Friday, September 30, 2011

CityClub Event: The Best Teachers for our Children

I attended a CityClub event, The Best Teachers for our Children, this afternoon at Town Hall (I was in that building twice in three days!). It was a panel discussion about what makes a good teacher.

Series 2000 Policies

I'm starting to go through the drafts for the Series 2000 Policies. We got them at the Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee meeting. There's a lot here and it's going to take some time.

They aren't posted anywhere on the district web site, but write to Holly Ferguson if you want a copy.

Open Thread Friday

There a meet-and-greet tonight for School Board challengers Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslees who will be joined by UW prof/meterorologist Cliff Mass  from 6-8 p.m. at the Puget Ridge Cohousing Assn, 7020 SW 18th, north of SW Myrtle. 

Next week, the district should have the Oct 1 (or is it today's?) head count that is the final count for staffing and enrollment.  What will the numbers reveal?  Should be interesting.

What's on your mind?

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Oh Those Kids at The Stranger Slog!

I almost am not sure whether to post this - the sense of humor out there seems thin lately. 

But it's funny in an irreverent way and I hope the candidates take it that way.  (And I may like it because I didn't get skewered.)

News Around the District (Ding Dong, the VAX is Gone)

Franklin High School Kicks Off Centennial Year on Friday, Sept. 30th
Franklin High School turns 100 years old in 2012, and one of Seattle’s oldest high schools will kick off a year-long centennial celebration in the gym Friday afternoon. The event will include a ribbon-cutting ceremony for the school’s newly-renovated gym and a proclamation by King County Councilmember (and Franklin alumnus) Larry Gossett, who has declared Sept. 30 Franklin High Day in King County. The proclamation will also recognize the school’s significant improvements in student test scores and college acceptance rates.

Principal Jennifer Wiley predicts that other big-name Franklin athlete alums, along with Seattle School District leaders who are also Franklin graduates, will be in attendance.
Officials of the National Achievement Scholarship Corporation named three students from SPS as Semifinalists in the 48th annual National Achievement Scholarship Program.

These academically promising students have an opportunity to continue in the competition for about 800 National Achievement Scholarships, worth more than $2.4 million, that will be offered next spring. About 80 percent of the Semifinalists are expected to attain Finalist standing, and more than half of the Finalists will win an Achievement Scholarship Award.

Listed below are the Semifinalists from Seattle Public Schools:

Olachi O. Oleru – Garfield High School
Alexandra N. Ricks – Franklin High School
William Spurr – Roosevelt High School
Early Enrollment for 2012-2013 Starts Next Week

Incoming kindergarten students and others new to SPS next year can start enrolling on Monday, Oct 3 through Oct. 25th.  Enrollment can be done at several Seattle Public libraries and neighborhood community centers.  Parents can also enroll their kindergarten students during Seattle Public Schools’ Family and Community Symposium on Saturday, Oct. 15 at Garfield High School, where interpreters will be provided.

From Roxhill Elementary:
The ASCAP Songwriter Residency @ America SCORES is coming to Seattle and they’re bringing hip-hop artist Psalm One.  She’ll be co-writing and recording an original song with the SCORES teams from Roxhill Elementary!  

The ASCAP Songwriter Residency is a unique program in which songwriters give back to the community by hosting workshops at our schools.  On October 3rd and 4th, Psalm One will co-write an original song with the students at Roxhill, and on Wednesday, October 5threcord it at Robert Lang Studios- Seattle’s Oldest World Class Recording Studio!  they

Cleveland High School Fundraiser for Global Health Project in Guatelmala

This event is Sunday, October 2nd at the Baltic Room, 1207 Pine Street and will raise money for students to travel to Guatemala, where they will participate in clinical care, health education and construction of a foot bridge in the town of Monterrico.

Admission to the Oct. 2 fundraiser, which runs from 4-7 p.m., is $20. Purchase or reserve tickets in advance by calling (206) 252-7804 or mail check to “Cleveland Guatemala,” 5511 15th Ave. S., Seattle, WA 98108.

For more information, contact Ruth Bell at (206) 418-9541 or email ruth@cascadiaconsulting.com.

Community volunteers sought for Integrated Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee

The Seattle School District is seeking unpaid volunteers to serve on the newly formed Integrated Facilities and Capacity Management Advisory Committee, for terms of up to two years.

The committee’s primary purpose is to advise Seattle School District staff as it conducts short- intermediate- and long-term facilities planning based on current data, projections and objective standards. The committee’s work will include a periodic evaluation of -- and input to -- the District’s ongoing facility planning activities and implementation of the various facility plans.  Areas of engagement may include demographics, capital improvements and special instructional program accommodations.

The committee will meet once every two months with the possibility of additional meetings on special issues after the start-up period. District staff will facilitate the meetings.

The committee will have co-chairpersons consisting of one volunteer member and one staff member. A typical meeting will include a staff presentation on the status of one or more planning issues, followed by an opportunity for committee comment. Staff will review committee input and include it in the planning process.

SPS parents, community members, non-District public agency planning staff and private sector individuals with applicable planning expertise are encouraged to apply. Interested individuals should submit background information and reasons for their interest via email to: emgraefinghoff@seattleschools.org  no later than Wednesday, Oct. 12. Selection and notification of advisory committee members will occur no later than Oct.14. The first meeting is scheduled for Oct. 18 from 3-5 p.m. in Room 2700 of the John Stanford Center, 2445-3rd Ave.

September 15th the VAX was decommissioned and hauled away.  It went to a company in Minnesota where it will be recycled. 

Seattle Times for Common Core Standards

The Seattle Times ran an editorial today, Core Academic Standards Bring Promise of Consistent Student Preparation, in which they touted the mythical benefits of national common core standards for K-12 education.

Once again, the Seattle Times got it completely wrong.

Here's a sample:
Imagine if parents could know with certainty what their children are learning and in what grade they need to learn things. The result would be a coherent educational system with the opportunity of education truly equalized.
Well we already had standards here in Washington state, standards which were more clearly written than the common core standards. So parents already could know with certainty what their children were supposed to be learning and what grade they needed to learn things, yet, somehow, mysteriously, it did not result in a utopian coherent educational system in which the opportunity of education was truly equalized. Gee. I guess it takes something more than just setting standards.

How does this sort of stuff get written? Does the Gates Foundation show up with a briefcase full snake oil, go into a little room with Lynne Varner, and pour it all down her throat? Does she come out of the room in a daze and type up these ecstatic ravings before collapsing over her desk? Is the case full of snake oil or is it full of cash? Do they go into a spartan conference room at the Seattle Times or into a private dining room at the Metropolitan Grill?

Is the Seattle Times editorial board completely ignorant of the Washington State Standards? Are they completely unaware of the fact that we have long had the exact tool they claim will bring us to paradise? How could they not ask the obvious question: How will the common core standards succeed where the Washington State Standards failed?

I don't know if they asked the question, but the editorial certainly doesn't answer it.

Here's my advice to the Seattle Times: next time the Gates Foundation wants to come by with their case full of snake oil, get a responsible adult with knowledge of education issues and critical reasoning skills to chaperone you. Honestly, doesn't it just make sense to also listen to an opposing view?

