HR Oversight Work Session

This was an interesting Work Session not least of all because of its topic - HR.  (And no one said anything about "human capital.")  Much of my interest was in how the Board acted.  They acted like people who had questions and wanted answers, polite but firm.

Sherry started off by explaining that Don McAdams, who is guiding the Board on governance issues, encouraged them to do overviews of all the departments.  They just happened to start with HR. 

Ann Chan, who is the new head of HR, started out by explaining HR's focus which is ensuring every classroom has a qualified teacher, supporting teachers and providing timely staffing and evaluation data and support to principals, executive directors and central office managers. 

Michael pointed out that 40% of SPS employees were not in the classroom.  He said the recent issues that "reflected badly" on the district occurred in Central office functions.   He was following up on a comment Sherry made about "tracking and training" employees and said the employees need to be screened carefully.   The Board all seemed to agree with Susan Enfield and Ann Chan that it needs to start with good teachers but that all positions are important.

Ann did say one unintentionally funny thing (at least to some of us in the audience).  She said that most teachers don't hit their stride for 3-5 years.  Maybe I'll send her an e-mail telling her to tell principals to keep that in mind when they are looking at TFA recruits.  

There seems to be an issue about managers returning evaluations.  Sherry ask how the completions were tracks and if they knew the names of the managers who hadn't returned their evaluations.  She said, "Where I work you won't stay a manager if you don't get this done."  Wow.

Ann followed up by saying she was new and there had been no consequences to getting these done but she would makes sure the end of the year evaluations did get completed.  Sherry said it really wasn't Ann's job but leadership's job and Susan agreed.   DeBell followed up saying that "the previous superintendent" (I guess we're going the Voldemort route with MGJ) promised data on performance measures and we are still waiting.  Steve even kept making sure that Theresa, the Board manager, was tracking follow-ups. 

Astonishing.  Sherry asking if Chan specifically knew who hadn't done their evaluations and Michael complaining about the length of time for data.  In public.  Steve compiling a list of follow-ups.  A new day in SPS.

Other highlights:
  • Betty pointed out (and I didn't know this) that there aren't enough subs and it's hard to find good substitutes.  Teachers, is this right?  Betty also hilariously suggested that TFA recruits could be used as subs.  Susan said we don't have TFA right now and they could apply if they wanted to.  
  • There were several times when different directors questioned the SPS hiring timeline and that we don't compete early enough.  There was never really a solid answer about changing that timeline but I know HR is aware of this issue.
  • An HR org chart.  Man, they have a lot of people.  What I find interesting is that the TIF grant people are under HR which is not where I would expect them.  What Chan said is that they are looking to reorganize HR and call the reorg a "School Service Center" so that principals don't have to go to multiple people for help/answers.  This unfortunately means more hires for HR.  She said that most of the current staff's jobs would be repurposed (but I don't know if that means they would have to reapply for their jobs).   
  • There seems there are also technical issues to HR involving SAP.   
  • Sherry, leaning on her Boeing background, asked about not seeing training, service delivery to core functions, HR investigations and team responsible for workforce planning and strategy (she's talking a couple of people).  Peter brought up the issue of viewing down the road who might be leaving especially those with specific skills who would be hard to replace.
  • Kay seems very interested in comparisons to other districts, both locally and nationally.
  • Susan said that the district has been offered help for many departments and is looking for the "extra set of eyes" that could be useful here.
  • Ann pointed out this is the busiest time of the year for HR with job fairs going on and hiring decisions starting.  
  • There was one place in the Powerpoint where there was a difference of opinion.  Slide 10 on page 5 shows the HR budget ($5.9M).  It says there are 45.2 employees (about 10.5 are grant funded).  So on page 6, Slide 11, there is a chart of staff benchmarks from SPS and other districts both local/national.  They took out the grant funded people so that brings it down to about 34.  That would put SPS in the middle of the pack.  Michael pointed out that HR is really 45 people and that would put SPS at the top.  (He obviously wasn't buying that the grant funded people should be counted separately and I agree.  Many times after the grant runs out, we keep staff.)  Michael pointed out keeping transparent about the number of people working for the district is important.  
  • Kay asked several questions about other measures.  She asked for some data on teachers around retiring teachers versus newly hired teachers.  Here came the one and only time Harium spoke.  And he said, "What is the point of that?  What's the end game?"  It struck me (and maybe it's just me) as a challenge.  Kay pointed out that the Board continues to hear from schools trying to fill positions and maybe if we can get the timing down better, we might have a better pool of applicants.  Harium said he thought that was being covered with HR changes.  Steve, trying to be helpful, said it might be a question of strategy and that Kay's request should stand.  
  • Ann pointed out that when headquarters closed down recently for the electrical issue that they didn't have procedures in place to tell managers and union reps how the shortened workday issues would be addressed.  Ann said many policies were either outdated or did not exist.  Susan chimed in to say that as an example the principals' handbook was outdated and the principals had been asking for a new one for a long time. 
  • Slides 14-16 are especially interesting because it's major grant contracts.  I have to get clarity on some of these for the "Superintendent's Initiative for Leadership Development."   It's about $330k.  Chan said something about a coach for each manager but it wasn't clear if that was what SPS is doing or if that was something that would be great to have.  
  • Steve and Michael said that results were what were important.  Michael said we can't have an ineffective evaluation process where you check all the boxes and everyone is "satisfactory." He said it's results versus process.  Good job, Michael.
I, like the directors, came away with a sense of how much work there is to be done and this is just one department.  I guess Don Kennedy might have been right about how many departments are not running well.  It's not even about righting the ethics ship but about overhauling the whole thing.

