for parents who were all but promised that the Transition Plan would make everything clear and it hasn't.

(Honestly, want a cottage industry for the next couple of years? Read and know the SAP and the Transition Plan inside out and then do consulting for parents who are confused.)

Lori brought up the issue under the plan for grandfathering K students where it says that they might only have half-day K at some schools. What!?! And when will they tell parents this? Before or after Open Enrollment?

Eliminating full-day K classes (including Pay for K), and offering only half-day K classes at some schools.

Then there's cutting grandfathering of transportation from 2-5 years. That's a big change that parents will have no idea is happening until AFTER the vote.

Then there's the idea of using distance tiebreaker for deciding which grandfathered K sibs get in. (I was told by Sherry it's a lottery but someone here posted something that seemed to contradict that - I can't seem to find it now.)

It is troubling to me that there are still issues coming forth and yet the vote is on Wednesday night. I realize we need to get this done and move forward but these are big decisions for a lot of people to live with from here on out.

29 comments:

Unknown said...

I find it imperative that the board put the brakes on the adoption of the NSAP for now!

(I already posted this on another thread, but thought it was applicable here.)

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

I just read through most of this information and it is appalling to me. Did the district not foresee any of these issues when they drew the NSAP boundaries? It seems like the data they used to create boundaries was outdated. What the district really should do is NOT implement the NSAP until the Fall of 2011 so they can more accurately draw boundaries based on capacity issues and projected attendance.This seems ludicrous to adopt new boundaries only to maybe have them change several times over the course of the next few years because the attendance projections they used were inadequate. This is definitely NOT the predictability parents are looking for. Or is the district too vain to put the brakes on this for the time being? I support attending neighborhood schools, but not when it is going to have such a huge and unsettling impact on our kids.

What frustrates me even more is that Olympic View is where my daughter currently attends. (It used to be our reference area school. We originally chose our neighborhood school.) However, they can not guarantee a spot for my incoming kindergarten son in the Fall of 2010. As a result he is assigned to Broadview. BOTH of these schools have huge capacity issues. Did they not foresee this issue? This is extremely disheartening. They really need to put the brakes on this NSAP and reconfigure their boundaries. **Huge sigh** ... what a mess.

Unknown said...

I think it's good they are thinking of reintroducing half day k... I don't like the idea of being forced to pay for all day k when I'd actually prefer a half day program. Yes I can afford all day k, but it seems ridiculous to *have* to pay for it at the only schools available to us. (all the option schools are all day/pay for k as well.)

ParentofThree said...

When the NSAP started it was pretty clear cut but now is a large and unruly plan that nobody completely understands. I know I am very lost.

Typical SPS. And yes it will all be voted on, then more things voted on to fix the things they voted on....and on and on and on

Lori said...

Jamie, no one is forced to attend full-day K. The half-day option has always existed, and you can pick up your child at noon or whatever the time is and not have to pay for the full day. It's just that at some schools, such as the one we go to, no one exercises that option. Many parents like having their child stay for the full day because that is when more "social" activities occur and enrichment experiences like music.

So the district is not really returning to half-day K. Instead, they may take away the option of full-day K for those who do want it, just because they need space.

All of that said, I can't imagine which school has such dire space needs that they can solve the problem by eliminating full-day K. This may not happen anywhere. It's simply one option among many. If I had an incoming K student, though, you can bet I'd ask at the one Open House and one or two tours being offered how the schools I'm interested in are planning to manage capacity this fall.

Unknown said...

If your kid is the only one who does it makes them socially different and causes them to miss events that the teacher has been building up. Trust me, it's not a real option.

Central Mom said...

Some of us have sent letters to the board saying that the posting of the transition plan before a 3-day weekend, in a completely obscure place on the website (not updated in the SAP area) and with MAJOR changes in it is completely unacceptable from a public engagement perspective.

Again...Completely. Unacceptable.

If your communities feel the same, write the board members. Many of them *are* listening.

Chris S. said...

You know what? I have just decided to vote no on BTA (yes on operations) but if the board voted no on anything, transition plan, NTN, ANYTHING, I'd change my mind.

StepJ said...

To clarify...There is NOT a sibling distance tie-breaker proposed for the Transition Plan version for approval on the 20th.

