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Thursday, December 02, 2010

The Executive Committee Steps Up

Part 1 (this part is not as fascinating as Part 2 but may have info you might be interested in. I'll bold key words so you can skip to what you care about.)

Charlie was right (I lost count how many times I have written that this year but his streak continues). The Executive Committee meeting on Wednesday morning was very, very good.

I was the only member of the public there which I think might have somewhat influenced what was said (or how forcefully it was said). I'm not sure it was me personally but that there was a John Q. Public in the room.

Michael DeBell is the head of the Committee and Kay Smith-Blum and Steve Sundquist are the other members. The cast of staff coming in and out was quite amazing. Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was there for most of it as was Holly Ferguson, head of policy and government (I always forget her exact title) and Noel Treat, the new head of Legal.

The first thing I learned is that this is where you get an advance look at upcoming Board meeting agendas. This certainly can be useful. More on that in a minute.

Kay asked about an update on the SE Initiative. A bit of silence (the start of a trend during the meeting) and then she was told there would be one next week.

There was some talk about another elementary language immersion school. Kay wants one in the Central area but Dr. G-J said this is program placement (which may have been her way of saying it's her turf). There was no consensus about this at the last Work Session on it because of funding but Kay pressed on and asked about independent funding. (Like a public/private partnership? We haven't seen one of those in a long time.) DeBell gently pointed out that they would need Board action for a 4th but they can finish on the work they are doing in that area now. Then there was an interesting exchange between the Super and Kay. The Superintendent asked if Kay needed some briefing on starting up a foreign language immersion school and Kay crisply said, no, I know this and she reeled off the start-up and continuing costs. Impressive. I think Michael and Steve would be okay with it but there is no money. (Bet you Kay finds it somewhere.)

Then there was a long discussion about Board policy. Backstory is that a couple of Boards back (with Butler-Wall, Soriano, Stewart, etc.), there was a real effort towards overhauling the policy book. There was a lot in there that was outdated, not of any use and a duplication. But it proved to be quite overwhelming so now it got handed off to Holly Ferguson.

This is good and bad because Holly is very sharp and a good person to do it BUT she also has the district's agenda in her head and I'm not sure that the Board policy has to stem from the district's agenda. For example, on a handout, in the category of "public participation at Board meetings" , it mentions "combine with new Meeting policy". What new meeting policy would that be? She also notes under Governance policy "Revise to be Governance Team Responsibilities (massive revision)!" She also referenced a "governance officer" and I have no idea who this is.

That said, she did a lot of research and has a solid piece of work for the Board to look at and consider. She talked about hiring WSSDA (the Washington State School Board directors group) to help on it (it would be about $6k and I consider it worth it). She asked the Board if this was the direction they wanted to go and mentioned that our district is an "outlier" compared to other districts and this was an issue important to the State Auditor.

Michael said that he wanted brevity, clarity and consistency. He said the science curriculum was a case in point. He stated that the Board seems to have authority here from the language ("course of study") and this would also let schools know what they can do on their own (earned autonomy - would someone please define this phrase as it pertains to this district!). Steve said he wasn't as sure on the school autonomy issues. Holly was asked to move forward on this work.

Review of Board Agendas

Board meeting for December 8th. Here we had Don Kennedy, COO, Bill Martin, interim head of Facilities, and Duggan Harman, Executive Director of Finance and two people I didn't recognize. The Super said her update for the December 8th meeting will be on the public engagement plan.

Mr. Kennedy said he would speak on the update of the state budget and the potential special Legislative session.

They also mentioned they would start the high school student testimony again (some of us wondered where that had gone to). This is good but I'll lay odds at least half of them will ask for the Career Counselors back.

Then Kay asked about new capital projects that might be brought in. She asked Mr. Martin about surplus funds from BEX projects that came in under budget. He couldn't venture a ballpark figure but when Kay asked if it was more than $1.9M, he said yes, much more. Kay is trying to get the district to put in the security cameras at Roosevelt and a more secure storage for Garfield's athletic equipment (the district is out $100K in costs because some animals? got into the storage area and wrecked the equipment). Steve pointed out this is the area for Operations to talk about. Mr. Martin tried to say that these are things outside the realm of the BTA list and that Don and Peter and the Ops Committee had not committed to any new projects.

(Sidebar. I wrote about this when I was at the Ops Committee meeting. Peter tried to ward off the subject but after the Executive Committee meeting I wrote the Board again on this issue. The cameras for Roosevelt are on BTA III. This is NOT a new project and I don't know why it keeps getting out there as such. There is a lot of extra capital money available. The Board just has to direct Facilities to move the project up to the top. This is a small project that could get done in less than a month. Why this dithering continues, I have no idea.)

Kay stuck to her guns. (I love this woman; she's got moxie.) Michael directed Bill to look at the changes in the capital budget. Don suggested this is a topic for the Ops Committee and Michael said there are a lot of capital needs.