Instructional Materials Waivers

Trying to finish up on the Curriculum & Instruction Committee meeting minutes, I come to instructional materials waivers.  I can sum it up in one sentence.

Forget anything happening this year.  

Yup, because the committee kicked that can right down the road. 

As I mentioned previously, Steve S. and Michael DeB stayed on with the committee regulars, Betty P., Peter M. and Harium M-M.  So there was quite the discussion but most of it was circular. 

Harium started off by saying that this issue was generated by discussion at the Board's retreat.  (I didn't attend so I can't fill in the story.)  He said they needed to "refine what the true objective is here, what are we trying to fix?"  I'm not sure it's fixing something but rather allowing schools to find the best solution. 

Michael said he wanted all sites to have the opportunity to examine alternative materials and methods of teaching.

Kay S-B had sent in notes saying she thought there needed to be a simplified procedure for schools, that any changes had to show results and explore grant money to pay for changes.

Kathy Thompson, the assistant superintendent for academics, did a very careful bland explanation.  It was clear she doesn't want this at all and you get the feeling she's not really going to lift a finger until directly ordered to do so.  She put forth that she was open to the idea but, as usual, it's about the money.  She said that they purchased consumables for the two schools this year but the schools had funded the materials themselves in the past.  She gave the Board a handout (that I'm still waiting for) that I believe showed the costs between Everyday Math, Saxon and Singapore. 

She then went into a bit of a dizzying array of PD and other costs.  She said they couldn't use district coaches because they weren't trained in other math methods.  (She also said there were only 7 math coaches in the district which I found odd given that we used to have 100+ coaches overall and now we have just 7 math coaches?) 

She said her considerations were 1) the challenge to bargaining 2)not able to give PD and 3) being hard-pressed to see how to get everyone up-to-speed. 

Michael tried to figure out what the handout was saying and, in the end, concluded it wasn't really an apples to apples examination and not that helpful. 

Peter said he had envisioned a goal of flexibility and meeting needs.  He said that the two schools had good results but he'd like to see some more "experimentation."  He said the process should be clear and open and the schools needed to provide rationale and a plan. 

Steve said he imagined a framework like the one Peter described.  He said they would probably have to limit the number of waivers (if you get results, why?)  and it might need to be geographically done.  He said he thought 3 years was enough time to see results.

Michael said they needed a clear policy that delineates goals of Board, pilots some materials and maybe could be in other subjects.  Maybe with parent/faculty input.  (Michael, that's just crazy talk now.) 

Betty seemed doubtful.  She put forth that if they decided on a curriculum and bought the materials, why do this and how do we know it will work?   It would have been nice if someone had brought some data from North Beach and Schmitz Park but no, there was none available. 

Kathy Thompson said something about a principal survey on this but that's all.  Was there one?

Peter then said something amusing along the lines of why not try this at the newly reopened schools?  Not a bad thought but a little late considering that's the kind of idea you put forth BEFORE they open.  Kathy T. said they had already bought materials for those schools. 

Steve said they were just beginning a conversation.

And that's it.  Kathy Thompson is not going to do anything unless ordered.  There was no real firm direction from the Board about what they want to see or when.  And that's sad because all the incumbents running said they thought the math curriculum should change.  There's no evidence of that from this meeting so it would lead you to believe it's a lot of yada, yada, yada.

Complete and through waste of time.

Big Screen Film Festival

The Cinerama will host a Big Screen 70mm Film Festival showing 15 legendary films. Many of these films have a different character when shown on a truly big screen. If you or your kids have not seen Lawrence of Arabia on a huge screen as it was intended to be shown, then you haven't really seen it. Nothing else does it justice.

The 70mm prints the Cinerama will show are on loan from Hollywood studios' vaults and rarely seen by general audiences. Opening weekend will feature two of only seven movies ever produced for Cinerama’s three‐projector technology, This is Cinerama and How The West Was Won. Cinerama came to popularity in the early 1960s, shot with three 35mm motion picture cameras mounted as one unit, sharing one motor. Three separate projectors running simultaneously merged the film into one movie, shown on a giant, deeply curved screen.

Among the more kid-friendly 70mm movies they will show are:
The Sound of Music
West Side Story
My Fair Lady
Chitty Chitty Bang Bang
Those Magnificent Men in their Flying Machines

More mature audiences will also enjoy:
Lawrence of Arabia
2001: A Space Odyssey
Lord Jim
South Pacific

I have long promised my kids that if Lawrence of Arabia ever played at the Cinerama (or some other appropriately-sized screen), that we would go and see it. Lawrence is schedule for 10/4 at 8:00, 10/7 at 8:00, and 10/15 at 4:00.

The Stranger School Board Candidate Forum Wrap-up

Here are my highlights:

Candidate Forum at Town Hall

I was at the Stranger's School Board Candidate Forum at Town Hall last night. It was very interesting and I would encourage everyone to look for it on the Seattle Channel.

The festivities began with a quick answer round. The MC, Dave Ross, asked a number of questions and candidates would take a position on the stage behind signs that said "Yes", "No", or "Dunno". The questions were pretty good and they caused some folks to struggle with their answers. A number of the answers - particularly from the incumbents - were VERY surprising. When asked if they wanted to change the math curriculum, all of the incumbents clustered at the "Yes" sign. They also clustered at the "Yes" sign when asked if language immersion schools should be option schools. I was not the only person in the audience who wondered why their voting records didn't reflect the positions they were taking on the Town Hall stage. There were some times when the incumbents were clustered at one sign and the challengers at another. There were some times when nearly everyone was together. There were a couple questions with only one or two candidates in a clear minority of opinion.

The meat of the event were three one-on-one debates in which the candidates for each seat got the opportunity to answer a question and respond to each other. It was real, meaningful exchange that highlighted the differences between the candidates. There were only three because Steve Sundquist was unable to attend due to a family emergency. Marty McLaren answered her questions alone. After each of these one-on-ones the audience was invited to vote on the winner using their cell phones. As the votes were counted two experts, our own Melissa Westbrook and Seattle Council PTSA President Lauren McGuire would offer a quick sort of "Truth Squad" review to call out anything said that might have been inaccurate.

Peter Maier did surprisingly well in his debate with Sharon Peaslee. He was more animated than we have seen him for four years. Ms Peaslee tried to stick him with his failure to oversee and he tried to squirm away from it.

Kate Martin, I believe, had the strongest performance of the evening. She spoke with such confidence and conviction. Sherry Carr, who I understand had not been feeling well, didn't hold up well and, despite having a better record than the other incumbents, fared poorly.

Harium Martin-Morris has been nothing but surprises in this campaign. First, he said that he wanted to do a Superintendent search - which is the opposite of what he said in the Seattle Child questionnaire. Harium also said - a couple of times - that he represented and spoke for a "diverse" group of people. I couldn't be the only person who heard the thwack of the race card being played. This was surprising because Harium doesn't speak for anyone. The man barely talks at all. Moreover, I haven't ever heard anyone say that Harium speaks for them. Michele Buetow spoke very well, but struggled to connect.

Marty McLaren, answering questions on her own, presented well and positively impressed.

