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Friday, April 08, 2011

Capacity Management Work Session, Part 1

Upfront, I want to get a few things off my chest from what I heard at both the Work Session and the Board meeting.  I'm going to write this opinion and then move on to what was said at the Work Session and Board meeting.
  • I concur with Charlie, with Meg Diaz, with Dorothy Neville and anyone else who has taken a look at the enrollment projections for next year.  Something is not right that so many schools  have lower numbers than this year.  I have not heard anything yet to convince me this will be true.   The district's demographer does not seem to be indicating that numbers will go down anywhere in the district. 
  • As I previously reported, CFO Robert Boesche stated that it is better to under-staff than over-staff schools.  My question now, as then, is "Better for whom"?   While I understand the need in these fiscally troubled times to go conservative, we are not a shrinking district.  Also, when you under-staff at a school from the previous year, you may lose a teacher or staff member committed to that school.  But if they are gone and have moved on (because, after all, they have to make a living and cannot wait and hope that their job will come back at that school), then you've lost them.  And, the hiring pool is greatly diminished after October 1 so you may not be getting the best you can.   Michael De Bell brought this up at the Board meeting.  
  • There was a contingent from Maple Elementary at the Board meeting who had several speaking spots and made a pretty good case for their school.  They had a parent who has been a business analyst for 17 years looking at the figures.  Their enrollment has run - for the last decade - over a certain figure (my notes reflect 460 but I could have it wrong but it has been stable).  The district's projection is somewhat lower (by a few students) but that lower number means they lose a staff position.  As the Maple community members stated, these are real children who will be affected by these changes.   They, unfortunately, turned it into a North versus South issue because they had done their homework and found out that a school to the north had almost the same enrollment but their enrollment projection was ticked up a few spaces to where that school would keep their staff.  
  • At the Board meeting, there was discussion of this issue (and this was after public testimony so many people had left including the Maple community folks).   Tracy Libros was asked about why their figure would be lower.  She stated that they couldn't use the historical data because "it was from a different assignment plan."  I found that dumb-founding because (a) she does have one year of data to show that the previous enrollment figure, even with a new neighborhood plan, had held and that discounting a figure that had held for 10 years at a previously named "assignment area" school should not be done.  
  • Rachel Cassidy, the district demographer, is going to look at the Maple issue.  Robert Boesche said that they are still doing analysis so those figures could change (but Tracy said they wouldn't know until June).  When I heard Tracy say that magic word - June - all I could think was "Danger Will Robinson!"  (Sorry if you are too young to get that reference.)  Meaning, folks when you get towards the end of the year, it is too late.  The JS headquarters goes into sleep mode in the summer and you will get nothing out of them and no changes.  
I cannot urge you enough to write to the Board and challenge these enrollment projections. 

I know and can understand the worry at the district at over-staffing schools.  I say look at the schools with the most sustained enrollment over the last 5-7 years and make sure they are fully staffed.  If the district staff are wrong at one of those schools, and another school comes up high on its enrollment, move that staff person to the second school.  (I know that is a simplistic way to put it but you see my point.)

The main thing is that it looks and sounds like the district is, at least partially, trying to balance the budget on the backs of schools.  Cutting school staff on some newfound way to project lower enrollment projections seems wrong to me.  I think the Board should hear - loud and clear - that parents are not happy.

36 comments:

mirmac1 said...

How about underfunding Central Admin and overfunding schools? Why isn't that so horrible?

Mona said...

Hope they plan to move some of their five Central "communications" people into schools, once the comm folk figure out that they can't pleasantly spin this issue next fall. Guess what, you're not re-rewriting press releases, you're tutoring kids in English composition!

I agree with mirmac1, let's quit overfunding Central and start fully funding the schools.

StopTFA said...

Isn't it funny how the June deadline coincides with the moved up date for Tier III hires? Sure does open alot of spots for the Teach for Awhiles....

seattle citizen said...

