Wednesday, June 22, 2011

Board Budget Hearing

The Board is holding their prefunctory budget hearing as required by law. There's no sign up in advance. Just show up and add your name to the speakers list. Then, when your name is called, you can drop your words into the abyss. Just don't imagine that anything you say might have any kind of impact at all.

What might you say?

You might say something about all of the raises given out in the central office over the past few months. Raises for no clear reason.

You might raise some questions about specific school budgets. For example:

Why does STEM have just one assistant principal? Shouldn't it have two - one for each of the academies? Isn't that what the contract with NTN requires? Where in the STEM budget are the other things like the NTN subscription cost of $400,000 or the expense for the tech support professional with the $70,000 salary? I don't see them in this school budget.

Why is the projected enrollment for Rainier Beach High School shown as 402 in this document and 426 in the annual enrollment projection? Is that the difference between headcount and AAFTE? If the 402 is AAFTE then why are ALL of the AAFTE shown as XXX.0? Really? .0 in every case? Why does Rainier Beach show only 23.1 teacher FTE and 35.7 total FTE when the school's web page lists 90 people on staff?

Why don't the option schools get the same basic funding as "traditional" schools? If the District reckons that every high school needs a set of basic staff (principal, nurse, librarian, admin, etc.) then by what reckoning do they figure that a school using an alternative instructional strategy wouldn't need the same non-teaching staffing? Also, what are the criteria that the District uses to determine which schools are traditional schools and get the staffing or non-traditional schools and don't get the staffing? Specfically, how is STEM at Cleveland a traditional school? It's an option school, it's an ALE, and it uses a non-traditional pedagogy. So why is it staffed like a traditional school while the NOVA Project is not?

The staffing in the central offices contain some mysteries.

Why does the General Counsel's office include a nurse and a language pathologist? Why does it have 3.9 Directors and supervisors for 4.8 professional staff? Does each lawyer get his or her own supervisor?

The school board office has 3.5 FTE. How is that possible when we know that there are only two people working in it?

How does advanced learning have 13.2 FTE?

How does labor relations have 41.2?

How does instruction services have 11.6 FTE "other support personnel"?

What the heck is "School Services" and what do the 3.9 FTE there do?

What is the difference between Special Education and Special Education Annex?

What is "work training" and how it different from CTE or School to Work?

I see the pricetag on the District web site upgrade has increased to $800,000 paid out of BTA III.

BTA III is also paying $230,000 for Program Placement. Really? What are they spending that on?

BTA III is also spending $700,000 on STEM for some undisclosed expense. It isn't the laptops, that expense is $200,000 this year and is listed separately.


Maureen said...

Here's a link to the Budget Book I believe Charlie is referencing.

The school board office has 3.5 FTE. How is that possible when we know that there are only two people working in it?

I noticed this as well. Also note that "Government Relations" only lists 0.5 FTE so maybe half of Holly Ferguson is somehow covered by the Board? (Or she could be under General Counsel.)

As for the other 1.0, maybe the new internal auditor?

Re Nova's funding, don't they want to have 100% control over their budget? Do they really want to be subject to the WSS structure? (Or are you asking for cake to have and eat?!)

Charlie Mas said...

NOVA wants a librarian and wouldn't say no to a nurse. And if the District provided NOVA with an assistant principal, a data registrar, an attendance specialist, an activity coordinator, a counselor, and a academic intervention specialist, that would be okay also. Of course, given the option, NOVA would probably rather swap them for teachers.

dan dempsey said...

A question about the policy:

The Board shall serve as an advocate on behalf of the district, its students and schools, building the civic capacity of the district and supporting leadership transition planning.

What is leadership transition planning?

Catherine said...

Dan... isn't "leadership transition planning" the search for a new super?

CAB said...

"Why does the General Counsel's office include a nurse and a language pathologist? Why does it have 3.9 Directors and supervisors for 4.8 professional staff? Does each lawyer get his or her own supervisor?"

