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Tuesday, May 04, 2010

Budget Feedback

District staff have posted the feedback from the two budget meetings. Here is the link to the Aki Kurose meeting and the Roosevelt meeting (scroll down the page).

From both meetings there seems to be a theme:
  • cut from headquarters (number one with a bullet)
  • use input from parents/community
Amen and good luck with that.

I was asked recently, by a leader up the food chain, what I would do to improve community engagement. Here's what I would do but do let us know what you would like to see.

  • I would go with the George Costanza method. Do the opposite of what you are currently doing.
  • Shorter but more specific presentations.
  • Take ALL questions from the general audience. (I do believe there is a place for small group discussions but not on every subject.)
  • As long as it is within the topic, lead but don't tell people what they can and can't discuss .
  • Have the meetings not all in one week but over a series of weeks.
  • Have engagement BEFORE decisions are made.
  • Be like Bellevue and let parents/community know how their feedback influenced or guided decision-making. Be specific with this one.
  • Most of all, do NOT lie, mislead, leave out or give answers that are non-answers.

  • On that last point I do want to publicly call out Superintendent Goodloe-Johnson and all the 12+ staff at the Roosevelt meeting. We were LIED to at that meeting. We were told, by Mr. Kennedy, ALL questions would be answered at the budget FAQ site and they aren't (and I know this because I submitted 11 questions).


      They have updated this site since the meetings were held and did NOT do as they said they would.

      How should we view public engagement when this is what we get?

15 comments:

SE Mom said...

I will support what Melissa has stated. I stopped going to community engagment meetings because I truly felt like my opinion was not appreciated.

So, I concur that district should not break parents up into smaller groups. I feel that wrting questions and submitting them to staff on notecards is especially annoying. District staff say that they intend to answer all questions, but they never do. And, I have witnessed staff shuffling through note cards and picking out some but not all to address. If they want parents to write down questions, I can deal with that as long as all questions are answered or posted later (and there is actual follow through).

Also wanted to emphasize Melissa's point about the district engaging families before decisions are made. A good example is the recent confusions and lack of communication to families about high school registration and open enrollment. If they had posted the communications that are now on the district website BEFORE registration happened, it would have gone a long way to easing parental anxiety and frustrations.
It should have been a no-brainer for them to see that one coming.

ParentofThree said...

Post your 11 questions here, maybe others will follow suit and we can get an idea of how many questions were ignored.

Charlie Mas said...

How to improve community engagement:

1. The Board should automatically reject any motion that comes to them without community engagement. Review the motions on the agenda and check the Community Engagement section of the Board Action Report. A whole lot of motions have no community engagement at all, and none of them have any authentic engagement. The Board should reject them all.

2. Tell the truth. Even when it isn't flattering.

3. Answer the questions. Even when it requires the admission of error.

4. Remove all jargon from all communications intended for the public. Stop hiding behind edu-babble and talk plain. Use concete examples.

5. Somebody better start holding folks accountable for fulfilling their commitments.

cascade said...

I said in a different post that I have a bunch of rants built up. Again, apologies. Today's is Community Engagement, based on an annoying conversation I got involved in yesterday

The board is slated to approve 6-figure!!!! funding for a new district "content management system" on Wednesday.

1) Staff wants and needs new website. 2) System also can allow for new classroom online tools and 3) the ability for schools to run their own sites and communicate with each other and their own communities. This is all posted in Wednesday's board meeting attachment.

Do you think the district plans on engaging the COMMUNITY for input on this COMMUNITY outreach vehicle in terms of COMMUNITY priorities of those 3 COMMUNication items?

No, apparently not. It's "get the website up by 09/10" aka "we got the funds now let's do what we think is best." The ol Ready, Fire, Aim. But I bet the 6-figure website, because no doubt that is what staff will want to do first, will be Really Pretty.

And if we all get lucky, because apparently that is all the input we'll be getting, it will be Really Engaging.

Stu said...

Here's what I'd like to see:

1. If any staff person, while giving a presentation during a public meeting during which answers were supposed to have been supplied, says anything like "we don't have those figures, but we'll have them tomorrow" or "we didn't have time to get all that information together" or "we're not sure of the actual expense; we'll get back to you" or even just "we'll have to get back to you on that," that person is automatically fired and that proposal can not be discussed for a period of one year.