I also want to point out that Dr. Goodloe-Johnson told the press, over and over, how this district had no "systems or procedures" when she came here.  Well, 3+ years of her tenure sure didn't change much.  She focused on what she wanted to focus on to the detriment of the operations of this district.  That Susan Enfield and staff are so willing to pick up this heavy goal is admirable but it sure was time wasted.


mirmac1 said…
I've heard Cathy Thompson say the same (obvious) thing: experienced teachers are more qualified. Retention is an important element of HRs job.
Lori said…
Interesting. One thing to clarify though around the retiring versus newly hired teachers question. Was the concern that retiring teachers give late notice, after good applicants have been hired elsewhere? I'm not sure I understand from this post what Director Smith-Blum was looking for here. If I understood that, then I might be able to make more sense of Director Martin-Morris' response. Since he will have a challenger this fall, I'd like to pay closer to attention to his actions and comments. thanks.
mirmac1 said…
A few other notes:

If Betty had read the TFA contract she would know that TFA recruits are expected (by TFA) to be "teachers of record", not interns, not subs. Damn, pretty good for five weeks and a B.A./B.S.

Apparently the UW (or other) is conducting a "functional analysis" as part of "transforming" CO (! Wow, does that mean all the staff gets RIFfed?) All positions and functions will be analyzed. I hope this just doesn't spit out an inventory. It's a good step but does not satisfy a "zero-based" analysis which asks "what do we need to accomplish our mission", not "who all do we have at JSCEE". A truly transformative approach presumes that every department starts from zero and every position/employee must be justified.

Actually, I think Kay's request was "what is the ratio of HR" to teachers, NOT students as shown on the table. "What's the point of that?!" Well, DUH, HR staff doesn't service students, it services staff/teachers.

Damn straight, this Superintendent's Initiative for Leadership Development (or SILD) must be better understand because it's not cheap! It's $335K in outside services alone, let alone staff time. And which grant funds it? ARRA? Bill? Did I hear the Stuart Foundation? S'funny, I didn't see it in the budget info released yesterday. The way I think I heard it is: one coach for every principal/vice-principal. C'mon, that's what PD is for! Not hand-holding!

It's true I heard some strong critical statements from DeBelle in particular. No one ran crying from the room!

Yes, "She who will not be named" left a legacy of...nothing. Except costly consultants, admin, and coaches.

Dr. Enfield did very well last night in this chaotic aftermath.
mirmac1 said…

I recall that Maier made the point that HR should consider attrition of experienced teachers (particularly specialized positions) as a risk and that measures should be in place. I spoke to Kay's request above.
Steve said…
Betty's comment about their not being enough substitute teachers is interesting to me as well. I would have guessed that there were a lot of teachers looking for substitute work. At my son's school (Lowell), there is at least one teacher who has been out for a long period because of injuries or illness, and the school hasn't been able to find a substitute (and they've requested one from the district). It's the music teacher, so at least my son's class went without music for the week they were supposed to have it. Still trying to figure out what's going on, but...
Lori, that was my understanding of her question; I'll e-mail her and ask. (It's a hard thing because if you are sitting there and don't know what they mean, there's no asking about it.)

