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Thursday, June 24, 2010

Public Hearings

Well, it was as I suspected. Me, Chris Jackins and one other person (Barbara Kelley from the Seattle Council PTSA). Plus 4 Board members (DeBell, Carr, Patu, and Maier), the Superintendent (she only stayed for one hearing because of a meeting at South Shore) and some staff.

It was fun in a way because Chris had pointed out that in previous years, there were two public hearings on the budget, one for the General fund and one for Capital. So the Board decided you could testify 5 (!) times on the budget, one for each area of the budget. Chris had come prepared so he did. I only spoke on the General and the Capital.

On the General I basically read what Meg Diaz had pointed out. Why were they so specific in some areas and not others? Why be specific to the point of $.19M and yet in other places get vague with words like "some"? Why are some jobs called out specifically and yet not the coaches? Why is Performance Management not scoped out? Two specific things of note:

"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.

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? "

Meg, you'll be happy (or at least hopeful) to know that the Board members took a lot of notes during this testimony.

On Capital I pointed out how we continue to have a backlog of maintenance (which yes, is in the General Fund, but it about the condition of our buildings). How we building new buildings and yet have problems when they reopen (see Garfield, South Shore). I pointed out how South Shore was 16 months from teardown to opening so maybe things were rushed. The odor problems seem to have been created because they didn't allow the concrete to cure (dry) and put down the carpet too soon. (I also asked where the money was coming from to fix this and how much it will be.)

(Just as a side note: what do you think the line is, if there is one, about renovating historic buildings? Because, despite the good number of buildings that have been renovated in our district, the historic ones are the most problematic and cost us the most. And, we don't always do what might seem the most optimal i.e. install double-glazed windows. I was told that some of the windows are of such a special size that it is better to NOT install double-glazed but to not install it on any of the windows?

So the question is, how far do we go in restoring historic buildings versus doing more buildings and getting kids and staff into better learning environments?)

On the supplemental levy, I just pointed out that somehow the list of priorities for year one is different in two presentations and that it confusing when staff does this. (One was some presentation to the "Levy Oversight Committee" and the other was the presentation that staff did at a Board meeting.) There was some overlap but, for example, K-12 music was on the list for year one on the Board presentation but not the oversight committee presentation.

I told the Board that their presentation had no listing for what the money would be used for after year one and that it looked kind of slushy. If this is needed money, right now, wouldn't they have it pretty much scoped out? (Also interesting is that the oversight committee presentation has "attendance specialists" listed which I presume means they are bringing back truancy officers or something like it.)

I also pointed out that the district is saying they desperately need this money. Did they do any kind of furloughs like the City and County have done? Nope. Did they freeze travel? Nope. But did they manage to find the money to keep our Broad residents? Yup.

So it's confusing. Are we really that cash-strapped or does the district not have the money to do all the things they want to do versus the absolute minimum?

5 comments:

ParentofThree said...

What continues to baffle me is how come we have such a huge deficit this year AFTER all the cost cutting LAST year. Schools closed, savings Yes? Transporation reconfigured, Savings? Food services centeralized, Savings? And if memory serves me correctly, I believe there were some staffing cuts. More savings

So if we cut millions from our budget LAST year, then why are will still millions in the hole THIS year.

I think in the end they simply shift money, taking funds meant for the students and using it at the district level.

And that angers me, especially since there does not seem to be anything we can do about it.

Charlie Mas said...

Good question, ParentofThree. The difference between this year and last year is the loss of the federal stimulus money that covered a lot of the reduction in state support.

The state cut spending on education last year but that year the federal government stepped in to plug the gap. The state funding remains down, but this year there is not federal spending to replace the lost revenue for the district.

mirmac1 said...

Didn't the stimulus money go towards hiring IAs for the short-term to prop up the half-baked special education ICS program? Now, don't those aides go away? Where are we left with support for kids in inclusive general education settings?

grousefinder said...

Just some food for thought...

I have given the topic of teardown vs. rebuild a great deal of thought when it comes to our old brick and mortar structures. And, having worked maintenance and construction in many Seattle schools (crawling within the depths of the building structures), I believe an appropriate course over the next 15 years would be as follows:

1. Single story brick and mortar buildings should be preserved and seismically braced. Boilers, HVAC, and fire suppression should be upgraded or repaired. These buildings can last 100 years with proper maintenance.

2. Older multistory brick and mortar structures should be torn down unless they can be certified seismically sound. I have seen in these structures what the public does not...they are not safe should Seattle experience a serious earthquake. In some buildings you can actually pick the mortar out of the brick with a fingernail.

3. Most HVAC systems need major overhaul. Air filtration systems are in a shambles. Outside Air (OSA) intakes and dampers are not delivering adequate design airflows (can you say "sleepy students."). This I heard directly from a lead HVAC mechanic that works for the district.

4. Building facades and facia on older buildings are a travesty. I have seen some schools where the facia is actually rotting off the roof. What ever happened to the District Paint Shop? This work must be done immediately.

5. And finally, all new buildings must be designed with windows that open. Most indoor air quality issues can be remediated with fresh OSA. Sounds too simple (I know), but it really works! Which brings me to South Shore...did anyone notice that the vacuum pump and sampling tubes (see SS report) were sitting on a new plastic chair. Correct me if I am wrong, but plastic off-gasses for years.

See Page 10, June 14 Report: http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/southshore/southshoreiaq.xml

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Grousefinder, I'm going to save those comments to see if there is an actual policy on historic rebuilds or it's totally a case by case basis. Good and useful thoughts.