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Wednesday, May 25, 2011

Gentle Pressure, Relentlessly Applied

I attended the CPPS annual meeting last night. Dr. Enfield spoke and talked around a number of questions. She didn't answer any of them, but she expressed a lot of enthusiasm about answering them in the near-term, but unspecified, future. In the context of her talk she introduced us to her new motto or slogan or modus operandi, or whatever: "Gentle Pressure, Relentlessly Applied."

She got the motto from her former boss, Vicki Phillips of Portland Public Schools, but I like it anyway. I'm going to use it also. That's going to be my modus operandi as well. Going forward I will be in front of the Board and the District leadership at every opportunity and I will be in their email inboxes relentlessly applying gentle pressure. It will be grueling, but I think it has the potential to be as wearing on them as it is sure to be on me.

And what will I be pressuring them about? I have a long list. Perhaps some of you can add to it.

1. The District needs to fulfill the transparency commitment made in the Strategic Plan. See the last three paragraphs of the Plan as adopted:
Each strategy will be developed with a detailed timeline that will include milestones and performance measurements so that we can assess our success.
We will schedule regular School Board reviews of our progress.
To honor our commitment to transparency, all materials will be posted on the SPS Web site.
2. The District needs to fulfill the community engagement protocols of the Strategic Plan. The Community Engagement Protocols have been removed from the District web site and the District now denies their existence. There remains, however, a reference to them from an October 2008 Board meeting.
The protocol serves as a guarantee for how the district will communicate and engage with key stakeholders for each major project of the strategic plan:
Post project information on the SPS website (“Get Involved”section)
3. The Board needs to fulfill its governance duty of enforcing policy. Step One: develop a process for policy enforcement (they have none).

4. The superintendent needs to make the Program Placement process transparent, honest, and compliant with the Board Policy.

5. The District needs to consider non-geographic communities in the capacity management process.

6. The District needs to correct the erroneous data on the School Reports as they promised to do in December 2010.

7. The District needs to explain how the WSS allocation for non-traditional schools was determined.

8. The District needs to explain how they determine which schools are traditional schools and which schools are non-traditional schools.

9. The District needs to fulfill their hundreds of unmet commitments to students and families.

10. The Board needs to devise some sort of effective community engagement.

11. The Board needs to respond to members of the public who give testimony at Board meetings.

12. The District needs to measure and confirm the quality and efficacy of academic programs (ALO, Spectrum, APP, ELL, Special Ed, language immersion, Montessori, alternative ed, Middle College, Interagency, etc.) and publish reports of those measurements.

13. The District needs to adequately staff and train for students with IEPs.

14. The District needs to assure early and effective interventions for students working below grade level.

15. The District needs to assure meaningful and appropriate challenge for students working beyond grade level.

16. The District needs to allow mid-year mobility for students choosing to change high schools at the semester break.

17. The District needs to de-certify ineffective advanced learning programs.

18. The District needs to enforce the Spectrum delivery model.

Added to the original list:

19. The District needs to explain why the enrollment projections for budgeting are different from the enrollment projections for capacity management.

20. The District needs to be transparent about their budget development process. They told us they were doing it one way, but the RSBDP story revealed that they were doing it a very different way.

The Board and the District staff can expect weekly emails encouraging them to make progress on all of these issues and any more that folks may recommend to me. I will confront them on each of these issues every time I see them until the issues are resolved. I encourage each of you to do the same. We'll see how much the superintendent enjoys gentle pressure relentlessly applied.

23 comments:

Never say die said...

Hear, hear. I totally agree about enforcing Specrum as I have a student at Lawton who will be "blended" next year. My current feeling is that keeping students in all classes, gen ed and Spectrum, together from year to year would be a good thing, with pullouts for math or reading as parents or teachers or even students see fit. This mixing up of the kids every year to balance out behavior issues or whatever, seems counter-productive. Students can interact with those in other classes in a variety of ways at PE, special projects, etc.
Anyways, my question is what Advance Learning programs need eliminating?

Meg said...

The whole school budget process needs to be transparent and open, not just the initial allocations.

At present, the district's transparency on the budget mostly extends to giving a calendar and showing initial school allocations on the website.

A critical element of staffing schools begins after enrollment numbers come in. But that segment of budgeting appears to have significantly decreased board oversight and opportunity for public input.

Several directors, once the mid-May line has been crossed, appear to take the view that it's "too late" to ask for any changes to budgets. And yet a fair number of staffing adjustments for schools happens... around or after mid-May.

Charlie Mas said...

In response to Never say die's question, the Advanced Learning programs that need to be eliminated are:

* A.L.O. programs that don't actually provide accelerated, deeper, and broader instruction.

* Spectrum programs that don't actually provide accelerated, deeper, and broader instruction.

* Spectrum programs that cannot attract enough students to form the necessary critical mass to sustain a learning community.

I also think that the elementary Spectrum program for the Washington service area should be moved from Muir to Madrona so it is more centrally located in the service area, to provide overflow capacity in grades 6-8, and to demonstrate the commitment to meeting the academic needs of advanced learners by the new leadership at Madrona.

Spectrum lover said...

Never,

I hope you are going to the meeting at Lawton tomorrow night with Board member DeBell. You can ask him if the board signed off on the Spectrum reinterpretation for next year at your school. We love the program as it is across the bridge at Whittier and would not like to see your "blending"show up here. Whittier works for all kids - in the program or not.

