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Sunday, August 01, 2010

Tick, Tock and Things Will Heat Up Soon Enough

As you may have noticed from the tv ads, school is going to start up soon in some areas of the country. Here, SPS will be starting up again on September 8th. (Although the Board calendar shows that Hawthorne and West Seattle Elementaries will start on August 31st.)

We won't see the Board in action again until the August 18th Board meeting. That should definitely be interesting as I would expect them to say something, anything about the audit report. There will be many Board committee meetings this month but no Board member district meetings. (There is one Board workshop this month about Families and Education levy and budget goals.) I think one of the best places to hear the Board hash out the coming year will be at the Board retreat on September 11th.

But it sure has gotten heated over at Harium Martin-Morris' blog on the issue of the audit. Harium asks one anonymous person to watch their tone (and I would agree). Don't ever post in anger even if you are angry.

Let me first say that anyone who has signed up for what is basically a tough volunteer job needs some degree of respect.

That said, tough times call for tough questions. I don't like hounding public officials or heckling them, whether in a blog or in person. But, for example, Charlie asks a straightforward question, no snark, to a response from Harium:

On one hand, Director Martin-Morris tells us that the Board is working on a plan to directly address items in the state auditor's report.

On the other hand he says that the Board won't start work on any of this until they get together in August.

Which is it? Is the Board working on it now or will they start working on it in August?

Harium says later on:

I do not have a time frame for a response to all of the audit. The board and the senior management have not gotten together yet, due to vacation schedules and other events. That work will begin I would guess in August.

He guesses? So really I'm thinking they are not at all worried about the audit, either on the Board side or the administration side. Keep that in mind going forward. It feels like a simple "we're working on it" is all we are going to get which is the equivalent of "we'll get back to you on that". I think given how severe the last couple of audits have been, maybe the Board/district should put out a detailed explanation of each finding and how it will be addressed. (For example, I requested the MOUs for each credit card and was told that "the MOU for the Superintendent is being amended." And is that in relation to the audit? I don't know. I'd like to see the new MOU after it is signed.

An Anonymous person asks Harium (and it's a perfectly good question): I would also like to see a report on the savings from the transportation changes as my family was impacted by this change.

I think it fair to ask the Board to direct the Superintendent that, anytime staff claims a cost savings, to have to come back to the Board and the public and show the savings did occur and where that money was then directed to.

I know, I know. You want to enjoy summer (such that it is this year in Seattle - anyone else notice the odd yellow lighting this quiet Sunday?). But honestly, I'm a little worried at a Board that seems to be not taking the audit all that seriously that they can say they'll think about it later. That there has not been on official statement from the Board certainly should be noticed by all.

(On the election front, I've heard from at least one person who is going to challenge Harium and possibly one in West Seattle to challenge Steve. Honestly folks, Peter would be the easiest to challenge so there's GOT to be someone in that district who will step up.)

8 comments:

dan dempsey said...

The most shocking thing about the Audit is that the Board and Superintendent are to be following Board policy.

That certainly makes a sound basis for all kinds of action against the District if the District does not get its act together.

If I was an SEA negotiator I would certainly leverage a lot of the audit against the District.

Somebody needs to motivate the Political leadership class to abide by laws and policies.

kprugman said...

Pitts' rhetoric is more like a barrage. Here's another article from July 10 - I'd like to see more disinterested parties, get more interested. Lets party!

Posted: July 30, 2010
LEONARD PITTS JR.
Absent reason, we’re easily fooled
By Leonard Pitts Jr.

Charlie Mas said...

I'm feeling people getting shorter with Director Martin-Morris on his blog, but I'm also sensing a change in him. Rather than representing the people to the District, he seems to be spending a lot more time representing the District to the people.

Sahila said...

He's trying to justify/CYA.... and he's run out of wiggle room...

kprugman said...

School closures play into the hands of education reformers. Your board members have probably quietly convinced Mr. Martin-Morris this is the Obama Action Plan.

The plan is to replace the low performing public schools with Kipp charter schools.

One of the first ways a charter starts siphoning money from a district is getting the district to pay for the leases on the buildings used by the charters. There is an abundance of information that shows the charter operators know more about real estate finance than they know about teaching.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually, finding the space to have a charter is one of their biggest headaches. Even if there is a closed public school, it probably needs more fixing up than the charter can afford (charters have to share in the capital money and no district has to fix up a building for them).

But, to the rescue, there are now non-profit groups specifically looking for buildings to fix up for charter schools.

Sahila said...

there's a whole financial sub-industry being built around loaning money to charter schools to move into and fix up formerly public schools....

http://www.nydailynews.com/ny_local/education/2010/05/07/2010-05-07_albany_charter_cash_cow_big_banks_making_a_bundle_on_new_construction_as_schools.html

kprugman said...

I'm beginning to see the bigger picture - school closures, union contract, kipp charter, how do we raise the money to pay for everything (vote for a bond of course). My crystal ball says this contrivance may become Little BigHorn. I'm looking forward to some scalping. Who's first.