Steve, my thought as well but maybe the pool of subs is smaller because you can't count on how much work you will or will not have.
lendlees said…
I've heard that they've opened up the substitute hiring pool for the first time in two years. There is a lack of good substitutes out there--especially for long term positions.
Kat said…
I can comment to the lack of substitutes in the Seattle School District. I've been a subsitute for the last two years and never lacked for work. I see unfilled openings all the time.

I was able to get hired into Seattle because I was lucky enough to have interned here. The district also had very narrow time windows for hiring subs. Other than an internship, the other way I know of to hire on as a substitute is if a teacher or principal make a case for needing your specialized skills.

I attended some substitute meetings and I was told there were restrictions on the number of sub hires due to union requests. I guess to save spots for riffed teachers.

I know of many of my cohort mates and colleagues who are gifted and eager teachers who interned outside of Seattle. They would enjoy subsituting in Seattle but since the school district wasn't accepting application, they couldn't apply.

This past week was the first posting for sub candidates who did not intern here. I think it is great and the district will get some much needed resources to staff our schools.
Inside as well said…
Scratch the surface of that SILD team and you will find it was composed of some very good employes and some absolute jokes that were merely being "developed" because they were unable to say no to anything MGJ or DK came up with.

The whole thing was merely window dressing to pretend that MGJ had outreached when the only ones she reached were lackeys or crooks.
mirmac1 said…
Okay, well this calls for "daylighting" of the whole SILD program. How much? What for? Who's payin'? What could we get instead?!
Teacher said…
That is accurate about the lack of substitutes. Positions frequently go unfilled and other teachers are asked to cover. Some substitutes do a poor job. Good substitutes are in high demand.
Lori said…
Kinda interesting insight about subs, from my 2nd grader tonite at bedtime. I asked her to tell me something new that happened this week so far in school and she said, "Well, we had a horrible sub for 2 days." So I asked why she was horrible, and my child said, "Well, she didn't really know how to control the kids who weren't being calm." (guess that's a euphemism for kids who were misbehaving!).

So I said, "Sounds like that made it hard to learn, huh?" Response, "Yeah, but there wasn't much to learn anyway. She wasn't a 2nd grade teacher. She said she was really an art teacher."

Me, "Well, that shouldn't matter. Art teachers know how to teach other subjects."

Her, "Well, she said she was actually a high school art teacher."

Me, "Oh, that is interesting."

So is that normal? For high school teachers to sub in early elementary school? As a non-teacher, I don't know if that makes sense or not. Seems like high school teachers should sub in high schools. So maybe there really aren't enough subs out there to meet demand because I would really expect them to try to match experience with current need a little better. But I'm open to hearing from teachers that that doesn't matter; let me know if any teacher should be able to sub in any classroom and be effective.
Kat said…
In Washington State, a certificated (licenced) teacher can substitute K-12. However, you can only be hired in the the area you specialize in. For example, I am endorsed/trained for teaching K-8 so I can only be hired to teach K-8. However, I can and have subbed in high school.

You are right Lori in that there is a vast difference between primary grades and High School. I can teach anything in elementary but I don't remember anything about high school calculus. Classroom management depends on the quality of the substitute.

However, it is up to the classroom teacher to drive the class content as good teachers write detailed quality sub plans for subs.

If your child had a poor substitute, she should tell her teacher. Classroom teachers have some control over the choice of their subs so she can try to ensure they get another teacher next time.
Jan said…

What could we get instead?"

Ah -- the 64 million dollar question. Good thing we don't spend much time thinking about it, or we might, well, I don't know WHAT we might do.

What could we have gotten instead, for $350,000 in salary and perqs, in the way of a creative, communicative, collaborative, capable Superintendent the last four years. And where might we have been?

What could we have gotten instead, when we closed Cooper and moved Nova and SBOC, if we had had a transparent, reasoned closure/realignment process that looked at and used demographic data - instead of just winging it.

What could we have gotten instead, for the hundreds of millions that MAP is costing, in terms of something more valuable to teachers and parents, and less time consuming?

What could we have gotten instead, had the high school math selection not been totally cooked at the committee level, and then spoon-fed to a flabby and unprotesting rubber-stamping board?

What could we have gotten instead, in terms of a STEM program, if Central Administration had passed on the expensive computer platform (using the NOVA method of doing it ourselves), and taken the time to develop robust and meaningful alliances with private businesses to drive the STEM curriculum?

It is not just that bad stuff has happened, and money has been wasted, and fraud and incompetence have run amok. The true damage is what we DIDN'T get, where we DIDN'T go, who we DIDN'T hire, what we DIDN'T have money for, because all those years, and dollars, and opportunities, were squandered.

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