Don't mess with success

Never said...

I agree that ALO programs can vary. In our cluster Haye is very strong, I believe, and I have been told Blaine is very, very weak. I am curious how Bryant's program is working as they have presented it as a comparable program to Spectrum. The advanced learning dept. needs to get the message out that these programs stimulate learning for all kids. The elitist label needs to be addressed and countered.

Charlie Mas said...

I wonder if I should write all twenty (or so) emails all on the same day each week or if I should spread them out and write four a day each weekday. I think the four a day plan would be more relentless.

Never said...

And yes I am going to the meeting and I will be asking that exact question.

Salander said...

Just out of curiousity- to what was Enfield referring to as an example of applying her new motto?

Thanks Cliff! Let us know what we can do to help.

mirmac1 said...

Funny you should ask about the communication protocol. I believe it is this:

Pay current or former employees of Strategies 360 to put words in their mouth and spin everything. Like for TIF. It's all PBCS! "Participation, Cooperation, and Buy-In: Stakeholder Engagement". No need to worry about showing results or using evidence-based methods! Check it out right here.

Anonymous said...

Whittier spectrum lover, be aware the counter to Whittier's self contained spectrum is that there are not enough seats for all spectrum students. So some are sitting in gen ed class without the advaned coursework. That's the argument against spectrum. That it's not fair, so we should not have self contained, plus you will hear "tracking for the elites." Of course, you may ask why do they limit seating numbers like that? Well it is because there are not enough to make up a 2nd classroom or can't do splits, or it is just impossible, etc.

At McClure, you run into seating limits too.

-Go figure

someone said...

@Charlie - are these the protocols you couldn't find? -

Seattle Public Schools
Public Engagement Protocol
http://www.seattleschools.org/area/strategicplan/20081121_engagement_protocol_appendix.pdf

Anonymous said...

Gentle pressure, relentlessly applied. How'd that work out for Principal Floe?

grumpy

Kathy said...

Due to contractual obligations, I suspect the district will have to absorb cuts to teacher salaries.

However, we don't have any further budget work sessions.

Strategic work session is scheduled for June 8th. Public Hearing re: budget is scheduled on June 22nd.

To increase transparency, I'd like to see a budget meeting before the June 22nd hearing. It would help increase transparency...otherwise, I'm afraid it might be too hard to figure out.

Charlie Mas said...

Here is the link to the community engagement protocols for Strategic Plan Initiatives.

http://www.seattleschools.org/
area/strategicplan/20081121
_engagement_protocol_appendix.pdf

Anonymous said...

Never,
The process of revising the Spectrum program took a lot of time and energy at Lawton this year. The story is that the teachers want to place the kids the way they want to, andwith Spectrum all in one class they can't consider friendship groups or teacher fit in placing a child.

So they fixed that by the new "Cluster Grouping Model", which categorizes kids as 1-5, and distributes the "1s" (Spectrum identified) between two classrooms.

But the "2s" and "5s" are clustered together each year in one classroom, without regard to friendship groups (they can never be placed with a "1" friend) or teacher fit (they will always go in the one classroom with no "1s", regardless of whether the teacher is a fit).

So they solved one problem by creating the exact same problem with a different group of kids.

Either they suck at problem solving, or the problem they solved wasn't the one they said it was.

I believe the latter, and that the real problem is a belief that Spectrum is "elitist" and "unfair". At least, that's what you get from the teachers and principal in rare moments of candor.

Sometimes say "die"

Charlie Mas said...

Phew!

I just got done sending four emails, one each on topics 1 through 4. Tomorrow I will write about topics 5 through 8. I will continue to write and send four emails to the Board and the superintendent every weekday so that I write about each topic once a week.

Then I need to get in front of them at their community meetings with these 20 items. I need to testify at Board meetings about these 20 items. I need to show up at campaign events and every public event to confront them with these twenty items.

Relentless is the the key word. I don't know if I can be gentle, but I'm pretty sure I can be relentless.

Dorothy Neville said...

How about a shout out to Chris Jackins, king of the gentle relentless pressure.

At the last board meeting, not once, not twice but THREE times during the meeting a board member asked staff to clarify a point raised by Chris's public testimony.

It was beautiful. And you should have seen Chris's face by the third time it happened.

mirmac1 said...

Oooh, I'll have to watch the video, Dorothy! How momentous, to have testimony penetrate the fog!

none1111 said...

At the last board meeting, not once, not twice but THREE times during the meeting a board member asked staff to clarify a point raised by Chris's public testimony.

Really?! I can't watch the entire meeting just to see this (although it's tempting), but I am curious if it was the same director each time, or multiple. Do you remember who it was that asked the questions?

I guess the jury is out on how whether this phrase will be appropriate for the new administration, but yes, Gentle but Relentless is a wonderfully perfect description of Chris!

Sahila said...

there's room here for drama queens and kings, for bomb throwers (figuratively), for data divas, for quiet relentlessness, week after week, month after month, year after year....

drip, drip, drip.....

Juana said...

Use all possible ethical methods (gentle, relentless, etc.) as long as it gets the job done.

Chris S. said...

Hmm, is "automated email app" ethical? I hate to see Charlie wasting his talents this way. He is relentless, but so much more...

Charlie Mas said...

I got the second set of four emails out last night. What a grind!