Disqus

Friday, March 11, 2011

Open Thread Friday

Earthquake.  Tsunami.  Get that earthquake kit together.

I'm at the BEX Oversight Committee meeting and a couple of things just occurred to me:

- the money for the Silas Potter program came from Capital (you all understood this, right?)  Question is, which Capital pot of money - there are 3 possible choices.  It would be interesting to find out and see who had oversight for that money (likely Fred Stephens but there might be others). 

- they are going to build decidedly bigger schools for elementary so for those whose schools might come in on the BEX IV list, you will get a new building but you will also have a larger school population.   The new size range proposal is 510-734.  (And there are plenty of large elementaries throughout the nation.  I think we are more of an anomaly for an urban district to have many "small" schools.)

- KING 5 news had a blurb about the district cutting one-third of maintenance staff to fill the budget gap.  Absolutely the wrong place to cut and the day of reckoning will come someday.  Other people may worry about what would happen to the Viaduct if we had a major earthquake; I worry about what would happen to some of our very old school buildings.

48 comments:

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
anonymous said...

While I am adamantly against our large class sizes and the overcrowding of our existing schools, I do not think building larger school buildings that can accommodate more students is necessarily a bad thing.

mirmac1 said...

In answer to your question Melissa, according to the new procurement authority matrix found here,

http://district.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/procurement%20and%20distribution%20services/matrix.pdf?sessionid=db33b1878c44142db5d4171df29d858a

(sorry, I'd make it live but those posts never appear), up to 100K Fred Stephens and his successor, $100K to infinity, Don Kennedy and his successor. It appears that capital budget modification and transfers are none of the Board's business.

mirmac1 said...

Here's some happy news!

http://www.westseattleherald.com/2011/03/10/news/lafayette-elementary-presents-music-man-jr-weeken

The costumes are wonderful!

mirmac1 said...

More good news! Michelle Buetow has announced her candidacy for School Board Director in what is (for now anyway) Harium's district:

http://buetowforschoolboard.com/

Check her out. Also, someone please announce for Sundquist's spot in West Seattle. Please.

Anonymous said...

Does anyone else find it very weird that the agenda for the Board Retreat this weekend is about Governance and (remember, Holly Ferguson's supposed function) updated policies on Board/Superintendent communications? Gee, d'ya think they'll just carry on under the MGJ "improved system"? Unfortunately, that's not a rhetorical question.

Mr. Ed

Anonymous said...

I wanted to attend the finance and audit committee meeting yesterday, but had a conflict. I was wondering if anyone else was able to go. joanna

Jet City mom said...

I think we are more of an anomaly for an urban district to have many "small" schools.

Wouldn't that make transportation more of an issue since Seattle has few children per capita?

If we are going larger- I would prefer to have K-8 schools- or K-6 schools- but I do not think it is wise to go larger than 500- people are not staying in Seattle with young children & the kids for a larger school would be so spread out- it would be hard to keep a community feel.

I really liked the way Summit K-12 had 6th graders in their elementary program- developmentally, it seems to me to be more appropriate than being in middle school.

I did not contradict myself- I realize that Summit was larger than 500. When my daughter attended I believe it was upwards of 800. But that was the whole school- the high school was upstairs & the elementary school was mostly down one hallway.

We also had a Cathy Hayes as principal who knew the name of every single kid at the school-. This was very impressive, especially as when my D was in 6th grade & participating in a program with the high schoolers ( after another class was cut that only a few kids were taking), the teacher just referred to them as the " little" girls)

I would be for anything that would get parents more control over more choices for their children however- even physically larger schools.

Eric B said...

I think we're dreaming if we think that maintenance now (or likely in the future) is doing anything that addresses seismic safety in our schools. I just don't see them having the manpower to do much besides emergency repairs, even before the latest round of cuts.

