Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Busy, Busy, (and did I mention) Busy Board Meeting

(Update: Tuesday 4ish. Well, gone are both the Executive Sessions and now only the Work Session form 4-5:30 about SBOC is happening. Hey, look at that, Meg, me and Dan D. all made the speakers list. We're also hearing from the head of the SEA and some teachers as well. Also, not picking on Hale but I note that we are spending about $600K to rebuild Hale's greenhouse. It has to be moved over by Summit because City Parks wants their land back where the current one sits. It's a great program but man, I could think of a lot of maintenance that could be done with $600K.)

Talk about packing it in! On Wednesday, before the Board meeting, the Board is having not one but two Executive Session plus, in-between, a Work Session.

The first Executive Session is called a "quasi-judicial hearing" (this under an RCW) for a student bullying incident. I'm thinking it was the cyber-bullying over at McClure but who knows? They are allotting 15 minutes for this so it's either very cut and dried or they are being optimistic.

Then, the Work Session is on a new SBOC model. Let me state: I am for any attention and revamping of SBOC. I think that program deserves it given how many immigrant children come into our district every year. I believe the idea is to make it a "World School" a la one in St. Paul, MN where students could complete high school there rather than it being just kind of a way station for a series of months. (Students could, of course, choose to leave and go to any high school if they wanted to as well.)

However, I know that the district is planning to fly a couple of SBOC staff to see a couple of these schools throughout the U.S. And then there are planning and implementation costs. Where is the money coming from for all this? How can we afford to do this right now? I just don't get it.

Then the Board's next Executive Session starts to discuss collective bargaining and negotiations for 15 whole minutes. That seems odd but I suspect it might have something to do with the Seattle Organizers coalition group asking for parents to be included in the process (not at the table). I'll be able to explain more tomorrow or the next day.

Then there's the actual Board meeting at 6 p.m. and that agenda is huge. They might be able to get through all 12 items on the Consent agenda quickly but that's 12 things to announce. What is interesting is there is an item for Sand Point School modernization to be paid for under BTA II and when we passed BTA II, Sand Point wasn't a school nor was McDonald which is also on the agenda. Some other project probably got axed as they scramble to find funding to reopen the 5 schools. However, there is an Intro Item on BTA III so we'll have to see.

But there are 6 Action Items including the Performance Management policy (with a DeBell amendment). Included is one item put off which is a lease for a place for science materials which is not really going to save that much money and they claim there is no place in all the district properties for it. Is anyone on the Board going to challenge this one? Probably not.

Here's the text of DeBell's amendment:

This amendment includes an expectation that (a) high performing schools that request a waiver
should assume that their waiver will be approved absent evidence shown to the contrary; and that (b) once a waiver is granted, the school should not have to annually apply to continue the waiver.

While a school should not annually need to apply, it is reasonable for the Superintendent’s
waiver process to include an annual check in on the school’s status. Schools that are no longer
high performing should expect that their waiver may be rescinded.

This amendment also includes an expectation that the number of texts available for use by a
school that has received a waiver is limited. The intention of this amendment is to provide
flexibility for high performing schools, but that flexibility does not extend to having a multitude
of texts in use. Texts that are already in use, or those that are recommended by the
Superintendent or designee may be considered, but this is not intended to result in different
materials in use in every high performing school. The Superintendent’s waiver process may
limit the number of different texts available for a waiver.

Schools that receive a waiver to use non-approved materials should note that those materials
must meet state and college-readiness standards. Schools with approved waivers should also
note that the waivers do not exempt students from state assessments (such as the MSP) or from
district assessments that are not tied to district-approved materials (such as MAP). Last, schools using non-approved materials must pay for those materials out of their budgets.

(The paragraph in red is in red on the Amendment.) Note, schools have to pay for non-approved materials which means if the school can't budget for it and/or your PTA can't pay for it, no waiver for you.)

And then there are 6 Introduction Items including the sale of $34M worth of SPS bonds to try to lower the payments on the John Stanford Center. You did know, right, that that building never saved the district money (well, maybe, in getting everyone in one place) but in terms of costs? We are paying and paying for that building. It's a huge albatross around the neck of this district and now we are selling bonds to try to get out under it.

There is also the NTN Contract and I'll be listening to that discussion, if any. They may just have agreed to no discussion and will just pass it. There's also an item for acceleration of BTA III funds to reopen the schools (but no info posted yet).

That is going to be one long day for the Board members.


ArchStanton said...

Someone posted the following on the APP blog recently:

"On the Board agenda for this Wed. is a proposed Performance Management Policy that includes an amendment allowing waivers of district approved materials.

The catch? Schools requesting waivers need "earned autonomy", which comes from being high performing and having no significant achievement gaps between the high and low poverty students. How does this apply to Lowell and TM?"

