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 question is - what will be less and how noticeable will it be?


dan dempsey said…
Hummm.... and how is that lavish spending on STEM looking now? Did that really need to happen? This crunch was easily foreseen ... but admin kept right on spending. ... Remember the funding to move forward was not there but they went ahead anyway. Betty Patu suggested waiting ... but then the new student assignment plan would have been delayed ..... hummm maybe waiting was in order.

It is going to be quite interesting as the District will be explaining in Appeals court that the math adoption approval by the Board was "NOT" Arbitrary and Capricious ...... It seems a great many of the decisions over the last four years have been arbitrary and capricious.

So what to cut? Might have been an idea not to continue spending on new stuff ... when things were going south.

Fire the Superintendent with cause right now ... that will save more than $50,000 ... we can find a Supe for a savings of $100,000 less in salary .. and without all the MGJ ridiculous spending plans millions will be saved.

Say how is Teach for America coming? How is the MAP testing .. are we learning anything there? How is the Professional Dev. for the High School Math adoption .. first year grade 10 OSPI HSPE math scores were quite sad. Does the district have a plan? Other than more attorneys for Appeals court.

The State Board of Education voted to move forward with CORE 24 right in the middle of this financial mess .... wow .. little connection to reality for any of these decision-makers.

Perhaps the Super and CAO would like to explain why evidence submitted to the court is never certified correct ... and then explain the forged document that was the basis of the New Tech Action Report..... None of these Directors or central Administrators seem to care about laws. at the rate they violate laws they cannot cut the pay for outside legal help ... else someone will likely be in jail.

Maybe we should hire a ring-master to run this circus?
Charlie Mas said…
I think the District needs to re-think the mission of the Central Administration. It needs to stop doing any work that would be better done at the schools and start doing the work that it should be doing: setting and enforcing Standards.
anonymous said…
New Web site


The Superintendents car allowance, and 25% of her salary.

Cut central staff at JSIS, and then freeze raises for all remaining employees

Rent the JSIS building out and move SPS headquarters to a modest, right sized building. You don't need a Mercedes Benz when a Toyota will do.
Greg Linden said…
Any reason the model followed by Baltimore schools would not work well in Seattle? Cut central administration by 34% and change the focus of the remaining central administration to providing support for decisions made at the schools?

The recent budget survey indicated widespread public support for cutting central administration. Central administration in Seattle is significantly larger than central administration in neighboring cities and similar cities. Why shouldn't the cuts come from central administration first?
karyn king said…
What to cut?
1. Central Office (especially the Supt.'s office) & Travel
2. MAP
3. Instructional "coaches" (I don't understand why that line item was reassigned to "teaching" from "supervision" - Can anyone explain that to me?)

If it doesn't directly affect students, we don't need it. School staff are professionals and can do what needs to be done without "Big Sister" complicating everything and looking over their shoulders!
kprugman said…
But if you cut the central administration who is left to defend their credibility?

Looking for creative ideas...Our Broad Sup started the Office for Lost and Stolen Property. He knows parents are willing to pay anything for their children's education.

Here's Mr. Sincere in closing - "I realize you are busy, and I know some of these numbers can be overwhelming ($16 million budget deficity). But we want you to have as much input as possible in these decisions that will affect your school. We will continue to provide information and the results of the Town Hall Meetings on our website." - Dr. Jonathan Wild
kprugman said…
We care not a straw
For reason and law
Because conscience
Is all, in all.

--The School Board's Pledge
Cruton77 said…
Has anyone else heard about the rumor circulating that summer school will not be funded this year?
kprugman said…
yes, good rumor that parents never hear until June. Definitely no summer school.

The reasoning is obtuse. After all, the cost of running a summer program is insignificant to the budget woes of this superintendent.

Classrooms are vacant anyway and its summertime (no heating needed). Teachers get paid per diem and new administrators get to cut their teeth on running a school. Students in classrooms doing something constructive, is better than being loose and self-destructive. But that's common-sense.
kprugman said…
When the district implemented a year-round calendar it pretty much eliminated summer school. The district now has a credit-recovery program that has in effect extended the hours of school. Teachers were not thrilled because the district is trying to fill the new positions at an hourly rate. The academics are deplorable. Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment (CIA) act like tyrants. The majority of students are failing at least one class every semester. By next year, the numbers of dropouts will increase dramatically when all A-G classes will be eliminated from the schedule. For science, there will be exactly 3 choices: physics, biology, and chemistry.

