Disqus

Tuesday, February 08, 2011

News Flash: SPS Has to Cut Their Budget

From KING-5 tv tonight, SPS has to drastically cut its budget.

I heard this as a tease at the end of the national news and thought, "Oh, new info." Nope, it's just what we already know. The district is losing $5M for this school year and will have a $36.6M gap for 2011-12.

Good to know the media are keeping up.

The report did mention a couple of interesting things. One, the gap works out to $800 per student. Two, Dr. Goodloe-Johnson was quoted as saying that the cuts would mostly come from Central Adm. and could be up to 25%.

Meg Diaz also reports this:

I also have some advance data on the proposed 108.9 central cuts. 54 cuts are to maintenance services, 2 are to utilities, 2 to custodial and .6 to grounds (sports complexes). Over half the cuts are not to any sort of central administration but to district-wide services that schools need.

Now Meg cautions that some of these might or might not be Central Adm. because of the vagueness of the naming of the cut. Meaning, is athletics a coach or someone administering it at Central? And maintenance services? Sure, it's not like our facilities are in bad shape or anything.

What it looks like to Meg (and I concur) is that Central Adm staff will look in every direction but the mirror. We need to track this and point out every step of the way if there aren't real cuts made.

Again, I state:

In 209-2010 - Executive Management was 8.6 FTE. In 2010-2011, it is 15.5.

I don't know how all those jobs are funded but I don't really care if half of it is grant-based; it just looks terrible. I'm sure to those whose jobs get cut, it will look like "Let them eat cake."

15 comments:

Insiders Perspective said...

What I am about to say is based on personal observations and conversations with facilities people who are supervisors.

I am of two minds on cuts to maintenance. First an assumption; whatever the number of maintenance cuts, some are likely to come out of site repair operations and basic upkeep services. I have seen emails to this effect this week.

Mind #1: The SPS maintenance people I have met (the ones who fix things at schools), with few exceptions, are some of the worst tradespeople I have ever observed. They will do anything to get out of making a simple repair. The old adage about "they would never make it in the real world" applies perfectly to most of the facilities-dispatched tradespeople I have observed spending taxpayer dollars. They work slowly, make huge mistakes, tell administrators there is not a problem (when there clearly is), and they take inordinately long lunch breaks. On the latter, I commonly see 45 minute coffee breaks and 1.5 hour lunches. So, given Mind #1, if they get the sack, it might wake up the rest of their colleagues to put some urgency into what they do.

Mind #2: The very same incomplete projects and shoddy work suggested in Mind #1 (above) leaves schools in a desperate situation. Without basic repair and maintenance services, schools become dangerous. Example: Groundskeepers were begged in the fall to take care of dead trees next to one school. They did not do it, even though it was a clear safety hazard. One windy day a snag (dead tree) blew over right onto a playground between about thirty children. This incident could have been a tragedy. After the event the tree crew showed up and did the long-overdue work. Why didn't they do it before the near tragedy? They were backlogged with work from the previous year. Why was there a work backlog? Can you say Catch-22?

The way I see it is that SPS has too many people not working hard enough AND too many work orders to complete for too few staff members (many of whom don't work hard enough each day).

Not a pretty picture.

Inside as well said...

Insider:

SPS "Groundskeepers" are not part of the Maintenance staff.

They are restricted on jobs like the tree by what their Supervisor would "let" them do. Since there were child-areas involved the work had to be done on overtime and overtime has been severely cut back.

Remember, these are decisions made by folks downtown who direct their work. NOT by the workers themselves.

If it had been left to the workers, the tree would have been dealt with promptly.

Please place the blame where its due on Mind #2.

Inside as well said...

Insider:

In re-reading your comment I now see where you got your information. Now it makes more sense.

When you talk to "supervisors, its ALWAYS the workers fault.

Next time ask the "supervisor" how long he/she knew about the tree before authorizing the work. That's where the problem lies.

Anonymous said...

To SPS Inside staff above:

I am so thankful to you for posting and applaud your willingness to provide transparency. I am a veteran of another public government agency, non-school-related. In my agency it was just a core part of doing business that there were no secrets or hiding the ball because all info was open to the public. This was a top-down philosophy put in place by a leader who was there for many years and had been different under a previous leader, who left with a cloud of corruption allegations. It was the most freeing feeling to work in an office where if you were inquired about anything, you simply opened the door and let the public in.

Over the years as I have observed SPS I have noticed that employees by and large are concerned (on management's behest) about information getting out, and how. I cannot underscore enough that that is one administrative approach-- I hope for employees and the public that another mindset is implemented soon. What would it feel like, as an employee or a member of the public, if employee marching orders were "unless it contains identifiable personnel data or identifiable child information, offer it up freely, before they ask for it"?

This is possible. If staff want to work in this open kind of world, they should ask for it. The sort of people who take liberties with taxpayer dollars may not want it, but many, many others long for this breath of fresh air. Ask forthe door to be pened!