I'm pleased to say that the "truth squad" didn't have to bust anyone. It's probably a good thing that Melissa was on it instead of me. I would have cracked a couple heads. Peter Maier prattled about "replicating success" - as if the District had EVER done that. Sherry Carr falsely claimed that the NSAP maintained choice and that she would "follow up" to ensure that policies were followed. Harium Martin-Morris falsely claimed that there was no oversight system in place when he joined the Board.

On the whole, an illuminating evening. Look for it on the Seattle Channel.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

CPPS Looking for Input from SE Parents

Communities and Parents for Public Schools has really been doing yeoman's work on outreach to different communities.  I wanted to pass on this info I recently received from Stephanie Jones who is the Director of CPPS Seattle.

An incredible group of south end parents has been drafting a SE Parents’ Bill of Rights for Quality Neighborhood Schools.  We have had about 20 parent leadership graduates from Community & Parents for Public Schools to get the ball rolling on this, and they are ready to share it for more input and buy-in.  

Next week we’ll be sharing it in a formative way (for advance notice, input, support) with School Board Director Betty Patu, and district Executive Directors Michael Tolley and Bree Dusseault.  Ultimately, we’ll have parents bringing their statement to the school board, to board candidates, to the Superintendent.  And, we’d like to get principals and teachers and PTAs to buy in as well – the idea is that this might become a tool for parents to refer to in asking for the changes they’d like to see and in working with the school system to improve quality across the board in SE.

So…first opportunity to give feedback is this Thursday evening – 6-7:30pm at the Rainier Beach branch public library.  Come with your friends and neighbors.  Please spread the word!!

Other dates include:
Sat. 10/8, 10am – RB Library branch
Wed. 10/12, 4pm – Beacon Hill Library branch
Sat. 10/22, 2pm – Columbia City Library branch

This sounds like a parent empowerment going on and good for those parents.  If you live in the SE, please make plans to attend one of these meetings.  There is strength in numbers.  
Also, CPPS is having a "Parent Friendly" School Board Candidate Forum on Monday, October 10th at Washington Middle School, from 7-8:30 p.m.  It sounds really interesting and will include:
  • "grab bag" rounds with parent-generated questions
  • informal candidate interviews between rounds
  • open format for parents to drop in and still participate at any point
  • chance to talk with other parents
  • activity tables for school-aged kids

Curriculum & Instruction Committee Mtg - MAP

I wanted to follow up on some notes I had take from the C&I meeting about MAP testing.  (I'm going to do a separate thread on instructional material waivers as this one is quite long.)  

The Committee is made up of Chair Martin-Morris, Peter Maier and Betty Patu but in a somewhat unusual action, they were joined by Director DeBell and Director Sundquist for the discussion on MAP and instructional material waivers.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Seattle's Child Part Two: the Challengers Weigh In

 Highlights from the challengers:

Sharon Peaslee:  a bit of a mixed bag on financial issues.  She said she would hold administration "100% accountable" but doesn't say exactly what that would look like.  I do like her idea of a citizen oversight committee to review the district budget.  Fresh eyes are a good idea and I have to wonder if someone new had seen the Small Business program go from $100k to nearly $1M, we have headed this issue off much, much sooner.   I also support putting district documents up for viewing. 

She appears to be in favor of a superintendent search and names being transparent and collaborative as key qualities for a good superintendent for SPS. 

In terms of parent engagement/involvement, she mentions making sure there is some kind of governing body that includes parents at every school.  I can support this because not every school has a PTA but there are likely parents at every school who would be willing to participate in a committee they didn't have to financially support or run. 

She is against using TFA recruits in SPS because of the lack of a shortage of teachers and the turnover rate.

She would tweak the NSAP to include more choice and the ability to go to the school closest to your home. 

Unlike the incumbents who believe the achievement/opportunity gap is the greatest problem, she believe the top-down governance has caused many related problems.  She would flip that with more decisions at the school levels. 

Kate Martin - She has an interesting, if broad, view of finances in SPS.  I thought her first sentence was thought-provoking "Relentless audit of not just money, but mission." 

She is advocating for mentors for all students.

She is not supporting Dr. Enfield for superintendent as she feels Dr. Enfield is unproven as a superintendent.   She points out that Dr. Enfield said the district doesn't fact-check resumes and that an executive director was hired who did not meet the advertised qualifications.  She had a funny line about "puppy mill 'superintendent academies' like Broad."  She said, "We need strong track records of real success in real education."

She said she would support "Assistant Teachers for America" but not TFA as it is now. 

As far as capital projects she says she would "tone down the over-the-top approach to rebuilding our schools" and I can support this.  We can't afford a lot of flourishes and unnecessary elements for one building (like a rotunda in a K-8 school) when we have so many buildings that need attention AND capacity management issues.

She, too, would like to offer more choice to parents in student assignment.

She says the district's problem is that they are "underchallenging nearly 80%of the students."

Michelle Buetow - She points out that parent input on transportation led to the "community stops" plan that the district is trying.   In talking about finances, she points out that after the Olchefske scandal, citizens were promised that new auditing practices would prevent this from happening.  And yet, here we are.  She suggests that "The Board should consider working with local colleges to recruit government affairs interns to further analyze Staff recommendations."  I like this idea as it is would bring in some fresh eyes to Board work.

She is fairly pragmatic about protecting classrooms from cuts - "Sadly, our children cannot be fully shielded from budget cuts. Less really is less."  I think that's a realistic view.  She, of course, is advocating for working with the Legislature and passing the Families and Education levy this November.

On the superintendent search, she says, "However, the “public” piece of public education means this community should have an opportunity to weigh in on the selection of our District’s next leader."

She advocates a new Board committee for community outreach, partnerships and customer service.   She believes the committee meetings should be taped and available prior to Board meetings.  I support this idea as most of the real "work" of the Board gets done at committee meetings.

About maintenance and capital projects - "I would like to see a study commissioned to benchmark, nationally, school district best practices in amounts and priorities Districts use for maintenance spends."  That's an interesting idea and worth considering.

She has a long and nuanced view of the NSAP that I urge you to read and consider. 

She considers Seattle Schools' reputation the district's number one issue.  I recommend reading this section as well for its very carefully considered thoughts and suggestions. 

Marty McLaren - in terms of finances she says, "Refuse to rubber stamp  – make a stink when staff insists on presenting recommendations which have failed to meet legal and policy guidelines."  That will get some attention.

She advocates for a local search for superintendent first rather than nation-wide one. 

She points out that the district seems to allow buildings to "decay" and then want to rebuild.  She said that maintenance needs to be more of a focus.

She supports the use of portables to meet demand for schools. 

She believes the district's number one priority is "the set of obstacles to clear communication within school communities, between schools and the district and between the district and the Board and wider community. The lack of authentic community engagement can be traced to a failure of good faith effort by the district; the culture of intimidation among the district's employees has existed and intensified over recent years."

Seattle's Child Posts Candidate Responses to Questionnaires

Seattle's Child magazine sent a questionnaire to all School Board candidates and it appears that they all answered it.  Here's a link to their site so you can read all of them at your leisure. I'll read the incumbents first. 

Tuesday Open Thread

As promised, let's try two days of open thread.  What's on your mind?

I noticed a huge amount of discourse over charters.  I hope to have a couple of charter threads in the coming days as this is certainly a topic of interest (and some even consider them inevitable but nothing like throwing in the towel before the fight). 

