Budget Work Session (Continued)
UPDATE: Here is the Powerpoint link.
There was some confusion/frustration over an item on page 12 (Strategic Plans: Moving Forward) about the item "School Performance Framework (to include MTSS). Thanks to Kay who said, "What is MTSS?" Turns out that RTI is now MTSS (multi-tiered system of support; a response to intervention) Susan Enfield talked about using what they have learned works and taking it out to other schools. This generated a lot of discussion.
The item has its original cost at $8.7M and its proposed cost at $0-3.1M. The focus here has been on Level 1 and 2 schools and the interventions scale-up for all schools. Duggan said that of the $5.2 current budget for 37 schools, they have revenue for $2.1M so they need $3.1M to keep up.
But Sherry could not follow the bouncing dollar signs (I couldn't either). Duggan said the $8.7M is in the gap. MGJ said that in a Dece. 15th conversation (I believe it was another Work Session) and the next step would be to scale up to all schools and that is $8.7M and that they want to maintain the Level 1 and 2 schools.
Michael jumped in and he was not happy. He said that first, he is having the same problem as last year's budget. "You give us what is moving and not fully in context and we get confusion." He said that the A&F Committee had asked for data and total costs and they still don't have it. He said, "I'm pretty disappointed." He said they just don't get far in these discussions because "we don't know what things cost in total and what flexibility there is." He looked at Duggan, "Is that pretty clear?" Yes, was the answer. " Do you remember that request?" Duggan said he believed it was costed out in the December 15 Work Session. Michael replied that it was little pieces here and there and I don't see ALL of the Strategic Plan up here.
Sherry echoed his comments. She asked about MAP; are we spending zero or how much are we spending? "I look for the same kind of clear and specific information." She said she understood that some of this is grant money and not the General Fund but the General Fund piece is important to have.
Don Kennedy said something that I found funny: looking at the chart he said, "I think we could do that with just another column (on the page) for total costs. This is for items on the gap, not the total picture."
Hilarious. All will be revealed with one more column on the page. And this budget session was NOT just about the gap. Their own Powerpoint says that. My notes reflect what I was thinking:
Staff can't dictate what information the Board needs to make its decisions.
Michael said that at the retreat he had said, in his opinion, "that we cannot afford all of the ambitious components of our Strategic Plan and it hasn't yielded benefits we had hoped and we need to triage. Suspended, slow down and the greatest value items continue funding in full. This is the challenge in front of us. I need ALL costs and components of SP and not little pieces."
Peter said he agreed and while the school performance framework is a powerful tool, how do we fund it? He said he goes back to the go back to text materials adoptions because of levy passage. There is 5.9M for adoptions, staff should look at spreading it out, prioritize which would have advantage of spreading out the money in thirds and free up levy dollars for coming year for other items. He said look at that because adoptions have impact on central and schools and we are putting reductions on teachers and schools. He said they should consider ways to use open-source or virtual books.
Kay referenced money for technology in the Strategic Plan and maybe that could be funded through BTA and use General Fund money for other things. (This is probably true but I'm not sure.) She referenced Kindles. She also asked if they focused just on the 22 Level 1 and 2 schools, they could probably fund those with just $3.1M. Susan Enfield said that is accurate but that they needed to reward the high performing schools as well as the help struggling schools. She pointed out that they have struggling students in every school and need the interventions and training across all schools.
I'm not totally following this line of questioning. As you can see it kind of went in a circle and here's a big pushback from staff. If I were on the Board, I'd want very specific information about which schools, what they are receiving, feedback from school staff and progress reports. If staff can't tell the Board how this is working, I don't think they have the right to keep asking for the money.
Steve pointed out that there seemed to be substantial Board interest for savings on textual materials. Harium pushed back saying that we told the public when we passed the levy that the dollars were going for textbooks. He said he didn't see the benefit of waiting.
So here's my question to you; Peter says to only use a third of the funding for textual materials (and remember, it is NOT all for books) now. Meaning, we use the rest of the money as a cushion for this budget with the promise to replace the money and use it for textual materials in the following years. Harium thinks this won't really help as we are kicking the can down the road but will still have to buy those items. Is it worth it to do this to close the gap?
Betty pointed out the item on "College and Career ready." She asked what it was (classic Betty). It funds three things; a staff position, curriculum alignment (grant) and Ap/IB expansion (federal grant). The position is a .6 FTE. Betty said, "One person? This is readiness?" She also asked about the internal auditor.
Sherry said the job description for the internal auditor is in the A&F Committee meeting scheduled for Thursday.. She basically said that we need the internal auditors to get ahead of any issues and that would likely wouldn't have as many findings from the SAO if we did. She said the Port has about 8 and is roughly the same size organization as SPS. She said SPS should have at least 3.
Sherry also said that she needs to see the Strategic Plan numbers clearly so that they know what staff is proposing and what the difference is in the money. She was clear that this was her expectation.
What is kind of unbelievable is that on page 13 of the Powerpoint, there's a listing of items with a total of how much they add to the gap! (It is about $3.6M.) How can staff really expect the Board to say okay to that?
Sherry again complained that she didn't see everything (she referenced HR for some reason). Michael said that everything in the budget adds to the gap and every dollar not spent decreases it so, for him, it was about understanding what is funded by what money (grants, etc.) Kay asked for a more detailed analysis of the costs of giving MAP at the school level (subs, closing the library, principal time - this was because Dorothy N. slipped her a note pointing this out). MGJ pushed back saying it would be a detailed analysis to have to make.
For crying out loud, you call the principals (most of whom don't love MAP and would probably be glad to see it go to twice a year) and say, give us a rough figure of the costs for giving MAP at your school. The principals know how much time they take, the cost of subs/proctors, etc. It doesn't have to be to the penny but saying it's too much work is weak.
