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Sunday, March 07, 2010

The Legal Requirement of Public Input

Dan has been working hard snooping around in the RCW. It's pretty amazing what you can find in there if you look.

Here's what he found: RCW 28A.320.015
School boards of directors — Powers — Notice of adoption of policy.

(1) The board of directors of each school district may exercise the following:

(a) The broad discretionary power to determine and adopt written policies not in conflict with other law that provide for the development and implementation of programs, activities, services, or practices that the board determines will:

(i) Promote the education and daily physical activity of kindergarten through twelfth grade students in the public schools; or

(ii) Promote the effective, efficient, or safe management and operation of the school district;

(b) Such powers as are expressly authorized by law; and

(c) Such powers as are necessarily or fairly implied in the powers expressly authorized by law.

(2) Before adopting a policy under subsection (1)(a) of this section, the school district board of directors shall comply with the notice requirements of the open public meetings act, chapter 42.30 RCW, and shall in addition include in that notice a statement that sets forth or reasonably describes the proposed policy. The board of directors shall provide a reasonable opportunity for public written and oral comment and consideration of the comment by the board of directors.

It's the last bit that caught his attention. State law REQUIRES the Board to not only provide a reasonable opportunity for public comment, but they must also consider that public comment.

This law may only apply to the adoption of policy or it may apply to all Board actions. A judge will decide.

Since the NTN contract terms were not made public until the day before the vote, the public did not have a reasonable opportunity for public comment. The vote could be nullified on those grounds alone.

The Board was provided with a lot of information on the academic outcomes for students at NTN schools, but they never really considered that information. Since none of the public comment on the NTN contract appear to have been considered by the Board, the vote could be nullified on those grounds alone. The same can be said for the high school textbook adoption. In the textbook adoption appeal, the District provided the Court with all of the evidence used when the Board considered their decision - no public comment was included. The absence of public input among the data considered by the Board is, by itself, sufficient grounds to nullify the decision because it does not meet the legal minimum for a Board action. That is, if this law applies to more than just the adoption of policies.

13 comments:

reader said...

The absence of public input among the data considered by the Board is, by itself, sufficient grounds to nullify

Not really true. There's procedure, and there's substance. If a procedure wasn't followed, but the substance of the decision or action would have happened anyway, then the fact of procedural error is nearly irrelevant. There might be some slap for procedural error, but not more.

MJ said...

How do I post to this blog other than a comment on your post? I want to post that half of the Seattle Public school students scores went down on the MAP test this year and that the assessment is flawed. How can I post to this community blog? Help.

Seattle Parent said...

Of related interest:
RCW 28A.330.100 Additional powers of the board

from the SPS Board policies:
B46.00 Admin. Procedures
B50.00 School Board legal status:
"The Seattle School Board’s primary function is to establish a policy and to fix responsibility for the execution or implementation of policy."
"The purpose of this policy is to state the basic function of the Seattle School Board and further to indicate the structural relationship which exists between the Board and state agencies Board action is concerned generally with planning, policy making, and appraisal. The Board must endeavor to translate the desires and needs of the community into a balanced and workable program of public education. To achieve this end, the Board must establish effective communication with parents and other responsible and representative members of the community."

Is the Board currently "endevoring" to translate our desires and needs? Doesn't that include actually having to consider input & not just giving lip service to "authentic community communication"?

Dorothy said...

Desires and needs.

Well it's pretty clear from the way public comment often goes vs the board decision that the Board believes they know what we need, and it's often different than what we desire.

LA Teacher's Warehouse said...

MJ,

What is the source of your information?

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

SPSMom wrote: "So the expected growth may be two points on the RIT scale, yet the standard deviation could be 10 points, making a change of plus or minus 2 points statistically insignificant."

Wouldn't you use the confidence interval to determine if a change was significant or not? Just looking at the standard deviation (SD) isn't enough.

If I'm remembering correctly from grad school, you first have to take the SD and divide it by the square root of the sample size to get the standard error of the mean (SEM). The SEM is then multiplied by the critical value from your distribution curve, which depends on what size CI you want (90%, 95%, etc).

If I take just one data point off the NWEA 2008 report, the mean growth in K reading scores, fall to spring, was 10.8, with SD=7.2, N=4000. I calculate a 95% confidence interval of 10.6 to 11.0 with those numbers.

I think the interpretation would be that if a teacher's class had a mean growth from fall to spring of only 9, you'd say that was statistically significantly lower than expected. (I'm not endorsing using the data for teacher performance; I just want to point out that I *think* that with the large sample sizes that are available, you can get pretty robust data)

wseadawg said...

Dorothy, the Strategic Plan rules the Board. Sticking to that plan, at all costs and despite the damage, is of utmost importance to the Board. That's not going to change and the math vote is entirely consistent with it.

dan dempsey said...