Last call for the big School Board candidate debate tomorrow night at Town Hall at 7:30 p.m.  You need a ticket but they are free. 

Capacity Meetings

This is news to me but thanks to North Seattle Mom for this update:

School Capacity Planning Meetings

Tuesday, October 4
6:30-8pm at Mercer Middle School Library, 1600 S. Columbian Way, Seattle 98108

Thursday, October 6
6:30-8pm at Madison Middle School Library, 3429 45th Ave. SW, Seattle, 98116

Tuesday, October 11
6:30-8pm at Hamilton International Middle School Library, 1610 N. 41st St., Seattle 98103

Meetings will include a presentation by SPS staff, and a question and answer period. Community comments and feedback will be collected, recorded and considered in the SPS capacity management planning process.

Not to be ungrateful but only three?  Hamilton covers the entire north end and central area?  I also note that the district stays true to its manner of cramming these kinds of meetings within one week.  (And sadly, the one at Hamilton is the same night as the School Board candidate debates at Olympic View.) 

Monday, September 26, 2011

District Announces Co-Principal for Lowell

The district is announcing that Rina Geoghagen has been appointed the co-principal of Lowell Elementary.  She will continue to oversee Lowell at Lincoln as well as work with Greg King for "success at both school sites.

It is also stated, "In addition, Marella Francois will not be joining the Lowell staff." 

While this makes some sense, it costs more to have two full principals for any one school.  Given that it is "one" school but at two locations, I guess there was no choice but to make her a full principal.  It sounds like she has been doing a good job, both now and throughout the summer. 

Good for the Times - Good for Voters

The Times has a concise editorial about why this policy of not updating candidate endorsements after the primary stinks.  It is to their credit to see this as old-school thinking in a modern digital age.    The issue:

Primary winners used to add updated information, including post-primary endorsements, for publication in the general election voters' guide.

But now information from the primary will carry forward to the general election. Voters' guide statements for city of Seattle candidates are filed with the Seattle Ethics and Elections Commission and are not affected by the change. But other key races, including the Port of Seattle, Metropolitan King County Council and the Seattle School Board are impacted by the new approach.
Voters do not need fewer educational resources. They need more.

Harmed the most by the change are challengers who already compete against better-known incumbents for voter attention.

Their best reasoning is the one I find mind-boggling - contact information can be updated for any candidate.  Why not endorsements as long as you are in there?  That's new information (no fluffing up of statements, just factual info) that might indeed make a difference. 

Words Have Meaning

I say that often here - words have meaning.   I bring this up because I have noticed over the last week or so some wording being used here that is pointed at the person and not the argument.   It both hurts this blog and the argument when that happens.  

There is also some unsaid (but implied) arguments that aren't really helpful.

I noticed things like:
  • someone saying he/she is open-minded (and implying that others aren't).  Opposing ed reform doesn't mean you aren't open-minded to new ideas in education.   For example, I think most everyone here would agree that technology - both in teaching and learning - is and is going to be, a larger part of the education picture.  That's a new idea that has gotten stronger and stronger.  
  • I especially dislike the implication that if you aren't for new trends in education, you are for the status quo.  That is a weak and tired argument and not a worthy one.
  • someone saying that someone hates someone else.  C'mon, that's a little junior high.  You can be unhappy or dislike someone's work performance without hating them.  Hate is a big word that should be used for people who really deserve it.  
  • Using words like "hater" - again, a little junior high.  You can dislike something or someone without being a hater if you can explain your position in a rational manner.   A hater is someone who hates someone else for an irrational or petty reason.
  • a lot of far-reaching leaps from simple statements.  Just because a reader says that he/she isn't sure how someone else knows something is a far cry from that same reader believing that someone else is dumb or stupid.   And yet I'm seeing a lot of striking back when a simple question gets asked.  If you want to know what someone means, please ask and don't assume you know. 
So Charlie and I will go on trying to barely moderate comments.  (We only get rid of anonymous ones or those that are crude or hurtful.)  But we're all bright people.  Let's keep the comments and discussions on the topic itself and not directed at a person.  It's fine to disagree.  It's fine to think that person's argument is full of holes.  But it drives people away who might otherwise want to read this blog if it is not focused on topics and not people.

I'm not saying that Charlie and I don't sometimes stray ourselves.  We all do but we can all try harder to moderate ourselves so that some good and useful ideas and actions come out of this blog. 

I would also ask that if you post, that you do not post again immediately afterwards (unless it is a correction).   Multiple posts are fine but allow others to chime in as well.

Last, let's try to stay on topic.  Again, I can be as guilty as the next person but it really is better to stick with the topic at hand.  There are other ways to introduce a new topic including contacting us to request a new thread or at the Friday Open Thread.  To that end, we'll be trying a Tuesday Open Thread to see if we catch more new topics as they come up during the week. 

Curriculum & Instruction Policy Committee

The Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee will be meeting this afternoon from 4:00pm to 6:00pm. This committee has been totally useless and ineffective for the past four years. That's a fact. I defy anyone to name a single positive that has come out of this committee in four years. It has been chaired by Director Martin-Morris all that time.

Seattle Schools Calendar for September 26-October 1, 2011

Monday, Sep. 26th
Curriculum and Instruction Policy Committee Meeting, 4-6 p.m. at JSCEE.  On the agenda: discussion of contract with NWEA for MAP testing, instructional materials waivers, Board policies C and D. 

Board policy C is about curriculum & instruction and covers a large number of items like course of study adoption, high school graduation requirements, use of internet, adoption of basic instructional materials, school libraries, field trips, assessments, proposal for a new program, career& technical, alternative education, international education, Special Education, effective staff.

Board policy D is about Students including student placement, attendance, advanced learning, high school grades/credits, student records, sexual harassment of students or discrimination, discipline, student health and welfare, activities and ceremonies and observances.  

Tuesday, Sep. 27th
Equity Task Force Meeting, 4-5:45 p.m. at JSCEE (not sure if this is open to the public but I'll ask)

Wednesday, Sep. 28th
Two-Hour early dismissal for PD

Thursday, Sep. 29th
Superintendent Chat for South Pacific Islander community from 6-7:30 p.m. at the RBHS Library
There are no director community meetings this Saturday, October 1

Other Events this week:

Tuesday, Sep. 27th
Social Equality Educators' Meet the School Board Challengers at the Ballard High School library at 4:30 p.m.

Tuesday, Sep. 27th (new - late to my radar)
Special Education PTSA general meeting and candidate forum from 7-9 p.m. at the JSCEE, Room 2700.  The forum will feature introductory remarks from each candidate followed by aQ&A from the audience.  This is a great chance to get the burning question you have to the candidates. 

Wednesday, Sep. 28th
The Stranger School Board candidate forum at Town Hall from 7:30-9:00 p.m.   Free but you must have a ticket.http://strangertickets.com/events/3945184/a-debate-in-four-school-board-races  Probably the most interactive of all the forums you will attend this campaign season. 

