School Board Meeting

Last week's Board meeting was fairly interesting (well, until you got to the staff updates but more on that later). The room wasn't full of the usual suspects but there definitely were sides.

Highlights from speakers list:

District watchdog Chris Jackins pointed out that the sale of MLK, Jr. property gives buyers all the money. (Apparently the presumed buyers - First AME Church - is getting the money from the state and the state will give it to the district. This is because the church, in its offer, says it will be offering youth programming and other community activities.) The idea of selling it to First AME is to create a community center in that neighborhood that would offer community services like youth activities.

Then came a long line of people against the sale of the property to First AME. This was introduced and will be voted on by the Board in two weeks. Everyone spoke respectfully of the church's long history here in Seattle but the issue seems to be that
  • their offer is less than half what Bush School was offering
  • their proposal is vague with no outlining of what programs they will offer nor any letters of intent from other groups/sponsors
  • other groups were only given 3 days to file a protest over the decision
  • groups attending the Board Work Session on this decision were not allowed to give presentations and were forced to listen to the characterizations of the offers by a district lawyer. (This does seem odd because the best people to present are the bidders. Again, Harium says there is no real rule against anyone presenting at a Work Session. I think Special Ed parents should do this at the Wednesday work session.)
  • that despite First AME's long history of outreach, some point out that their primary mission as a church is to create Christian believers. Some in the Madison Valley community say that as people of other faiths, they would not feel comfortable in community building run by a church.
  • that this decision will have far-reaching ramifications for this neighborhood for decades
  • why is SPS involving itself in social services
  • lack of information on parking, security, traffic
There were also several long-time members of First AME who spoke in support of the decision.

Other speakers spoke on topics of supporting Family Support workers, budget reform, the overcrowding at Garfield (both the fire department and City sanitation have been contacted by the PTSA/ they also questioned why they have 18,19,20 year olds at Garfield as well as five Level 1 sex offenders), sustainable schools, and FERPA forms. I spoke on the Board resolution on the audit (which I feel is fairly weak and vague) .

Then came the Superintendent's presentations. This is where she announced that she had stepped down from the NWEA board.

Audit Response - Don Kennedy gave this report, saying they had visited Northshore district to see how they manage their district as well as going over the Washington State School Directors Association guidelines. He said that the school district's bond rating is still "AA" from Moody's. He also said there will be an audit page at the SPS website.

Enrollment - Rachel Cassidy, district demographer said enrollment is up a lot. She said it is up 684 students and that overall they have almost 1100 students more than last year.

On the one hand, this is a good problem because every student has money coming in to the building with him or her. On the other hand, it doesn't appear our district is ready to handle the extra students in an organized way.

She said enrollment was up in all grade levels but the big surprise was high school where they had predicted a decline. Interestingly, there was an increase at 1th and 12th grades which I might attribute to the economy.

Well, the district predicted that but I think some of us here knew that if people knew from their address which high school they were guaranteed, that more people would choose public high school.

She said MacDonald had 156 students (57K), Sand Point has 130 students (79K) and Queen Anne has 109 students (somehow I missed the number of K here).

Man, these are small schools. It's good we have an influx of money from new students because it is costing a lot to reopen these schools. We can't be running five under 200 student-sized schools for an extended period of time. And, we are going to take out more bonds to get the money faster to do the work needed at these buildings. (more on that later)

Other Enrollment items of interest:
  • there are 14 kindergarteners with grandfathered sibs left; 13 at Lafayette and 1 at Stevens (and I note that many West Seattle folks said there would be issues if Cooper went away as a neighborhood school and it looks like they are right). Credit to Enrollment for doing everything they could to get these Ks and their sibs in the same school.
  • Cleveland is still underenrolled but their numbers are slightly higher
  • the worries over the enrollments being uneven at Madison/WSHS and Denny/Sealth appear to be unfounded as Ms. Cassidy reports enrollments are fairly even
Director remarks on Enrollment

Kay - Garfield has the biggest problem. She thinks some came from private schools. She stated she thought the number Garfield was built for was 1600. (Bill Martin from Facilities came forward to say that was the initial number but they "changed the scope and have flex spaces so the capacity is 1650.)

