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Wednesday, March 10, 2010

District Budget Info

I forgot but an alert reader, Janne, reminded me that the district has a budget office page with good information and a link to each school's allocation. Here's the link. Here's another link to the Business Operations which lays out what each department does in the district. I went to their "Goals" section and was reminded of another cost that the district is bearing this year:

Our department of technology services provides several important services, including student assignment, student information, and academic systems data. Many of these services – including student assignment – operate on a 1970’s era VAX computer system, which must be replaced. Migration off of the VAX system to a new technology platform is currently in progress. The new platform is on track to be implemented in preparation for the adoption of our new student assignment plan which is expected to take effect in fall 2010.

As I recall, Tracy Libros had explained that they were going to run the enrollment on both the VAX and the new platform to make sure the new platform works (and the VAX is the back-up). Clearly, there's a cost to that but how much it is, I don't know but we're paying for it. Is that bad? Maybe not but it seems everywhere you look, money just drifts away.

I hear a lot of pain in the words of parents who have written here and at Harium's blog about going to their school's budget meeting and seeing the reality of what their child's school is facing. It really hits home. What this points out (and I think the district sometimes loses sight of) is that every single dollar counts. When I get whiny about the BEX or the BTA, please understand that I get that not every single dollar can always be directly going to a school. But we need more of those capital dollars AND the Operating budget dollars to get used the best way. Here were some of my suggestions about cutting back that I suggested to Harium at his blog on the budget thread:

Cut the coaches. (Yes, I know that doesn't mean they all lose their jobs but really, put them back into the classrooms and at least save the gas of them running around town. I was told that the coaches don't stay in one zone but have schools in all directions. Why?)

Cut some of the 28 FTE in BEX that even the head of BEX questioned at a BEX Oversight Committee meeting. (Those positions aren't even counting the project managers for each BEX project.)

Cut the two Broad residents who are at the end of their two-year residency at SPS. They cost us $45K plus benefits (with Broad paying the other $45K of their salary). If we keep them on, that's $90k more a year right there. Also, Carol Rava Treat's $100K+ salary is being paid this year by the Broad Foundation. What about next year?

No travel for SPS employees except the Board, the Superintendent, the COO and CAO for the next year.

Do what the judge in the math adoption case says, review the math adoption, and save the money on appealing it. Seriously, Harium said they weren't going to do the total review of all the textbooks, just the Discovery series. Do what the judge wants and move on.

Each and everyone of us knows about how things add up. Well, these things in the district do as well.

16 comments:

ArchStanton said...

kanne posted this on the APP blog:

Check out this letter published by the Times, written by Lowell Mom Janet Pelz. It's really heartfelt.

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/opinion/2011299884_guest10pelz.html

ArchStanton said...

an anonymous poster replied:

Um, so this'll probably win me no friends, but I think this Janet Pelz letter is over the top...
...I'm not saying I'm happy with the cuts. I'm just saying have a little perspective.


We need to make sure that we aren't limited to false choices offered by those framing the debate.

It may be that we need to choose between art/music/library, but let's be sure that everything is on the table not just things that directly impact kids and schools. We need to be sure that the budget cuts are framed in terms of:

art vs.district coaches,
music vs. BEX FTEs,
librarians vs. district travel expenses,
recess monitors vs. Broad residents,
counselors vs. legal appeals (math)

Just because they say we have to choose between art/music/library, doesn't mean there aren't places to trim some real fat

Unknown said...

Shine a light on the IT department to find some more of those budget saving dollars. In the examination of academic positions it flies under the radar. Money from levies is spent with little additional oversight. And by and large the people drawing salaries are there to protect their antiquated systems. This would be a fantastic place for smart parents to start asking questions. A formal audit would be even better. Save us hundreds of thousands of dollars. Start cleaning.

seattle citizen said...

Anyone else but me wonder why we are initiating all these changes to things, changes that cost money, while we're in the midst of the worst economy since the depression? Can anyone add up the cost of all the new things?
Why are we taking on new things that cost money when we're broke?

seattle citizen said...

New things:
*MAP (I think I read 4 million on this)
*Text adoption: HS level - four titles x four grades x...150 books x...$10 = $24,000 x 9 HS = 225,000
(just for HS - that's 1/3 of a cert per school)
*STEM

Just those three things cost about what 100 1.0 FTE certs cost.

Anonymous said...

The SAP could have waited. That cost quite a bit of money. I don"t the exact amount on that.

Queen Anne doesn't need ALL of the work done to reopen at $8M. That is all of the money that is listed in the facilities' report including all back logged maintenance. Not necessary.

And about the Broad, one school district has called the Broad paying folks in their school district a conflict of interest.

Check it out:

Detroit School Board Claims Conflict Of Interest In New Contract

http://www.avvo.com/news/detroit-school-board-claims-conflict-of-interest-in-new-contract-733.html

I guess that board didn't get the likes of a Payzant (Broad trained facilitator) at their board retreats.

We lost our career counselor at Nova last year. She was a huge help in getting our students into colleges. And she was only part time. The money that Melissa is referring to could make a much larger impact if spent in ways that directly affect our students and not just lost in the bureaucracy we refer to as the Stanford Center.

Anonymous said...

Just one other interesting article regarding the "Broad Effect".

“The Broad Effect”: Part One

http://thebroadreport.blogspot.com/2010/03/broad-effect-part-one.html

Central Mom said...

