Friday, December 10, 2010

Open Thread Friday

Another week, just completing the first full week in December.

I'm thinking this week could be titled, "Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them" but Al Franken (whoops! Senator Franken) took that title. I could also go with "How Do You Solve a Problem like Maria" but that, too, is taken.

Times' apology story.

Something funny to lighten your weekend. (Beware - it's a cat video.) Also, for dog lovers, keep your dogs away from metal light poles in the Rainier Valley.

Batten down the hatches! Apparently we are in for a major rainstorm starting Saturday night.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for this Open Thread Friday.

I wanted to let parents know about Architecture 101 holiday classes that I am offering in my studio during the winter break.

December 20-23 will be the Holiday Village where we will be looking at how different cultures around the world celebrate during the winter season and then design and create our own village out of all edible construction materials including gingerbread. This is a fun class and a nice break from routine.

December 27-30 will be An Amusement Park in the morning and Backyard Cottages in the after non.

You can find information on the classes at Architecture 101.

Anonymous said...

http://www.komonews.com/news/local/111465599.html More Bill Gates money and conditions. Wednesday story from the AP.

public school parent

Anonymous said...

Our teachers are stretched too thin, and one way I have seen this lately is too many kids and too little ability to care in some places. Right now I wish my child was in the kind of environment where the teacher was not so overwhelmed that he/she couldn't be aware of interactions between kids (teasing type) and redirect better. This type of thing can seem insignificant to adults and yet it's huge in the life of a child.


MAPsucks said...

I have just submitted a fraud complaint to the SAO reporting that SPS misused grant funds to pilot MAP in 2008. The grant was intended for "the purchase and implementation of diagnostic assessments in reading, writing, math and/or science." Further, "(a)s a result, funds may not be used for developing diagnostic assessments."

Floor Pie said...

I’m new to this, so forgive me if my outrage and concern sound na├»ve in the context of school district politics.

Today, TOPS is losing its K-2 instructional aide due to a budgeting issue. Last I heard, the district has no plans to replace him. Our special education teacher has been advocating hard to get someone else in there. She says the district is “working on it,” but no one is particularly hopeful that anything will come of it.

This IA has been a tremendous support for my son (a first grader with Aspergers), for my son’s classmate who has Down syndrome, and for all the students. With his help, the classroom is a more peaceful place and the teacher is able to really focus on teaching.

I'm very worried to see him go, and I am horrified that this is an area where financial corners are being cut. It is simply not safe to have our special needs children unattended in a large classroom.

This is too much for one classroom teacher with no special education training to handle. This is too much for the special education teacher and the counselor, who are already spread incredibly thin. (Our school counselor administers the MAP test and was largely unavailable to help my son during the first weeks of school.)

I’ve written to Harium, and I know some other parents have done the same. What else can we do?

hschinske said...

The grant was intended for "the purchase and implementation of diagnostic assessments in reading, writing, math and/or science."

Is the complaint that MAP isn't a diagnostic assessment, or that it doesn't include writing, or what? (I mean the specific complaint of fraud; obviously there are lots of other reasons to be concerned.)

Helen Schinske

anne said...

For any of you that subscribe to GroupOn.com email coupons I saw in the one today that there is an upcoming on for discounts on donating to public schools.


SeattleSped said...


Email the Seattle Sped PTSA and SEAAC representatives. For that info, email me at SeattleSped@gmail.com.

MAPsucks said...


The grant app said one thing, the money was used for something else. That's a big no-no.

hschinske said...

MAPsucks, that doesn't answer my question. What I want to know is in what way does MAP qualify as "something else"?

I'm asking for clarification. I don't know whether the process involved fraud or not, and I'm not attacking the idea that it did.

Helen Schinske

Kathy said...

Floor Pie,

Become involved in the Budget Process. There will be a meeting on Dec. 15th. Budget meetings are on the district's web page. This blog will also keep you up-to date on budget meetings.

I suspect there will be debate on dollars going to classrooms vs. costs of Strategic Initiatives.

I suspect millions and millions of dollars will be allocated to Strategic Initiatives such as funding Research, Evaluation & Assesment Dept. while leaving our classrooms under-funded.