That idea was listed in a FAQ document of sorts that explained what suggestions were and were not considered for the Transition Plan and why.

FWIW - I personally found the title/document a bit misleading and had to read it several times to realize that not all the items in the document were being included in the Transition Plan.

SP said...

Yes, it seems as if these things (including major changes) are frequently introduced at the last minute. The updated Transition Plan attachment to the action agenda was not even posted online at 7:00pm Friday when I last checked for the night.

I don't think there has been enough time spent properly planning the new SAP. On top of that, it is absurd to spend our school's limited funds on a gold plated "5-star" program which benefits so few kids in only one out of almost 100 schools. We are in the middle of the largest budget crisis for decades and the district wants to spend money faster than it can get printed. According to Meg's recent post, Cleveland's program already pumps $1,600 more per student than any other in Seattle. And that's before the new contract commitments to NTN and all the other frills.

No, it's time to face reality and slow the train's timetable before we are all part of the Seattle train wreck of 2010!

Teachers often tell kids, rightly, to go back and make improvements, and now is the time for the Board to tell the same thing to the district- go back & do it right, and we'll spend the money after we have it!

Unknown said...

i'm wondering if a separate discussion on pay-for-k is warranted? i always wondered why people don't push back on such an oddly conceived program, perhaps it's because they put in their year of K and then never look back?

yes, i believe personally in the full day curriculum but find it ridiculous that parents must pay ~$250/month for it. either the district should provide it, or not, no pay option. that is a lot of money for many families that do not qualify for F/R lunch (which qualifies then for free pay for K) but still want their K's to participate in the full day option. or how about those with multiples? that's a hefty monthly payment for "public" school.

while academics are offered in the a.m. at our school so kids could opt out of the second half of the day, the afternoon is where music, PE, library, computers, field trips, class parties, etc happen, and that's as much or more of the K social/emotional development experience than the reading/math. I think a kid would be at a disadvantage both academically and socially starting 1st grade w/out experiencing the 2nd half of the K day.

i heard that the governor was threatening to cut a state pay-for-k grant in the new budget. i'm not sure what exactly that paid for? *perhaps* it covers a large part of the F/R payment, so schools with a high F/R population would need to go to 1/2 day only *if* the proposed cut went through? (i want to be careful not to start any rumors, i heard about the grant from a friend of a friend and haven't had time to look up on the facts online, if the proposed budget info is posted anywhere?) this might explain why going back to 1/2 day K is suddenly a possibility on the transition plan. if that were so, talk about inequality between neighborhood schools! or perhaps the most overcrowded in the new plan, such as wegewood is forced to go to 1/2 day to free up a classroom/teacher - how is that fair to those families that the district couldn't plan appropriately or draw lines on a map correctly so their kids could go to full day K?

in any case, i think the pay for k program is another example of a cobbled-together bandaid that is poorly conceived and managed - why does every school have a different tuition dollar amount? where does that payment go? does it directly equate to the teacher salaries at that particular school? so many things are unexplained and i think we all just go ahead and pay it as it's only for 1 year.

i'd love for someone who knows more to educate me on all this...

dj said...

Well, permit me to be the contrarian here. I didn't (don't) support the new assignment plan. That said, I think that pretty much every item in the transition plan that people are griping about was something that people should have realized might go a different way than they thought. I am not sure why people assumed that the new SAP would grandfather in five years of transportation for everyone, or pledge to unite siblings at a school of their choice, or include them in a zone for an option school, or give them a distance tiebreaker to a non-assignment school, or . . . well, pretty much anything that people are finding fault with in the transition plan. Frankly, for people seeking "predictability," as people supposedly were, the transition plan is pretty predictable. I mean, some of the outcomes are predictably bad for people who didn't expect they'd get a predictably bad outcome, but that illustrates to me that predictability is of less value to people than perhaps they thought. And frankly, if what people want is good data about school boundary lines, the less sibling linkage and transportation grandfathering the better.

Again, I don't support the SAP, so none of that was in defense of the SAP. But I don't see the transition plan as a reason to ding the SAP.

zb said...

