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Showing posts from January, 2011

Reflections on the Construction Management Audit

Charlie posted the district's news release on the audit. I always enjoy the minimizing that goes on in these things. One of the most clearly called out issues of the audit was lack of Board oversight of BEX spending to the point where the Board was not even being told about spending. What does the press release call it ( in the middle of a paragraph): ".. .communications with the Board ..." Like staff forgot to send the Board an e-mail. So what did the Board have to say? At first, when Steve asked for comments or questions, there was dead silence. That wasn't a good sign. He then handed the microphone over to Michael DeBell, noting that Michael was the only current Board member who was on the Board serving during the audit time period. Michael pointed out that there were 3 different Boards over the time period. Then Michael started something I thought I would see from other Board members but not him. He started the CYA period. He asked the auditors to

District Press Release on BEX Audit

The District sent out a press release on the State Auditor's report of the BEX audit that was full of happy talk. The District has already posted the audit findings and response to the audit response web page .

Reflecting on the Audit

It wasn't quite the barnburner I thought it would be, this Construction Management audit . However, it was, for me, quietly defeating. It confirms my belief that the Superintendent would like to consolidate more power to staff and that many staff see the Board as something of a pesky fly to bat away. It did turn out to be a performance audit which meant they were not looking for anything illegal but rather asking was the district doing its job for construction management of BEX projects. There's an awful lot I could report but I think I'll just give the highlights for now and a separate thread on Board reaction and reflections. The audit is not yet available to the public but I will post it when it does. Highlights All the Board, except Kay Smith-Blum, were in attendance along with the head of Facilities, the Superintendent, the COO, two district legal counsels and the head of BEX Oversight Committee (the volunteer committee made up of construction and property m

Did You Know About the School At Northgate Mall?

Another one of the hidden alternatives in SPS is Middle College High School in the Northgate Mall. I've known about this one for a long time and the Maple Leaf Life blog did a story on it Saturday. From the story: The school accepts students ages 16 to 20, many of whom are at risk of not graduating or who already may have dropped out of the traditional school setting. “Rather than giving up on graduating,” said Brunton, shown at right, “we help them catch up – catch up on graduating, catch up on life. Although the space is available to the alternative public school for free through a partnership with the mall’s Simon Youth Foundation , budget cuts throughout the Seattle School District are taking a toll on the school, which has seen its teaching staff reduced from five to two teachers since it opened 10 years ago. Senior Delaney Grieve, the mind behind this weekend’s bake sale, speaks with pride about the school in a way that’s rare in many high school students: “

This Week's Meetings

As I reported before, tomorrow is the day when the district has their " Construction Management Exit Conference " with the State Auditor's office. This is an audit of the capital building program known as BEX (Building Excellence). I believe it covers the last 3-5 years. I've said repeatedly that this is important because: this audit has taken the Auditor's office two years to get through (not normal at all) that on the first reading of the audit more than a year ago, members of the BEX Oversight Committee starting talking about how to cover themselves and because Garfield went nearly double over its original construction budget (the early published number was $60M) and it costed out at about $120M. That is not a sign of a well-managed project or program. we are talking about hundreds of millions of dollars at a time when we have a huge backlog of capital work I want to be clear that we have gotten a lot of building done under the BEX program. But, like m

Good Things Happening In Seattle Public Schools

A round-up from all over (thanks to Maureen for this story from the My Ballard blog): Ballard High School students are learning how to handle oil spills. On Thursday, students in the school’s Maritime Academy conducted an “oil spill drill” as part of their Sophomore Maritime Survey. The fictitious spill took place off Port Angeles where one oil tanker collided with another vessel. “The students had to demonstrate their familiarity with different types of spill response equipment (containment boom, skimmers, etc.), nautical charts, NOAA oil spill response software, tide tables and federal guidelines for spill response.,” Foster tells us. “Within an hour the teams were able to locate the spill, predict its trajectory for the next three days, organize and stage equipment to respond, and set up a decontamination station for effected personnel and animals.” If you’re not familiar with the Ballard Maritime Academy, it is a three-year program at Ballard High School with a hands