"When I heard Tracy say that magic word - June - all I could think was "Danger Will Robinson!" (Sorry if you are too young to get that reference.) Meaning, folks when you get towards the end of the year, it is too late. The JS headquarters goes into sleep mode in the summer"

Also, as has been mentioned elsewhere, RIF deadline is May 15. If, as I think I read, total district enrollment projection is 1000 fewer students, then that's 40 teachers gone May 15. If the district stays at the same enrollment next year, those positions will need to be filled (and budgeted for....or maybe not either...). Additionally, if the district actually grows, which I understand to be the case, then even more positions will need to be filled in October. If it grows by a thousand, then come October 80 positions will need to be filled...or not...
NOt only is this disruptive to the forty positions, but it cause big ripplese around the district when RIFs occur, as seniority bumps people around, forcing them to change schools, etc.

This isn't even accounting for the loss of admin and support FTE that occurs when schools fall below magic cut-off numbers, below which they get fewer admins and fewer supports. This is what Maple is experiencing (and other schools, too.)

seattle citizen said...

Yes, StopTFA, this issue must be watched like a hawk: If there are RIFs, and then TFA is hired into these vacated positions, all h*** should break lose in the city. One hopes.

Joanie said...

Last year when we were talking about budget, we were told that we had to prepare to take whatever number of students enrolled at our school. No limits. Classrooms would be as large as was needed and no space in the building was inviolate. Administration looked over the building (northend) for every possible teaching space and our principal cautioned that there would be no limit to class size. We were required to accommodate. We did get big primary classes although those classes have decreased as people moved around the District. Still, some children were accommodated in off-grade level classrooms.

Perhaps the same policy exists. Make room regardless.

I think most teachers agree that administration is way too big.

JvA said...

According to a mail I got from the PTSA (I'm a potential future Maple parent), Maple has had enrollment of 460-470 for at least 10 years running. No one can figure out where this 451 projection came from.

JvA said...

Also:

Current Maple enrollment is 463. No one can figure out why the projection for this fall would suddenly drop to 451. (Unless they figure they've finally done enough to disgust parents like me, who were already on the fence about sending their kids to the average-at-best schools down here, that they've managed to force them private.)

In 2009-10, Maple had a 59% FRL and 29% English-language-learners population.

The north-end school you referenced, Adams, has a projected enrollment of 454, which the administration rounded up to 460. (Don't know what they're teaching in Everyday Math, but I was taught that you didn't round up until 5.)

In 2009-10, Adams had a 33% FRL and 11% English-language-learners population.

Not to say that Adams doesn't also deserve that staff, but the decision does seem either arbitrary or prejudiced.

Eric M said...

It's a way to clean out spots for TfA.

We're also seeing, anecdotally, unusual pressure on new teachers all over the district to get out of their seats, presumably because there's someone "better" coming.

A good new teacher in our building got his walking papers (He was hired in October, taking over classes staffed by a string of short-term subs), and received a bad evaluation, and was told he wasn't coming back by January.

If you follow Wendy Kopp, TfA CEO and fellow Broad Foundation Board member with Maria Goodloe-Johnson (cronyism?), you'll already be aware she has much bigger plans for Seattle than what the Board has publicly agreed to.

Dr. Enfield has orally reaffirmed her strong commitment to TfA this week in a meeting with students.

So get ready for the 5-weekers.

Teaching is easy. Anyone can do it. All you need is enthusiasm, a loud PR machine behind you, and an exit strategy in 2 years.

anonymous said...

"It's a way to clean out spots for TfA."

Why do you say this? I don't believe it has any merit at all.

If Maple (or any other school) needs more staffing, later on, TFA would be able to apply for open spots, but so would all of the SPS teachers in the displaced pool.

As for the displaced pool it's a grab bag. As Melissa mentioned above "the hiring pool is greatly diminished after October 1 so you may not be getting the best you can". And she's right about this. Sometimes fantastic teachers are in the displaced pool due to circumstances beyond their control. Other times, you are scraping the bottom of the barrel and are forced to select candidates that you would otherwise not have selected.

So let TFA compete with displaced pool teachers. It's good to have options. If a TFA recruit is not competitive, the principal and hiring committee of the school won't select them for the job. Schools have absolutely no obligation to hire TFA candidates, so what do we have to lose?

Charlie Mas said...