They don't just feed us mis-information, the staff never has their act together when it's time to present. And they get away with it 'cause, obviously, the board doesn't actually need all the facts/figures to make decisions.

2. Moving out of the "pipe dream" category, I would like the board to be required to respond to questions. It's just great you get a whole 3 minutes to ask something; someone should have to do more than pretend to listen;

3. The Superintendent must attend all meetings and be there for the entire duration;

4. The Superintendent should not be allowed to roll her eyes;

5. The Superintendent is not allowed to sit on the board or advisory panels of any organization that does business with the district;

stu

Oh, by the way, no one should ever be allowed to read a powerpoint presentation out loud.

cascade said...

Update: I just looked at the board item again. It's not just 6 figures. It's $414K, which looks like "close to a half-million dollars" in my meager fundraising book.

Yup, my friend had it right. Another bassackwards communications project in the making by staff that know nothing about community engagement.

cascade said...

Got so mad I had to take a walk. In summation, Public Engagement = Engage the Public Until Money is Procured, then Please Go Away.

Is it too late to stop this train from leaving the station, given that the meeting is tomorrow night?

Central Mom said...

For community engagement: Start at the top. Community engagement is supposed to be one of MGJ's 5 Strategic Plan points, but where are her favorite tools (matrix and ppt) of goals in this area. Have never seen them.

Make public the performance goals of the department. Convince us that it is not there solely to further the superintendent's goals. Or, lay off the department as per the education directors, redefine the roles and rehire the employees, as appropriate.

And this is one place where I actually think the District could/should add staff. It does not appear they can keep up with the workload, which I am guessing is huge.

Central Mom said...

For the comtent management system, I believe the District needs it and I second the concern that they don't have a clue on how to role out its capabilities.

My opinion is formed by the current website, the larger pattern of not good public engagement and the fact that some IT people and an education project manager or two are most likely slated to work on it, instead of a content management/electronic publishing/marketing professional. The last time I looked, Central Staff did not include those sorts of people.

Should the dollars be allocated tomorrow night? Only with the proviso from the board forcing staff to include the COMMUNITY on implementation priorities and project design. And with the proviso that someone with proven experience is handling a half-million-dollar investment. This is not a job for some displaced central staff educator (think coaches) looking for a home to land in.

Then again, I could be convinced that the project should be tabled. Write to your board members, Cascade, and others. $500K is too much to let slide in without some more ENGAGEMENT.

seattle said...

1) Use concrete methods to gather community feedback, such as online surveys.

2) Post the results

3) Show how the feedback was used and how it steered the decision making process.

Staff can hold a hundred meetings and listen to all of our questions and concerns, but ultimately they can pick and choose what they take from that.

Surveys would be more concrete, and supply a certain amount of data.

seattle said...

In addition to surveys staff can allow families to vote on certain items. Then post the outcomes and act upon what they reflect.

For instance they could have asked interested families to vote on their preference of the 3 math text finalists presented by the math adoption committee.

seattle said...

When families leave the public school system the district should ask them why? What was it that drove them away? That is very valuable feedback that they could use to retain future families and gain more market share.

seattle said...

They can watch market trends. If Roosevelt HS has a 300 student waitlist, while Hale, just 2 miles down the road, doesn't even fill, they should find out why?

They should find out what Roosevelt has that Hale doesn't? That will tell them what families want without even having to ask.

Then replicate it.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Jasper, that's a theme I heard at one of McGinn's Youth and Families caucuses. Namely,

1) why doesn't SPS find out why people leave their schools?
2) why don't they market the good stuff SPS has going at its schools in any real way?
3) why is it such a bureaucratic issue to come back?

A couple of folks said they knew people who tried to enter SPS but found roadblocks in their way. How can that be? (It was things like when testing for Advanced Learning happens, not being able to register your child under a temporary address, etc.)

It makes you wonder.

Unknown said...

re: tonight's vote for $$ allocation for the CMS

I work in the tech industry.

I second everything said here about handing over huge $$$$$$$ to the central staff for this Web project. Staff is clearly not equipped with talent or time or priorities to deploy a cms correctly. CMS deployment is complicated on both the technical and on the communications fronts.

This isn't The middle of nowhere. This is Seattle. We know tech. We know digital communications.

If you are going to do this, please have the staff prove they have the deployment and digital communications know-how in place to do it right or do not allocate the funds in the first place. Do not waste our scarce money. Do not embarrass us.