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Thursday, September 08, 2011

Public Testimony (and Opt Your Kid Out Now)

One point before the public testimony info.  Last night I put forth arguments on three topics that seem to neatly line up with accountability (Sealth elevator), transparency (TFA donor) and public engagement (Series 4000).  I hope the Board realizes that mouthing these words without backing it up with action means little. 

Last night had some interesting testimony (along with some funny lines).

Highlights:
  • There were two speakers who talked about military recruiting in the schools.  One was Garfield parent, Kathy Barker, who said that the district used to have a good policy that had been carefully crafted.  Now, with the new overhaul of Board policies, she thinks it has been weakened.  NCLB allows the military in (that was built into the law) and is in a different category than other recruiters.  One troubling issue is that sometimes recruiters can come in extra times and if they do 15 minutes of tutoring, they can then talk about the military.  She also mentioned a Garfield coach who was the recruiter at the school (this should not have been allowed).  She also mentioned how College and Career counselors used to monitor this situation but now they are gone.  
  • Another speaker on the military was veteran Mike Dedrick of Veterans for Peace.  He made my radar go up when he explained that if a parent doesn't opt their child out in freshman year of high school, then that child's info WILL go into the military database. And, that even if you opt out in later years, the military AND the district are being evasive about if that info gets deleted.  The district said once the opt out form was signed, they have no further responsibility.  That may be true but students who opt-out, no matter when, should not be harassed at school by recruiters.  
So if you have a freshman and your preference is to not have your child contacted by the military, sign that opt-out form NOW.  (And make a copy - I always did.)
  • Watchdog Chris Jackins also pointed out, on the issue of the Sealth elevator, that Board policy requires that the vote come by the next meeting and yet this issue was not on the agenda at either the July or August meeting.   He had also pointed out that the staff said the Board couldn't say no as the work was already done but he encouraged the Board to test it out and see what happens.
  • Dan Dempsey spoke and his basic point?  We need evidence that decisions are being driven by data and fact.
  • Parent Leslie Harris said the district needed transparency on all grants.  Who pays for what, renewal, MOUs, contracts - all non-sustainable funding should open to public view.  She also talked about the Series 4000 how how there was virtually no public outreach on issues that matter to almost every family.  
  • Sharon Peaslee also spoke out on the Series 4000 and talked about the issue how often the word "shall" was used instead of the stronger (read: enforceable) "will."  She made reference to several Board policies.  She also pointed out that Loyal Heights had been working for a year (their PTA) on getting a math waiver and it was denied and it wasn't clear why.
  • RBHS PTA members Carlina Brown and Rita Green both spoke on the new energy at RBHS and the need for the district (read: Superintendent) to listen to hiring committees.  
  • SEA President Olga Addae made good points about the Series 4000 policies and the need to show what was deleted or changed and not just the rewritten policy.  She also questioned the need for TFA since there was no shortage and there was no ability to show these candidates had any special expertise as required for a conditional cert.  She also said that the SEA knows these recruits will become members and will embrace and support them but it comes at a cost of wondering why the least qualified teachers are in the most high-need schools.
  • Lize White from Broadview-Thompson came forward to talk about their composting plan and the need to keep it going with more adult help (to watch over the kids who lead it).  
  • Dorothy Neville also mentioned the Series 4000 and the lack of public input.  She also pointed out that the next series, 5000, is about HR issues.  One issue is that in one place, under staff misconduct with children, there is nothing about reporting but in another area there is.  If it's in one place, it should be in another.  Also there is no information about what a teacher/staff is to do if they go to their administrator and that person does nothing.  
  • There was also testimony from Hillary Behrman, a lawyer who works with youth in the juvenile justice system.  She was asking for consent from guardians for a student to talk to police alone to not just be for 12 and under but for all all students.  She also spoke of the troubling disproportionality of student discipline.  
  • Charlie also spoke up about how the Board policies have got to have teeth.  He said the Board's job is to enforce policy and that is governance.  He also mentioned that there is supposed to be an annual report on program placement that has still never materialized.   
Superintendent Comments
The Superintendent spoke glowingly of the first day of school and said the Lowell at Lincoln engagement was the "poster child" for family engagement.  I'm not sure how she meant this but I don't think a crisis situation is the best example of family engagement. 

She also said all the high schools had subs in place in case of extra students appearing.  (Center and Nova were offered subs as well but said they didn't need them.)

She also made an odd comment about going to RBHS for lunch and that "students were not roaming the halls" but were in place and listening.  Did she go expecting to see them roaming the halls?

There was a bit of song and dance about the test scores.  Charlie pointed out that there were some fairly big swings in high school test scores for just one year (mostly positive - I hope this sustains). 