Two examples that I've seen our elementary school: a bench with a broken board and a broken perimeter board on the playground. The bench had a sharp broken edge sticking up for at least a week before the board was removed. I think it took a month before it was replaced. The playground perimeter board covered a hole about two feet long, 6" wide, and 12" deep, a clear leg-breaker if a child put a foot in. I finally put the board back myself after it went unrepaired for a couple of weeks.

Both of these were clear safety issues, and neither was a multi-hour project. If we can't get things like this fixed now, what's it going to be like with half the maintenance staff?

Anna said...

What is up with earthquake prevention and the schools? Wasn't that what the recent levy was about? Why isn't retrofitting progressing faster at the vulnerable schools, with many of those schools holding hundreds of kids?

I'm wondering whether I should just take my child out of the earthquake-endangered school until it gets retrofitted or if that's just needless worrying.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Anna, they are getting to it but slowly. And retrofitting is making the building safer but it's not as if the building was built to earthquake codes today. The retrofit is to make it safer, not bring it up to code.

I would suggest going to the Facilities section of the SPS website and looking for the Meng facilities report. You can see how bad off your building is.

Look, all of life is a risk. We may not have a big earthquake for many years out. We could have it tomorrow. I just feel that when you are talking about buildings specifically for children that more care might go into maintaining them.

another mom said...

I wonder if our current elementary school sites can accomodate larger buildings? Would building larger schools involve eminent domain. It is a controversial way to acquire property and was used by the district in the 80's when W.Woodland was built -if my memory serves me- and was very contentious. Schools that accomodate 510-700 kids are significantly larger than what we have now. I read -probably a long time ago- that 425-475 was optimum with regards to capacity and efficiency of operation. Are larger buildings really the best way to go? Melissa not sure if you go back as far as I do but do you have any recollection of the eminent domain thing or the 425-475 capacity?

Jet City mom said...

Look, all of life is a risk. We may not have a big earthquake for many years out. We could have it tomorrow. I just feel that when you are talking about buildings specifically for children that more care might go into maintaining them.

Plus running things into the ground & then doing damage control is not efficient money/time/labor wise.

We can't protect all the people all of the time- but it would be nice if we had some clear & measured movement toward the goal of making schools a safe place for kids.

( & only wish it was as clear and easy to make things safe for them once they become adults)- off topic- but I just read the ABC news report about over 1000 women who have been sexually assaulted while serving in the Peace Corps ( some murdered), and the govt. covered it up, whats more some of their families didn't even know what happened until they returned home.

another mom said...

Found a 1992 article on the Seattle Times site, the article stated that the district acquired property through eminent domain for project in the 80's and mentioned S. Seattle. My memory has not completly vanished, but I got the wrong neighborhood. It also said this:

"Enrollment in city schools is expected to increase by 27 percent, to 56,000 students, by 2010."

Not sure that we hit that 56,000 number yet.

Unknown said...

When you say it like this:

"Seattle Public Schools has a maintenance backlog of only half a billion dollars."

It doesn't sound so bad, does it ? Plenty of money in the budget for more consultants and goofy all-day workshops.

Steve said...

Melissa says

I would suggest going to the Facilities section of the SPS website and looking for the Meng facilities report. You can see how bad off your building is.

The Facilities page on the new SPS site seems very devoid of information, and I couldn't find anything like the "Meng" report there. Does anyone have a direct link? Trying to go back to the old site (the home page anyway) automatically redirects you to the new one.

Anna said...

"I would suggest going to the Facilities section of the SPS website and looking for the Meng facilities report. You can see how bad off your building is."

I saw a school-specific seismic report that another active SSS member posted (I think it was a PDF and came from the SPS website). My child's school is in terrible shape. It frightened me quite a bit.

Maureen said...

The top three HS science materials choices are available for review until March 21st. Details from Elaine Woo are linked to from the SPS Home page.

It would be great if someone who knows something about teaching HS science could check them out and write a summary that would help parents give meaningful input to the committee. Thanks!

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thanks Maureen, for reminding me of this. I'll make a separate thread.