What is the average freshman capable of doing at our school? Two years of first year algebra. A graduating senior exits after finishing either geometry or senior math. And they all the passed the state exam.
Dorothy Neville said…
Cruton. Non grant funded summer school and evening school are both slated for extinction due to the budget. Check the presentation from the last budget workshop. It is not a rumor. Each saves a fraction of a million dollars.

Both were brought to the board at the budget workshop on the 12th and agreed to without comment. Both show up as pretty much done deals at the 26th workshop.
Mr. Edelman said…
Amy Valenti--perhaps the only competent person in HR--has recently had her position eliminated. She is being replaced with two managers better able to advance the strategic goals of the district, blah, blah, blah.

Why? What is going on here? Why replace one highly effective manager with two managers to be hired by MGJ? The question answers itself.
anonymous said…
How do kids that fail a class recover the credit without summer school?
Dorothy Neville said…
We would not be able to renegotiate the MAP contract for fewer testings per student, as the minimal license is up to four tests per student.

However, someone smarter than me thought of an idea. We could eliminate MAP testing of K2 and renegotiate the contract for fewer licenses.

I also heard through the grapevine that a parent at a level five school asked MGJ (in public, in person) if they as a level five school could get reduce or eliminate MAP testing and she answered with a vaguely promising sort of maybe.

And, of all the board members, it was Steve, yes Steve, who brought up the cost of the 3X a year testing in that schools hire subs and other such hidden costs.

Renegotiate for fewer licenses and stop the madness of testing K2 kids.

Eliminate one or two test cycles per year and eliminate chaos and costs to schools for subs and IT help.

Reduce the testing perhaps to once a year in level four and five schools.
Meg said…
1. central administration. Shifting large portions of central administration staff into other spending segments (coaching, for instance) didn't actually reduce central administration; it just distributed its costs across other spending segments, making it appear that SPS is spending more on other parts of its budget than it really is (Rule of thumb: If an employee is not teaching actual students, even if their work is valuable, then they should not be billed to Teaching).

It's time for a good look at who's really working in the Stanford center, and to make some cuts of Stanford center administrative employees.

And frankly, from what I hear about the shambles of a couple of departments (*cough* HR *cough*), slicing them to the bone won't make things worse - we did just have the worst state audit report of any district in the state while running with a nice, fat central administration. It's a whole lot easier to rebuild a bureaucratic structure than it is to recover a kid's education.

2. Performance management (okay, it's sort of a subset of central admin). It's in direct competition with the WSS, and is reducing allocations to schools from grants like LAP and Title I. Schools do, through performance management, receive Title I and LAP money, but the decision on which schools is made downtown. And it hasn't moved the needle, at all. If it was moving the needle in schools where it's been in place the longest, it might be worth discussing a form of continuation. But it doesn't appear to have done that.

3. MAP. At least reduce the amount of testing, and probably stop testing certain groups of kids. Is the way it's "informing instruction" moving the needle? If not, consider dumping it, at least for the time being. Again - easier to get something like that back up than it is to get a kid back a year of meager education.

4. Alignments. To date, they've sucked (if you disagree, I would genuinely like to hear why). Yet it doesn't appear that anyone has stopped and said "maybe if we're going to do it, we should rethink how we do it." Nope. Continues to be expensive and stupid. Dump them.
Winston said…
Our kids went to Lawton Elementary. From there through their high school years, we have been curious about something that we noted at Lawton then while we were active in PTSA years ago.

Every time our parent group wanted to have a project done at the school, we were astounded by the layers of obstacles and huge cost that was involved with getting the District maintenance department to do anything. Simple tasks were broken down into so many unnecessary costs and fiefdoms that we opted either to grumble and do without or do it ourselves.
It turned out that on several such projects, our building custodian (he’s gone now as our youngest is a senior) was able and willing to do them at a fraction of the alternative expense. One job was building an outdoor garden bench for the school (from scratch) and the other was the installation if a large interior picture window so that the front entry could be seen by the main office (no one had thought of that in design).
The PTA bought the materials and he had most tools and he did a great job! Of course, he got in trouble when the carpenter, truck driver, sheet metal, glazers, plasterers and painters found out, but we did our best to support him. By lending his talents and pitching in, he gave the school so much for such a reasonable cost that we always marveled at why the District doesn’t tap into the potential of these building staff members more and cut some of the layers of fat downtown.
For every “can-do” employee like that custodian at Lawton that the District allowed to be creative and flourish in their jobs, we may need 5 or 6 fewer “specialists” downtown.
As we have been talking, we recall that he had been a skilled Navy technician before coming to the District and also fixed computers and other appliances and hardware around the school. There’s probably a couple other departments downtown that fault him for that too.
Jet City mom said…
Loggers working for Bayley Construction Co. began cutting down giant fir trees on the west side of the school campus at about 7:30 a.m. The work will clear the way for building $8.3-million in new classrooms, set for opening this fall or next winter.

