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Tuesday, April 12, 2011

School Board Meeting Recap

I'm behind on this one and I forgot about something happening today - it's National Library Week and today a picture is going to be taken in every Washington state library.  I hope the schools put this word out and got kids in their school library for the photo.  My apologies.

This came up at the Board meeting where many SPS librarians came to be honored.  One item of interest was that each introduced him/herself and one added that she was also the tech specialist at her school.  One more role that librarians have taken on as MAP usage has come into schools.

Also honored at the Board meeting were members of robotics teams from Franklin, Ballard, Hale and Cleveland.

The first speaker of the night (traditionally a student) was an Eckstein student, Francesca O'Fallon, who was introduced by Eckstein tech teacher, David Wysen.  She spoke of how she had been interested in engineering but reluctant to give it a try.  She followed through and is now making 3-D models in Mr. Wysen's class and wants to go into engineering or architecture.  She was so poised and well-spoken; I'm sure her parents are very proud of her.

As I previously reported on the Capacity Management Work Session thread, there were a number of students and parents there to support their school, Maple Elementary.   They believe their school's enrollment projections are too low and they will lose at least one FTE.  One point made was that Maple didn't receive the letter from the Superintendent encouraging people to voice concerns because Maple's letter was held back pending translations.  When Maple parents complained, the SPS person they spoke with said "Maybe the English-speaking parents should have called earlier."  Wow, that's a pretty tone-deaf statement.

Other speakers included Dorothy Neville who made a very good point about the TIF consulting contract from the last Board meeting.  She said that minutes for that meeting say that the contract was introduced there and it wasn't because there was no contract attached to the agenda.  This seems to be a new tactic from staff that needs to be shut down by the Board every single time.  Staff cannot say something happened if it didn't and then process to a vote the next meeting.  She also questioned giving the contract to a company in California if the contract has an obligation for observation by the consulting team.  (I read the contract and it is all inclusive of their travel but I didn't see a specific number of times they would come for observations.)

One speaker who frequents Board meetings was Omar Tahir.  (I don't give Mr. Tahir much attention as he has frequently yelled at the Board and has been asked to leave Board meetings on occasion.)  But he did speak about capital projects and specifically called out Ron English.  Steve told him that he could not name specific staff but Mr. Tahir stated that he had to use a name because the meeting was being recorded and could later be used in a court case.  He also called for the district to give more contract to minority contractors.  (While I understand what he is saying, his timing is off for raising this issue.)


Chris Jackins, the long-time district watchdog, pointed out more of the instances of staff not providing full information for introduction of items on the agenda.  He stated that 2 of the 5 capital contracts had no bids attached.  Good catch.


He also pointed out that while Pottergate was bad, capital budgets as well as sale of buildings also lose money for the district.


Several speakers talked about elementary counselors and what the loss of them in elementary schools would mean.   One counselor, Sue Quigley, spoke of her work with 700 students (between 2 schools) and how those children would lose that help.  She said there was a new anti-bullying law that requires schools to report any reported incidences within two days.  She said that might not happen as the work the counselors do will either fall to other staff or fall through the cracks.  It was touching that a custodian from Broadview-Thompson came to speak in support of the counselors.  He asked why principals aren't speaking out on this issue.


One point that came out numerous times and is a good argument - help the kids when they are younger and you may have fewer issues when they get older (when smaller problems can become bigger issues).


SEA President Olga Addae came armed with information about how the district is holding back nearly 20% of Title One funds.  She asked what the district was waiting for with these funds for children who need that help.


One speaker, Jennifer Aspeland, talked about how the Families and Education levy is important to pass.  She also said that the case of a Hale teacher who is suing the district over mold issues at Hale went to an appellate court and the teacher won ($395k).


A couple of West Seattle parents advocated for Fairmont Park to be reopened for capacity management in North West Seattle.   There was a bit of envy expressed that the north end schools got schools reopened before their enrollment problems exploded.

PTSA officers from Rainier Beach High School have been coming to Board meetings for months to advocate for their school.  Their diligence has been quite impressive.  This time however I found myself somewhat uncomfortable with their message.

The speaker was complaining that there isn't enough cultural competence with RBHS teachers.  She then gave some examples and to be honest, I didn't get it.  Her examples were
  • a student who was reported to have spoken disrespectfully to the teacher including saying, "this class ruins my f'ing Friday,"  
  • a student who was asked to sit in their assigned seat and wouldn't, 
  • a student who was asked 8 times to read aloud (and the teacher suggested that maybe the student was ADD) and 
  •  the drumline at RBHS was not allowed to perform because of "outrageous" behavior in class.  
This was hard for me to hear for two reasons.  One, many of you have heard me say that behavior standards vary wildly from school to school in middle and high school.  There's a lot of blah, blah about dress codes and behavior codes but teachers allow a wide variety of behaviors and boy, do the kids play off that acceptance.  For example, the issue of sitting in an assigned seat.  I myself might not fight that battle (unless, of course, there had been a lot of thought about separating certain students from each other).