Eminent domain I don't think would be the issue. We have many schools sitting on large plots of land. For example I could see Whitman, Thorton Creek, Eckstein all being rebuilt.

The issue of land comes into play for older buildings that DON'T have what is now considered the right amount of land. An example of this is Montlake. It is quite a dilemma because we throw millions into this old and tiny building that cannot get larger (not without more land) and certainly won't become a better building. For the number of children in the building, I can't see the district ever justifying a rebuild (at least not until they redo all the buildings that can be built bigger).

I personally don't have a problem with a larger elementary (when we were at Whittier it was one of the larger elementaries). However, from my experience on the Closure and Consolidation Committee, I found many parents loved their small schools. Unfortunately, it's just not sustainable.

Eric B said...

Speaking as a civil engineer by training, you have to let go a bit and not obsess about seismic issues or you'll go nuts. That's not to say we shouldn't do our best to make buildings safer, but don't stay up nights worrying about it.

The unfortunate fact is that if we get a worst-case Seattle fault earthquake (shallow magnitude 8+ right downtown), there is going to be widespread destruction. Many or most buildings built or retrofitted before the 1980's are likely to be badly damaged or destroyed.

Honestly, if a large modern (or recently retrofitted) building doesn't collapse outright under those loads, it was an engineering success, even if the building is so badly damaged that it has to be demolished.

I'm not trying to scare people. This is part of living in a seismic zone. The major disasters happen extraordinarily infrequently, but are devastating when they do. You can also take heart that most of the Seattle school buildings have survived several moderate quakes (late 1940's, 1960's, and 2001), so they are not likely to have major issues in the moderate quakes we see on a regular basis.

Anonymous said...

Regarding the Capital money. Didn't the Financial Audit mentions that the District had to pay back the capital fund bacause what Silas was doing wasn't eligible as a capital expense?

A Friend to Seattle

someone said...

tThe school profiles a-z are here:

Believe this is the Meng survey refered to
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/facilities/BTAIII/20062009_bldg_condition_score.pdf

Unknown said...

An example of this is Montlake. It is quite a dilemma because we throw millions into this old and tiny building that cannot get larger (not without more land) and certainly won't become a better building.

Montlake 240 students 17 teachers and 6 staff.

Madronna 280 students 28 teachers 15 staff

An example of larger school buildings is Madronna. It is quite a dilemma because we have thrown millions into this new and shiny building that cannot get larger (given the interest, it is already too big) and certainly won't become a better building. For the number of children in the building, I can't see the district ever justifying the decision to rebuild in the first place.

I personally don't have a problem with a larger elementary (when we were at Whittier it was one of the larger elementaries). However, from my experience on the Closure and Consolidation Committee, I found many parents loved their small schools. Unfortunately, it's just not sustainable.


I personally don't have a problem with smaller schools. I find half empty larger schools not sustainable.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of Facilities Maintenance, the Manager of Maintenance Services, Mark Pflueger, has been terminated.
---Mr. G

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

"Speaking of Facilities Maintenance, the Manager of Maintenance Services, Mark Pflueger, has been terminated."

You know that for sure? When's his last day? March 31st?

Anonymous said...

I also have always wander and tried to understand the justification of Madrona as a K-8 on a small site. There must have been some community buy in at the time as they turned out for the opening. Olchefske originally talked about as TOPS at Madrona. Program placement and community involvement play are necessary to fill a school. There are enough children in the area to fill the building. Also some programs that served low income students purposely kept their classes small and then later were challenged as under enrolled. With the right program the it shoudl be fairly full. joanna

Anonymous said...

thnx for the Meng report.
joanna

Charlie Mas said...

WHOA!

Madrona's enrollment has fallen to 280?!?

The District needs to take a hand in this.

That, my friends, is a struggling school.

Something is seriously, seriously wrong if this school's enrollment is that low.

Johnny Calcagno said...