Sherry - said Lafayette, JSIS, Bryant and View Ridge are all bursting at the seams and there is a danger of "these programs being loved to death." Rachel replied that yes, there individual schools but they had to continue to think about these issues from a district view (meaning, I think, if you do anything for just one school, it would have consequences for others).

Betty - she expressed concern over all Garfield students have schedules. Dr. G-J said they all have full schedules. (Someone did say to me at the meeting that if we want to recruit effective teachers it might be good to not wait until the last minute as the district did for Garfield.)

Peter - asked if all 9th graders wanting STEM got in, Tracy Libros seemed to think the answer was yes.

Harium - asked if middle school trend of dropping down continued. Rachel said yes, it still went down but they have 50 more students than they projected.

Kay - asked about K-8 capacity and Rachel said of the 3 regular K-8s, none were over capacity.

Michael - thanked Rachel and Tracy, said it was a good problem to have higher enrollment. Then he said that the district knew Garfield would be higher in June and weren't ready in September. (I was rooting for him - "c'mon Michael, just say it!") But no, he stopped there. (I was hoping for a gentle, "We'd like to see that not happen again because of the difficulties it caused staff and parents." ) He did say that the Board is examining the WSS and looking for ways to serve schools and said it was a conversation to have with the Superintendent. He smiled at her as he said it but she didn't return his smile.

IT presentation - This was an important presentation by IT staff about getting virtual desktops where you don't have to replace the machines but it would put more stress on data storage. Jim Ratchford, head of IT, seems to think it will be worth it. (I believe this presentation is on-line and I'll try to find it.) They want to pilot this at some schools.

Amazingly enough, we still don't have an off-site data storage in case of failure at JS headquarters. That was in BTA III but I don't know where it will come in the line-up of things to get done.

Board Director Comments

Sherry mentioned the great turnout of the public event at Hamilton for their reopening. There were 1500 people there throughout the period of the event.

Peter Maier said he attended the legislative assembly for the state board directors. He reported that Core 24 is starting to look like Core 24 lite, reduced and modified to state funding. He said the state's economist said the funding is still going down and may not rise for another 1-2 years. He taught math at McClure for one hour and said it was fun but hard.

Betty has been visiting schools in her district.

Harium went to a conference for urban board directors in Baltimore and said it was one of the best conferences he had ever attended and he took copious notes. He said he wanted to share what he learned with the other directors. He also said that before the Work Session this coming Wednesday that he will be hosting a meeting with 40 people from throughout the world who are looking at public education in Seattle.

Kay talked (and talked) about a school in Aspen that is similar to Pathfinder.

After a brief break, there was a public hearing on the bonds that the district wants to buy in order to speed up the remodeling of the 5 reopening buildings. Anyone could testify so Chris Jackins and I did. I just pointed out that the language of the bonds puts the district on the hook for an expensive payout if the interest rates change substantially (this could happen to any bond but it is something to be aware of). I also pointed out that Roosevelt STILL does not have security cameras and that Meany may not have enough fire safety equipment. I said I understood the urgency of getting those reopened buildings done but safety first.

Chris pointed out that these bonds would have to be paid back from BOTH the capital and operating budgets which is very unusual. I have to wonder now if the district will regret getting these bonds.

Lastly, we all need to petition the Board to change the format of the meetings.

The main problem is that the Superintendent schedules 2-3 staff presentations and then the Board has to ask questions. I realize that those staff want to go home so that's why they go first but I think the answer is more Work Sessions. There are so many times when the audience is waiting for a particular vote that doesn't come for hours.