Race to Nowhere

The education documentary, Race to Nowhere , will have a screening at Roosevelt High, sponsored by Bryant Elementary PTSA, Roosevelt High School and Assumption-St. Bridget School tomorrow night, Monday the 31st at 7 p.m. Online tickets are available here ; $10 for adults and $5 for students. General admission tickets will be sold at the door for $15. Student tickets will be $5 at the door. In the same vein, I note that Roger Ebert, the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times, softened his thumbs up review of Waiting for Superman. He tweeted, “ Why maybe ‘Waiting for Superman’ wasn’t all that it seemed. If I’d known, my review would have been different. ” He then put a link to the Valerie Strauss article about the film in the Washington Post. On a different note, I was checking for information at the Bryant website and noticed that they have two principals. Anyone know why that is?

Need a Bike For Your Kid?

Bike Works’ Warehouse Sale Where: Bike Works Seattle, 3709 S Ferdinand St When: Sunday, January 30 at 11:00 AM Bike Works Seattle, the nonprofit bike education and promotion group, hosts its annual warehouse sale. All “as is” bikes will be on sale. All sorts of used parts and accessories will be on sale too, like rims, wheels, handlebars, tires, automobile bike racks, unicycles, bike jerseys and shorts, cycling shoes, and much more!

Principals Contract

Flying under the radar, we finally have a 3-year principals contract that has been approved by PASS, the principals' representative group. It needs to be approved by the Board at Wednesday's School Board meeting. I attended a meeting where Director Sundquist and Howard Pripas, the Director of Labor and Employee Relations went over the principals contract. It is quite an interesting contract. Here's some highlights: Steve says the key change is the principal evaluation process which is being worked on and is due to be done by April 1 by the Principal Performance Evaluation Task Force. The evaluation would include student and school growth. To get the increase in pay, this evaluation system has to be completed by April 1, 2011. This contract takes principals from a 3-step salary range to their salary (beyond base pay) being determined through the annual opportunity to earn both a Performance Increment and a Student Achievement Bonus. The district had done assessm

Teachers and RIFS

Here we go. Is it inevitable that we will be RIFing teachers? Good question. In SPS, maybe. In other districts, probably. In this morning's Seattle Times is a story about Rep. Rodney Tom who is sponsoring a bill that would make teacher effectiveness the main factor in RIFs. Okay, so first of all, someone who is a lawyer, help me out. If they pass this law, it overcomes the teachers contracts that have already been signed? That seems wrong to me. What is weird to me is that we know the SEA contract has a new evaluation process in it so the district is getting there. We also know that the district and Board negotiated the contract WITH seniority being the main criteria. So they knew very well what they were signing even though parents told them they didn't like seniority as the first criteria. From the article: Mary Lindquist of the Washington Education Association said lawmakers started last year to move toward a new teacher-evaluation system. About 17 schoo

Achievement/Opportunity Gap Recommendations

In 2009 the State formed the Achievement Gap Oversight and Accountability Committee to synthesize the findings and recommendations from the 2008 achievement gap studies. You can read their report and review their recommendations for yourself. You will find that very few of them have any practical value. In fact, I'm not sure that any of them do. A lot of the so-called recommendations are merely goals (i.e. " Increase the on-time and extended graduation rates for African American students to reach parity with the highest-performing demographic group by 2014 and to achieve a 100 percent graduation rate by 2018. " Even the recommendations that are actually recommendations are too vague to be of much value (i.e. " To be effective, leaders must have high expectations of all students and teachers, and a high degree of awareness of their own culture and the culture of others. ") In short, the whole report is crap. It represents the utter failure of the public K-1

What Would You Cut?