Peon wrote:
" If a TFA recruit is not competitive, the principal and hiring committee of the school won't select them for the job. Schools have absolutely no obligation to hire TFA candidates, so what do we have to lose?"

This is true... if, in fact, schools have absolutely no obligation to hire TfA candidates. What if principals are under pressure to hire them?

While we have no evidence of such pressure and no evidence of such pressure is likely to ever surface, we remain suspicious.

It's a tricky situation. On one hand, the District cannot prove a negative. On the other hand, the absence of evidence is not evidence of absence.

The District's claims of innocence far on deaf ears because they have zero credibility.

So we are left with suspicious minds.

Eric M said...

If it is truly a competitive process, how could TfA kids be hired AT ALL?

They don't have a valid Washington State Teaching Certificate, which the SPS Human Resources website says is a bare minimum for application.

They don't have ANY teaching experience, generally speaking (maybe some worked in a day care or something).

They've got JUST 5 weeks training, much of which is given over to establishing loyalty to the TfA brand.

This is exactly my point, that's there's some evidence of behind-the-scenes cocktail party handshaking that translates into a big push for TfA. Cronyism at its finest.

If TfA kids aren't given a head start and the inside lane, how could they EVER be offered a job, or even an interview?

That'd be like a college grad with no experience and virtually no training knocking on the door of a hospital and saying, "I want to be a Nurse. I'm enthusiastic and think I can make a difference. Can I have a job?"

You don't think principals could be put under some pressure to hire TfA kids over legitimate candidates?

Think again.

Charlie Mas said...

I'll tell you this: The projected enrollment numbers used for the budgets are COMPLETELY WRONG.

Which Garfield class is likely to be larger? The current graduating senior class from the old assignment plan or the incoming freshman class under the new assignment plan? Remember that we have only one year of track record on the new plan and it gave us an absolutely HUGE freshman class.

If the incoming freshman class is almost certainly going to be larger, then there is no way that the enrollment at Garfield can shrink by over 100 students, is there?

Bird said...

I may have missed it, but could someone post a link to the projected numbers?


They don't sound good from the discussion so far, but I need to see them myself.

Thanks.

Melissa Westbrook said...

"It's good to have options. If a TFA recruit is not competitive, the principal and hiring committee of the school won't select them for the job. Schools have absolutely no obligation to hire TFA candidates, so what do we have to lose?"

Honestly, you are either naive or believe that a 5-week trained college grad is as good as a certified teacher (either new or experience). And that's fine if you believe that. I don't.

I think if you asked most parents (and yes, I will go out on a climb and say "most"), they would want the fully qualified person. Studies have shown TFA does NOT do better overall than fully certified teachers. (They do better in some subjects and do better than non-certified hires.)

You can believe "oh, they don't have to hire them." Time will prove that belief.

Follow the money. The district will hire them. Gates wants it, the Alliance wants and it will happen. That it may not exactly play out in the way TFA or the district want it to, well, that's their problem.

You don't start up a whole office complete with a Regional TFA director if you don't believe they will get hired. Federal Way is small potatoes.

I have made my mind up that I can't change the course of what is happening in public education in this country or this state. But I sure can use everything I know and everything I know to do to force transparency in this district and allow parents to fully understand what is happening and make their own judgments with actions to follow that hold leadership accountable.

As I said in my Board remarks about Bill Gates and public education,

'The day Bill Gates puts HIS kids in public schools, I'll take him seriously. The day Bill Gates has a TFA recruit teaching HIS kids, I'll take his views seriously. The day Bill Gates has his kids in a class bigger than 16-17, then I'll take his views seriously.

If he wants to experiment on K-12 education so badly, why doesn't he do it at his alma mater, Lakeside?"

Emile said...

Per Charlie's point regarding TFA recruitment: "While we have no evidence of such pressure and no evidence of such pressure is likely to ever surface, we remain suspicious."

I find it curious that a Google search for "Seattle Public Schools Teach for America recruitment" and you get SPS's newly hired Manager for Recruitment, and his only previous experience is with Teach for America. If the person recruiting new teachers has a bias for TFA, that will affect the pool that principals have to hire from.

Maureen said...

Following Emile'ssuggestion, I found Nathan Fitzpatrick's Linked In profile.