The business of the meeting should be the public testimony, Board comments, Superintendent comment and Intro and Action items (as well as Consent items but they go by fast). I think the staff presentations either need to be shorter with no questions (do all that at the Work Sessions).

I couldn't believe after two hours they hadn't gotten past page 1 of the agenda.


Dorothy Neville said…
Your new school numbers are not right. Sandpoint has a total of 79 students. I do not think McDonald broke three digits either.

I think those numbers were predicted 130, has 79. McDonald they predicted 156 and got 57. Not sure, but I *am* sure that Sandpoint has about 80 kids total.
Anonymous said…
Sherry - said Lafayette, JSIS, Bryant and View Ridge are all bursting at the seams and there is a danger of "these programs being loved to death."

How can 2 percent over capacity at View Ridge be bursting at the seams? What about Laurelhurst 13 percent over capacity, Northgate 8 percent over capacity, North Beach 14 percent over capacity, and Olympic View 9 percent over capacity. This is just to name a few that have much great problems than 2 percent over.

An SPS parent
cascade said…
Harium in DC. Harium in Baltimore.

If we saw Harium in NE Seattle once in a while maybe that would be most productive for we Little Citizens. And maybe Sherry wouldn't be the one giving the enrollment lowdown for his schools.

Sheesh Harium. Go join your think tank with Goodloe-Johnson. You stopped representing us about 2 years ago by my count on your board votes.
wsnorth said…
It just amazes me how the district seems to be totally unable to analyze data in a factual and objective manner.

RE: “the worries over the enrollments being uneven at Madison/WSHS and Denny/Sealth appear to be unfounded as Ms. Cassidy reports enrollments are fairly even”

From the October #’s: Chief Sealth has 338 freshman vs. 291 at West Seattle, and Denny has 284 6th graders vs. 249 at Madison.

If this trend continues for the next several years, Sealth and Denny will be at/over capacity, with no room to accommodate students trying to “opt in” to the International programs, while WSH and Madison will be seriously under-enrolled.

Enrollments are “fairly even” for now because West Seattle and Madison have been full with wait list for years and Denny/Sealth underenrolled, and this is just the first year of the NSAP starving WSH and Madison of students.
I'll go back and check those school figures. I thought for sure it was for K and total school.

WS North, I thought it was interesting that Ms. Cassidy said that about the middle/high school situation in WS. It seemed a little premature.
Marion said…
In regards to the MLK sale, we the tax payers are now paying (I believe the loan from the state is 2.5 million) for a publically held property. Great financial management once again by SPS.
hschinske said…
I thought Bush had offered to lease, not buy? Or am I out of date?

Helen Schinske
TechyMom said…
I do hope that the AME can reach out to the CCC@MLK folks to bring some of the excellent programs and classes they had lined to the building. I didn't see much in the AME proposal that my family (3 blocks away) would actually use.
Well, the Bush lease would be for 99 years so it's almost like buying.
Teachermom said…
I wanted to re-urge special education parents to attend that Wednesday meeting if at all possible.

The last Special Education PTSA meeting was full of district admin from SpEd congratulating themselves for their excellent work that no one can see but themselves (spun from the finest silk - what, you can't see it?).

The all day district special ed training this past Friday was a shambles in many regards. None of the seminars had near enough seating. People were sitting on the floor, resting their papers on textbooks they found around the classroom to take notes. One presenter did not show, and no one knew about it still an hour and a half into the day.

People sat in a presenter-less room wondering what was going on. No director or organizer stepped in to explain, lead, anything. Lynda Collie-Johnson was the only one to do anything, and she's great. But we had to either wander around for a hour and a half, or sit on the floor of some training for which we hadn't registered.

Technology required for presentations did not work, there were not enough handouts by large margins, etc. But there were fruit and veggie platters for the district admin staff....this after I was initially pleased that money had not been spent on coffee and muffins for everyone.....