After I reviewed the budget survey and put up my analysis, I thought I'd hear what people thought. But not so much. We're obviously not making the decisions. (I still need to write up the discussion from Wednesday's Work Session on the budget but it was kind of funny hearing one Board member say yes to a cut and then another saying no way to the same thing. It's their job to figure this out unless they just want to allow staff to do it and boy, would that be a mistake.) But folks, they have to make cuts. Big cuts. We can't protect/support everything. And little cuts (anything $50k and above) can add up. It could be a thousand paper cuts or some huge items but they will have to do it. Time is running out and once they put it on paper and say it out loud, well, it's almost done. I am sorry to say but this situation is going to get worse before it gets better. It's not like good learning can't still happen but with a lot less. The quest

In Memory of a Teacher

I didn't want to let this day go by without acknowledging the date. It is the 25th anniversary of the Challenger explosion. More American schoolchildren probably watched that launch (or knew about it) than most any other. That was because of schoolteacher, Christa McAuliffe. It was probably one of the hardest days ever for many teachers who had lessons planned around the launch. Ms. McAuliffe had been selected from more than 11,000 applicants and was scheduled to conduct experiments and teach two lessons from Challenger. She was a high school social studies teacher in Concord, N.H. President Reagan said that he hoped sending a teacher into space would remind Americans of the important role of teaching and education for our country. At least 40 schools around the world were named after her. Her daughter, Caroline, went on to become a teacher. Her backup, Barbara Morgan, became a professional astronaut. She was the first teacher to successfully reach space (21 years a

Ingraham Trees Start To Fall

The long-running saga of the neighbors versus the district over the cutting down of trees in a grove nearby Ingraham High School has finally ended. According to the Stranger Slog , some of the trees were felled today. The district had initially wanted to cut down 50+ trees but it's now down to 27 (and they plan on replacing some trees but not with the same variety). From the Slog: "There were some verbal protests, but that's about all," Redman, who was supervising the work, said. "Weather permitting, we are going to try to finish cutting all the trees today." "Ingraham is only a precursor to many more trees being lost," Zemke said in an email. "Unfortunately trees have no standing in Seattle and no voice. Neighbors and others who want to keep our city green with trees must be their voice." Save the Trees is currently working with a group of tree advocates called "Save Our Urban Forest Infrastructure" to create st

Open Thread Friday

No school today, right? How's that going at your house? Community meetings tomorrow: Director Patu - Tully's, 4400 Rainier Ave South from 10 am - noon Director Smith-Blum - Douglas Truth Library, 2300 East Yesler Way from 10 am - 11:30 am Also Saturday is the City Hall Open House . I went last year and it was fun. It's from 11 am - 2 pm. Last year they had a great children's band and this year it's Caspar Babypants (who I hear is good as well). There's going to be ice cream, a fire truck, and adoptable pets (don't let the kids see those). It's a great opportunity to see the Mayor's and City Council offices as well as say hi to the Mayor and some City Council members (their staffs are there which is almost as good).

Transportation Meeting Report

I went to the Transportation meeting tonight at Aki Kurose. There were a grand total of six members of the public there, not counting a reporter. Cordell Carter got it off to a poor start in his introductory remarks by saying that the District's budgeting priorities were to "protect the classroom against all else". It was an unnecessary and unconvincing lie. Mr. Carter did nothing useful except introduce Tom Bishop. Mr. Bishop briefly sketched out the proposed transportation plan and then opened the floor to questions. It was through the questions - I submitted about six of them - that the story came out. The story, put into a coherent order, goes like this: Faced with the mind-numbing revenue reductions caused by the ailing economy, the state has drastically cut funding for public K-12 education in every possible way, including the reimbursement for student transportation. The State has adopted - just since January - a new formula for reimbursing Districts for s

Budget Survey Results

Did having a budget survey done matter? On the face of it, no, it did not. I say that because (1) it has not been referenced by staff at all during any budget talks except that it occurred, (2) there is no analysis of the specific questions and (3) the comments section was not broken down at all. However, I'll do it if only to let the Board know what was said. What to keep in mind? This was a poorly design survey (numerous respondents said this so it's not just me). Judging from the answers, the district likely got a certain sub-set of parents/staff. That said, they did receive 2700 responses which is still pretty good. Some respondents clearly did not know certain things about the district so you have to keep that in mind. (It was things like not knowing that high school students only use Metro, APP is not a program at Garfield, etc.) However, 2700 parents, community and staff took the time so let's not make it an exercise in window dressing. Demograp