So I guess they better fill up Ingraham.
However considering how Metro doesn't serve that area well- is that really practical?
seattle citizen said…
LA Teachers Warehouse said, "Amy Valenti--perhaps the only competent person in HR--has recently had her position eliminated. She is being replaced with two managers better able to advance the strategic goals of the district, blah, blah, blah."

No way. Replace Ms Valenti? Impossible. With TWO managers? Wha...? Please explain, LA TW. Why is Ms Valenti being cut? She is a long-time HR person, so it couldn't be seniority. How is she being "replaced" by two managers? That's crazy, Ms Valenti is highly capable.
Kathy said…
Does anyone know implications of SEA agreement in regards to Strategic Initiatives? I am not sure the implications of 1600 teachers being involved in controversial non-sustainable strategic initiatives during times of budget shortfalls. This, constitutes a huge and unknown part of the budget.

I'd cut want to cut HQ funding by $12M-$15M, limit strategic initiatives to TIF and SIG grants ($18.5M),decrease transportation costs, eliminate MAP (although, this would cause strategic initiatives to collapse), wouldn't touch WSS.

Still, this does not account for $36.6M shortfall. More decisions need to be made.
Mr. Edelman said…

I am making inquiries. Rumors abound. Why would MGJ want to get rid of a straight-shooting, truth-telling, trustworthy HR manager and replace her with two hand-picked managers?

Let me put it this way: Amy Valenti was someone that teachers could trust to help them navigate the bureaucracy and give them straight answers. She also knows a lot. A lot about whom? Whom do you think?
Anonymous said…
Has anyone else heard the rumor about eliminating the science director position (Elaine Wu) and eliminating teacher training related to the NSF kids? We heard it from a teacher, wondering if it's beyond rumor. Science cuts would be so unfortunate.

--science parent
Winston, you are running right into union issues. Your custodian is lucky he didn't get into trouble.

I completely agree that it takes too much time and more money than it should to get maintenance done. At Roosevelt we had wanted to hired one district person to oversee PTA members putting up the many, many pieces of art that got taken down during our rebuild. Nothing doing and we had to pay a lot to get it done.

But we do have unions for these workers who don't like NOT being able to help more. A lot of that obstruction is NOT the union but the district. There is a new work order system in place but I don't know how much it's helping.

As for Amy Valenti, here's what I wrote to Ann Chan (our Chief Talent officer)and cc'd the Board:

I'm a little puzzled. I understand that long-time HR person Amy Valenti is leaving SPS. Now why she is leaving is not my business (although I know she has been a highly-regarded person at SPS).

But to my surprise, I see her job seems to have been split and SPS is looking to hire 2 new people (manager of Recruitment and manager of Compensation and Benefits). This is confusing as the Board just received information from staff about how SPS central administration is larger than the national average for districts and for local districts. Why our central would continue to grow in the face of a poor economy is confusing.

I note from the New and Announcements page at HR:

A hiring freeze has been implemented as of 12/8/2010. Positions exempt from this freeze are:

* Principal and Assistant Principal "pools" for the 2011-2012 school year. The job ad is posted on our Job Opportunities link. If you applied for this position for the 2010-2011 school year, you will need to reapply since items in the process have changed.
* Positions required to be filled by collective bargaining agreements
* Positions that are exempt per the I-609 contract
* Grant- and capital-funded positions
* School based certificated positions

So this also makes it confusing because it would seem Amy Valenti's position would be frozen (or what category of the above listed does her job fall under?).

Could you help me understand this?

No answer as of yet. I get that we need people who know how to recruit and hire great staff (including teachers). However, we have NO money so how can be be splitting one position into two (and that's two salaries)?

That Ms. Valenti was well-liked by many staff (including teachers) seems to have doomed her tenure at SPS.
Anonymous said…
Kprugman said, By next year, the numbers of dropouts will increase dramatically when all A-G classes will be eliminated from the schedule. For science, there will be exactly 3 choices: physics, biology, and chemistry.

What does A-G mean? Will there still be science electives? I was impressed by our high school's science offerings beyond the standard biology, physics and chemistry - marine biology, organic chemistry, biotech, etc.

Signed, a parent
Kathy said…
You might be interested in looking at SPS Strategic Plan Budget Planning Tool for Fiscal Year 2012.
Numbers 33-35 pertain to teaching quality.