I don't see this earned autonomy/achievement gap language mentioned in DeBell's amendment. Does such a requirement exist elsewhere?

ParentofThree said...

Admendment Translated:
Wealthy "high performing" schools get to buy their kids a good education, poor "low-performing" schools must use materials that will likely keep them low underperforming schools.


Melissa Westbrook said...

You'd have to read the Performance Management Policy in agenda. That's likely where it is.

seattle citizen said...

Why is it always about SCHOOLS? Why does a SCHOOL get "earned autonomy" when there are INDIVIDUAL students in that school who are behind?
Why does a SCHOOL get mandated basics when their are INDIVIDUAL students in that school that excel?

Again and again and again, we see this focus on "failing schools" and "successful schools." Can someone tell me what the heck that means?

seattle citizen said...

ParentofThree: Don't that beat all? The students that really need a rich and varied education because they might be too poor to get "enrichment" outside of school get the more basic education, while those that might have MORE enrichment outside of school get MORE enriching and varied educations.

Central Mom said...

See the previous thread. Along w/ Quality Schools, we STILL don't know what Earned Autonomy is.

Can't help myself: Any Talking Heads fans out there? Here's one of my favorites for the current state of things. I often play it after business meetings. But now you too can enjoy it. Give yourself a smile. Download it to a ringtone and play it anytime you head to a District meeting.

Chorus to Road to Nowhere:
Well we know where we're goin'
But we can't say where we've been.
And we know what we're knowin'
But we can't say what we've seen.
And we're not little children
And we know what we want.
And the Future is Certain...
Give us time to work it out.

ArchStanton said...

Can't help myself: Any Talking Heads fans out there?

"Into the blue again, after the money's gone... Same as it ever was,
Same as it ever was..."

wv: spifies

SPS mom said...
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Central Mom said...

re: staff flying around for SBOC...

What part of "no travel," which is what the public and board members have suggested over and over, does Central Staff not understand in this time of huge budget issues?

SPS mom said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
ttln said...

I read the amendment from the NOVA perspective. It cuts them loose to do what they want and maintain status quo with the level of district funding support historically not given to the program. Autonomy and academic freedom is valued more by key staff there than funds anyway. Any ideas for funding sources for NOVA? How about the financier of the New School? Would he be willing to back NOVA?

On a personal level, what about us outliers? Us renegade teachers who make gains despite the mandates? (Even my kids who didn't do a lick of work made gains on MAPS mid year- little boogers!)

Is there district data to support the expectation that using district curriculum, pacing, and pedagogy guarentees student gains? If not, what evidence do they have that any criteria they set out is valid?

To borrow Bill Frist's (Sen. from Ten.) analogy comparing teaching to medicine: it would be malpractice to "treat" our patients with "medicine" that is proven not to work. Similarly, it would be ridiculous to diagnose problems with faulty tests then treat the misdiagnosis with ineffective medicine.

While many of the areas on the list are good "indicators" of trouble in a school, addressing deficient areas with a "solution in a can" without doing substantial investigation into the program itself, is also damaging.

As worked up as I could get about this, I find that I just cannot go there. Our budget and program devastation caused by district initiatives take emotional priority for me. I cannot even motivate myself to support the union's call to action over this one. Not when they have supported everything that has led us down this road to begin with. Hopefully, my "skilz" will protect me. MAPS indicates that I have magic. What have I got to worry about?

Maureen said...

Arch, Here is the proposed Performance Management Policy link.

It says (on p. 2):
Schools that are high performing on both the absolute and growth dimensions and have no significant achievement gaps between high poverty and low poverty students will have ‘earned autonomy’ for the following decisions: academic and social-emotional programs and interventions; selection of professional development; C-SIP goals and planning; and budget flexibility for discretionary spending.

(I found it by following links from tonight's agenda)

ttln, interesting thought re. Nova. True I suppose until they enroll one (?) student of color who does not pass the WASL, Then what happens? Is autonomy immediately rescinded?

I would feel much better about this if I believed they had a real measurement of 'achievement gap.' As is, a school like Montlake can claim to have closed the gap because the four black 4th graders they had one year all passed the WASL. Were their parents all Microsofties? Did they all score 3s when they were capable of 4s? Who knows or cares? (This literally happened--Montlake had a big banner hanging up over their front door)

One more case IMO of SPS putting too many eggs in a data basket that is full of holes.

Stu said...

Schools that receive a waiver to use non-approved materials should note that those materials
must meet state and college-readiness standards.

That's my favorite . . . EDM isn't approved by the state, right?

Just found that funny . . .


reader said...

Montlake should definitely NOT claim to have closed any achievement gap using the WASL as a measurement. Look at their results, whites far outscore minorities. And... only 2 kids are FRL in 4th grade, 8 in 5th... their races are unknown.

