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Thursday, March 17, 2011

Capacity Management (SPS Version ?.? )

I previous attached the documents from this Work Session to another thread.  I'll put forth what was said but right up front - it is so frustrating but I believe I understand the method to their madness.

I'll be blunt - I think the district is growing and will continue to grow.  We have a new student assignment plan that added another layer of complexity to that growth.  What that means to some schools is that they are going to have to man up and buck up.  Portables, using your school's stage, whatever can get you through the next 3-5 years.  I believe the district has sympathy for these schools but really, they've got bigger problems.   Somebody once said that "change is hard" and my friends, that means you get to be the ones to suffer through this change.
 


Kathy Johnson of Facilities went through the presentation at a fairly rapid clip.  They did have the "current" definition of Functional Capacity on page 4, slide 8 and the explanation for fluctuations on page 5, slide 9.   Those reasons are:
  • NSAP transitional plan changes (which means in about year 5 this one should not matter)
  • Academic Assurances and Five-year Plan roll out (program delivery model changes) - again, this should not be changing a lot at some point.  (I pause here to say that with rotating superintendents, you get new plans.  Dr. G-J promptly dropped the Five-Year Plan set up by the previous Board and created the Strategic Planning.  This continuing changing of programming really impacts both the actual architectural planning of schools and then, how they end up being used after they are built.)
  • Main difference between the 2015 FC and 2010 FC: 2015 was based on the anticipated programs and services in 2015 and 2010 represented the current ones.
Again, the district anticipates growth but you would not know this from listening to Rachel Cassidy, the district's demographer.  I honestly never feel she gives a straight answer to any question.   I sense a real nervousness among staff if the district continues to grow at a fast pace.  

2010-2011 Capacity and Enrollment (slide 11) shows K-5 at 104% of "capacity utilized."  I do not know the difference between "available capacity" and "functional capacity."  If someone heard this at the meeting (or knows), please tell us but they seem to be two different things.  For 6-8, it's at 85%.  For 9-12, it's at 95%.  Overall for the district, it's at 97%.

They then say by next year K-5 will be down to 102%.  The other grade levels will stay about the same.  But this projection for 2011-12 notes at the bottom "Includes Rainier View, Viewlands and 400 seats in portables added in 2011".  I know that many parents out there do not like portables being counted as that then solidifies them in the school landscape.  (But hey, Green Lake has had theirs since the '70s and Eckstein probably just as long.) 

We get to the 2012-16 Capacity and Projections (slide 13) and boy, what to do?  Elementary, 120%; 6-8, 95%; 9-12, 100%; with district-wide being at 108%.  

Keep in mind BEX IV will be voted on in Feb. 2013.  If they go for a levy, they don't get the money until 2014.  The earliest you might get a new building would be mid-late 2015.  (If they did a bond election, they would get the money all at once.  Problem is they need 60% for a bond and it makes it a harder bar to jump over).   So don't look for BEX IV to bring any real relief (if passed) until maybe 2016.

The Directors had some comments:
  • Michael and Kay both commented on the BEX IV planning.  Michael confirmed that this year's enrollment numbers will be the ones used for BEX IV planning.  The schedule they handed out indicates that Oct. 2011 will be the time for community input.  Kay thought that was too late and believes outreach should start sooner.  Kathy agreed and said a calendar would get set up for that to happen.  
  • Steve pointed out that there are real issues in West Seattle.  
  • Sherry suggested repurposing some BTA dollars.  (My take is: NO.  That maintenance has got to get done.  It will only hurt us to postpone work that has already been postponed.)
  • Michael asked about computer labs being used for PCP time but Kathy Johnson said there was an issue around MAP so they are being set aside from functional capacity.   (Dorothy, can you help me out here with this explanation?)
One big issue that Michael raised was over slide 17, page 9, the Surge Capacity Schools for this school year.  It lists West Seattle Elementary, Bryant, JSIS, Gatewood, Coe, Kimball, Lowell, Stevens and Daniel Bagley. 

Where's Garfield? View Ridge?  Lafayette?  Schmitz Park?  Staff says the principals got to decide how to count the space and so some of these don't count as "surge capacity."  For example, Lafayette kept a PE room as PCP space and so worked out their own surge capacity.   There is not a mandate for principals to use space as district thinks they might.  If they want to run larger class sizes "that's the prerogative of the principals."   Garfield isn't there because Kathy said they use "different techniques for class size" and that Garfield had options and didn't really use surge capacity methods.  Oh. 

What I want to ask you for is input.  If you are at a school that is overenrolled (and you know if you are) and you aren't on the district's "surge capacity" list, please let us know.  I want to compile a list and give it to the Board.  Here's why.  There has got to be some record that in 2010-2011 this is a list of schools that were overenrolled.  It doesn't matter what the district's "measure" is.  In 10 years you could have people look at the district's list and they would say, "Well, it wasn't that many schools."  when yes, it was.