Thursday, Sep. 29th
Kate Martin fundraiser at the Harbor Club from 5-8 p.m., 801 Second Avenue

Friday, Sep. 30th
City Club Education Series: The Best Teachers for Our Children featuring a panel including teacher Jesse Hagopian, Erin Jones, OSPI, Jonathan Knapp, SEA, Margit McGuire, College of Education, Seattle University, Tom Stritikus, College of Education, University of Washington, Deborah Wilds, College Success Foundation.  Moderated by Phyllis Fletcher of KUOW.  From noon - 1:30 at Town Hall.  Sounds good but pretty pricey with the lunch for the general public at $30 and coffee and dessert at $18.   Registration required.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Neptune Grand Opening - Free Stuff to Do

I had meant to put this up sooner. 

As you may know, the Neptune Theater in the U-District has turned from being a movie theater to an entertainment hall.  This week they are featuring a number of free events that may appeal to a teen in your family (or even adults).  Most of these have some degree of interaction for the audience. 

Tonight is free showing of The Rocky Horror Picture Show at 7:30 p.m. with doors opening at 6:30 p.m. (Bring your umbrella and toilet paper.)   First come, first served and yes, there is a costume contest. 

A complete calendar is here

More from the School Board Meeting

So in a wrap-up to last week's Board meeting (which I left at half-time), here's some highlights:

Governance Update 9/21/2011

During the Board Comments section of the Board's regular legislative meeting of September 21, 2011, Director Carr delivered an update on the Board's Governance improvement efforts since the disastrous audit of July, 2010.

Director Carr seemed very pleased and proud of the progress the Board had made in the past 14 months. I am less impressed.

Education Nation (and a Fox in the Schoolhouse)

NBC is gearing up its Education Nation series this week and having a conference in NYC.   Many of the speeches are to be webcast.   Naturally, this is EST so you either have to get up very early or tape/Tivo them.   I haven't been overly impressed with this series in the past but they do have some interesting conversations scheduled.

Tomorrow's include an interview with Warren Buffett, Susie Buffett and Melinda Gates at 8:15 am.

One great one will be on Tuesday at 9:00 am - a debate between Geoffrey Canada and Diane Ravitch.  I have a feeling they have more in common than might be expected.

I'm going to be on KING-5 news at 8:30 am on Wednesday to talk about parent involvement and whether parents need a union.  (This is their phrasing and no, I don't think parents need a union but I do think they need groups who serve as parent advocates.  I don't think that's happening so much now except at a high level - PTSA advocacy for legislative matters - and at CPPS, Communities and Parents for Public Schools of Seattle, who have done a lot of outreach to immigrant parents.)

That fox in the henhouse would be Rupert Murdoch who is making a keynote address at an education summit hosted by Jeb Bush in San Francisco next month.  Apparently he got asked based on a speech he gave earlier this year at the G8 summit.

"In every other part of life, someone who woke up after a 50-year nap would not recognize the world around him…But not in education," he remarked in May during a speech at the "e-G8 forum" that preceded the G8 summit in France. "Our schools remain the last holdout from the digital revolution."

From Mother Jones:
Last November, News Corp. dropped $360 million to buy Wireless Generation, a Brooklyn-based education technology company that provides software, assessment tools, and data services. "When it comes to K through 12 education, we see a $500 billion sector in the US alone that is waiting desperately to be transformed by big breakthroughs that extend the reach of great teaching," Murdoch said at the time.

Really?  So would that be the same technology his reporters and editors at News of the World used to hack people's phones including a 13-year murder victim and dead British soldiers?  Would it be that kind of thing, Mr. Murdoch?

From Valerie Strauss' Answer Sheet blog at the Washington Post:

The foundation’s website says this about the October summit:

“Our flagship initiative, the National Summit on Education Reform, annually convenes the best and brightest from around the world to share strategies to improve the quality of education.”

I’ve gotta tell you, when I think about the “best and brightest”people who can devise strategies to improve the quality of education, Murdoch never comes to mind. 

The fact that it did to the people holding the summit underscores just how much big business and big money are driving education reform today.

Add to the list of wealthy people who think they know how to make education better (or at least make a profit at trying). 

Friday, September 23, 2011

The Stranger Forum is Filling Up

As of today, nearly 500 seats have been reserved for The Stranger/Washington Bus/Save Seattle Schools blog School Board Candidate forum on Wednesday, September 28th from 7:30-9:00 p.m. at Town Hall.  Tickets are still available (and free!) but going fast.  You need a ticket to get in.

Washington State PTSA Survey

I can't remember right off-hand if I posted this before but the Washington State PTSA is taking a survey of legislative priorities of parents for education.   The deadline is Sunday, September 25th. 

Obama Takes On NCLB

Score one for Obama.  He waited and waited for Congress to do some needed updating of NCLB.  Did they?  Nope and so he went ahead and is going to grant waivers to states that ask for them.   The concern was about the large numbers of schools (somewhere between 50-80%) were going to be labeled failing. 

Today the President will give a speech outlining how states can get those waivers and what they will cover.  It seems clear, though, that only states that buy into the administration's vision of ed reform (see Race to the Top) will get the waivers. This includes charter schools and that's why you may see this push for charters here in Washington state. 

Open Thread Friday

Just as a reminder, there are 4 directors having community meetings tomorrow (see this thread for times/locations).  I note that Director Maier is now having his meeting in a location in his own district (for some reason he had it in Sherry Carr's for a couple of years). 

Also, going out to your child's soccer game or other group activity?  Chat up other parents about the School Board races.  What are other parents saying?  If you feel so moved, advocate for the candidate of your choice.  

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Tacoma Teachers Approve Deal

Seattle Times story: Tacoma teachers approve deal by 99% vote

School starts again on Friday.

Seattle School Board Meeting Testimony-September 21, 2001

Last night was interesting because the Board meeting was split into halves; one half the shiny and prepped TFA folks and the other side ...the rest of us.    What was interesting is that TFA seemed to only want to clap when TFA folks spoke while the rest of us knew the (polite) drill and clapped for everyone.  You notice these things when you've been to a lot of these meetings.

I'll just go over the speaker testimony and do a separate thread on the latter half of the meeting.

More School Board Endorsements

From the 43rd Dems:
- endorsed Sharon Peaslee over Peter Maier
- endorsed Sherry Carr over Kate Martin (this was Sherry's district)
- no endorsement in Position 6 (Marty McLaren vs Steve Sundquist)
- had previously endorsed Michelle Buetow and voted to contribute to her campaign

From the 36th Dems:
- endorsed Sharon Peaslee over Peter Maier (this was his district)
- endorsed Kate Martin over Sherry Carr
- endorsed Michelle Buetow (I believe this, too, was a previous endorsement)
- no endorsement in Position 6

Both districts voted, by wide margins, to endorse the Families & Education Levy.

Troubling Safety Issues Around Some Schools

Over the last week there have been some troubling incidents around two of our high schools, Roosevelt and Garfield. 

Sometime last night or early this morning, a man was beaten to death just blocks from Garfield High School.

Last weekend, there were several incidents right by Roosevelt including Bellevue police using a compression bomb to get into a house to make an arrest and two armed robberies.   (This is also near my house which makes it doubly scary.)

I reported these crimes to the Board and Dr. Enfield.  She promptly wrote me back voicing her concern and said that she was having a meeting with Councilman Burgess this week and would bring it up with him.  (He is the chair of the Public Safety committee which also oversees education and, of course, is a former cop.) 