I did like the SAP, so, I can't make precisely dj's point. But, I think it's a valid point. I think a fair number of people who didn't really like the SAP were hoping that the transition plan would immunize them, personally, from the parts they didn't like. But, that was never the promise (except for the things that were explicitly in the SAP, like grandfathering current students).

I do think the issue of only having 1/2 K at some schools would be a big (and new) one, though. Managing "surge" capacity, though? that had to be a part of any plan that guaranteed attendance based on neighborhood boundaries. And, since the boundaries are supposed to be drawn to be "right-sized" for the next 5 years, not for each year, managing a surge in the first year of the plan was always a possibility.

What I would find worrisome in the transition plan would be specific amendments to deal with particular constituencies (i.e. H M-M's Thornton creek amendment.) I hope they fail. The transition plan should be one that could be generalized to new changes in attendance boundaries that might occur (say, at the end of the 5 years), not responses to specific groups of people who squeak loudly enough.

Stu said...

My two cents on grandfathering siblings . . .

While this doesn't affect us directly, having no younger ones at home, I do see a financial problem with the lack of grandfathering siblings.

This district is in dire straits and the administration only wants to spend more and more without considering the maintenance backlog or the realities of the economy. At a time when state funding is actually going down, the schools need parent/family support more than ever. Music, art, sports, smaller class sizes, remedial work, languages: many of these are only made possible by families donating to their school. Dividing families also divides the school community and the support families are able to give.

When we're done paying our bills each month, we have very little left over for anything else. Still we've always tried to donate to the schools our children have attended. Some years, we've been able to give more, some less, but we've always done what we can. That said, when our sons were in two different schools, each school got a little bit; now that only one son is in the system, we give only to that school and, subsequently, that school receives more money.

Keeping families together in a single school community helps the family, obviously. But it also helps the community with fundraising support, leadership, continuity, and programs.

stu

north seattle mom said...

zb, the HMM amendment is only for three years and without any transportation. It is a transition item not a NSAP item.

seattle said...
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seattle said...
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Charlie Mas said...

The issues around student assignment have all been about "winners" and "losers". The "winners" were the ones who got assignments to the popular schools and the "losers" were those who did not.

Since the space in the popular schools is finite and they were already full, the number of "winners" wasn't going to increase under the new plan. In fact, since the District will be saving seats in schools for students who join the District after Open Enrollment, the number of "winners" will actually decrease. More than that, since the assurance of a seat at a popular school might draw some families out of private schools, and since those children would bump others, the number of "losers" should increase.

The new plan wasn't intended to increase the number of "winners"; it was supposed to change the names of the winners. If the transition plan includes a robust and extended sibling preference, however, then the District won't even be able to make that change as the last names remain the same.

In a zero net sum game like this, changing the rules can only hurt those who were winning. If you already had a child at a popular school, then you could only lose in the new plan.

What I'm seeing now is what I always see on school district issues. It's all about whose ox is gored. Each person's perspective on the fairness of the new rules seems to depend mostly on whether or not the new rule benefits them. If it benefits them - or at least does them no harm, then they are okay with the rule. If it harms them, however, they believe the rule to be unfair.

The point of the new student assignment plan was not to change the number of winners and losers by increasing the former and reducing the latter. It does the exact opposite of that. The point of the new student assignment plan was to change the names of the winners and the losers. Their last names as well as their first names.

Surely everyone knew that, right? Including those with the same last names as the "winners"?

SolvayGirl said...

Charlie, I'd take your concept a step further and say that the purpose was actually to increase losers by forcing people into unpopular schools. To me, CA's goal is to beef up enrollment in under enrolled schools under the guise of "creating predictability" that they claim so many people want. And, as you have noted, people really only want a predictable assignment to a popular/desirable school. I see very few "winners" with this new plan.

Central Mom said...

Look, the initial point of this thread is that major items have come up at the last minute in the final transition plan. The doc isn't even posted under the SAP area. This isn't about winners and losers...it's about community information and subsequent discourse/input from the Board and taxpayers.

1/2 day K as a sudden option? 2 years not 5 for transportation? These are not minor things. Allowing them less than 2 business days worth of discussion before a final vote is poor, poor form from HQ.

West Seattle said...

