Disqus

Thursday, September 22, 2011

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.
The first speaker, as always, was a group from one our high schools, this time Franklin.  The young man gave an impassioned rap/poem (and I'll contrast this "passion" later with the "passion" that was alleged to have been shown by Kenneth Maldonado, a TFA sub at South Shore).   This young man was not emotional but allowed his feelings to show through his words and tempo and expression in his voice.   He spoke about being a student and learning.  One line stuck with me, "Never allow negativity to stick needles into our hearts and minds."  Bravo.

Carol Simmons, a long-time educator and social justice activist in our district (way longer than me) spoke next.  Speaking about TFA, she pointed out that Socrates and Plato were not young at the height of their teaching powers.  She also asked the Board what other measures they were using to close the achievement gap besides TFA.

One TFA speaker talked about TFA as a "leadership pipeline for education" and said there were 45 studies underway about TFA. 

One theme seemed to be how much they felt they contributed as teachers.   This is great but honestly, I'll bet every new teacher believes they have contributed greatly to their classrooms.  I'm not sure this is a selling point for TFA.  Another theme is how they would all love their kids to have a TFA teacher.  I think that's fine but 1) no one gets to choose their child's teacher and 2) TFA doesn't like schools to tell parents their teacher is TFA.  It's interesting how much pride they have in the organization but it's to be kept from the parents of the children they teach. 

Chris Jackins pointed out that a couple of the incumbents, when they previously ran, had said they would be "adverse" to selling district properties but got on the Board and changed their minds.  (Chris takes extensive notes - I'll believe him when he says that's what was stated.)

There was also a TFAer named Emma Hong who I recognized (I think) as a former teacher at Eckstein who was well thought of there.  Sheba, another former TFAer, stated that she didn't go into her classroom after five weeks of training thinking she knew how to teach.  That's quite a statement given that the children in the classroom and their parents all expected to have a teacher who DID have that belief. 

Then the Ex Director for the Puget Sound TFA spoke and said a couple of interesting things.  She said that their TFA recruits had gone out in the community and met parents but I was confused about how they did this.  She didn't explain.  She also said they wanted to "proactively address the achievement gap" again, whatever that means.  And again, no proof that TFA has ever done that in any school or any district.

Then we had Mr. Maldonado.  Watch the tape.  I'm not sure about his ability to string two sentences together.  He got very teary talking about his work with a non-profit that helped homeless people and that it changed his mind and he decided to work "in the education sector."  I thought that was an interesting choice of words for someone so worked up emotionally.  He didn't say teacher which would have been the obvious thing. 

A co-president from Garfield got up next to talk about the capacity issues there.  He said that this year started MUCH more smoothly than last year.  He said they had 25 new staff and it was a credit to the administration that they all got off to a good start.  (That's a lot of new staff.)  He said the enrollment was at 1740 instead of 1800 like last year BUT that the school had been built for 1650 and they felt it should be that size.   He asked them to consider a cap on enrollment at Garfield.

What a kettle of fish that would be.  Good luck with that.

Then we had the principal of South Shore, Keisha Scarlett.  Here's where it got tricky and the Board tossed their so-called testimony protocol out the window.  She go up and talked extensively about hiring Mr. Maldonado.  She mentioned he was her daughter's teacher, that his "missionary zeal" was why TFA should be in SPS, that there were 98 applicants for the job, that he "knocked the socks off" the hiring committee and that the average length of time those applicants had taught was one year so he was "in the range." 

Having little to no experience teaching is NOT in the range of one year of teaching.

My real issue is that at the beginning of the Board meeting, Steve Sundquist explains the rules of testimony.  They are up on the screen during the entire time that testimony is given.  One of the rules is
"no comments on personnel matters."  

Ms Scarlett broke that rule several times and yet President Sundquist said absolutely nothing.  I can only assume that those "rules" are guidelines and now the door is open for ALL to comment on personnel matters including hiring committees.   I was quite dumbfounded that he allowed her to continue in this vein but fine, now we know.