The range of "utilization" goes from Gatewood at 116% to Bagley at 103%.   They had a category of "method to cope with overcrowding" and those range from "used the stage as classroom" to "used conference rooms for small classes" to "used RVs to accommodate staff" (my personal favorite with apologies to Bagley who had to use this method - they now have portables). 

More Director comments:
  • Michael asked a great question for which he never got an answer.  He simply wanted to know what percentage of students leave during the year.  Tracy went on some circular story.  DeBell said thanks but that wasn't my question.  It got complicated because technically under the NSAP, you can't change schools after Sept. 30th.   
  • Sherry asked for the metrics as spreadsheets and Tracy said this could be done.  
  • Kay asked quite an all-star question, "What is the most fiscally efficient thing we could do for capacity management?"  Kathy said they had done the analysis here but had done it for school closures.  She said it was hard because you really had to do it on a case-by-case basis.  Then, there was the astonishing statement that they assume "Option Schools are full and adjust the geozone to guarantee that."  What?  Why?  (Sadly, no follow-up.)
That's where it ended.  They didn't get to metrics, boundaries, etc.  FYI, the metrics are the numbers used to decide whether a school is severely underenrolled, below capacity, within target of functional capacity, above capacity or severely above capacity. 

There will be another Work Session on April 6th to discuss all of those issues.  Another Work Session is also scheduled for May 18th.   The Board will introduce and then vote on the various aspects of capacity management in June 2011.  If you have any thoughts, do bring them up now because, well, tick tock.

28 comments:

mirmac1 said...

OMG, bring back the VAX! Then let's pahtee likes it's 1999!...

Anonymous said...

First of all, are there any "Work Sessions" where any work is really done and something is actually accomplished?

And two, does Michael DeBell ever get any questions answered? And by "answered" I don't mean "I'll get back to you" or receive some circuitous explanation that leads everyone back to the original question.

And three, if DeBell doesn't get a straight answer, does he ever ask the question again in that same session or in another meeting?

I have noted that DeBell does ask the right questions but I have never seen him get what I would consider a reasonable answer and yet I don't ever see him ask the question another way or continue in the same vein. He just seems to let it go...

Trust me, I am not picking on only him, there is plenty to go around but it seems sometimes that DeBell starts to go down the right road but then seems to think that well, it's just not that important, and just let's it go.

Unfortunately, his lack of follow up seems to bite him in the end.

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

Can you please start another blog on:

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/2014529349_collegereadiness18m.html

http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/ABPub/2011/03/17/2014528670.pdf

A friend to Seattle

Anonymous said...

@Dora: Have you asked DeBell whether he gets his questions answered eventually? It wouldn't surprise me that there are multiple communication channels that we are not privy to.

A friend in Seattle

Charlie Mas said...

Good thing we've been closing and selling schools.

anonymous said...

What I'd be curious to know is why the number of students in SPS is growing? Is it due to the predictability of the NSAP? Due to school performance? Is it due to a bad economy forcing families that would have gone private into public? Is it the City? Have they done work to make Seattle a more family friendly place?

Is the number of families in Seattle growing or will we have the the same number of families, just more of them choosing public?

Are numbers growing all across the district, or is it more of an issue in certain parts of the city?

anonymous said...

Eckstein is the most over crowded it has been in years, and they expect they forecast getting about 130 more students next year. Class sizes are huge, they have "portable city" in the parking lot, and kids can't all fit in the hallways during passing period.

Greg said...

I have to second Charlie Mas' point. What were they thinking recently closing several schools? Does the Board openly admit that was a costly mistake? And what are they doing to correct it?

Also, reading the statements from district employees like Kathy Johnson and Rachel Cassidy, it amazes me that the district seems to see increased enrollment as a problem, not a success. Attracting people to our public schools should be celebrated. We should enthusiastically welcome new parents and children. Instead, the district employees complain about the additional work and then cram new parents and kids in wherever they can stuff them in. What a broken system, completely broken. The Board and new Superintendent need to fix this right away, making it clear that upper management sees increased enrollment is a good thing and something everyone should be excited about.

Greg said...

Imagine if the district, rather than reacting with annoyance at new parents and children coming into our public schools, reacted instead by saying, "Welcome home to your neighborhood school!"

Why aren't we working toward that? Why aren't we pushing for a culture where our school district staff celebrates new parents and students, works to attract parents and students currently not using public schools, and welcomes new parents and students with excitement and open arms?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually Greg, I think that they have some degree of happiness that this is happening (and I probably should have said that). It means more money, schools that run near capacity and looks better for the district.

What I meant by saying they are nervous is that
- they can't forecast well (and therefore don't know what might come next)
- they already see the impacts from crowding and have limited resources to deal with those issues
- they worry about keeping up

If this happened in better economic times, I'm sure they would be thrilled.

Michael does try to follow-up but sometimes it doesn't work out. I know it's frustrating for him.

spsmarketshare said...