Reading, Math,Writing

Montlake 4th Grade
Whites (30): 100%, 90%, 77%
Non-White (9): 100%, 67%, 56%

Reading, Math
Montlake 5th Grade
Whites (32): 94%, 94%
Non-White (15): 73%, 73%

grousefinder said...

Does the DeBell Amendment apply to schools like Schmitz Park that have to apply annually for their Singapore Math Waiver? Others have applied recently, I believe, at the elementary level. Or, is this just for High School?

Melissa Westbrook said...

The claim has been that Montlake did,never saw the numbers before, hmm.

I think this is an across the board policy.

wseadawg said...

So once we've proven we can overcome any and every obstacle they throw in the way of educating our kids, then, and only then, they'll give up trying to destroy the school and refocus on easier targets elsewhere. Do I have it about right?

Charlie Mas said...

The earned autonomy makes no sense.

If the system works for your population, then you are free to deviate from it.

If the system does not work for your population then you must follow it more closely.

The presumption - and that's all it is - is that any failure is due to poor implementation and not due to a system that doesn't work well for your population. They have no data to support that conclusion.

Elsewhere, they blame the institutionalized racism and lack of privilege in the system for the historical underperformance of minorities and students from low-income homes. They acknowledge that the system doesn't work for these groups and insist that it needs to add cultural sensitivity and cultural relevance, but then they try to eliminate any deviation from the standard delivery to improve outcomes.

It's totally irrational.

wseadawg said...

Exactly Charlie. If you're doing great, you're free to change (and why would anyone do that?). If not, you must keep struggling until you get it right, or I guess we'll nuke your school and turn you into a Charter or something.

What kind of boot-camp nonsense is this? The more you struggle, well, the more you get punished! That'll show 'em we mean business!

Leslie said...

So does this mean then that Alternative Schools who supplement "approved" materials are responsible for paying for same out of their budgets? Do they get higher budgets for this then?

"Last, schools using non-approved materials must pay for those materials out of their budgets. "

seattle citizen said...

Leslie, schools get a chunk of money, and create their own budgets. There are contractual issues to deal with first (class size and core classes - can't have more than, say, 32 students in an LA class; students must have access to core...)
So they wouldn't get MORE money for curricular choices they make, it would come out of the regular budget, and given the budgets this month, you probably won't see a lot of schools having extra money (if they ever do) Some schools might choose to have more freedom and less money (spend money on irregular curriculum) but that won't be common. Bless 'em for making that leap, but they will then be scrambling for FTE, or for paper supplies, etc more than they do now.
Does a school want a unique curriculum or does it want a counselor? Those sorts of choices....
This is why it's sort of odious - PTSAs can help by buying things, but poorer schools won't have that option.
I hope everyone joins the many, many people expected tonight at JSCEE (6:00) to hear the board and stand for what you believe in.

ParentofThree said...

I also find it ironic that this admendment is coming from a director who represents mostly, if not all, "high-performing" schools, who have PTAs with the ability to raise $$$.

Anybody else see, a discrimination law suit on the horizon if this thing passes.

I do and I would not want my pawprints on this puppy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent of Three, to that point you would have thought that the last think of the amendment about schools paying for their own waiver materials would have given DeBell pause. It just sets things up to be unfair as Charlie lays out in his comment. I suspect he was trying to protect in-place waivers but I'm hoping the other directors vote this down.

ArchStanton said...

"Anybody else see, a discrimination lawsuit on the horizon if this thing passes."

Seems to me that the potential is there. SPS is into that sort of thing these days.

Unknown said...

Can someone help me out here? Is there ANYWHERE on the SPS website that makes the cuts to the elementary school counselor positions explicit? I tried a couple of searches and came up with nothing.

I'm trying to give real information to my school community, and it really doesn't help when the District doesn't have the info anywhere.

Thanks a lot!


Unknown said...

From the district website for tonight's meeting..."Schools that have three years of low growth and sustain low absolute performance will be subject to one or more of the following actions taken by the Superintendent:
 Change school leadership
 Change school staff
 Direct instructional strategies and professional development
 Change curricular materials and or programs
 Conduct regular accountability reviews throughout the year with the principal, CAO, and Instructional Directors
 Close and/or reconstitute the school"

What I feel like is that the district must already know which schools "have three years of low growth and sustain low absolute performance".
Anybody out there seen a list? And would this policy go into effect now? Or is data to be gathered for 3 years, and then it goes into effect?

ttln said...

Cutting counselors may not be "in writing." How it is happening at our school is through the budgeting process- schools develop budgets, approve them through their decision making processes...
With the WSS, we were allotted 2.2 counselors for our program which currently employs 3. In the past, we "bought up" part of a counselor (2.6ish) by cutting department/teacher budgets, a tech person, and other "essentials" we thought we might be able to live without. But never have we bought up .8 of one. The expense is too great. There is nothing left for us to cut. We have to decide, as a school, to keep classroom teachers, a nurse, or a counselor.