I don't see a cultural competency issue with students speaking respectfully to teachers.  I know, I know  - it goes both ways.  But students should never be allowed to curse at a teacher.  Never.   Also, being part of a school group - band, sports team, drumline - is a privilege, not a right.  As long as the students know the behavior expectations, during performances AND in school, then there shouldn't be a problem.  But yes, you can pull students out of a group if their behavior doesn't meet a standard.

It's hard to judge not knowing the teachers or the students.  But basic civility from a student is not a lot to ask.

And two, I don't like teachers diagnosing students.  Ever.  I don't care how long you have been teaching; you're not a trained medical professional.   I think teachers can make suggestions but not tell someone their child needs medication (I got that once and I was not happy AND it turned out my son was not ADD.)

I missed the STEM report so I hope Dorothy can tell us about it.  She said it was one of the best staff reports she had ever heard, concise and useful.

Robert Boesche, interim CFO, reported the following:
  • they have started working on "job indicators" for the CFO/COO positions and hope to have them done before Spring Break and new people in place by July
  • He said the audit response team work is a high priority for him and he would be talking with the Board's A&F committee.
  • He said they are working on the internal audit position as well with the hope that someone will be in place by May/June.
  • He said they continue to collaborate with the City, working with their audit department on risk assessment.  
  • He stated that the Office of Inspector General was in the district and would have an exit interview about the use of the stimulus money.
  • There was also a OSPI consolidated program review about state/federal programs.  I'll have to see if I can get these reports.
Duggan Harmon went through the latest from the state budget from the Legislature.  He said that it is somewhat better than expected.  He stated the following:
  • there is a decrease of $4.3M with K-4 enhancement eliminated as well as some Running Start funding and reduced child nutrition match.  
  • there were slight increases to maintenance supplies 
  • a new high poverty K-3 class size funding.  SPS has 16 of these schools and that will be between $200-300k.  
  • full day K funding is expanding slightly, up 1% next year and the year after as well.  
  • early adopters of the evaluation of certificated staff will get about $150k.  
  • there was going to be a 3% salary reduction for all state employees and a possible furlough of 5.2 hours.
  • the net gap is $3.2M 
  • they did restore the Highly Capable funding
A lot of this, of course, depends on what the Senate's budget looks like.

The issue of Maple and its projected enrollment came up (clearly the Board members are worried about this issue).  Mr. Boesche said that they are looking at Maple and 3 other (non-specified) schools and will revisit the numbers after Open Enrollment ends.  Tracy said the analysis wouldn't be done until June.   Sherry Carr pushed on how they got to the 450 enrollment for Maple next year.  This is where Tracy said they were not using past patterns as that was under a different enrollment plan.   I just can't buy into that fully as the district knows how the addresses of  students at Maple over the last 10 years.  If the overwhelming majority is from the neighborhood, then I think that would be proof it will sustain even with the change in enrollment plan.

Tom Bishop of Transportation reported that OSPI has been asked to review the costs of changed bell times and rerouting.  He stated the analysis would help his office and that it was free to the district.

Pegi McEvoy, COO, stated that the public access defibrillator program has raised enough funds to have them put into many schools and will start implementation soon.

This is where I left the meeting.  If anyone else has any other important info, let us know.

19 comments:

Stephanie said...

What is K-4 "enhancement"? What exactly are we losing there?

Not Sorry said...

I'm in total agreement, offensive and innappropriate language can not be used in our schools.

Eric B said...

I had two items from the credit where credit is due department:

Dr. Enfield acknowledged the error in what was said to the Maple parents, and said it would not happen again. She went on to announce that more office hours are coming available, and the Maple families will get a slot.

Mr. Boesche's and Ms. McEvoy's Powerpoint presentations were far better than the previous administrations'. They had a basic list of items, without paragraphs of 8-point text. The items were spoken to but not read from the presentation.

Jan said...

Thanks, Eric. I hadn't heard about No. 1, and hadn't noticed No. 2. But you are right. Credit where credit is due.

seattle citizen said...

Yea for proper use of Powerpoint! Whoo hoo!

And the effort to find more time for office hours, given her busy schedule, is also welcome.

Word Verifier is poningma. TMI.

Anonymous said...

Hale teacher didn't "win" at the court of appeals. The court of appeals decided instead ruled that the district should not have won on summary judgment. Means it goes back to be tried, if the district doesn't refile a summary judgment motion with affidavits to cover what the court of appeals thought wasn't in the record the first time.

LawDawg

KG said...

It was a good meeting to see Melissa Westbrook speak out about Bill Gates and the fact his son only has 17 kids in a class at Lakeside and then she would take him seriously when he sent his kids to public schools. That was a good one.