Do not miss the national news today, available on CNN, NYT, etc., that Kansas City is closing 1/2 its public school buildings and selling its HQ building to make up for a huge and growing ($50 mil) deficit. It stands as a cautionary tale.

For Seattle, I agree with Melissa that this year most of the coaching positions should go. Take some of those positions and turn them into Special Ed support. The rollout has been bad. Really bad. There are no resources to help classroom teachers. Take the rest of the coach cuts as cost savings.

I think vice principal jobs should get a hard look. Know an ineffective VP at your school? Welcome to the club. Get a lower-paid person to handle the same administrative functions, or share 1 better-paid, more effective VP between 2 schools.

IT needs a thorough review downtown. A look at all consultants on contract would be useful.

Move the counselor funding to the city via its Youth and family Initiative and reinstate Elementary Counselors. At the high school level, provide college career counseling out of the downtown headquarters. There's room. Have them work evening shifts and guarantee access (3 appts. minimum) to every HS student. Get grant and city money to fund this, too. Leave oversight in the hands of the city which does health and human services a lot better than the District does.

Allow schools who can raise the funds to supplement their librarians to return them to full day positions. For schools who cannot raise the funds, turn loose an admin person at HQ to start tracking down grants. Kids, esp. those facing language, social and economic issues at home, need access to a library.

Cut all travel, and I do mean ALL travel, except CAO and Super, as mentioned by Melissa. Webinars, people. Webinars.

Take the attendance role at elementary schools and get rid of it. Combine it w/ another admin position and pay that person overtime if necessary to handle the workload.

Have someone audit the admin support staff at headquarters and get rid of any positions lurking in there, except perhaps a shared resource in the C-suite.

Cut positions in BTA/BEX. At least 20. Delay all new capital projects, minus earthquake retrofitting and opening new schools, by one year. Drop the lowest priority projects off the list of new projects. Take ½ that money and put it into the most urgent maintenance projects in the coming year.

Audit the district communications staff and make cuts. Pay fewer people more dollars to handle more work in the department. This will upgrade the level of talent in the department and save on job benefits costs. Take one of the many project managers in communications and dedicate the position solely to identifying and implementing marketing initiatives to draw local students back into schools. With more students come more state dollars.

Finally, and this is snarky, but I am so tired of it that I cannot help myself. Walk into the HQ building at 5 minutes to 5 so that you can get in the front door. Notice how many workers are still there when the clock hits 5. It is a ghost town. I am not talking about the highest-ranking employees. They have multiple evening meetings, projects that keep them working late hours, etc. But the middle tier is pathetic. If we are scraping for every dollar we can get in our individual schools, I’d like to see an efficiency expert go through the entire place with a buzz saw and start over with (notice the reoccurring theme) fewer people with more skills who are willing to work a whole lot harder for slightly better salaries. How does someone get a state audit or privately funded grant going to do this work?

seattle citizen said...

Note on the Kansas city school closings:
They are closing half the buildings (26, I think) and six MORE are being "transformed" or "restructured" or whatever the heck they call booting ALL the staff...
It continues: Bleed public schools, accuse them "failing," close them, send the public dollars to charters, tutoring, "curriculum design" and otehr companies....
Restaff with cheaper warm bodies en masse.
Watch education become mere bubbles on a sheet.

Teaching is dead.

Unknown said...

I second Central Mom's suggestions and final question. Isn't every teeny tiny line budget item still a public record? I have heard that even the Board does not have access to the ins and outs of every position and its cost, and they should. How can we get access to the real full budget?

Lori said...

I too suspect that we could use fewer coaches and more classroom teachers, but I want to point out that if coaches are indeed cut, they will in fact have first dibs on the classroom jobs that get "vacated" during the upcoming RIFs. So we will lose young, energetic, innovative teachers during the RIF, but this year, they won't be hired back over the summer when the district realizes they are still needed. Instead, their positions will be filled by the more senior, former coaches, who for whatever reason left the classroom to coach in the first place.

Now, I know that coaches are people with families and probably very nice human beings, and no one wants to see other people lose their jobs. But I do think that if coaching positions are eliminated, we are going to lose wonderful classroom teachers and replace them with people who don't want to be there but just want to keep a job, any job, in this economy. It makes me sad because again, it's individual classrooms and families at the local level who will be affected, as well as a few new teachers that communities have really embraced and don't want to lose.

SolvayGirl said...

Though I agree with Central Mom's suggestions in theory, I am afraid the reality is that there's no guarantee cutting staff would net us the most-qualified people. If it works like most other public-type jobs, the people with the most seniority will be the ones kept. Unfortunately, they do not always equate with the people with the highest skills,etc.

Megan Mc said...

Wow, Broadview Thomson will have 140 Kindergartners and 819 students total next year. What was the district thinking?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Working Together, I wish we could see every single budget line. I mean, technically you could but they won't release it in any form you could make sense of. I've gotten many documents that they claim answer my questions but don't.

State Auditor, where are you?

ma'am said...

I think a lot of coaches would retire rather than go back to teaching. Many of these coaches are top-notch, model teachers who would benefit the schools they get placed in. Younger doesn't always = better.

Maureen said...

Would I have ever met one of these coaches? Are they in all of the schools on a regular basis? We have a math 'coach(?)' but she's paid for by fundraising to work with kids who are not meeting standard. She rotates through classrooms and works with the teacher or pulls out small groups of kids for extra work. Is this the type of position we are talking about?