Monday, June 13, 2011

Seattle Schools Meetings Week of June 13-17

The Board Directors are busy attending high school graduations this week so the district is fairly light on meetings.

There will be a Work Session with the topic "Strategic Plan Refresh" on Wednesday before the Board meeting. The Work Session is from 4-5:30 p.m. with the Board meeting starting at 6 p.m. There are no presentation materials yet available.

The agenda for the Board meeting has many items of interest. Cathie Thompson (I forget her new title but she's effectively the CAO), will present a Alternative Learning update. I don't know if this means alternative schools or something else.

During the Board comments, they will include a narrative "of district, interim superintendent and Board evaluation." That should be interesting.

They also include the minutes of the Work Session on the budget and a couple of things jumped out at me:
  • Directors discussed the elimination of the 2nd principal at RBHS, and whether the idea of assigning two principals at the same school should continue to be a district practice.
    Actually that was Michael who brought it up but Steve jumped right in and said the Board shouldn't be making decisions on staff. I would think that a middle group might be found like asking the Board about a 2nd principal for a smaller school (of any kind) before that person is assigned. Staff should have to make the case to the Board since (1) it is part of the budget and part of Board director duties and (2) it is a pretty big issue for communities.
  • Directors asked about the STEM analyst item at Cleveland HS. Mr. Harman explained that the contract with NTN requires an on-sight analyst, which was funded by a grant for this year, but will be coming out of the general fund for next year. Directors expressed concern around the program creating this additional cost.
    There had been discussion around whether NTN was worth it because of the number of additional costs. Staff seems to think it is.
  • Directors asked about the cost of the 2nd Executive Director for SE region and if there is an offset for it. Mr. Harman explained the offset, including that that some of the cost is covered through grant funds, from a grant funded position that was eliminated.
    This one is somewhat odd as, if you recall, we were initially told that the money was from eliminating the 2nd principal at Rainier Beach. Now, it's a grant funded position which can't last so that's another salary to come out of the General Fund.
  • Mr. Harman stated that the Superintendent search contingency is in the budget in case there needs to be a search conducted in January.
    This is apt to be a fairly big ticket item as these national search companies are not cheap.
The Board will be approved a number of contracts with different governmental entities like Head Start, UW, etc.

Action Items include the community partner/collaboration policies which were to be voted on at the last meeting but got delayed to this one, Debarment and Suspension of Contractors policy (stemming from Pottergate), harassment and bullying policies  for students (and thanks to the SCPTSA for working for a more understandable policy) and the controversial truancy and attendance policy that has caused concern here.  Under Community engagement, they cite this:

They were submitted to the Superintendent’s Parent Advisory Committee for review and comment, and have been accepted without reservation by members of this group.

I don't know the charge of the Parent Advisory Committee but if you are changing a policy that affects every single student in the district, I think there should have been at least some real notice to schools so that PTAs could have discussed it and given input. This was all done very low-key and even though I had put it out there several times, not everyone is going to know this is happening. I hope the PTAs/schools put this in the first day packets because I think there are going to be a lot of surprised parents.

Intro items include a nearly $300k contract with Microsoft for "education solutions" (basically renewing our software licenses with Microsoft), $740k for new Mac computers, the 2011-2012 budget for operations and capital, nearly $1M for the refuse collection and disposal and recycling contract, a high school graduation revision (this so that any student that meets IB requirements can substitute those for the state minimum grad requirements), a high school grading policy  (this for weighted grading for AP, IB, College in High School and Running start as well as when a middle school student may receive high school credit).  They also are introducing the Series 4000 revisions to Board policy and say this:

In this process it is important to remember that right now we are moving quickly to get the policies reviewed, re-ordered and re-numbered so that by early in 2012 we have a complete new policy book that is up to date and accurate. For this reason we have not done extensive
community engagement.

These include community partnerships (which they DID do community process on) but also equal access for recruiters, dangerous weapons, tobacco use, use of Memorial stadium, and advertising and commercial activities and more.   Here's the complete list.

So why are these items which affect both parents/students AND the community at large not important enough, en masse, to do community engagement around?

Also to note if you are part of a First Day packet stuffing or you are in a group that contributes material to that packet:

Procedure 4260SP.A also creates a change in the manner in which outside organizations are allowed to distribute information to schools. Currently an organization sends the material to be distributed to the communications department, which evaluates the material. This review process takes a significant amount of staff time and pulls communications staff away from their daily responsibilities. The communications department will be taking staffing reductions for next year, and continuing the current process was determined to be unworkable. Therefore, new guidelines have been put in place to streamline the process, and a charge of $25 per item to be
distributed will be put in place for the next school year.
The per-item charge will be used to offset the costs of hiring an hourly clerical worker to do monthly reviews of items.