Interesting article on the WSB about the upcoming board meeting/Steve Sundquist’s position.

http://www.westseattleblog.com/2010/01/seattle-public-schools-new-assignment-plan-more-transition-talk

southmom said...

Solvaygirl has it nailed. Really, we're big time losers, having been assigned so the absolute lowest performing schools in the district without any plan offered for improvement. It's unjust and unfair, and I cannot believe the board would force this plan on us.

SolvayGirl said...

Central Mom
You're right about this thread, but it is important to recognize the intent of CA in developing the new SAP: increasing enrollment in under-enrolled schools, decreasing need for transportation, and, finally, some sense of predictability for people in heretofore gray areas.
Everything else you said about the transition plan and its process is spot on.

StepJ said...

The latest version of the agenda contains an amendment from Sherry Carr. A guarantee for out of service area students that attend JSIS to attend Hamilton. One year only.

SP said...

Tomorrow is the vote, and still tonight on the SAP transition/implementation page is the original, draft version of the Transition Plan and not the updated version released last Friday night. This new plan will be voted on, with significant changes directly impacting kids- including cutting 3 out of 5years of transportation for some kids, 50% less school day for some K, etc.

Is this the predictablility parents "asked for"?

whittier07 said...

Quick question ... in the new SAP do elementary students get transportation within their service area?

For example, we have students attending Whittier that live in the N. Beach & W. Woodland attendance areas ... would the N. Beach student still get bus service to Whittier since both schools are in the same service area ... BUT the W. Woodland student would get 2 years of grandfathered busing since W. Woodland has been moved to the Hamilton service area?

Maureen said...

whittier07, yes, you're right.

nacmom said...

I agree this transition plan is half-baked, slapdash, band-aid, disaster in the making. It angers me to no end that the district's "solutions" to their own lack of planning are to degrade the quality of education - by forcing overcrowded schools, classrooms, displacing PCP, eliminating full day K (which, of course, doesn't actually SOLVE the problem, just puts it off to when those kids become first graders -then what?)

That said, i am and remain a staunch advocate of sibling grandfathering, but have watched the district make one flawed decision after the next leaving themselves in this mess with no good options. To be clear, they could have done this correctly - but chose this 'brute force' method by boxing themselves in a corner.

As far as 1/2 day K. It mostly doesn't exist where there was such demand for full day that parents pushed for. That said, looming budget issues may resurface 1/2 days at many schools which would be fine if people want them for whatever reason, not the least of which is that the pay for K price is sure to rise if state funding levels drop, as is currently projected.

Here's the problem/issue - will the district be proactive and ID and plan for 1/2 days now - before enrollment - or just pull a bait and switch after the fact in late May/early June- when parents have no warning and scant other options. also, if it only applies to crowded schools after the fact it's inherently unfair and arbitrary. You can guess which option my money is on...

Addressing an earlier Q - I understand that school pay-for-K's vary so much b/c they do actually pay for their school's specific teachers -and b/c # of full day K classrooms in the building (state only pays for 1/per school) impacts that cost sharing as well - more senior teachers, more classes = more $. That may change...

Seattle, i appreciate your wanting to delay this, but I see almost no possibility of this happening. The opportunity for the district to have planned this well was there - they've been working on this for years. They didn't choose to and won't even if they have another year. This is, sadly, about as good as it gets.

Luz Villasana said...

I have had several reservations on how the NSAP is being implemented, but I find totally surreal that even before the NSAP is implemented that the District acknowledges it has capacity issues in TEN schools. According to the memorandum, "Group Three" schools "...are schools where we already know we have significant capacity challenges. Schools included in this group need additional classrooms to accommodate the projected enrollment for 2010-11, even before considering adding out-of-area kindergarten siblings."
I certainly hope this is another "lack of data" or "VAX" problem.

Lori said...

Yes, that there are 10 schools with capacity issues even without considering siblings is astonishing to me.

I only know my part of town, but we now have a group of families who have been drawn out of Bryant, so their incoming K child is not guaranteed a spot there with their older sibling, but to pour more salt on the wound, those families learn this week that their new school, Wedgwood, is on the Group 3 list with known capacity issues from the get-go. So the school in which their K student is guaranteed a spot cannot actually guarantee that spot?? And they just have to wait until May to find out how it's all going to play out?