All of these teachers could have been working with your kids instead of being paid to roll our eyes and be reminded that we and our students are not deemed worthy of capable leadership.
ParentofThree said…
Teachermom, what you are reporting is appalling. I hope any directors checking in here take note of this "professional development" circus.
Anonymous said…

What were the presentations supposed to be about, assuming that people showed up to give them? My kid's teacher said she had to do another "IEP" training. After all these years, that's all our teachers can get trained in? IEPs? Gimme a break!

TeacherMom, rest assured, our kids all got a well needed break! Sorry the teachers could not have the same. It sounds like a day off would have been way better.

Thanks for hanging in there, without anybody driving the ship. Wouldn't it be a lot better if those central office people were reassigned to the classroom. They actually accomplish nothing for our disabled students.

--special ed parent
Anonymous said…
McDonald has 57 TOTAL students, Sand Point has 79 TOTAL students, and QAE has 115 TOTAL students. (Per the October 1st un-adjusted numbers).

Parent at Lincoln
Anonymous said…
TeacherMom, when is that special education work session? And, does anybody get to participate? Or is it just sitting around listening to Marni Campbell and her incompetent staff, water the tulips while Rome burns? Who needs more of that.

--special education parent
Anonymous said…
Teacher Mom, can't say I am surprise about your PD day. Now I understandwhy people join the Tea Party. I am so fed up by the shambles in our school and in the district HQ. I am through with voting in Prince Charming and finding he's really a charmless frog sitting on the Board (OK, poor analogy, because I rather like frogs.) I am also through voting for levies that just taxed me more with zero gains for my kids' education.

Guess what, I am voting NO on the levy. I am applying the 12 step program to SPS.

My kids will get about $4,500/ child for basic education for next year( per the district budget 2010-11 report ) and QA elementary will spend over 10K per child. Brilliant! I hope each child at QA get an elementary version of STEM (since my kids won't). If they don't, they should march down to JS like Tea Partiers.

Lassen said…
In your summary of Board comments, you seem to have skipped right over the most important one - - Michael DeBell's endorsement of Diane Ravitch's book and his urging of his fellow Board members to read it.

I know DeBell's comments were briefly referenced in another thread, but this is major and deserves to be noted. DeBell basically said that the Board needs to lead and needs to thoughtfully "navigate" the waves of national reform/money washing over the district. This is the best news I've heard in a long time and DeBell deserves huge credit for taking this first step toward a thoughtful discussion.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Teachermom said…
From the SPS website:
Wednesday, Oct. 13th
Board Work Session re Special Ed
4:00pm - 6:00pm
Location: Auditorium, Stanford Center
Open to Public

Oh, no, do not wish the sped admin to be back in the classroom! They do not have the planning/organizational skills to be good teachers. They also seem to hold humanity in contempt.

The annual training is usually the same IEP training 101 that most of us do not need.

There was a nice training on data collection by some EEU staff, but a good deal of it did not apply to resource room staff, which is where the majority of children are served.

Everyone had to attend a Prior Written Notice thing(I won't call it a training, I would call it a "reading of the power-point") that did not seem to cover any new ground. There was an administrator designee training, as well as an IEP training about the new IEP management system that we may or may not be using starting in February. This was one of the ones where the technology was not set up to show us the new UI, which was sort of central to the new parts of the training, but the presenter was more well-spoken and knowledgeable than most.

There were some inclusion trainings, which really kind of tee me off at this point, seeing as it is all very pie in the sky and not supported.
wsnorth said…
Mad said "My kids will get about $4,500/ child for basic education"...

I am curious about this figure. Is that what is left per student for "basic education" after central admin, special education, APP, Alt schools, transportation, etc. - after all other "non basic" education costs taken out? What does this number represent?
SP said…
RE: “the worries over the enrollments being uneven at Madison/WSHS and Denny/Sealth appear to be unfounded as Ms. Cassidy reports enrollments are fairly even."