Charlie Mas said...


The Board talks about re-writing the policies to make them more enforcible, but these new policies are no more enforcible than the old ones.

Look at the proposed Policy 4000, Public Information Program. Although it purports to support "effective two-way communication channels with the public" there isn't anything in it that actually does that.

Read the Public Information Program that the superintendent wrote to comply with Policy 4000. It is exclusively about media contact. There isn't anything in it at all about communicating with the school communities, let alone anything about public input.

Read the Family Engagement Policy, 4129, and tell me what purpose it serves. None that I can see. And the superintendent's procedure doesn't meet the requirements of the policy because it is strictly focused on the school level and ignores any engagement at the district level.

Anonymous said...

Some changes to the student handbook:

Progressive Discipline:
"For the pupose of establishing progressive discipline, schools may not consider offenses that occurred prior to the beginning of the previous school year, or 180 school days in the past, whichever is greater, except in the case of some types of threats of violence."

Rule breaking
Changed from "repeatedly breaking a specific, published school rule" to simply "breaking a specific, published school rule."

Due process
Changed from "students must have" the right to tell their side of the incident and receive a fair punishment, to "students have" the right.


dan dempsey said...


School Funding at the WA Supreme Court


-- sorry for the Off-task but mark your meeting calendar

Anonymous said...

For introduction is the policy to allow high school credit for middle school classes. It specifies that the class needs to be on the Seattle Schools approved course list - but no list is given.
Also, there is no provision for classes taken as a homeschooled student, though on-line classes can get approval.

-SPS parent-

basically said...

This year, my 8th grade student is taking a class to 'prove' he passed Geometry for HS credit. I guess this is the first year they are doing it, do you think we still have to file some kind of paperwork?

basically said...

Erm. When I said 'class' I meant 'test'. On Wednesday. Sorry, many things on my mind.

Charlie Mas said...

Any student who wants high school credit for classes taken in middle school must request the credit from the Board after enrolling in high school.

Meg said...

interesting that as the board revamps policies and talks about better oversight, board members like Director Sundquist actively try to thwart oversight.

I find myself curious: what does Director Sundquist think oversight is? From where I sit, his vision of oversight appears to be voting yes on everything put before him and discouraging his fellow board members from asking questions.

Despite my criticism, I believe his intentions are good. But intentions and hard work (which serving on the board is) isn't enough. Unfortunately, despite good intentions and hard work, I think Director Sundquist is dreadful at being a school board director, and with the best of intentions, has actively contributed to worsening problems in the district. Opposing everything staff puts forward wouldn't be productive, but being their personal hand puppet isn't helping anyone, either.

StopTFA said...

What a surprise! There's a shortage of teachers at SPS, according to this report, that was attached to the UW's revised Form 2 A

Anonymous said...

Thanks StopTFA.

I love the report, page 2 of Appendix B under the title "Teacher Vacancies". The opening sentence reads as follows:

"In the 2009-10 school year, there were a total of 352 vacancies in Seattle Public Schools.(4)"

And then footnote 4 reads as follows:

4. The 352 positions included 1.0 FTE as well as partial FTE positions; there were not 352 total FTE vacancies.

So though "there were a total of 352 vacancies", in fact "there were not 352 total FTE vacancies."

The way this report is set up looks as if it intends to show the reader that SPS needed 352 additional teachers to fill positions in the district. One must wonder who it was that requested the information be presented in this fashion...


Anonymous said...

Sorry I can't help myself here, but this is like counting the time that you've stepped out of your hotel room like a partial vacancy.


Charlie Mas said...

Does that mean 352 total vacancies over the course of the year? That means that the district had about 10% teacher turnover.

If a teacher at School A leaves and the job is filled by a teacher at School B, does that count as two vacancies, since the teaching job at School B now needs to be filled?

The very idea of counting vacancies is bizarre and meaningless. The meaningful figures would be the number of vacancies on the first day of school or, more to the point, the number of applicants for each teaching position.

Charlie Mas said...

Meg, can you write more specifically about how Director Sundquist has thwarted oversight?

Meg said...

Charlie - um... yes, I think I can. But I probably need to think a little, and right now I am not thinking in more than crabby rants (it's been a looong day), which doesn't lead to a real discussion of his failings.