The General Counsel's office also funds the District's 504 services. I suspect that the nurse and the speech language pathologist are either positions tied to a student via 504 or positions that are being paid for as part of some sort of legal settlement.

3.9 Directors is probably the General Counsel's budget contribution to the salaries of all five attorneys, since facilities and special ed pick up part of the salaries for two attorneys. The rest are the paralegals and the public records office.

seattle citizen said...

I see the funding issue for option schools in this way: They should be funded for the same amount of FTE as "traditional" schools, and can then determine how to allocate that FTE. So if other schools are getting FTE for non-cert positions, NOVA (for instance) should get the same allocation of FTE.
But if they HAVE to use the FTE for librarians, etc, I'm sure they would be happy to that, as well!

Chris S. said...

How does labor relations have 41.2?

Whoa, I knew this was a big part of the district's responsibility, but does that seem like an outlier to anyone else?

Plus, they do labor relations amazingly badly, right? Aren't there regular complains and fines?

Anonymous said...

i looked over the budget, for 1 that thing is 377 pages long not including some appendix. i just cant imagine how anyone can produce a book like that and not get lots of data wrong, especially with the track record SPS has.
Also could not understand much of it. i think a forensic Accountant would have a difficult time reading that document.

Anonymous said...

I would ask "why will Lowell have 3 principals and no counselor?"


Melissa Westbrook said...

The thing with NOVA is that they can share with SBOC. Some NOVA kids came to the Board and told them that they don't understand if it's two schools under one roof, why they can't have a librarian.

The Board has not launched a search for a new super and will not until Jan . 2012. Maybe they are squirreling money away for that.

Good question, POed.

dan dempsey said...


Thanks for the thought ... but I am still really confused .... The Board wrote Policy #1005 and adopted it on June 1, 2011

Here is the: Purpose

The purpose of this policy is to define the authority, duties and powers of the Board in carrying out its mission.

Then at the end comes the advocacy piece which states.....
"supporting leadership transition planning."

I really do not see how its budgeting or much of anything this Board does is easily understood. Really I know the SPS is a huge institution but all this talk about public transparency and accountability is veiled in crap.

I might be happy about "supporting leadership transition planning" if I knew what it was and why it is in this policy.

So how does "supporting leadership transition planning" fall under:
the authority, duties and powers of the Board in carrying out its mission.

Maybe the Budget supports this leadership transition planning? Whatever it is.

Catherine said...


The phrase in isolation made more sense than the phrase in context. That's messed up. Thanks for uh... clarifying... your confusion. And adding to mine.

For over a decade now I've waded through each of the SPS budgets. I'm now certifiable. And I don't mean for teaching.

The budget and board mission and policies collude obfuscate what's going on, and I don't know how much of it is "a bunch of managers who don't know enough to call BS on each other" or how much is fraud, or how much is inertia, or how much is incompetence. I am confident that there's not a single source of this mess.

At a minimum we need an annotated budget - that allows us to drill down to what lines items represent. The board should be demanding that... right?

dan dempsey said...


The Board is quite weak on demanding anything.

When an institutions leaders fail to make decisions by intelligently applying relevant data, it seems we are left largely with lies and deception to cover other lies and deception.

As you said ... "no one is brave enough to call BS"

The STEM fiasco has been based on total BS from day one. Complete with forgery ... not just the SPS regular lies. Charlie ... makes reference to the continuing STEM BS in financing.

Just remember Peter Maier's words on Cleveland NTN STEM in explaining his vote:

"Its about project based learning and that is good enough for my vote."
Critical Thinking is not a strong point for the four directors running for reelection.

KG said...


Lowell now has 3-principals and no counselors. I think the school Board needs a full-time counselor.

Charlie Mas said...

Regarding the size of the budget document...

It's 411 pages on the pdf and I flipped through it in about 45 minutes finding all of the questionable items that I found.

Chris Jackins found many more, but I think he took more than 45 minutes with it.

dan dempsey said...

KG is right-on with
"I think the school Board needs a full-time counselor."

Better make that a full time psychiatric therapist. It is looking like a "them" or us situation.