During fiscal year 2011-2012, the district proposes spending $625K to recruit high performing teachers and principals to Level 1 schools. The district also proposes spending $421K to provide struggling teachers with support through Human Resource Consulting

I am wondering if this explains changes to HR department.
Kathy said…

I suspect the HR positions would be paid for with the TIF Grant. So, positions would be exempt from hiring freeze.

Again- Check out numbers 33-35 on flow sheet.
The TIF grant? I'll to check but one, that's no long-term solution and two, seems odd. But thanks for the heads up.
Mr. Edelman said…

You may have hit on the excuse for eliminating Amy Valenti's position, but not the reason. There is a difference between an excuse and a reason.

There is a reason that an exceptionally effective manager in HR has lost her job. What is it?
Kathy said…

Specifically, I'm looking at #37 on the flow sheet- "Manage and direct TIF Grant".

I'm fairly certain the new Talent Officer have experience handling TIF grants.
Bird said…
What's a TIF grant?
It's a federal grant, Teacher Incentive Fund, that funds paying teachers and principals more to teach in low=performing schools.
Zebra (or Zulu) said…
Science Parent -

Eliminating the Science Dept. and the monolith that is the NSF program is exactly what the District need to do. The NSF program does not support students in achieving at (or above) standard. And, it limits innovation because the NSF curriculum is scripted.

The money should be redirected to site-based science programs
kprugman said…
What Curriculum, Instruction, and Assessment have failed to do is align the math and literacy that the children are capable of doing with the science curriculum that the children are expected to know.

e.g. the majority of hs students cannot solve a problem involving two equations and two unknowns.

The A-G classes meet college entrance requirements. The majority of the students are not prepared to take these classes and consequently will fail.

The traditional remedy was to create a lower track for less successful students that fulfilled the hs requirement. The standards remedy eliminates the lower track classes and has all students taking classes that meet the a-g requirement.

The standards remedy is failing and at-risk students are being forced out of public school and into alternative programs.

Our district added $4 million to its curriculum budget and all of money was spent on testing. The money was provided by a one-time federal supplemental grant.

Curriculum spending has increased by over 300% in the past 5 years and all of the money went into assessment. At this point our district is looking at an $18 million deficit. When the grant money expires where will the district find the money to pay for all the technology and assessment tools it has purchased? Who did they purchase this software from?

In my opinion, this entire enterprise is a sham and the end of public education, at least for the part of society that really needs to be educated in order to progress.
sam said…
I here you Winston. Mel is right. There are ways to be efficient within the confines of a union environment. The District needs to do what it can to use these "jack of all trades" custodians to do more around the buildings.
anonymous said…
I understand what krugman is saying. My child goes to Hale and failed English this semester. My child is a sophomore. The problem is next year (junior year) the school only offers AP LA 11. There are no other options. No regular 11th grade English classes, and no remedial 11th grade english classes. How could a school expect a kid that failed 10th grade regular english to go into AP English in 11th grade? I spoke with the counselor last week and he said that there are no other options at Hale, unless you have an IEP. This just seems so wrong.
Anonymous said…
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Hale parent, I'm confused.

Isn't it an LA class with AP added for those who want to take the AP test? Is the entire class taught at the AP level? That seems very different from the philosophy at Hale.
kprugman said…
This was a mistake I'm correcting - our district's been reforming longer than Seattle has. I inserted the correction. A-G reguirements means meeting college entrance requirements.

By next year, the numbers of dropouts will increase dramatically when all [non] A-G classes will be eliminated from the schedule. For science, there will be exactly 3 choices: physics, biology, and chemistry. Not surprising, physics classes, once egalitarian, have been cut from 12 to 5.

Our district isn't very clear about anything. Principals are now directing a teacher from each 'core' department to attend the curriculum and instruction meetings. The district's monthly meetings were scheduled during school hours so as per the contract we go.

The CIA Director is quite mad. During one meeting she turned out the lights, got up on the table and turned a flashlight on. Then she pointed it at her easel and said she was lighting a path for all of us to follow. I have no clue what she did before becoming an administrator.

Life goes on with or without an education.

I had a teacher from sheltered english drop by and count kids. She told me that I had more bilingual kids, more at-risk kids, and more special ed kids than kids who qualified for sheltered instruction. It would make most teachers jaws drop to see such a mix of 40 or so hs students of all ages. Indeed, most teachers charged with teaching these kids have left such classrooms before lunch. It has been the habit of standards reformers to ignore such classrooms when they speak about their successes.

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