I don't know what the answer is - more police patrols around schools after dark or alerting the kids to be watchful at their school after dark - but it is troubling. 

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

Seattle School Board Meeting - My Testimony Tonight

About TFA – what a long, strange trip it has been.  It seems apparent at this point that our former superintendent didn’t have any real donors lined up – she just assumed they would materialize.  Another in the long list of mistakes she made.

It’s good to have that settled except that the press release doesn’t make it clear whether Seattle Foundation is paying for two years or one.  I tried to get confirmation from Communications but they said they didn’t know and I should ask the Foundation and I have been trying with no success.  It might be good to iron out that point.

One delicate issue is that the Seattle Foundation named several donors.    Among them are two that have contributed heavily to the campaigns of the directors running for reelection.

I would just gently point out that it is one thing to have campaign supporters who you know care about particular issues or programs.  It’s another thing altogether to have campaign supporters who not only care about a program, but are paying for the program to be in the district.

You have to be your own best ethical judge but it gives me pause.

On a separate issue, I sent you all a copy of an e-mail I sent today to Mr. English, the district’s legal counsel.   He had stated at a committee meeting that there was some confusion over where $20M was from the sale of several district properties.

Mr. English let me know that (1) the money is in one of two places and (2) there will be a status report at the Audit and Finance meeting in October and a full accounting in November. 

He was unable to answer my question about whether the regular payment on the albatross that is this building is going to happen on time.  My understanding is that the CEP fund is where that payment money comes from and the likely place the proceeds from any property sales would have gone. 

Now I’m not a Board member but if I were,  and there was ANY question about where $20M of taxpayer dollars had gone, I wouldn’t be waiting until the second week of October to find out where it was.  And I certainly wouldn’t wait until November for a full accounting.

If we learned anything from the last school year, it is to NOT take anyone’s word that something is done unless you, yourselves, see it happen.  This is not disrespecting anyone’s work or saying they are being less than truthful – it is your fiduciary duty as a director.

We hear a lot of talk about accountability and transparency.  We hear that the district has learned much from the state audits.  We hear that there are systems and checks and balances in place so we don’t have these kinds of missteps.

I would get out ahead of this one if I were you.  You owe it to the students of this district and the taxpayers of this city.  That money needs to be accounted for by next week, not next month or the month after.  

End of statement
CEP = Capital Eligible Projects - a separate fund that keeps the money from sale/rental/lease of properties and investment earnings.  It allows for a variety of capital projects, initiatives, etc. that typically aren't covered in levies. 

There were several donors to the Seattle Foundation TFA fund.  Three of them,  Matt Griffin, Evelyn Rozner and James Faulstich, have contributed heavily to all the incumbents' campaigns.  (To point out, the average campaign contribution is usually between $25-100.)

Mr. Griffin gave Maier and Sundquist $1K each and Carr and Martin-Morris, $2k each.

Ms. Rozner gave Carr and Martin-Morris each $2k and Sundquist $1k.

Mr. Faulstich gave Carr, Martin-Morris and Sundquist each $250.

Peter Maier has the largest campaign fund at $37k, followed by Sundquist at $28k, Harium at $22k and Carr at $20k.  

All of the challengers are well under $10K except for Michelle Buetow who is at $13k.   

More than 50% of Sherry Carr's campaign has come from 10 people/households including Microsoft CEO Steve Ballmer and his wife. 

TFA Fights Back

I was wondering where local TFA was all this time.

We'll find out out tonight's School Board meeting as it looks like at least five people who signed up to speak are TFA.  One, Lindsay Hill, is the executive director of TFA in the Puget Sound area, and another is one of the teachers hired for SPS, Kenneth Maldonado. 

I note that there are still four places left on the speakers list.

I also note that the action item for the conditional certifications has changed under Alternatives:

Do not authorize application for conditional certificates for these candidates.  This is not
recommended as these candidates have been through the school-based hiring process and were
recommended by the school-based team to be hired.  Failure to authorize a conditional certificate
would result in a school-based decision to hire a particular person being overturned. 
Furthermore, failure to authorize will require a new hiring process, which could result in
disruption to the classrooms and schools where these candidates are already teaching. classrooms
not having teachers on the first day.  (The blue part is the change and the red is the old wording.)

This is precisely the argument we expected to see about changing any of the subs (and I suspect many are TFA but we'll find out soon).  

The timeline has changed as well:

These two candidates will be in the classrooms as substitutes pending approval of their
conditional certificates by OSPI.  Approval by OSPI has been taking approximately 3-5 days, so
it is expected that their conditional certificate would be granted by the end of the second week of
school.beginning of October.  

Is October really 3-5 days away?  Just asking.

This should be interesting.  

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Suggestions to improve the blog

We're all ears.

Staffing Increases/Decreases

I hear that Eckstein had to lose a .5 FTE.  I find it hard to believe they lost enrollment but maybe they overstaffed believing it would be higher?  Anyone?

And then there was this in another thread:
"I just got my robo-call from Hale high school saying that they've been given 3 new staff based on student enrollment. Chemistry, Algebra II, and a 10th grade "core" teacher. Some students will see a schedule change, but classes will be smaller."

That's worth looking into.  I'd love to know if Hale got filled following their new rebuild because 3 new staff is quite a lot so good for them if they did.  

Advanced Learning

This is likely to be one of my last posts on Advanced Learning.  Oh, not because I'm not interested or don't care.  But frankly, I'm tired of caring.  I'm tired of waiting for this district to at least have a program that is coherent and easy to understand.  So I'm done on advocating on this topic in any big way.

This comes on the heels of having a small discussion with Dr. Enfield about Spectrum and then a longer meeting with Dr. Vaughn (the head of Advanced Learning) and Roger Daniels, consulting teacher.   These were good conversations and I did feel like they were listening.  But I don't think they really care that the program makes sense to parents.

Seeking a Diversity of Voices

I would really like to hear from folks who disagree with me. They may be cautious about commenting here on this blog. No one likes to feel like they have been shouted down, attacked, or had their integrity or intelligence insulted. So I would like to create a safe space for people who have another perspective so we can discuss these things in a civil, courteous, and respectful manner.

Towards that end, I'm going to try an experiment. Here at Save Seattle Schools, we delete spam comments and unsigned, anonymous ones, but it is not our practice to edit or censor comments for content. This is a free forum. On this thread - just this one - I will remove any comments that are not civil, courteous, and respectful. I want to create a safe space for people to disagree. We'll see how it goes.

In particular, I would like to hear from people who either support any of the School Board incumbents for re-election or support the hiring of Teach for America corps members as teachers in our schools. I know these people are out there. I want to hear from them and I want to hear their reasons for their positions.

I have heard some of their rationale and it hasn't convinced me, but maybe there is more that I have not heard. I have an open mind and I want to improve my thinking on these questions. I cannot improve my thinking if I do not challenge it. So, yes, this is selfishly motivated.

Please, if you have a view on either of these issues - or others - that is different from the one typically voiced on this blog, please venture forward with a statement - I will enforce civility on the comment thread. You can retain your anonymity by signing any name you like to your comment. I hope you will find the result to be worth the effort.