Don't forget that attracting students currently in private school to Seattle's public schools not only yields more per pupil funding from the state, but also brings in parents with higher than average resources. Improving the public school participation rate increases the funds and resources available in our schools. Seattle currently has one of the lowest participation rates of any major US city, so there is a big opportunity there if the Board and superintendent focused on it.

Dorothy Neville said...

The issue with PCP and computer labs was simply that schools could no longer schedule PCP classes in computer labs reliably because they were taken over by MAP testing for so many weeks. That's not true everywhere of course, some schools use the library (ha ha) and some have rolling carts. So in the past they counted computer lab on an ad hoc basis but now they aren't counting it? I think that's what she said.

Eric B said...

"But hey, Green Lake has had theirs [portables] since the '70s and Eckstein probably just as long."

Loyal Heights has them beat by decades. We've had our portables since the late forties or early fifties. As in, my kids are going to school in portables that were installed when their grandfather was a student at the school. They are pretty nice, if a bit small.

BettyR said...

I'm amazed that the district's assumption is that the option schools are all at capacity. Jane Addams? AS#1? The available room at Jane Addams alone could make a significant dent in Ekstein's overcrowding.

John said...

My understanding is that the staff at Jane Addams is expecting enrollment to grow over the next few years, especially the middle school. Maybe option schools are interpreted differently on the capacity numbers since all assignments are now voluntary. The district can't just use them for overflow. (Like they did at JA last year.)

another mom said...

Is there is facilties master planning document guiding any of this? It looks like planning by the seat of your pants.
" Staff says the principals got to decide how to count the space..." I get this if it is on a year by year basis, principals need some flexibility about how to use individual classrooms. But for overall planning, isn't some formula used re: number of kids in building = this many PCP times = this much space needed for that activity. Also, how do the Sped needs get factored?

True, the district is growing but overcrowding may cause some to rethink SPS. There is a tipping point for people.

Anonymous said...

Similar to Peon, I would also like to know what the basis is for the District's projections that school enrollment is going to grow at a rapid pace. Given that the City as a whole is projected to grow at about 1% per year, I'm curious as to where these kids are coming from. I'm wondering if the District is basing projections based on 1 year of growth - or if they have something more substantive to base their projections on. It is strange to me how wildly their projections swing from one extreme to another.

Jane

Anonymous said...

p.s. maybe the Board could ask for a peer review of the school district demographer's projections from either the County or City demographers.

Jane

Anonymous said...

Sorry - one last comment re: Melissa's question on other schools that are over capacity. John Hay elementary is having to house one of their 5th grade classes in what used to be the music room just off the cafeteria. It's much smaller than a regular classroom so the class size is capped at 20 kids.

Jane

Melissa Westbrook said...

facilties master planning document?

That document,to me, is a joke. It is not a "planning" document; it is an assortment of facts. I was asked to be on a committee to rework it and I was happy to do so. I read the whole thing, made suggestions (and typo corrections of which there were many) and handed it in.

What happened was that they wanted a committee to say they had a committee. They were not interested in anything anyone had to say (and that was evidenced that for any given meeting, only half the members showed up). I gave up and quit in the middle when I realized it was window-dressing. I asked that my name be taken off but it never was.

joanna said...

In the long run the
District will have the capacity for students. Is it located well with good choices for all families? That is the question that is not being addressed. During the work session when Peter was addressing schools that are chronically under enrolled. Shouldn't the first investigation be around the population in the assignment area. If that is good then the next step would be to find out why students are not attending the school and correcting the situation. Have they thought through this piece? This seems key.

In order for this new plan to work they have to really work with communities of parents and ensure that the boundaries give good choices for all and are a sensitive to ensuring that all neighborhoods have good schools. Are they committed to a neighborhood plan that works or not? Have they ever really worked with communities to make sure the capacity is placed correctly and with includes great schools for everyone.

Jan said...

Joanna -- your questions are WAY too thoughtful and logical to have been of any use under MGJ's tenure. From all appearances, one would have to conclude that she just made decisions in a vacuum, and then admitted ONLY evidence to support them. Otherwise, how could they possibly have closed Cooper, or drawn school boundaries the way they did?

I guess we will see whether any change comes under the tenure of Dr. Enfield or her successor (if she is only interim).

Parent said...

Dorothy: Some schools are using computer labs, the library, AND rolling carts to complete MAP during the test window. Three times a year.

wsnorth said...

Seems pretty simple. Just re-open all the schools closed in the last 5 years. Seriously, capacity planning should be the easiest job in the district - after all, they have 5 years to plan for most new students. EVERYONE in this year's K has been alive for 5 years and MOST of them living in Seattle!!

seattle citizen said...

Re-open John Marshall as an Alternative Option school.

Jan said...

Ah, but wsnorth -- it is NOT so easy now -- because those kids (and their parents) can move to whatever attendance area they want -- and the school has to accommodate them! So there are really two issues -- how many seats are available in the entire district (and how many kids will show up to fill them -- as opposed to going to private school, homeschooling, moving to Shoreline or Renton, etc.

And second, which schools will those kids choose to land at -- because the choice is now all the family's.

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