Good for Randy Dorn

In Washington state, the law says that school districts get notification when a state facility releases a sex offender BUT it's only for release from juvenile facilities . If a 15,16, 17 year old gets released from an adult facility, no notification. Randy Dorn, our State Superintendent, found this troubling and got a bill introduced on behalf of all the school districts in the state to provide that notification. It would provide that if a juvenile sex offender who was incarcerated in an adult facility is released, facility officials must notify the district that said juvenile will be residing in 30 days before release. This is Senate bill 5428 and the companion House bill is 1549.

Budget Work Session (Part 1)

I attended 4 hours of the Board Work Session on the 2011-2012 Budget. Unfortunately, the meeting was 5+ hours (maybe longer, Dorothy?) It was taped so I will try to get a link if you care to listen. I will write up my notes but for your reading pleasure here are the following: staff finally got information to the Board that I know the Board has wanted for a long time. This would be benchmarking comparisons to other districts (both local and out-of-state). This chart is for 2009-2010 expenditures and FTE comparisons in dollars. This chart is for 2009-2010 expenditures and FTE comparisons (as a % of total) My irritation with these is that this is information that should have been presented LONG ago. It overburdened an already long and heavily detailed meeting. District benchmark template The Powerpoint and another document - the Strategic Plan Budget Planning Tool for Fiscal Year 2011-2012 - are not yet up at the website. You'll want to see those as well but for now, th

No Escape

There's a story getting national attention about a mother in Ohio who was convicted of a felony and jailed for using a false address to send her kids to a safer/better school. Now that the Seattle School District is making it even tougher for families to avoid their neighborhood schools, one has to wonder if we'll be seeing more of these sort of enforcement actions around here. I'm finding some of the comments about this story on several news sites to be instructive and frightening.

Feb 8th Transportation Meeting Venue Changed

I have put it in the other threads on the Transportation Plan meetings but the location for the Feb.8th meeting has been changed. It was at Denny and will now be at: Chief Sealth High School, 2600 SW Thistle .

How Safe is Your School?

Update : I managed to miss that the original source of this story was MyGreenLake.com and, as was pointed out, give credit where it is due (especially a blog!). My apologies. The Stranger Slog reports that on Jan. 13th after school was over that day, a child playing tag ran out into the street at Green Lake Elementary (where they don't have a totally fenced playground) and the child was hit by a car. Luckily the student was unhurt. The child was there without adult supervision. From the article: The blog said that Bowers admitted that the unfenced playground is "a huge safety concern," promising that fencing will go in "ASAP." "This is my biggest fear," Bowers told parents of the accident. The district said they had approved a request for the fence in December but it got held up for "parts." There was also mention that the lack of fencing could have been a decision that GL Elementary had been allowed to make. No one seems to

Additional Transportation Meetings

Here are the two additional meetings scheduled for the Transportation Plan. Thursday, Feb. 3 6:30-8 p.m. at Hamilton International Middle School, 1610 N. 41 st and, Wednesday, Feb. 8 6:30-8 p.m. at Chief Sealth High School, 2600 SW Thistle .

Oscar Nominations and Guess What Didn't Get a Nod?

Big movie fan I am, I had to check out the Oscar nominations this morning. Without going over a lot of it, I just want to point out that my movie-going instincts were right. Waiting for Superman did not get a nomination for Best Documentary. Beyond the presentation of its POV, it just wasn't a well-organized film. (And hey, a local girl got nominated for best adapted screenplay AND best picture - Winter's Bone.)

What Would You Tell President Obama about Education?