Bill Gates also has said in the recent past that public employees receive to generous of pensions.

Coming from someone who has 55 Billion that does not pass the straight face test.

Nice job at the meeting counselors.
I would like to know the logic from the Board why they would cut your positions? We know there is none. You gave great logic on why to retain elementary counselors and were crystal clear. They have none and this is a fight you should win for the children of Seattle Public Schools. Keep it up!!!

Dorothy Neville said...

I appreciated that Princess Shareef and her team of CHS teachers (and a student) spoke succinctly, sharing a multitude of stories very efficiently. The powerpoint was clean and no one read from the slides. I thought they seemed enthused about their program, shared successes and were candid about their challenges.

Now Kay points out that the successes are from Project Lead the Way classes and homegrown classes, not from NTN material. Nor are teachers using the NTN technology much. They also seem to be getting lots of contact with local businesses. While they should have started to develop that local base before opening (and one thing some of us were suspicious of was that it didn't seem like they were developing partnerships) they do seem to be doing so now.

I want to second what Eric said. Susan Enfield seemed appalled at the way a Maple parent was received over the phone. I am guessing she will take care of that.

As for the RBHS parents and the anecdotes. What I think the message was was that the teachers need some cultural training so that they can maintain authority in the classroom and deal with the attitude and the F-bombs without provoking or escalating the situation. But I could be wrong.

(Along those lines but much grimmer, did anyone read about the kid murdered in a HS in Chicago? And the fault lies in RTTT or whatever it was that required the school to fire all its teachers. So this gang-heavy school lost all the people who knew the students by names, who had the skills and the relationships that could (and did) de-escalate violence. But now with an entire new teaching team, there are no relationships, no way of reading and calming down situations. Therefore, a beating death of a student resulted.)

Anonymous said...

Melissa,

"It was touching that a custodian from Broadview-Thompson came to speak in support of the counselors."

I agree with you. His wife is a counselor!

Another12132011

Floor Pie said...

As a parent of a child with autism, I can see what the PTSA officer from Rainier Beach High School was getting at. Rudeness and rigidity can be, unfortunately, part of the territory with autism. In many cases, these kids are high-functioning and can pass to a point, so when they're being rude or rigid, it just looks like they're being "bad" and the teachers approach it as a behavior problem.

Skilled adults who are experienced with autism know how to set boundaries by not engaging the rudeness and keeping the student on task. They set a tone that rudeness is unacceptable without actually penalizing the student -- because in many cases the student really, truly can't help it. They get upset, their brain simply isn't able to regulate, and they blurt stuff out. It's a difficult balance.

Stu said...

It was a good meeting to see Melissa Westbrook speak out about Bill Gates and the fact his son only has 17 kids in a class at Lakeside and then she would take him seriously when he sent his kids to public schools. That was a good one.


Except that Bill Gates' son doesn't go to Lakeside.

stu

KG said...

In the debate to keep the counselors I find it interesting that school principals have not spoken up about this. Well when you have a minor league place to go, Like the Stanford Center if one does not make it at the school facility there is reason to protect their own future. This makes principals possibly agreeing that over burdensome cental admin. is more important than early intervention for school children in need. Or do the principals agree with this to support their contract that starting in 2011-2012
will allow up to a 10K bonus for improved academic scores for their buildings. This bonus goes to the principal.

Also on furloughs ,

Principals will agree to them as long as other units agree to them.

Again this seems to make them complicit that Central is much to large.

Just some thoughts. What do others think?

KG said...

Stu,

Fact is that people who manipulate government as Bill Gates does and tries to do it at all levels does not give him much credit in my book.

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

It would have been helpful had the RBHS PTA officer referenced an autistic child but she didn't. If you are referring to Asperger's, then sure but that child's teacher should know that about him/her.

SeattleSped said...

Except the RBHS gen ed teacher may feel it's not his/her problem or responsiblity to help that student... THAT's a culture issue that needs immediate change.

Floor Pie said...

Melissa, it does sound like the person speaking at the meeting should have been more specific.

It's true that the teachers know what Aspergers is and who has it, but the rudeness can still catch us off guard. And, yes, SeattleSped, there are some teachers who know the student is autistic but don't quite *get* that they're not misbehaving on purpose. I'm his parent and I even have to remind myself sometimes. It's very counterintuitive.

Eddie said...

"PTSA officers from Rainier Beach High School have been coming to Board meetings for months to advocate for their school. Their diligence has been quite impressive. This time however I found myself somewhat uncomfortable with their message."

Yeah, I heard their message also. One of the persons that spoke for them said that RBHS needs "culturally specific teachers." WTH does that mean? From everything I heard her say, it sounded as if she was saying that teachers at Rainier Beach need to be black, and that no teachers of any other race can interact effectively with students at that school.

Please tell me I'm wrong.

Eddie said...

"Please tell me I'm wrong."

Two weeks and no response. Guess I was right.