I saw one report that said 280 (SPS school report), and another that said 453 (OSPI).

I am stunned at how difficult it is to find information/data on the new SPS website. The question is whether the information is actually still there, or gone for good. The site is pretty, I'll give them that.

seattle citizen said...

Jeff Clark, Principal of Denny Middle School, has won the Thomas B. Foster Award for outstanding leadership.

He says he will use the $50,000 grant prize to "to buy one book for every student to recognize their hard work, to purchase musical instruments, and to start an endowment fund that can be used to help pay field-trip or other fees."

Good job, Principal Clark and students of Denny MS!

Here's the Times article.

Paul said...

Lets be frank: The proposed budget does NOT cut a half OR a third of the maintenance staff.

There is a cut yes (and Pfleuger is no big loss there's a dozen middle managers and a recently hired "Assistant Manager" to do whatever it was that he was doing except the firing stuff), but there is also a transfer over to the capital budget for the bulk of those positions.

Its the bunch ABOVE the workers that needs to go. They produce nothing and a number are simply hold-overs from the Potter/Stephens bunch that hide in offices and go for coffee and meetings about how the workers should work.

THAT's the bunch that needs cutting.

anonymous said...

Madrona's enrollment has fallen to 280?!? The District needs to take a hand in this."

This just irks me. The district is fighting McGilvra, trying to use the portables (that their PTSA bought to reduce class size) to increase their class size, and cram more kids into the building. Meanwhile Madrona, a mile away, is severely under enrolled and the district is doing nothing about it.

It's time to fix Madrona. There is no excuse not to.

The neighborhood that Madrona is in has one of the highest rates of private school families in all of Seattle. I'm with Charlie, it's time to address this.

Melissa Westbrook said...

YOu have to wonder - does Madrona have to get as bad off as AAA before they do something? Maybe something to tell Enfield to put on her "to do" list.

Kathy said...

House Bill 1546 will be heard in the Senate on March 14, 2011.

Anonymous said...

The Madrona numbers that you state only reflect the k-5 students, making it appear more under enrolled than it is. The total 2010 is 356 for all students. The total capacity is 485 for K-8. Enrollment for k-5 is 228 students, 6-8 is 128. The respective capacities at each level are, 310 and 210. joanna

Below is a corrected version of my earlier post which had many typos.

I also have always wandered and tried to understand the justification of Madrona as a K-8 on a small site. There must have been some community buy in at the time as they turned out for the opening. Olchefske originally talked about it as TOPS at Madrona. Program placement and community involvement are necessary to fill a school even in the case here, where there are enough children in the area to fill the building. Also some programs that served low income students purposely kept their classes small and then later were challenged as under enrolled. With the right program the it should be fairly full. joanna

Observer said...

Just wanted to throw this in for a light chuckle. I don't normally read the Daily Kos (too lefty for my tastes), but I did happen to enjoy this little ditty:

http://www.dailykos.com/story/2011/03/07/953476/-Notice-to-All-Banker-Types-from-a-Teacher

Anonymous said...

Back to the subject of Madrona. Since the school is now holding additional open houses. For those of you who are curious consider attending one. I'm feeling a little sad that the mistake in enrollment was posted here as Madrona works to build their community.
Below is the email message announcing the open houses:
"Madrona K-8 has added a Saturday Open House. March 19th at 10am. Also added: Thursday March 24th at 9:15 and Tuesday April 12th at 9:15. With Open Enrollment extended because of Transportation issues, Principal Thaxton felt like this was an opportunity to have a weekend open house. Two additional tours have also been added. joanna

Mr. Edelman said...

Both Michelle Buetow and Harium Martin-Morris have filed for Position 3. Buetow shows that she's raised nothing so far. (No surprise there.) Martin-Morris has $7,533.35 in the coffers.

hschinske said...