Government Employee

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Insiders Perspective. I have heard that maintenance workers can be slow. What I will say is that the direction comes from their supervisors and the people above them. If they are doing poor work, they should be called on it. If they are taking a long lunch hour, they should be called on it.

I agree with the other insider; it wasn't the groundskeepers call to get out there and get that tree down. It was a supervisor or someone above him/her.

I have complained about this lack of maintenance and follow-thru for years. You are right; if that tree had hit some kids, what would the district have said?

Gov't Employee, another good hit of the nail on the head. The district culture of bureaucracy is very sick. They have a circle the wagons mentality and have had it for at least a decade. It is not about transparency, not even with the Board (see the latest audit).

Nothing will change until that mindset changes. It is not going to happen under MGJ.

Pissed said...

I want to open it up with a public disclosure lawsuit.

Last night I sat in a meeting where numbers were thrown around and the "1/3 cut to Central Admin" figure was trotted out. It's last year's "84 FTES RIFfed" all over again.

Meg can see through this BS.

Central Mom said...

Anyone going to the 4-hour budget meeting today? I think this is the end of the road in terms of input and discussion about cuts next year before the board has to provide direction.

Personally I will be looking for staff to have very directly and simply linked job titles, functions and numbers to the strategic plan. This should have been done years ago and staff has been notably reluctant to provide it.

I've also been looking for a comprehensive breakdown of job titles by funding source -- fed, state, nonprofit grant or general fund. This should be baseline info, but somehow it has never shown up in the public domain.

Anonymous said...

Melissa, can you cite me a reference / link to the 15.5% vs. the 8.6? I know there have been a number of new hires downtown this year, and it would help in some advocacy if I had something concrete to point to.

Gov't Employee

Dorothy Neville said...

Links for G'ment Employee

Executive Management history

Also see this one which compares management with state and county averages. Note that this might look like we have finally gotten down to where everyone else is. Well, don't trust that too much. The board asked about the comparisons for current and projections, but we can't get that yet for other districts. The assumption is that everyone else has tightened their belts as well, so we are probably still higher. And we have a sleight of hand changing of duty code designation (ie, not RIFs) that I don't completely follow but makes me suspicious of our sudden drop in management percentage.

Kathy said...

King5 reports SPS HQ will make 25% reduction.

I won't believe any of this- until I see it with my own eyes!

Some don't want to support the family levy because SPS has $12K per student. Yet, many schools only see about 5K per student.

Will the state really want to support high administrative costs? I don't think so.

I think extraordinarily high administrative costs will prevent the district from obtaining additional funds. I think the tipping point has arrived. Yet, we're talking about SPS.

Maureen said...

I think Meg Diaz makes it really clear in her latest series of 'crappy charts.' Go to her blog, Dolce and Nutella. Follow the link to the charts that accompanied her last testimony to the Board. Charts 3-4 compare SPS to other Districts and show how SPS made it look as though they reduced % Central Admin by recategorizing a subgroup of administrators. There is lots of other good stuff in that presentation. (And the picture of her goat is really cute!)

Anonymous said...

Here is a link to today's "core service reductions"

http://www.scribd.com/doc/48516245

Special education claims that its reductions will have a compliance and instructional impact:
"Less staff to support instruction, school leader education regarding special education issues and compliance in buildings". We hope decision makers are taking this with a big grain of salt. If people in these positions were helping on instruction, parents would not be so upset about the integrated comphrehensive services rollout, which has left too many teachers and students without anybody who knows the disabilities and has time to learn about them.

SPED Parent

seattle citizen said...

speaking of news flashes, the Seattle Times predictably bashes the union as oppositional, and throws Randy Dorn in with them, in this opinion piece

It's all about "innovation," the Times says. They also assure us that the "innovation" is NOT, no sir, a Trojan horse for charter schools to ride in on. Nuh uh, no how.

inguno

SSD Electrician said...

"The SPS maintenance people I have met (the ones who fix things at schools), with few exceptions, are some of the worst tradespeople I have ever observed."

Are you in the trades? If you are, you spend your days not working, watching others NOT work?

Or are you just basing this on conversations with supervisors? Because I have never met a supervisor who was willing to take the blame for ANYTHING when they can blame their woes on LABOR.
s
I'm one of those tradepeople to which you refer, and I say you are full of BS. I invite you to come see what my day is like, the obstacles and admin BS that are set up to keep us from doing our job.

Long lunch? sometimes...No lunch?? a lot of the time. Driving to the next job eating a power bar & a Rockstar....most days.

Thanks for your support. Thankfully, I keep doing my job irregardless of what people like you think of me.

BTW, I made it in the real word for 25 years before Wall Street collapsed our economy and forced me to take a 30% pay cut to come fix schools....Your Welcome .

Dorothy Neville said...

SSD Electrician. I am thinking that spending the day or a few days with you would make for an awesome article. What are the chances that we could get one of two of us embedded with a tradesperson? I'd love the opportunity.

Again, what you are saying about cuts by workers and not by managers is precisely the frustrating lack of information I felt at the budget workshop. Staff was very clear that they were not going to expose job titles or positions or anything so we could really get a sense of who gets cut.