One year as a TFA corps member then three years at TFA corporate. Started at SPS this month just in time for teacher RIFS and rehiring. Coincidence?

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

No Emile, even if he did have a bias for TFA (and he may) he could not reduce, or eliminate the displaced pool candidates. They can apply for any, and every, open position that they are qualified for and he could not change that.

Charlie, though I wouldn't put it past them, staff pressuring principals into hiring TFA is pure speculation, and I don't like to react to assumption and speculation. Even if it were true though (and there is no evidence it is) I doubt staff could pressure principals into hiring TFA recruits. Decisions are not made by principals alone. Schools have hiring committees made up the principal, teachers, and parents. Do you think teachers are going to select a TFA candidate? How about parents?

Maureen said...

The new recruiter started 4/11. Is the downtown hiring freeze officially over?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you for that info, Maureen.

Peon, you said:
"Schools have hiring committees made up the principal, teachers, and parents."

First of all, not all teachers come in via a hiring committee. Second, principal has last say. Third, I've been on one of these committees and I was appalled at the favortism towards the student teacher who had been at the school and how leading the questions are.

Dorothy Neville said...

Maureen, there is a TIF funded position of Recruiter budgeted at $115K this current year. According to the HR workshop presentation, that position was vacant. So this new hire would most likely be for that position.

Therefore... should this recruiter be strictly recruiting for the positions in schools covered by the TIF grant?

KG said...

Capacity management.

Yes, the capacity of the John Stanford Center is BLOATED with Adminocrats. It is OK though, because they are more important than the students. LOL

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

" principal has last say. "

Sure I guess officially the principal does has the last say, and can veto a choice made by the hiring committee. But then why would they even have hiring committees? The elementary school that my kids attended, where I sat on a couple of hiring committees, gave each committee member an equal vote. The votes were tallied after all interviews were complete, and the candidate with the most votes was offered the position. Pretty transparent, and fair.

" I've been on one of these committees and I was appalled at the favortism towards the student teacher who had been at the school and how leading the questions are."

The time a student teacher spends at a school is like an extended job interview. If a student teacher did a great job while at my school they might be one of my "favorites" too. I'd much rather choose someone that I observed for 4-8 months and who did a good job, than someone I had only met in a one hour interview. But to say the interview questions were misleading is puzzling to me?? The hiring committees has to ask each candidate the exact same questions? In the exact same order? So how could the questions be leading? Could you expand on your experience Melissa?

Melissa Westbrook said...

No, I don't think I will, Peon, because you seem to be here simply to challenge me. Very tiresome and not worth it.

seattle citizen said...

I don't know, Peon. While nothing can (yet) be proven, there are a confluence of factors that lead one to believe TFA WILL be hired:
1) Contract;
2) Desire by last superintendent, present supt., and outside agitators (and funders) such as Broad/Gates et all;
3) reconfiguration of CBA and policy to change rehire policy and schedule;
4) hiring of a person from TFA for "recruitment," which, perhaps, is recruitment for TIF schools, which are the schools TFA's shiny new non-teachers are supposedly to be targeted into.

It is naive to believe, in my opinion, that there will not be active pressure from outside hiring committees to get some TFA in there, by hook or by crook. A huge RIF might occur in May, with perhaps few rehires or hiring until final counts in October, which opens lots of positions. The low-ball on enrollment seems suspiciously in line with a push for TFA.

StopTFA said...

I've posted this on a few other threads but, did you know that TFA will use the MAP scores from their victims at SPS Title 1 schools for "professional development" (and surely try to bolster their proof of "effectiveness")

Thanks to Joan's excellent efforts the SPS contract with TFA is not as egregious as that with the Red Clay school district. There are clear violations of FERPA in TFA's use of your child's MAP data. Could be basis for a challenge. Besides of course the RCW regarding limited certificates. Have the patsies in Olympia rewritten that law yet?

WV: messwit

anonymous said...

Yes, Melissa, I do challenge you at times. You have been "fighting" the district for so long, and have become so jaded, that you are unable to see much positive in anything related to the district or staff any more. I'm just not there yet. I acknowledge that there are many unsettling things happening in our district, and they need to be tackled head on, but when there is a positive side, I am able to see that too. And I like to point it out.