You will have an opportunity to organize your community, testify etc.

I hope you become involved.

MAPsucks said...


The grant application said 35K students would get the Edusoft Math Benchmark Assessment and 5.7K would get the Scholastic Reading Inventory. Instead 4.1K were MAP tested three times in a pilot study that cost for over $200K.

I hope this answers your question.

hschinske said...

Thank you, MAPsucks. That makes things a lot clearer.

Helen Schinske

Melissa Westbrook said...

FlorePie, write the Superintendent and cc the Board. Tell the Superintendent that you want supplemental levy money to go to fixing classroom cuts. They promised it would happen.

Go on record as much as possible. Document every bit of outreach you do.

Ask Harium to come to visit the classroom with you. Tell him you think it very important that he sees what is happening in person.

SeattleSped said...


Not to be negative but Sped parents are tired of writing letters that go unanswered and submitting public disclosure requests that are blown off. We are sick of Sped Educator FTEs getting replacing by .4 aides. Our children, who could succeed in an inclusive gen ed settings, are getting the shaft due to no support. Personally, I want to burn their phony ICS program down.

Anonymous said...

Amen Seattle Sped,

.4 aide, is enough to handle how many kids? instead of a real teacher. There's still plenty of money for 2 directors of sped, with consulting teachers galore.

--amen sped parent

Jet City mom said...

So I guess SPS pretty much has to get Ingraham at capacity- or else they are gonna look pretty silly- spending money to expand.

The memorial to the trees is to "express gratitude (to them) for 70 years of service to the city…helping reduce storm water runoff, providing habitat for wildlife." The school district said it will plant new trees to replace those logged. Zemke said the new trees will be smaller and won't provide as much benefit as the older ones.

The district received four construction bids for the work.
The low bid of $8.3 million was submitted by Bailey Construction Co., said district spokeswoman Teresa Wippel.
She said the district will notify the neighborhood when construction is about to begin and the trees are to come down.

Zemke said his group is e-mailing several hundred notices about the memorial but he wouldn't guess how many will attend.

He said he and other tree preservationists will now focus their attention on strengthening Seattle's tree-preservation rules.

The First Arnold said...

Seattle Times Editorial weighs in on MGJ's 17% figure.


mirmac1 said...

This is priceless. To save their rockstar's ass, the Times puts

on the front page at 7:00 pm Friday

mirmac1 said...

Oops, sorry. The bad word slipped....

Charlie Mas said...

That's a Letter to the Editor, not an editorial.

Anonymous said...

Floor Pie, the main thing is that the district is probably not meeting either your IEP or the IEP of your son's classmate. Please get involved sped_ptsa or SEAAC. The district is failing to provide a "continuum of alternate" placements as required under IDEA. You are made to choose between "resource room with no support" OR "self-contained" (the sped dump for all sorts of mindless activities). That is not a continuum of placements. You really need an inclusion program. Oh yeah. Those worked too well so they decided to stop offering them.

--Sped Parent

Anonymous said...

PS. Floor Pie.

What else can we do?

You can file an OSPI complaint. That is free for you. File this if the district has, by policy, decided NOT to meet your needs. Failure to provide YOUR CHILD an continuum of alternate placements, including those with adequate inclusive services, like aides and special ed teachers... is a violation of IDEA. IDEA requires a continuum of alternate placements. If your child was, say, at Bagley and in the 3rd grade... an inclusion program with adequate supports would be available to him and his classmate with Down Syndrome. Sorry, they cancelled those inclusion programs to students less than grade 2. (BUT, I know for a fact that some people have gained access to them. Shhhh. Don't let it get out.) Sorry, we can't meet your needs is the standard answer.

You can also file an OCR complaint. That's a civil rights violation under ADA, not IDEA. The jist of that complaint is that your son is being denied education because he is different (disabled) and has Aspergers.

