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Sunday, April 18, 2010

School Board meeting of 4/21/10

A few comments on the agenda for this week's school board meeting.

1. University of Washington Excellence in Educational Leadership Award –
Princess Shareef, Cleveland High School


I happen to respect Ms Shareef, but I don't really see how anyone can give an award for excellence in educational leadership to the principal of a school that is getting transformed due to persistent low performance. It sends a strange message. I thought the idea was to hold the education professionals responsible for student achievement and for their evaluation to be based, in part, on student achievement. The low performance by Cleveland High School students would seem to disqualify Ms Shareef from any sort of award, regardless of her indisputable talents.

2. "Curriculum" Adoption action items

All of the action items for materials adoptions are mislabeled "Curriculum Adoption". This misuse of terms contributes to the confusion of these terms. They should correct the titles of the action items to read "Materials Adoption" instead.

There are a number of people who believe that the District intentionally cultivates confusion around the definitions of the terms "curriculum", "materials", "content", and "Standards". The misuse of these terms on official District documents and by District staff is exactly the sort of thing that supports this suspicion. The misuse of these terms detracts from transparency and community engagement. This example is particularly egregious because it speaks to an adoption. These actions do NOT adopt a curriculum, only materials.

****UPDATE****
The titles of these motions have been corrected in an updated version of the agenda.


3. Transportation Contract Extension

Here it comes again, the annual transportation dance. The staff brings forward a plan that makes no sense. The Board is puzzled by it and reveals that it makes no sense. The staff admit that it isn't a very good plan, but, they say, we absolutely must adopt something now as we are hard up against a deadline. The Board votes to approve but they insist that the staff bring forward a better plan with better thinking next year and that they bring it forward earlier so it can be discussed. The staff swears that they will. Then, the next year, the entire farce is reprised.

This will be yet another example of how the staff don't do very good work and don't do the work that they have committed to doing, but that the Board is either incapable or unwilling to hold them accountable in any way. It reveals everyone as a miserable failure.

4. Web site upgrade

The District is going to spend $700,000 on the web site over the next five years. The Strategic Plan says that the web site will be upgraded as funding becomes available. At the time I thought that they were hoping for private sources to fund it. Now we see that it is getting funded out of BTA II and BTA III. I don't remember seeing this on the BTA III list of projects, do you? Is this really a better use of BTA money than maintenance and repairs from the backlog? Is this really an appropriate use of capital funds?

5. Lease of closed buildings

Here's where you can see who will be in each of the closed school buildings and for how long. Muslim Youth Academy at Van Asselt for 3 years, Torah Day School at Columbia for 3 years, Westside School at Hughes for 10 years, Peoples Family Life Center at Mann for 3 years, and the Hamlin Robinson School at TT Minor for 7 years. There will also be renters in the John Marshall building. I continue to be confused about how it is that these buildings would need millions and millions of dollars of repairs for our students to be in them, but they are just dandy for the students of these other schools. What's weird about this is how the District said that we would save all of this money by closing the schools because we wouldn't have to pay to maintain them, but the terms of the leases require us to maintain them. I'm totally okay with the leases, but I just don't get the claims about savings that were made when the schools were closed. They don't make any sense at all.

6. Sign off on state Race to the Top petition

This is all empty political gesturing. It doesn't mean a thing.

9 comments:

seattle citizen said...

There already are renters in the John Marshall building. There banner was over the front doors two or three weeks ago.

I think they're called "life time learning," and they're a non-profit that supplys classes to retired people, or others looking for non-credit history, lit, crocheting and like.

Northwest Girl Choir is also in the building.

gavroche said...

University of Washington Excellence in Educational Leadership Award –
Princess Shareef, Cleveland High School


Hmm, that's a bit like controversial former Madrona Principal Kaaren Andrews getting that $50,000 award for "excellence" from the Alliance & SPS a few years ago. (http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/education/2004279232_fosteraward13m.html)

Her school was not a top performer either. Moreover, there were a number of issues related to how she ran it -- regimented approach, and disenfranchisement of some local families who were made to feel unwelcome when they tried to send their kids to Madrona.

Makes you wonder what exactly these ed-reform sympathizers mean by "excellence."

I actually think it may mean Shareef's days at Cleveland are numbered; a consolation prize, if you will. (Andrews ultimately got removed from Madrona this year.) Doesn't NTN want to bring in principals it has helped choose for STEM at Cleveland? Maybe she doesn't fit the bill. Or else, maybe this is a little sweetener to entice her to go along with the plan, whatever that plan might be.

gavroche said...

(Or maybe, if they keep her on at Cleveland once it's STEM, SPS will justify this by saying, "She's an award-winning principal!")

Jet City mom said...

I don't think Princess Shareef has alienated families at Cleveland the way that Ms Andrews did at Madrona, but it is ironic that a district who wants to evaluate teachers by their students performance, doesn't think principals should be evaluated the same way.

When my daughter attended school at Temple De HIrsch, and at Blessed Sacrament- two older buildings- ( not to mention when she was at Northwest Girls Choir @ Holy Names), we didn't think to investigate building issues, but I don't recall any problems, but it does make me wonder, that we may be paying more attention to building maintenance after the district has " closed" the buildings than we did when we were using them.

Melissa Westbrook said...

I signed up to speak at the Board meeting. One thing is the portables they bought for Hale to use during its rebuild. I don't know if you recall but staff, when asked about portables for the newly reopening schools, told the Board that portables were like $200K and yet they managed to buy 4 of them for Hale for $433k.

One more example of Facilities saying one thing when THEY want something but if the Board/parents want it, no, no it costs too much.

seattle citizen said...

I don't understand how they can vote on whether to de-select Marshall as an interim site (which is what it is currently designated as) on Wednesday, and say they will look for tenants, when there are already tenants in the building, contracts signed I'd assume...
A small point, and better to see the building occupied, but there IS due process and policy...

Charlie Mas said...

I wrote to the Board and they got the titles of the motions on materials adoptions corrected. They now say "Materials Adoption" instead of "Curriculum Adoption".

BL said...

Why buy new portables for Nathan Hale rather than move some of the empty portables from the properties of closed buildings?

wseadawg said...

Only 700K on the website? Can't they make it talk to us and play music?

I know, I know, it's technology. Somehow, somewhere in there is an efficiency that saves us money while outperforming everything. It's just really hard to find.

What a great time to be spending that money though.