So then they got to the recommendations which come in what they called a "tiered approach."
- Staff recommendations,
- under consideration (staff needs to do more work) and
- potential (more analysis or last resort).
Staff Recommendations - saving about $10.6-14.5M
It's a variety of items like
- using the unreserved fund balance (which Duggan said the Board already passed),
- use of pension/cola, transfer from Capital- technology (ah, there's moving that money around again),
- transportation route changes,
- increase use of reserves to 3%,
- no backfill for loss of National Board certification,
- maximize Title 1 carry-forward (Meg, help us out - what would this mean?), and
- reduce Special Ed ARRA expenditures (Sped Ed parents, help me out here).
Michael said the page said "Operations" and yet he saw a big variety in the listings, some of which are NOT Operations. He said he was trying to follow the functional categories of the district's budget.
Steve opined that using more reserves would be the last of all decisions (so he would move it to the last category and not the first).
So they moved on to the Initial recommendations (also Operations), saving about $2.8-9.75M:
- shift BTA II Interest to General Fund (is this legal, maybe so),
- sell KNHC,
- signage revenue,
- eliminate district calendar and
- charge full or partial costs to childcare organizations.
At first I was thinking, what is this acronym KNHC and then I realized they were talking about Hale's radio station. No and hell no. This seems to be the answer from the Board simply because (1) this is old territory (but I don't fault staff for putting it out there again), (2) it could NEVER be replaced if you sell the FM place on the dial, (3) they just spent a lot of district money in remodeling it plus raising private funds for all new equipment (4) historically a gem and one of the first radio stations in the country to stream on the web and (5) this is just me but one of the first radio stations to play Lady Gaga.
Signage - this one was funny because I was thinking the basketball courts or football fields. No, Duggan researched it and it was things like shrink-wrapping the lockers, ads on the cafeteria tables, in the school buses, on the district website. I'm good with the website for sure but too much in the school feels like we sold our soul. This would be hard to do quickly because it would involved changing policy and then the work of finding sponsors, contracts, etc.
District calendar - we'd save $30K not to print and distribute them. The district has to make a calendar anyway and it's a public service. I was talking with some other people and Helen S. suggested getting a sponsor(s) and put ads there. Problem solved.
Partial/full rent for childcare spaces - this got the most play. Betty was very surprised that we didn't charge and said it was "dumb." That got a laugh. Sherry pointed out that not charging for the child care space could be considered gifting of public resources.
There was then the age-old discussion of Central Office reductions (page 18). Their recommendation which is initial (not the first tier, mind you) is 60 FTEs for about $4M with some mid-year reductions of between $.5-.7M for a total savings of $4.5M-4.7M. And yes, they did say they cut 85 positions last year. Why the Board puts up with this number is hard to fathom.
(And FYI, here's what the district said in their FAQs about the supplemental levy: Central Administration at SPS is 6.25% for 2010-2011, compared with 8% for districts across the state in 2008-2009 (we have not yet analysed the 2010-2011 numbers). So below, see Kay's remarks about what is happening nationally.)
Peter said it was promising but he wants these away from the classroom.
There was some tense discussion over the terms. Michael was not happy over the inter-use of "central administration" and "central office" which are different things to the district and OSPI. Don seemed concerned that they could not get this all done by the next Work Session on the budget on the 26th.
The next page (19) are the initial cuts to Teaching and Learning which total about $8.3-10M. Note; this is double what central cuts are and this was not lost on the Directors. It includes:
- eliminating the dual principal at RBHS
- eliminate summer school (non-grant funds only)
- no backfill of Highly Capable funding from state cuts
- reduce WSS by K-4 revenue loss
- eliminate one full day kindergarten in WSS
- evening school elimination
MGJ pointed out the obvious, "You want the central number to be bigger but the other piece is you don't want a reduction in WSS at the school level."
Michael got a little angry here and said that his reaction is that the central cuts are too low. He said, "If this is the sum total of employment reduction, it is far short." Sherry asked if he had a number in mind and he said :$12-15M."
Don Kennedy said the district would be totally different with that kind of reduction in staff at Central and it would be a shift in thinking about their work.
Sherry pointed out that they needed to be "crisp on categorization" so there aren't miscommunications in what they are talking about at any given time. She said she couldn't map these recs to OSPI categories.
Then MGJ said something that I found off-putting, given who she was speaking to. She said that they hadn't used OSPI categories as it was just a Powerpoint but "we can correct it." What? This is a presentation to the the Seattle School Board who will have to approve deep and severe cuts and you didn't think it important to use the most precise data and labeling?
Kay dovetailed off Michael and said that she had looked and the national average for central office for districts is 4% (stating she knew it wasn't apples to apples). She said we were about 6 1/2%.
Steve said he wanted the minimum cuts in schools and the maximum in central and to ramp down the pace and direction of the Strategic Plan.
So this was after 4 hours and I left. I'll try to find the videotape and watch the rest.
So the total of the Initial Recs is between $26 and $39M dollars (which would just about cover everything on the high end).
The final items under consideration but last resort were things like reduce custodial support, charge one day of TRI to Capital (again, is this legal?), program eliminations (no specifics), eliminate athletics, transportation route changes. This totaled between $5-10M.
Analysis to follow but clearly, this is go-time for the Board. If Central has to cut and be organized, then maybe that is what has to happen. But to not use specific terms, give clear and overarching data and try to give the Board recommendations that protect Central more than the WSS should be a clear signal that staff has different priorities than the Board. Staff could have helped themselves and yet, for whatever reason, did not. It is a stubborness that is difficult to understand.