Please get involved. Unfortunately, you will only get as much as you advocate for and/or demand. Because schools provide as little as they possibly can. And they really would perfer not to serve your child. It's only parents that make them do a single, solitary thing for disabled students. There was 0 access to education at all, until parents fought for and created IDEA. Without you, there is nothing. Now, or ever. The district wants you to move away. SEAAC and sped_ptsa can help you with all of this, and help you get people to advocate with/for you.

This isn't really the same kettle of fish as "we're really tight on money." The district has to implement your IEP, by law. Period. It has to find the money to do it. Speical education is basic. It really isn't the same as all those other optional programs.

--Sped Parent

Chris S. said...

Oh mirmac, that news is almost as funny as MGJ's community engagement report, hehehehehe.

dan dempsey said...

No Trespass Orders issued against members of the public; another inadequate policy from the Seattle School District.

Dear Mr. Cerqui and Mr. Treat,

There appears to be a problem with Seattle Schools Board Policy F44.01. This policy - which concerns, in part, No Trespass Orders issued against members of the public - does NOT inform the public of their right to appeal a Notice of Trespass to the King County Superior Court. This appears to violate the Division 1 Court of Appeals ruling in Green vs. State of Washington (Sept. 27,2010; attached).

From page 14 of the Green Ruling:

"The bare right to a judicial appeal, without being informed of that right, was insufficient to protect Green from arbitrary action by the school district."

dan dempsey said...

Attorney General needs to investigate Seattle Schools Superintendent

I recently learned that the State Auditor sends all their findings to the AG's office thus the Auditor is the finder but the AG is the enforcer.

Our previous criticism of the Auditor not bringing findings to the AG's attention was incorrect.

Things have reached such a dire situation recently that some of us have decided on plan B.

As a result of finding far more wrong doing during our research in the process of the appeal of the New Tech Network contract, approved on April 7, 2010, we have decided to drop the appeal.

As we know from the filing of the "Discovering Math" Appeal filed June 2009, won in court Feb 2010, and scheduled for appeals court in 2011, "The District" refuses to make changes even when a judge orders it to do so.

We cannot possibly have MGJ around for another year or two and certainly NOT the contracted three more years.

We dropped this NTN appeal because the AG's office will not act on anything currently in litigation. In my opinion MGJ has violated state laws several times in her position as Secretary or the School Board and also in her position as Superintendent. Action on these violations needs to begin NOW.

I wrote this letter to Director DeBell. If the Board chooses to do nothing, then our only recourse is to write to the Governor instructing her to get the AG investigating Seattle Schools Central Administration for violations of State Law.

It may take several letters to the Gov. maybe even a few to legislators asking them to get the Gov. into action on this matter.


Curious George said...


Are you concerned that the AG's office will exercise its prosecutorial discretion and choose to do nothing?

If they do nothing then you will have abandoned your efforts and left a smoking gun on the table.

Refiling the matter would probably be barred or limited by the civil rules and maybe a statute of limitations.

What then?

Anonymous said...


$5 million misspent school funds to be investigated by DA.

Public school parent

dan dempsey said...

Curious George,

Excellent questions.

#1 I have been operating under the assumption that we live in a Republic where citizens are protected by laws from the actions of incompetent and/or abusive appointed or elected leaders.

#2 If assumption number 1 is wrong, then the problems are much bigger than I can hope to impact.

#3 When I started this journey about 4 years ago, my thinking was:

A.. We cannot impact anything at the national level.

B.. We can impact a few things on the State Level (Note: New Math Standards are here and Bergeson is gone)

C.. We can impact things on the Seattle School level. (This has NOT really happened)


The problem with "C" is that Board policies and State Laws are frequently violated. Thus we cannot impact much as these folks do not play by the rules.

The action by the Attorney General is needed as MGJ and team need to be investigated. If the AG finds MGJ and/or others in violation of laws, then charges need to be filed and that "Accountability" we hear so much about needs to happen.

The laws are to protect the citizens, if the AG will not use the laws to protect the citizens in cases involving the Seattle Schools, then administrative violations will continue as the Board has chosen to do very little.

The Good News in all this is one of two things will happen:

(1).. Either the AG investigates TEAM MGJ ....