The RCW 28A 320.015 referred to applies to adoption of all policies. Also see RCW 28A 645.020

Within twenty days of service of the notice of appeal, the school board, at its expense, or the school official, at such official's expense, shall file the complete transcript of the evidence and the papers and exhibits relating to the decision for which a complaint has been filed. Such filings shall be certified to be correct.


This is hardly a minor picky point as the appeals for the Student Assignment Plan and School Closures both involve situations where there is probably No certified Transcript of evidence relating to the decision

There will be a submission to King County Superior Court on March 9, 2010 in case: # 09-2-10708-4 SEA.

Gloria Briggs, et. al. v. Seattle School District No. 1.

It is my understanding that the School Board gets their decision making authority by following legal procedures (not the Divine Right of Kings).

Reader points out that minor errors are usually not a cause for throwing out the baby with the bath water.

Here we do not have a minor error but rather a continuing disregard for evidence submitted by the public.

---------------
For materials consider RCW 28A 320.230 section (e):

Provide a system for receiving, considering and acting upon written complaints regarding instructional materials used by the school district;

Think about all those school board testimonies and letters sent about Everyday Math and the Discovering Materials.....

How did this "system for receiving, considering and acting upon written complaints" work in the High School Math adoption?

The system generated 1 DVD of school board meetings and "ZERO" written pages on which the Decision approving "Discovery" on May 6, 2009 was based.

The adoption decision likely could have been voided right there, but plaintiffs and District agreed to allow a submission of supplemental evidence that was sent to the district but not used in the decision. These 300 pages of supplemental material (supplied by the plaintiffs, which is NOT their job) with the 1100 pages from the district (what does the district do with written public comments? where are they?) comprise the administrative record.

The judge said:
“The court finds, based upon a review of the entire administrative record, that there is insufficient evidence for any reasonable Board member to approve the selection of the Discovering series.”

The fact that the Superintendent is resisting a Judicial order of "Remand" can only mean the district believes it is their prerogative to exclude evidence in decision making.

While this seems absurd to those familiar with how laws in a Republic are structured, it makes perfect sense with how decisions are made in the SPS when MGJ introduces an action ... as there are always at least four directors for ... regardless of the evidence.

This is hardly different than Board actions concerning math in the Raj Mahal. Then the board repeatedly chose to trust their hired professionals instead of intelligently applying relevant data to decision-making.

Certainly is time to file a recall petition for any director who supported or voted for:
#1 Discovering or
#2 The NTN contract or
#3 Superintendent's decision to appeal the Spector Decision.

That would be Directors:
Carr
Martin-Morris
Sundquist
Maier.

Joy and I will get busy on this filing task at the elections office later in the week.
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Perhaps the Best $350 ever spent was on the NTN appeal..... for I can hardly wait for the Board to submit all the evidence that four directors used on February 3, 2010 to approve a written contract that did not exist and apparently 30 days later still does not exist.
For that will be recorded as Such filings shall be certified to be correct.

dan dempsey said...

Interestingly Reader said:

"Not really true. There's procedure, and there's substance."

I find this interesting as the District in the math decision has continually argued that the SPS followed procedure and the result does not matter.

It is like the pinnacle of reformist thinking: It is all about process and results do not really count.

Wrong!!! Welcome to a REAL World application .....

King County Superior Court uses evidence not philosophical mumbo-jumbo.

udubgrad said...

Public testimony usually strikes me as more cogent than what is said by administrators on most every topic.
Project based learning is just another name for educational neglect--fine for masters and doctorate students who already have an education, but a disaster for high school students who still need to learn foundational skills.
Why aren't board members asking needed questions? And why would they be fed wrong information? And if Harium voted against Discovering math, why would he vote for this which is "discovering" carried to ridiculous lengths? And forgive me if I sound naive, but why wouldn't they pay attention to public comment?

dan dempsey said...

But Wait there is more....

in regard to:

Blogger reader said...

The absence of public input among the data considered by the Board is, by itself, sufficient grounds to nullify

Not really true. There's procedure, and there's substance. If a procedure wasn't followed, but the substance of the decision or action would have happened anyway, then the fact of procedural error is nearly irrelevant. There might be some slap for procedural error, but not more.

=========================

But that is NOT the case in the NTN legal challenge as:

The Action Report, which the public had opportunity to review and provide both written comments and give oral testimony about, was very different than the Contract draft of 2/2/2010 that was added to the Action Report online at some point in time yet to be established.

It is particularly odd that after the deadline to file an appeal has passed the contract terms are still under negotiation .... Where is the opportunity for either comment or appeal of anything that may or might be written and finalized NOW?