Which impacts kids the most? Tough call. But the district has left it up to us to make it.

They left it up to us to make the tough choices. Let me tell you, the building wide discussions are creating a lot of bad blood amongst the staff. How we will recover if we get some sort of bump from the state, I don't know. I am sure it is tough to work in a place that you know will "cut" your position when times are tight.

Unknown said...

ttln, I'm assuming you're in a middle or high school from your numbers? And getting to the meat of the matter, I need to track down the WSS change for elementary schools where it shows that the 0.5 counselor is no longer funded.



Sue said...

The .5 counselor position is no longer funded at the elementary level. Librarians are .5. Nurses are...2? .3? something like that. And each elementary also gets a certain amount of teachers or FTE's per building.

If a counselor was seen as paramount, the school could decide to cut the classroom teacher or the nurse.

So, school leadership teams or whomever, are indeed making the choice about whether to restore the counselor position at the expense of a classroom teacher or specialist, or nurse.

And yes, it certainly does make for a fun work atmosphere.

seattle citizen said...

District initiatives such as Response to Intervention, MAP/Differentiation, and others REQUIRE time to implement, and certain sorts of FTE in some cases (truancy officers, academic support (remedial classes), counselors, librarians....nurses...
Yet, as mentioned above, schools are in the midst of getting rid of all of these things because they have to make these impossible choices: Core teachers or counselors. Basic ed or actually meeting the needs of students.

The real hoot is when "performance management" is voted into practice tonight: teachers will be helpd to differentiated instruction because the MAP scores and WASL will be used to evaluate them. But they are losing resources (and time: bigger class-sizes will prevail) that might have helped this movement towards differentiation.

Let's watch and see if teachers are penalized for a decrease in student performance as resources are withdrawn....

yumpears said...
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yumpears said...

Eric – if you look at the budget for your school you can see what’s funded and not.


yumpears said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Maureen said...

Eric, here's a link to the Budget page yumpears posted. Go to your school's Budget Allocation Page. Counselors are the third line item. Blank FTE column means zero allocation.

Keepn'On you say:
If a counselor was seen as paramount, the school could decide to cut the classroom teacher or the nurse.

Is that true? I didn't know it was possible to cut FTEs that SPS designated--I thought it was only possible to use the "cash" allocated on the budget (or fundraising or grant money)to buy FTEs. In particular, the classroom teacher FTEs are determined by projected number of kids at a grade level and contract definitions of max class size--if the budget says you need 2.0 1st grade classroom teachers, you can't just make class size 46 and only hire one.

Sue said...

Sorry Maureen, you are correct - I misspoke.

What I meant was, if a school say, wants to buy back the counselor, they can take dollars that they have been using to buy a full time librarian or nurse, and instead direct those to a counselor. I think. Maybe they can't? I know some schools in the south end are doing that.

Maureen said...

That sounds right to me. Do you happen to know how flexible the 'cash' in the budget is? For example, if a school wanted to use their various stipend and designated supplies line items to hire a nurse instead could they?

Sue said...

I recall that staffing FTE dollars can only be used to pay for staff. And BLT stipend, etc. cannot be used for FTE staff. So I don't think you can take your supply dollars and re-direct them. (Tempting though)

It does lead to pretty creative dollar-moving, and you really need a team who understands the arcane ins and outs of SPS budgeting.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Keepin' On, an important point that many people miss about principals. These people need to be instructional leaders to teachers, building managers to staff, the public face to parents and, oh yes, a great fiscal manager. I remember asking our elementary principal how he knew so many ways to squeeze a dollar in our budget and he said he really did his homework.

No everyone is good at everything so it helps if there is someone else in the building (staff or PTA) who knows all the budget ins and outs.

Unknown said...

Thanks to everyone for the link to the purple books. I looked at my elementary school (Loyal Heights) and whoever is doing the enrollment projections is smoking something. They say 23 full-day K and 50 half day K. I don't think we've had more than 5-8 half day K's in any of the last 5 years. It's certainly not a 66-33 ratio.

Does the purple book also show the discretionary funding somewhere? I see about $60K in cash funds for this school, including a line item for "Per Student Allocation" ($34K, enrollment is 396 kids). Obviously, this isn't enough to pay for any significant amount of counselor time.

Oh, and by the way, I heard through teh grapevine that District Financial HQ said that they would not approve any budget that had a counselor in it. So there goes autonomy in budgeting. To be fair, I don't know if they would have killed a budget that had the PTA paying for a counselor.

In any case, HQ blames the school by saying that all of these decisions are made locally within the funding constraints. All the while HQ either explicitly prohibits schools from making those hard decisions or doesn't provide enough discretionary funds to make it happen. Nice.