(2).. or NOT.
If NOT at least I will realize that we do not operate in a republic so I can cease opposing the actions of dictators by attempting to get other officials to act in their required capacities to protect the citizens.

dan dempsey said...

Public School Parent,

Thanks for the heads up on Beverly Hills School District.

From the LA Times:

Beverly Hills schools rocked by criminal charges, allegations of $5 million in misspent funds
December 10, 2010 | 8:42 am

Check this out.

At least in Beverly Hills SD they investigate wrong doing.

Note: According to the felony complaint filed by the Los Angeles County district attorney’s office, Hubbard allegedly gave Christiansen a $20,000 stipend that was not authorized by the school board and improperly increased her car allowance.

In Seattle the King County prosecutor will not act without a complaint from the Seattle Police. The Seattle Police will not act because it involves the Seattle Schools. They say contact the State Attorney General.

The State Attorney General will only act in a case like this one on complaints from:

A.. a county prosecutor

B.. the Governor

C.. the State Auditor

Welcome to the land of "Catch 22" where the Seattle Superintendent is unsupervised by the School Board and apparently untouchable for the legal violations that she regularly commits. The Gov. needs a lot of letters to spur her into requesting the AG take action and start investigating.

Anonymous said...

"The complaint alleges that Christiansen, hired by the district in 2004 at an annual salary of $113,000, secretly negotiated to become an independent contractor while still retaining her duties as facilities director, a violation of state conflict-of-interest codes. According to the complaint, she was paid more than $5.2 million by the school district between 2006 and 2009.

In addition, Christiansen allegedly simultaneously negotiated contracts with an energy firm to conduct business with the district and her own company, according to prosecutors.

Christiansen could not be reached for comment"

From the LA Times & L.A.NOW article dated Dec.09,2010

public school parent

Curious George said...


Prosecutorial discretion is one of the first things you learn when studying criminal law and procedure. Not all laws are enforced all the time. To do so would result in something akin to a death by a thousand cuts; a prosecutors office would be overwhelmed by cases.

Knowing this, legislatures often create private rights of action and include those private rights of action when enacting statutes. This allows private citizens to, in effect, enforce the law.

I would suspect that, in this case, the AG would realize that aggrieved citizens have a mechanism to check the actions of the school board. Namely, they could appeal the school board's decision and argue that the decision was arbitrarily and capriciously made because it was based on false information. (I am not saying that I think that would be successful but at least the avenue exists for redress).

In any event, here is a description of prosecutorial discretion that I picked up off the web that seems pretty clear:

The term "prosecutorial discretion" refers to the fact that under American law, government prosecuting attorneys have nearly absolute and unreviewable power to choose whether or not to bring criminal charges, and what charges to bring, in cases where the evidence would justify charges. This authority provides the essential underpinning to the prevailing practice of plea bargaining, and guarantees that American prosecutors are among the most powerful of public officials. It also provides a significant opportunity for leniency and mercy in a system that is frequently marked by broad and harsh criminal laws, and, increasingly in the last decades of the twentieth century, by legislative limitations on judges' sentencing discretion.

The grant of broad discretion to prosecutors is so deeply ingrained in American law that U.S. lawyers often assume that prosecutorial discretion is inevitable. In fact, some countries in Europe and Latin America adhere to the opposite principle of "mandatory prosecution," maintaining, at least in principle, that prosecutors have a duty to bring any charge that is supported by evidence developed by the police or presented by citizens. The extent to which that principle is actually followed in practice in these countries has been controversial. Some scholars have argued that practices analogous to American prosecutorial discretion and plea bargaining generally exist, more or less covertly, in such countries, or that the discretion exercised by prosecutors in the United States is effectively exercised there by the police instead.

peonypower said...

As a sped. parent and a general ed. teacher I agree that the district is not meeting the needs of sped. students. It will take a hefty lawsuit to make things change. I wonder if a class action by a group of sped. parents challenging the cuts to classroom funding to support special ed. would work.

As a teacher who has taught full inclusion without assistance I can say that I wanted desperately to help all my students, and I ran into a brick wall that year from admin and special ed., and the counseling department. No money, no bodies, etc. was the chant. It was a frustrating year.