As a blog administrator it's hard to believe that you don't expect some of you opinions and post to be challenged???

Anonymous said...

Peon,

Melissa didn't say that. She just said she knows when she's being baited. Can't say I blame her.

grumpy

David said...

Peon, do you work for the district?

anonymous said...

No. I dont work for the district and i am not a plant.

KG said...

Melissa,

Good job on Bill Gates at the School Board meeting. To many people think that he is some kind of Perfect Being. I know he was in an article and was quoted that public employees have to good of pensions. Coming from a person that has 55 billion is quite a bit of LUNACY.

Jan said...

Eeeeee, Melissa. I usually agree with you (and try ALWAYS to agree with grumpy, as I am a member of a secret grumpy fan club that he/she probably doesn't know exists), but I side with Peon on this one. I have never served on a school committee to select teachers, and was interested in Peon's comment that the questions are all scripted, so people cannot deviate/show favoritism (at least in that way)/etc. On the other hand, I have no reason to disbelieve what you said -- so I was looking forward to your reply on how you had seen favoritism play out in your experience. I suppose you can always just decline to continue a conversation if you don't think it worth your while, but I thought your cut off was unfair and abrupt.

On the other hand, Peon, as much as I appreciate having someone challenge assumptions and suspicions (as opposed to blindly assuming they are all fact) it is possible to "push" credulity too far. You say:
Charlie, though I wouldn't put it past them, staff pressuring principals into hiring TFA is pure speculation, and I don't like to react to assumption and speculation. Even if it were true though (and there is no evidence it is) I doubt staff could pressure principals into hiring TFA recruits. Decisions are not made by principals alone. Schools have hiring committees made up the principal, teachers, and parents. Do you think teachers are going to select a TFA candidate? How about parents?

And I think -- how can this be? How can you say this? This entire thread has highlighted absolutely noncredible enrollment numbers for next year. Nothing coming from downtown attempts to explain why these numbers are so much lower than current enrollment would suggest. No explanations have been given. The District was wildly wrong last year, so there is no basis on which to conclude they should be accurate, even if we don't understand them.
We do know that the EFFECT of adopting these numbers will mean a huge number of RIFs in May. We also know that at least some people in the District are quite pro-TFA, and would love to see as many opportunities as possible open up for TFA teachers in Seattle next year (particularly as there is no quota, so if they DON'T creat the spaces, the TFA-ers don't get hired). One way to increase those numbers is to rif a whole lotta teachers this spring. So -- here is what we have:

Contd

Jan said...

1. The numbers make no sense (and District staff either cannot, or will not, do anything to explain them).
2. Because being wrong and wildly short would ordinarily NOT be in the District's best interest (the better riffed teachers will find jobs elsewhere, schools will be disrupted, parents will be ticked, etc.), logic suggests that one may want to look for other, unspoken, reasons why the District is doing something so damaging to its own interests.
3. Now, add the extraordinary push last spring to get a TFA contract into Seattle, the fact that the contract does not "require" any TFA hiring -- so if you want it to happen, you have to make it happen some other way (like creating LOTS of openings).
Is it unreasonable speculation/assumption to think that principals do not know that downtown management will be aware whether they hire some, or no, TFA recruits, and that that might matter?
Is it inappropriate speculation/assumption to be concerned that rigged enrollment numbers (used to such great effect last year in the NSAP) are not entirely incompetence (because then you would assume that when they are challenged, the District would defend them, or fix them) but instead are entirely in line with an internal, "unspoken" agenda that the District is not being honest about?
Look at seattle citizen's four factors. At what point does thinking that "assumptions" and "speculation" are sort of "icky" become a cop out, permitting District managers with an unspoken agenda carte blanche to manipulate the authority granted by the Board, on the grounds that it would be unseemly for us to "assume" or "speculate?"
It is one thing (and useful) to point out that assumptions/speculation are not the same thing as hard facts -- but another thing entirely to refuse to attempt to discern whether something else might be going on when the actions you see do not prima facie make sense.

Anonymous said...

Uh, what she said...

grumpy