Board Comments
Betty Patu urged people to come to her community meetings because she can't answer all her e-mail.

Harium visited 5 schools (!) on the first day.

DeBell said that he visited Adams (which is near 500 students).  He said that he felt Dr. Enfield had calmed the waters and there is a change in mood and culture and that she brought in a new team. 


Maier noted the schools he visited and that he wouldn't take his per diem.  (Might be nice if they pooled the per diems for a scholarship for a graduating senior.) 

Kay said she would be making school visits during September and October in her district.  She also mentioned that the Series 4000 policies could be enhanced by community input. 

Sherry was at MacDonald/Lowell at Lincoln and her student started at Hale.  She said on September 21st there would be an update to the response to the state audit.  She also said she heard loud and clear from the public that they want to know the specific law/policy when staff points to their decision-making.  

Steve also made first-day visits and is foregoing his per diem.

I note that several directors visited the same buildings (not sure why) but it would be nice that they coordinated schedules so that more schools get a first-day visit from a Board director.

10 comments:

mirmac1 said...

Wow, excellent run-down Melissa for those parents who can't attend Board meetings

Anonymous said...

It's pretty obvious that, if you have the APP parents angry with you, your political career in SPS is not long for this world.

Maybe that explains the choice of visits by Enfield and Carr.

--"Poster" politicians "roaming the halls"

Anonymous said...

'Not Throwing A Welcome Back Party' says:

Yippeekiaiayyyyyy. Get along little doggie. Look at those incumbents run. Pant. Pant. All over the place with new school day openings.

Me thinks I smell worried incumbents.

Wish I could be more charitable but I can't. Where were these directors when parents were begging for backing for their communities. Showing up on the first day of school is all dog and pony and most probably disruptive to first day logistics.

Better plan is Kay's: Visit in the first weeks of school. Investigate how schools are settling in. Skip the first day grandstanding.

Anonymous said...

I am curious, would people speak or write like this in front of their kids? This is a blog about kids, right?

A friend of Seattle

mirmac1 said...

friend of Seattle?

We use this blog as an "adult" dialog. What's the point of your insinuation? I did not use my usual sailor language, nor do I think the other "non-friends"....

seattle citizen said...

I agree, Melissa, the Interim Superintendent's words about Rainier Beach, that "students were not roaming the halls" were insulting to Rainier Beach. In the midst of her glowing celebration of the opening day at various schools, her recognition of RBHS is that student's weren't "roaming the halls"? This is a perpetuation, intentional or not, of the myth that RB is some sort of out-of-control chaos land. While RB has its struggles, this is far from the truth and it is disheartening to hear this at a board meeting.

Sahila said...

@Friend of Seattle....

when the school board and district management has continually betrayed the trust of the community, and failed in its fiduciary duties, one must expect a little acidity to the tone of the comments here...

If the Board and the District want the community to be more embracing of them and their actions, then its time they start behaving differently...

Building trust and respect takes time... and when you've pi**ed it all away as the Board and District have over the past three years, you only have yourselves to blame...

It really is time the Board and District took to heart the facts that we are not stupid and that they work for us and our children...

Melissa Westbrook said...

Friend of Seattle, this is blog about education which is obviously "about" kids but no, it's not a blog for children.

We try to remain civil here but frankly, life in our district can be frustrating and exasperating. If some people get snarky or have a tone, I can understand why. If you've been in this district long enough, you do get a bit jaded.

My faith is restored when I see kids come to school eager for the new year (as I did yesterday). And that's why I keep on trying for better for this district.

mirmac1 said...

Reposting anonymous but amusing non-friend, in case it gets deleted.

"'Not Throwing A Welcome Back Party' says:

Yippeekiaiayyyyyy. Get along little doggie. Look at those incumbents run. Pant. Pant. All over the place with new school day openings.

Me thinks I smell worried incumbents.

Wish I could be more charitable but I can't. Where were these directors when parents were begging for backing for their communities. Showing up on the first day of school is all dog and pony and most probably disruptive to first day logistics.

Better plan is Kay's: Visit in the first weeks of school. Investigate how schools are settling in. Skip the first day grandstanding"

Charlie Mas said...

I have followed up on my testimony with an email to the Board in which I ask for a response.

The Board's Executive Committee has been discussing how they will respond to board testimony. I guess they noticed that their legendary refusal to respond to testimony wasn't all that cool.

I specifically asked what action they will take to assure compliance with the program placement process - both the absence of an annual report that meets the requirements of the policy and the absence of a publicly available description of the program placement process. I asked for an affirmative statement from the board that the brief table provided by the superintendent met the policy requirements and I asked them to show me where the procedure appears on the District web site or to send it to me.

I encourage everyone who testifies before the Board to follow up with a request for a response.