There a people who want to help all students, but they are increasingly given less and less support to do so. What is happening in special ed. is also what is happening to ELL students (which is more of my load now than special ed.)

However, as a special ed. parent I agree with the other voices, if you insist on what your child's legal rights are you will get help. You will have to be persistent and maybe not very Seattle nice, but that method does work. It worked for me as a parent, and sadly is more effective than having the teacher demand help.

kid not like the others said...

how many former employees who were 'let go' or just resigned 'to pursue other interests' from downtown have since been contracted by SPS to do the same or similar work they did as our 'employee'? can we name some? would more transparent accounting/budget presentation reveal such things?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Kid, yes that happens a lot. Retired principals coming back (see Chuck Chin), employees who leave and then the firms they go to get consulting work (see Shannon McMinnimee). It's not illegal but does it cost more? Probably.

The Real Arnold said...

@kid not like the others: "how many former employees who were 'let go' or just resigned 'to pursue other interests' from downtown have since been contracted by SPS to do the same or similar work they did as our 'employee'? can we name some? would more transparent accounting/budget presentation reveal such things?"

No, the budgeting process would nto reveal that. You would need to request a list of their contractors. Then you woul dneed to know the names of former employees. Possible to do, but time consuming.

hschinske said...

Ramona Pierson's company SynapticMash is (or was) contracted by SPS a while ago: see http://blog.seattlepi.com/venture/archives/142141.asp. SynapticMash is now part of Promethean World Plc.

Helen Schinske

dan dempsey said...

Curious George,

Thanks for the lesson. Much appreciated.

LG said...

My friend Mikala has written a brilliant response to her frustrations with public engagement and what we'd like to see the district do in the South End (and throughout the district).


seattle citizen said...

In the New York Times Sunday, two articles, one over the other: One about the test-cheating scandal in Atlanta, the other about NCLB's future. Though not connected by the Times, it makes for an interesting juxtaposition...

Two snippets, one from each:

First, Atlanta test scandal

"...criminal investigators began digging anew into accusations of widespread cheating on state standardized tests that had been plaguing the district for two years.
The allegations, which center on dozens of employees who are suspected of changing test answers to improve scores, have already been the focus of investigations by the state and the Atlanta school system that have cost more than $1 million.
The new investigation led an influential group of black pastors to call a news conference to denounce what they say is a “witch hunt” on educators who — however misguided — were just trying to help children..."

Then, NCLB under new congress, and Duncan's statement about failing schools:

"Because it requires every student to be proficient in math and reading by 2014, the system has already labeled thousands of schools as failing, often because disabled students or recent immigrants have been unable to pass state tests.
“Unless we change the law, it’ll label every school in the country a failure, even though there are lots of phenomenal schools out there,” Mr. Duncan said."

Joan NE said...

Several organizations have cooperated on a position paper addressed to Congress. In this paper they urge Congress to adopt changes to ESEA. They say the punitive high stakes testing accountablyity regime of NCLB and zero-tolerance discipline policies of school districts has contributed to the School-to-Prison Pipeline. They recommend changes to the legislation that they believe will fix this problem.

The authors are seeking organizational and individual endorsements by Jan 11 2011.

Get a link to the statement here:


Anonymous said...

The United States government is one that responds to special interest pressure, Not a bad system in my view.It give's collective groups like unions and non-profits power as well as rich corporate types. It's a balance that works pretty well, if inefficiently. School districts are the same, you need to make noise and organize to get heard. Sped has a lot of beefs and the program is a shell of what it could be. But if the folks don't get the word out and organize, it won't happen very fast. I don't think it's a surprise to anyone that meny teachers and lots of the public don't like the per student price of sped. It's a dirty little secret but people want to see return on investment and I think those of us who find that attitude disgusting need to stand up and let people know how we feel. On the flip side you have advanced learning, also unpopular with many teachers and segments of the public. Not so abhorrent and unmentionable however to dis brainiacs. These two groups are natural allies and non-infrequently the same student. They both push the bell curve and are the truly special kids in our community.
Make your voice heard any way you can and change will happen.
Power to the People