You're right WSNorth, this is just the first year of the district's enrollment genetic-engineering. How can they be so blind? WSHS lost 120 students (fully 10%) and there's still 3 more years before the SAP is fully implemented. Madison lost 56, all from 6th grade, knocking out 2 full classes (out of 10). At this rate it will go from 900 kids down to just 750 in 3 years!
Sealth grew by 83 and Denny by 77 overall. Is that the "potential imbalance" the district refers to?

On the other hand, Charlie's point on capacity vs enrollment is creating the opposite problem for the Madison-area elementary schools.
Functional capacity vs Oct. 1st enrollment:
Alki 312 / 375 (+63 over)
Gatewood 372 / 462 (+90)
Lafayette 495 / 526 (+31)
Schmitz Pk 336 / 414 (+78)
Totals 1,515 / 1,777 (+262)

These 2 problems, overenrollment in elementary and artificial underenrollment for MS/HS would perhaps balance each other out with time, but our kids can not wait for all those years.

The transition plan must address these problems for next year, and for the whole district. The 1st Board work meeting is not until Nov. 3rd. Sounds familiar?
Anonymous said…
WS North,
Basic ed in this case means for basic education cost per student (excluding funds for spec ed, bilingual funding). Bilingual and special ed students get additional funding on top of basic ed (appropriately so) in the budget.

So when you have a larger special ed or with higher needs and/or large bilingual population you will see higher average cost funding per student. For QA, it is a new school, but with small student body, hence higher overhead to operate (so here I question funding priority during budget shortfall).

Mad Hatter
wsnorth said…
I don't know about Gatewood, but at SP, Lafayette, and Alki almost all of the "over enrollment" is at the 1st grade and K level, and many of those are grandfathered siblings from out of the attendance area. It will be a long time before today's 1st graders are even in middle school, much less high school. The closures, NSAP gerrymandering, and poor capacity planning we are witnessing represents something on a scale from total incompetence to arbitrary and capricious behavior.
SP said…
That's really a good point, WS North. If it's out-of-area siblings making a lot of the bulge/overenrollment at these elementary schools, then these higher numbers would not carry over to fill Madison & WSHS in later years as their addresses would default them back to their area schools at that level.

It would be an important question to ask enrollment about- how many grandfathered siblings were admitted into these schools this year?

But in any case, the downward spiral effect of to-the-bone budget & program cuts at Madison & WSHS is far more than the district average, due to artificial enrollment imbalances is inexcusable.

It is entirely possible to turn this around for next year by proper direction from the Board. Isn't that what the Capacity Management (School Board policy H13.00) is supposed to do?

"The annual report shall identify areas of stable, increasing, or decreasing enrollment and issues of school building capacity and shall make recommendations as to possible actions (by the Board and/or Superintendent) that would address issues identified."

"Actions taken to match capacity and enrollment...may include:
* Adding, relocating, or removing programs
* Adjusting school boundaries
*Adjusting geographic zones for option schools
* Adding or removing portables
* Adding to or renovating buildings
* Opening, reconstituting, or closing buildings"
StepJ said…
This comment has been removed by the author.
Jet City mom said…
All of these teachers could have been working with your kids instead of being paid to roll our eyes and be reminded that we and our students are not deemed worthy of capable leadership.

Since my experience with private schools is that they serve special ed students at least as well as SPS can, if not much better- I always keep these sort of experiences in mind, when I hear advocates against charter schools stating that public schools take everyone.
If you are looking for an equal opportunity dumbing down.
Jet City mom said…
Historically, enrollment has increased in schools after renovating/remodeling- so why didn't SPS anticipate earlier that enrollment might top 1600, when in October of 2004, enrollment was 1626 ( in the " old" Garfield)?

While it is anecdotal- I also have to state that my daughter had a required class " 7th" period, after school- and no class 1st period, making transportation & after school activities difficult one year.