School Board Races Getting Tough

In a hard opening salvo for the School Board elections, the SEA voted no confidence in Board President Steve Sundquist.  The word is that it centers around his unwavering support for TFA.

In other news, a raft of school board candidate forums have popped up so here's an update (please let me know if I missed anything):

Tuesday, September 27th, Special Education PTSA School Board forum, JSCEE, 7 p.m.

Wednesday, September 28th - Town Hall at 7:30 p.m., 1119 8th Avenue (at Seneca) The Stranger's forum with interactive input from the audience (both questions and reactions).  Free but ticket required (can print at home)

Tuesday, October 4th, Bryant Elementary PTSA Candidate forum, 7-9 p.m., 3311 NE 60th Street

Tuesday, October 11th - North Seattle School Board Candidate forum, Olympic View Elementary, 504 NE 95th St. from 6:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m., free childcare available.

Tuesday, October 18th - West Seattle Candidate forum, Madison Middle School, 3429 45th Ave. SW, sponsored by several West Seattle PTSAs.   From 6:30-7:00 p.m., there's a meet-and-greet with the forum starting at 7. 

Thursday, October 20th, Seattle University's Pigott Auditorium, 6:30-9:30 p.m.
Other Events

Thursday, Sept. 29th - Harbor Club Happy Hour for Kate Martin, 801 Second Ave from 5-8 p.m.

Friday, September 30th, Meet-and-Greet with Cliff Mass for candidates Marty McLaren and Sharon Peaslee, Puget Ridge Cohousing Assn, 7020 18th SW (north of SW Myrtle) from 6-8 p.m.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Seattle Schools This Week, Sep. 19-24, 2011

Tuesday, September 20th
@ 7:30 pm the 43rd Legislative District Democrats will be voting on endorsements, including three School Board seats. The 43rd LD meets at University Heights Community Center, 5031 University Way NE 
Wednesday, September 21

Community Meeting with Director Sundquist, from 11 am to 12:30 p.m. at the Delridge Library, 5423 Delridge Way SW

Presentation by PASS (the principals' association) to the School Board on goals for this school year, from 5:30 -5:45 p.m. at headquarters (right before the School Board meeting)

School Board meeting, 6-9 p.m.  Agenda is fairly short so it shouldn't be three hours.   There are some facilities acceptance items, approval of the High Point Promise Neighborhood application (which seems like a good deal as the money, $455,472 is "in-kind" from existing grant dollars and is for services at West Seattle Elementary and Denny Middle School), the postponed Conditional Certification for two TFA teachers, intro of the Series 5000 Board policies, taking $2.4M from rental revenues from Capital and moving it to the General Fund (more on that one), and a BEX program resolution allowing the COO or Superintendent or head of Capital Programs to sign State funding assistance documents.

The one item I have some concern about is the High Point one as the resolution only speaks of West Seattle Elementary and Denny Middle while the MOU includes Chief Sealth.   Also, at the Operations Committee meeting it had to be pointed out that the BEX resolution for signatures (mentioned above) had to be corrected to be "or" because they had put "and" instead and that would have meant ALL three people would have had to sign instead of just one person.

These kind of small details are troubling.  We have a Legal department and yet these are things that you'd think wouldn't be missed (and could cause issues later on).   Hmmm.

Also, the movement of capital funds to the General Fund - this is okay, this is legal and this is how they balance the budget.  The item notes that there is enough money in Capital to do so.   Well, yes, there is but it's not like it couldn't be put to good use in our buildings.  Again, this is why we fall further and further behind in the care and upkeep of our buildings.  

36th Dems Endorsement Meeting, Phinney Neighborhood Center, 6532 Phinney Ave N. at 7 p.m.

Saturday, September 24th
Community meetings:

DeBell - 9-11 am, Cafe Appasionato, 4001 21st Ave W.
Martin-Morris - 9:30 am-11:30 am, Diva Espresso, 8014 Lake City Way NE
Patu - 10 am - noon, Tully's, 4400 Rainier Ave South
Maier - 10:30 am - noon, Lake City library, 12501 28th Avenue NE

My comment here is that there are NO community meetings next weekend.  I sure wish the Directors could coordinate things so that every weekend (except for holidays) could have a community meeting. 

Also, just as a plug for the School Board challengers, Sharon Peaslee's campaign is urging parents to attend a high school football game, either at Memorial Stadium or at one of the other locations, and hand out flyers or wave a sign.  You cannot do this on the grounds but you can stand on the sidewalk as people go in.  There are a lot of voters/parents at these games so a good chance to connect with people.

Sunday, September 18, 2011

Seattle Schools: Getting Into the School You Want

A reader asked for a thread about the status of their out of attendance area siblings getting in this year.

I know we did hear from a Denny/Sealth reader in the Open Thread Friday this week who said the waitlist at Sealth had not moved at all. 

The reader who made this suggestion had a troubling story out of Bagley Elementary so I hope she will repeat it here.  Apparently parents who wanted the Montessori program at Bagley were told it would be better to apply for the regular program and are now languishing on the regular list and somehow out of area parents are getting into the Montessori program. 

It sounds very frustrating.  What are you seeing?

Saturday, September 17, 2011

TFA and Apple - What Happened?

 Thanks to Mirmac 1 for this update.

The Daily Kos had a story about one woman's story about Apple's program to have customers donate old iPads to TFA teachers.  Her story of getting passed around at Apple corporate reminds me of my efforts to figure this out.  From the story:

After being passed around on the phone from one corporate office to another, I finally asked Jerry in marketing if Apple knew that Teach for America recruits weren't really teachers -- that their claim of "Teach for America takes well-trained teachers—referred to as "corps  members"— was completely false, and that the campaign was deceptive.  I said it would be great if Apple  were offering donated iPads to real teachers, but the company is misleading donors when it tells them their donation will go to a Teach for America "teacher."

The marketing guy then said this.  "We paint with a broad brush when we use the term teacher."  He said he considered himself a teacher because he taught people stuff sometimes.  I asked him if he had studied to become a teacher or if he had ever taught in a classroom.  He said "no."  Then you are not a professional teacher I said.  I went on to say I thought the campaign was a fraud and that Apple was giving legitimacy to an organization proven to do real harm to children.  He said my complaint would be noted.

Looking Hard at Facilities Issues Costs the District More Money

From the Seattle Times comes this story about how much money it is costing to review the Facilities department.  Sigh. Yes, it wasn't just the Silas Potter-connected programs but the whole thing is getting a good look-see.  From the article:

While the district's initial consulting contract was $25,000, the scope of work quickly grew. The district extended the contract three times for varying amounts that now total $162,000, according to records obtained by The Seattle Times under the state's public records act.

I have to wonder, out of all the things the Times could investigate, how they picked this one but fine.

It's a great thing, frankly, because ALL of Facilities and Capital Projects should get this look.  It's disturbing to listen to Board Committee discussions on these topics and get worried about where the money is going. 

From the article:

The hiring of the consultants and the scope of their work indicate the department was more troubled than it appeared to be.

Pegi McEvoy, assistant superintendent of operations, described the consultants' mission in terms of a superhero rescue operation.

"We're fortunate to have a resource that can come in, put the cape on and help us out," said McEvoy, who was given responsibility for the department in March.