Update: So what did the President say about education? I was really pleased with how he started. He started with parents and what happens at home like telling kids to turn off the tv/computer and do their homework. Because, yes, it starts at home. He moved onto teachers but wasn't too hard on them. He talked about the need to support teachers (big standing ovation) and exit poor performers. For a split second, I thought he was going to talk about TFA but no, he asked students who want to help/serve their country, to consider teaching. He talked about RTTT and how it spurred states to create innovative plans. What was really startling (but maybe I missed this somewhere) was him saying RTTT would "replace" NCLB. Last, it was interesting because he didn't directly reference the failed Dream Act but stated that students who are the children of illegal immigrants who wanted to go onto college should be encouraged as well as those legal students who get exited fr

West Seattle Blog follows up on levy

A reporter from the West Seattle Blog - one of the few remaining outposts of original journalism - is following up on the supplemental school levy. You can follow his adventures here .

Old versus New Website

From the district communications: Note on the web: We are on the brink of moving to our new CMS system -cut over will have in the next week.That means that the home page will display as the new layout, we'll still have some content on the 'old site' but will have easy to follow links to that content. So we are at a very 'awkward' stage where we are pushing to finalize content and communications for the "go live." Here's the thing - I have not found any "links" to information from the old to the new. There is nothing on the main page OR News and Calendar page to tell you to go to the new website for more and updated information. If you go to the new website it says this: The Jan. 28 transition is a major step in the improvement of the District website. In December 2010, Seattle Public Schools invited families, staff and the community to preview the District's updated website which featured a new design, improved Web-based tool

Transportation Press Release

The district send out a news release yesterday about the Transportation Plan. (Again, you'd have to search for it on the old website to find it - no link at the News and Calendar section.) Again, there are more meetings to be scheduled after this Thursday's meeting a 7 p.m. at Aki Kurose but they have not yet been announced. Update: additional meetings posted. Thursday, Feb. 3 6:30-8 p.m. at Hamilton International Middle School, 1610 N. 41 st and, Wednesday, Feb. 8 6:30-8 p.m. at Chief Sealth High School, 2600 SW Thistle . . Good News The proposed changes would benefit students and families by decreasing the bus ride time for attendance area schools to 25 minutes or less. As routes will be shorter, buses are less likely to encounter the traffic delays that occur on longer routes, so families will find departure and arrival times to be more reliable. The plan also benefits the environment by taking about 80 buses off the roads and reducing the d

Great Story - Chief Sealth Student Coach

This story appeared in the Seattle Times of January 24. " Chief Sealth point guard Tre'Von Lane has a unique senior project — coaching the West Seattle high school's freshman team " Note what turned things around for this young man - the active involvement of adults in his education. One-on-one concern.

A Breath of Fresh Air on Ed Reform

I do wish I had attended the Washington Policy Center breakfast last week. One reason is the speaker was Dr. Andres Alonso, the head of Baltimore Schools. He sounds like an interesting guy and I would have liked to hear him in person. However, a couple of readers (Greg is one), pointed out that there was coverage of his speech in this week's Crosscut . What is interesting is he seems the non-firebreathing, anti-union, anti-parent Michelle Rhee. He came into an incredibly poor situation: Only 35 percent of Baltimore’s students received high-school diplomas the year before Alonso arrived. Proficiency levels as measured by standardized tests were in the cellar. Over nine years the district lost 25,000 students, dwindling from 106,540 in 1999 to 81,284 in 2008. In the same period the district gained 1,000 staff, Alonso said. With costs rising despite continuing enrollment declines, "baseline aid from the state to the city had doubled.... It was clearly an organization

Transportation Meeting on Thursday

Update: just received a news release from the district. There will be additional meetings in other parts of the city, TBA. There is more info on the press release but I'd like to write a separate thread. I just wanted to update you that there WILL be more meetings on this issue. The public meeting on Transportation issues/changes is: Thursday, the 27th at Aki Kurose Middle School, 3928 S Graham St from 7-8:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 3 6:30-8 p.m. at Hamilton International Middle School, 1610 N. 41 st and, Wednesday, Feb. 8 6:30-8 p.m. at Denny International Middle School, 8402 30th Ave. S.W. This is at the "new" SPS website but nowhere on the old one. (I know the Seattle Council PTSA has sent this out but it should be available at the district website. It should be on the Transportation homepage; it's not.) I don't know (and neither does the Board office) when this issue will go before the Board.