Her senior year @ Garfield, she also did not have 6 classes- while the counselor did find classes, she could take, having classes that fit with your course of study & aren't simply a TA period to fill a slot, is not the same thing as having enough wanted classes and teachers for all the students.
( Garfield was not overenrolled at this time- this was after the district canceled two of her classes- GTA & being TA in another GTA class, during the term)

With a troubling drop out rate, IMO, the district should be pulling out all the stops so that ALL students who WANT to be taking classes, have good choices available to them.
dan dempsey said…
Lassen is spot on. This is an ongoing progression in the evolution of Michael DeBell from easily duped newbie Director to hopefully thoughtful leader.

"DeBell basically said that the Board needs to lead and needs to thoughtfully "navigate" the waves of national reform/money washing over the district. This is the best news I've heard in a long time and DeBell deserves huge credit for taking this first step toward a thoughtful discussion."

Carr, Maier, Martin-Morris, and Sundquist remain miles away from thoughtful discussion or any factual analysis of the MGJ crap they mindlessly approve.

Kudos to Chris Stewart, who gave all seven current directors the Ravitch Book.
Anonymous said…
Mad Hatter,
Where do you get the $10,000 per child number at QA Elementary?

They follow WSS like every other school - by my calculation on staffing (4 teachers, a principal, 1/2 gym teacher and 1/2 librarian) is less than $5k per student at enrollment of 115.

Class sizes at QAE are all above 25, including a K at 29 and a K/1 at 28. Believe me, they aren't getting any special gift of an additional $5k per student there.

Please explain...unless you are counting the cost to remodel the Old John Hay building. That is a different story.
Anonymous said…
forgot to sign that above post

Parent at Lincoln
ttln said…
re: west seattle NSAP impact:

When the enrollment information was presented to the board, how was it shown? In totals for the building? Or was it shown broken down by grade level (where the board would see the incredible decrease in numbers in 6th compared to 7th and 8th)? Or was it shown at all? Was it just a statement "appears not to be as much as a problem as first expected?"
If it was just a general statement, then someone needs to call this presenter on it. Details are key! Down 56 students at Madison forced a restructuring of our team model in the 6th grade, where it is most important. We now have 2.8 humanities teachers in the 6th to do all of LA and SS for 246 kids. Madison now has a staff committee to look at program restructuring as this reported "minimal" impact hits each grade level. "Minimal" my Great Aunt Jesse! Maybe losing two teachers (really, it was 3+, positions) seems minimal to her, but to us, it is two faces gone and classrooms packed to the gills (seven sections for each class for 246 kids= 35+/class).
The content of these reports needs to have supporting data (no evidence to support statements gets no credit in my class).
Emeraldkity, could you let me know what private schools do special ed well? I am interested as it would be good knowledge to have. I just have never don't a lot of investigating of private schools on that issue.
SP said…
to ttln:
Here's the link to the powerpoint, p. 5 from the 10/06/10 Board Meeting.

On the updates page there are 4 entries, each with 2 numbers or less (ie enrollment and original projection).
For West Seattle (no data included):
"Concerns about potential imbalance between Madison/Denny and West Seattle/Sealth were not borne out."

Rachel Cassidy is listed on the front page- maybe she should be contacted...

I was going to listen to the discussion that usually is posted by now, but I can't find the link which has always been on the School Board's website.
ttln said…
Thanks for the link. I just went and looked at the slide. Here is what I know as of this moment (and I have someone doing follow up confirmation on actual numbers).
Our 6th grade number of 246 may have 40 non attendance area students. We are not sure which are grandfathered vs. opt in. That means our actual number of attendance area kids is around 206. (The number of grandfathered students is the number I am having verified). That is about 100 students less than we once had coming into 6th grade.
Next year's assignments will most likely limit the grandfathering for all because of the current state of over-enrollment in other buildings. When that happens, we should see the impact to a greater extent than we did this year.
The slide trivializes the impact of the 56 fewer to our program and doesn't acknowledge any of the temporary factors that are mitigating the disparity between assignment areas.
This isn't a matter of "problem solved, case closed."
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