Disqus

Monday, June 21, 2010

Public Hearings on Wednesday

As a reminder, there are two Public Hearings on Wednesday the 23rd on district business. Call the Board office at 252-0040 to sign up to speak or email hearing@seattleschools.org.

The first is the Public Hearing on the final district budget from 4-6 p.m. As watchdog Chris Jackins pointed out at last Wednesday's Board meeting, there used to be two hearings on the budget. One was for the general budget and the other was for the capital budget. Without any explanation or notice, they are rolled into one hearing. This is troubling if only because this is change without any public notice.

The second hearing is about the supplemental levy the district wants to put on the ballot this fall. This hearing runs from 6-7 p.m.

Naturally, Wednesday, the day after the last day of school is a great time to have these hearings (at least for the district) because very few parents are going to show up then. And hey, not putting them on your "News and Calendar" page is a great way to make sure no one knows about them. I'm sorry but if you have to hunt for this basic information, then the district is not doing its job. But our Board doesn't care about that.

Well, at least Chris and I will be there. I can at least note Meg Diaz' finding that the Superintendent is getting a lot more money in her own office budget soon (and this is cutting Central Office funding?) as well as state that I don't support the supplemental levy if only because this district continues to spend money as if it has money. Spending disproportionally on some areas and then crying poor would seem to point to not voting for yet MORE money for the district to mismanage.

And make no mistake about this levy (and I told the Board this). After year one there are NO firm plans or explanations for how this money is to be spent. I am not voting for this levy on that basis alone.

4 comments:

Meg said...

For all that budgets are dull as dirt, the budget is where the district really shows what is cares about.

Well, if it's coherent. Which, in my opinion, this budget is not.

It's great that we have a gazillion pages of budget data about each school, but why is the performance management money not called out? The district goes out of its way to point out that it's "only" $5 million, but Title I is "only" about $12m, and that's accounted for with great care.

Why, when school expenses are accounted for down to as low as a couple of thousand dollars, is every department outside of the schools not accounted for in such detail? Schools, in this budget, comprise slightly over $300 million in a $550+ million budget. Um... that's a whole lotta undiscussed cash.

And why are the budgets for 2010-11, for schools, not compared to 2009-10 (budgeted, actual or both)? It's extremely relevant.

The coyness over coaches is unseemly, at best. In the "district staff" section, categories of employees are broken out - for instance, there are 11 physical therapists, 2 certificated on leave employees and 8.9 technical employees. If every other category of employee merits this level of detail, why are coaches not broken out in great detail, as well? I know, it would be whacked-out to have transparency in a public school budget, but I persist in thinking that it would be awesome.

Additionally, given the hoopla over the "miscategorization" of coaches as central admin, why on earth is this not spelled out, so that everyone can see exactly how many coaches were put in teaching? Because with a RIF, I cannot help but wonder if the budget addition to teachers is just in coaching.

What's with all the "approximately" and "some" about budget areas (strangely, often having to do with coaches or strategic efforts) when taking the time to note, even in the budget overview, sums down to $.19 million? Did the finance staff suddenly become allergic to decimal points?

Also - what is the deal in this budget with insisting on noting employees NOT categorized as Central Administration ("other support" "teaching support" "teaching") were part of central "office" reductions? Um, kids, they're central administration or not. Please stop refusing to bill them as central administration but then count them as part of a central "office" reduction.

Why is there performance management spending in the capital fund? What portion of the capital fund is spent on salaries?

And well... given the district's assertion of 5,088.7 employees, how many contract workers does the district use, and in what arenas?

And lastly, why on earth in the overview, is the loss of a funding grant of $.19m noted, but the increase of over $1m in the Superintendent's office budget not?

This is just top of my head stuff - I haven't really had time to review it. Crunching the numbers with this budget would be hard, because it bites.

I'm hoping to go to the hearing, but the time of it is killing me. 4-6pm? I get that there's another hearing after that, but that's a serious pain in the neck.

Maureen said...

Meg, or anyone who knows, our Asst Principal keeps telling me that coaches have been slashed to the bone downtown--that there is only one (or two) literacy coaches left for the whole District for example. She was a writers workshop coach herself two years ago. Is there a way to refute or support that?

Does anyone know anything about the District employees who are meeting to revise the WSS model? Tracy told me that she and Duggin Harmon and others (including reps from all dift types of schools) are on the committee, but it sounds like they keep starting and stopping. In particular, I'd like to know who the K-8 rep is (from Pathfinder?).

Melissa Westbrook said...

Meg, thanks you just wrote my comments for the hearing.

Meg said...

Maureen- well... I don't know, to be honest. The budget states thta "approximately" $7 million of coaches are now being billed to the teaching segment, which is down significantly from the $9-11 million bruited around previously. However, suspicious though it sounds, from the increase in teaching numbers (when there's still some teachers RIF'ed), I wonder if the district is counting newly hired pedagogy coaches as rectegorized, or simply "teachers."

I should be clear, too, in saying again that I am not necessarily opposed to coaches. But given that this is a public district, and it's public money, the district should a) be open about how many there are and b) the rationale for having so many, and how they fit into the larger professional development budget/strategy (which would also then involve disclosing the amount of the professional development budget).

Melissa- glad to give you some fodder. I was sorry I couldn't make it. How did the hearing go?