Supplemental education services. This is where the two unknown staffers came in. So the district has large contracts with a couple of tutoring services (like Sylvan). Kay said Bailey-Gatzert wanted to have their own teachers do the tutoring. One staffer said this is possible but the district is legally obligated under NCLB to offer more than one choice. She said one issue is accountability; namely, that the service providers don't have to be held accountable for their work. Michael referenced the district having changed the eligibility to save money but I didn't follow what it changed from.

Mr Martin explained that Facilities will be bringing the Ingraham project before the Board for yet a third time. Same project but new contractor. The bid goes up on Friday. No new motion for appeal has been filed by the plaintiffs but they have until December 10th. The district hopes to get the work completed at Ingraham in 8-10 months (even if the district doesn't go back to court, he doesn't believe they could get it done by the start of the next school year).

Kay asked if the new possible APP pathway at Ingraham would affect this? The answer was no. There was talk of delaying the motion until the district knows if the plaintiffs are appealing and Mr Martin seemed ambivalent about it. (I am really getting the vibe from all directions that the APP pathway at Ingraham is going to happen whether end the APP preference to Garfield.)

To note, they will be electing new Board officers at next Wednesday's Board meeting. It is widely assumed Steve Sundquist will be the new President.

They then discussed the Jan. 5th Board meeting. I note that they are starting into introduction of BTA III projects including the long-awaited seismic repairs to Meany.

The Board will be releasing their conflict of interest forms here. I suspect that includes the Superintendent as well.

As well, they noted that the NSAP had many amendments and so the Transition plan may as well. So if you have something you want to see in the plan, lobby your Director now. There are also 3-day calendar waivers on the agenda to get from OSPI. Steve said the Board wants to push back to 108 days of instruction and knows this is something to talk to SEA about.

End of Agenda discussions.

8 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Update on the Southeast Education Initiative...

[crickets]

Uh... we'll have that for you next week.

Next week? It was on the goddamn agenda. You should have had it NOW. More than that, the Southeast Initiative was finished six months ago; you should have issued a final report long before this.

wseadawg said...

MW: Please clarify your grammer in your statement re APP pathway to Ingraham. I think you're missing a couple words. Does it sound like they're talking splitting the cohort, or creating a new pathway people can choose? "Pathway" typically means a fixed route in APP speak.

Jan said...

My prediction is that they will leave it as an option for one year (Garfield is stuffed -- but they could stuff it a little more next year, if they had to). But after that, it will be a simple step for them to just declare it mandatory.

Whether it is of equal value as an APP cohort will be irrelevant, because they rarely pay lip service to equivalence of programs, and they NEVER do the legwork to actually CREATE equivalence.

Is it sneaky and slimy? Yes. But we are all boiled frogs (notice the water temp?) The ONLY questions, I think, are (1) will they let next year's north end 9th graders stay at Garfield after they make the pathway mandatory during their sophomore year (my guess -- yes -- easier for them not to have to hear the screams of uprooted kids) and (2) UNLESS the program actually works (which would be terrific), how long will it take to realize that northend APP kids are just staying at their neighborhood schools (RHS and Ballard) and will that be the "foot in the door" they need to just abandon the APP model citywide and dissolve the program everywhere, including Garfield.

dan dempsey said...

I believe the official end of the Southeast Initiative was August 31, 2010.

Charlie when they've never had any reports on progress during the three year lifetime and I do not believe even constructed a rubric for measuring what they hoped the SEI spending would achieve, it is really hard to write a final report in less than say "three years". So even though the "Update" should have been done long ago .... next week will still be amazingly timely for this crew.

Maureen said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
SP said...

re :Holly F
"She talked about hiring WSSDA (the Washington State School Board directors group) to help on it (it would be about $6k and I consider it worth it). She asked the Board if this was the direction they wanted to go and mentioned that our district is an "outlier" compared to other districts and this was an issue important to the State Auditor."

Melissa- Was Holly proposing using WSSDA's policies for our main policy framework & revisions, or just "to help on it?" It seems a collosal wate of the Board's time to have this perpetual back log of Board policies which need updating. In the C&I meeting that's all they seem to do now, with no time to really discuss the "I" for Instruction anymore.

As I understand it, WSSDA sends out suggested updates for their policy framework, matching changes to laws, etc. which individual district Boards can then customize, saving important time & energy. Also, Seattle's Board Policies don't even line up with WSSDA's policies at all which makes any comparisom of districts almost impossible, with the Seattle Procedures buried deep in their K-12 Manual which is also not easily located.

It's interesting that if Holly F. is proposing this, maybe she's tired of running the tedious Policy update process in the C&I meetings.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Seattle Parent, my impression is that Holly thought it good to follow what WSSDA does, not just hire a WSSDA consultant.

SP said...

Melissa- I spent some time this year comparing all the different district's board policies, and by far the majority follow WSSDA's system (some with some customizations added occasionally). This is a very reasonable approach, instead of Seattle's current reinventing the wheel & might even allow the Board members some time to do their other Board jobs!