As I recall, Harium raised a lot of money last time ($63K, was it?) despite running opposite a guy who, to put it bluntly, had no chance of winning. I have always wondered (a)why he had to raise a nickel, and (b)what happens to the money if they don't spend it all. Maybe that $7K is the money he didn't spend last time.

Helen Schinske

Anonymous said...

http://www.seattlechannel.org/videos/video.asp?ID=3061110

Seattle Inside/Out on Friday.
Seattle School District


Public School Parent

Anonymous said...

http://publicola.com/2011/03/10/secreatary-of-education-arne-duncan-to-join-gregoire-for-education-forum/

Video teleconference this Monday with Gov. Gregoire and Arne Duncan.
They are taking questions.

Public School Parent

Anonymous said...

This was forwarded to me:

You are cordially invited to
COFFEE WITH SUPERINTENDENT ENFIELD

Tuesday, March 29, 2011
8:00 – 9:00am
Central Library
1000 Fourth Avenue
10th floor - Betty Jane Narver Reading Room
Parking entrance on Spring Street between Fourth and Fifth avenues.

Please extend this invitation to others who may be interested.

Kindly reply on or before March 22nd to marleen@alliance4ed.org

SPS Parent

Charlie Mas said...

I don't understand. Why would the Madrona school report say that the school has an enrollment of 280 if that isn't the enrollment?

Oh! I see. Madrona has TWO school reports. One for the K-5 (enrollment 280) and one for the 6-8 (enrollment 172).

These school reports also report 28 teachers for each school and an average class size of 22 for the K-5 and no average class size for the 6-8. Are those 28 teachers total for K-8 or are they 28 for K-5 and another 28 for 6-8, like the student numbers. I presume the latter.

In that case, there are only ten students per teacher in the K-5 and there are only 6 students per teacher in the 6-8.

So now I'm thinking that not only is Madrona hopelessly screwed up, but the school reports are hopelessly screwed up as well.

Anonymous said...

New York Times has an interesting article related to the use, validity, and interpretation of value-added scores:

Evaluating New York Teachers, Perhaps the Numbers Do Lie

http://www.nytimes.com/2011/03/07/education/07winerip.html?_r=1&emc=eta1

A reader

Anonymous said...

I think all of the K-8 school reports have the problem Charlie identified in the Madrona school report; there are separate reports for each school for grades K-5 and 6-8 with separate enrollments, but the staff numbers are the same for both. So while you can tell how many students are enrolled K-5 and 6-8, you can't tell by looking at the reports how many staff work with K-5 and how many work with K-8.

A K-8 Parent

seattle citizen said...

Isn't half the point of having a K-8 to have a seamless community, where students progress through eight grades (plus k?) and staff addresses the needs of all students in the building?
Hmm, maybe not, I guess the staff who are supposedly 6-8 NEVER work with K-5 students and staff, and the staff that help ALL students (admin, office, lunch, custodial, PE etc etc) carefully break out the groups when reporting, so proper "data" can attributed...

Why on earth are there separate reports for K-5 and 6-8? Would they fire the principal of the 6-8 for "bad" scores, and give the principal of the K-5 a raise for "good" scores? Oh, wait, it's the same person.

Anonymous said...

Separate reports are necessary especially for capacity management and student counts. The buildings are usually designed in a way that the the two levels are somewhat separate and appropriate peer activities can be provided. Seamless transitions would be great. Transition is still necessary since the needs of the two groups are different. Recess is just one example. Math teachers for middle school are usually math teachers etc. Developmental needs are different.

Office staff, for example, support both. It would be nice to see the reports indicate the total individual staff who are support staff for both levels, and then separate out the staff that serve elementary only and middle school only. I suppose that there are added complications to indicating staff, but there must be a means by which they can accomplish this through such notations as .5 fte.
joanna

Anonymous said...

New study out about New York's Pay for Performance program (the short of it - it was costly and had no measurable positive impact):
http://blogs.edweek.org/edweek/teacherbeat/2011/03/nyc_schoolwide_pay_program_sho.html

Another reader