The guy hired, Doug Nichols, has shown himself to be a steady Eddie kind of guy, soft-spoken but smart.  If it gets us to a better place, it's money well-spent especially with continuing capacity management issues that are pressing us to fill our buildings.

Here's an example of his work:

In one case, McEvoy said, the consultants suggested changes in building specifications that could save the district millions of dollars on future construction. They also questioned the district's use of permanent portables, saying that, in some cases, leasing the portables would be a better option for dealing with fluctuating enrollments.

You know, I never heard any discussion about leasing portables - it was always about buying them.  

 Of course, there are always downsides to this stuff as we witness from the "job loss" of former Facilities head, Bill Martin:

Meanwhile, Martin, who had been promoted into the $142,000-a-year facilities position and then lost the job, continued working for the district for four more months.

That "continued working" was mostly sitting around.  I think they were worried about giving him much to do.  The article says he says his problems came from try to bring change to the Maintenance Department.  I seriously doubt that as much of what he said at Operations Ctm. meetings did happen (a new software system to track work orders, zone teams, etc).   Nope, it's that not fully disclosing stuff from a past job on his employment application that did him in.

This might be a slight tangent off for this news but it is facilities-related.

I attended the Operations Committee meeting on Thursday which, like many committee meetings had meandering discussions and less than specific news.  Alas, no one can raise their hand and ask questions so all I can do is report back and tell you that I will follow up.

There was a slight discussion about capacity management and it came up that Lowell at Lincoln will stay there two years.  There was agreement around the table that there was nowhere else for them to go.  So there's an "answer" to a question in a lot of parents' minds.  Is it official?  Somewhat.

Problem is, that they were scheduled to discuss SBOC and Nova leaving Meany so as to fix up Meany (for SBOC's new World School) and Mann (to put Nova back where it was previously).  THEY, too, are scheduled to go to Lincoln next fall.  BUT there was no mention of this during the discussion and I have to wonder how SBOC/Nova/Lowell at Lincoln will work.  (I'll just say that if I had to have any high school group(s) in with an elementary, it would be these two.  I'm just talking logistics.)

Friday, September 16, 2011

Low-Cost Bike Helmets

Walking around Green Lake today I saw a notice about a bike helmet (and sports helmet) sale tomorrow (Saturday, the 18th) from 10 am - 2 p.m. at Evans Pool.   

The helmets cost $10 which is a great deal for a brand-new helmet. 

Evans Pool is in the Green Lake Community Center which is to the east of Green Lake by the playground.  I believe Cascade Bike Club is putting this on.

Open Thread Friday

The end of the first full week of school so how goes it?

News from the 34th Dems Endorsement meeting:

Position#1 - Sharon Peaslee
Position#2 - no endorsement
Position#3 - Michelle Buetow

[updated] They had previously endorsed Marty McLaren for Position #6 in West Seattle. [end update] I also am assuming they could not get consensus on a vote for Sherry Carr/Kate Martin so they have no endorsement.

Also, congratulations to Loyal Heights Elementary which was named one of the 304 Blue Ribbon Schools by the US Department of Education. This honor is given for public/private elementary, middle and high schools where students are either all doing well or where the achievement gap is closing. I note that Loyal Heights had requested a waiver to use Singapore Math and it was denied.

News Round Up

Loyal Heights Elementary named Blue Ribbon School by the US Department of Education for high pass rates on the state tests and a narrow achievement gap.

Tacoma teachers ordered back to work by judge, but the defiant teachers stay out.

The superintendent of Lake Washington schools leaves for a job in Singapore. I wonder if his replacement's name will be familiar to us.

Lots of National Merit Scholarship finalists from all the places that always have a lot of them.

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Our Mystery Donor Revealed

From Dr. Enfield's office:

The Seattle Foundation President and CEO Norm Rice today announced funding for Teach for America in Seattle Public Schools. I want to thank The Seattle Foundation and all the donors for their support. Please see the attached announcement for more information.

From the district press release:

The TFA teachers receive a typical first-year salary from the District and are members of the Seattle Education Association. They will, however, receive additional support from TFA during the school year. The Seattle Foundation will cover the $4,000 fee per teacher paid to TFA– an estimated $20,000 total. This fee is used to offset the cost of training.

“We know that an exceptional teacher in every classroom can help close the achievement gap and increase the academic success of all of our students. Teach for America brings even more exceptional and motivated teachers into our classrooms,” said Norman B. Rice, President and CEO of The Seattle Foundation. “Education remains one of our top priorities, and I want to thank local community members for supporting Teach for America by donating to The Seattle Foundation, including James R. Faulstich, Matt Griffin and Evelyne Rozner, Intelius, Inc., Will Poole and Janet Levinger, Ann Ramsay-Jenkins (William M. Jenkins Fund), and the Satya and Rao Remala Foundation.”

If more TFA teachers are hired in Seattle during the next year, Teach for America can use additional Seattle Foundation grant funds for the training and support of those teachers, Rice said. 

What appears to have happened is the above group of people/entities gave the money to the Seattle Foundation who in turn are giving it to the district to pay TFA.  (I note that Mr. Griffin is a top funder of the School Board incumbents' campaigns.)

I will also point out that I have found no study or evidence that TFA teachers have helped closed the achievement gap in any school.   Mr. Rice apparently buys into the idea that every single TFA recruit is an "exceptional teacher."  What he bases that on I cannot say except maybe he believes TFA's own press releases. 

The "next year" phrase is unclear to SPS (they think it means next year as well).  I have a call into Seattle Foundation to ask.  

Where Does Education's Role End and a Parent's Begins?

I read Jerry Large's recent column in the Times and came away feeling confused and unsure of what I thought I just read.   Maybe it's just ignorance on my part (and I'm willing to hear that if that's what you think). 

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

Seattle Board Procedures - Series 5000

Today the Board will be holding a Work Session on the Board policies numbered in the 5000s.  The meeting is from 4-6 p.m. at headquarters.  These policies cover human resource matters so you might think it's only personnel issues.  It is but, of course, the SPS students and parents interact with teachers and staff so having awareness of these policies is important. 

For example, volunteer athletic coaches for the district have to have a fingerprint check whereas regular volunteers only have to give a name and birthdate for the Washington State Patrol's WATCH program.  (When I was volunteering, everyone had to do a fingerprint check.)  I don't know why the district has changed this policy; it is more expensive to do fingerprint checks than the name/birthdate check.

Keep in mind that with both, they are checking for criminal history conviction records only for the state of Washington.  Interestingly, the WA State Patrol website says:

WASIS cannot guarantee the records you obtain through this site relate to the person on whom you are seeking information. Searches based on names, dates of birth, and other identifiers are not always accurate. The only way to positively link someone to a criminal record is through fingerprint verification.

Also, as Dorothy Neville has pointed out, there is some confusion in the policies about inappropriate behavior of a staff member towards a student and what should happen and who should be notified.  Again, it is vital to have clear policies on the procedure for reporting an issue to whom, where that report goes, when a principal should call in district management and/or police, etc.  This is protection for BOTH students and staff.  (You'd be surprised at the number of times that a principal has not called in police when it was clearly indicated and the confusion about whether they should call district administration first.)