SEA President Olga Addae spoke about the Series 5000 Board policies and made an observation that Charlie often makes; it doesn't matter WHAT a policy states if the policy is not upheld.

SEA Vice-President Jonathan Knapp explained that conditional certification was for shortages (there are none in Seattle) or people with exception abilities (none shown so far).  He explained that is why there was a vote of no confidence in Steve Sundquist.  I would say that makes sense if the Board knows what the reasons are that a conditional certification can be used and then went against those reasons.

The other thing that struck me is that I think the TFA folks thought there was going to be some mass uprising against the conditional certs (which there wasn't).  The district already hired some TFA folks so, to me, the horse is already out of the barn.  I certainly disagree with that action but what can be done at this point except to point out, as I did, that the district should not try to get any more people in via the sub pool and then say "oh they're already there better keep them" and have the busy principals say, "whatever."  

If they DO end up doing that, well, I certainly would expect to see ALL current subs hired full-time because otherwise that would look like favoritism.

20 comments:

seattle citizen said...

I was surprised to see a few Board Directors state that it's great that principals can have a wider pool or whatever to draw from, and great that principals/site hiring committees can choose their own teachers.

Maybe the Directors actually DO think that any ol' body can get a Conditional (emergency) certification and that these are just as good as the certificates the state requires all teachers to have in order to apply for jobs (except in the case of emergencies, just two: no one applying for a particular position, or a special skill.)

The directors that commented to the effect that this is great that principals can make hiring decisions for their buildings seem not to know state law.

WV is tired of the druma TFA brings us as it beats incessantly

Anonymous said...

Someone should verify this, but I believe that people who are on hiring committees have confidentiality rules regarding the hiring process. All hiring team members have to go through a training so that the district does not get sued. The breach of confidentiality is a serious violation of the hiring committee rules.

The fact that a principal would discuss a hiring decision publicly is very disturbing at the least but is also a potentially serious violation of the hiring process itself.

--something to refer to HR

dan dempsey said...

So what does the Board know and how do they know it? More importantly how do they address the requirements of the law?

From the Action report (which directors should read since this is what they are voting to approve or not.)

The Action Report states: “Bringing forward a request for conditional certificates is specifically contemplated in the Teach for America agreement,{{ Section I (C), which states }} “Seattle Public Schools agrees to request conditional certificates for all Teach for America corps members on the grounds that circumstances warrant the issuance of such certificates, as permitted by WAC 181-79A-231.”

WAC 181-79A-231 states:

The professional educator standards board encourages in all cases the hiring of fully certificated individuals and understands that districts will employ individuals with conditional certificates only after careful review of all other options. The professional educator standards board asks districts when reviewing such individuals for employment to consider, in particular, previous experience the individual has had working with children.

============
So what can be done?

1.. Contact OSPI and request that the person in charge of making the decision on conditional certification ... follow the law and NOT issue these conditional certificates.

2.. Initiate recall actions against directors that refuse to follow the laws of WA state.

The Directors refused to communicate any concern for the law. It is clear they ignored all communications sent to them and all testimony given that dealt with WAC 181-79A-231

==============
Again speaking of District efforts to close achievement gaps ... try the Directors apparent acceptance that the situation is improving in Math.

Here are Low Income student pass rates from Spokane using Holt and Clover PARK SD using Holt and Seattle using Discovering. These are End of Course Algebra Assessment pass rates for the low income children at each school that took an Algebra class during 2010-2011.

continued...

dan dempsey said...

  LowIncome ::
 Pass rates EoC#1
59.4% == Roosevelt

57.6% == ==Shadle Park*
56.6% == Franklin

55.0% == ==Ferris*
46.7% == ==North Central*
45.6% .=== Lakes High**
45.6% .=== Clover Park**
45.3% == ==Lewis & Clark*
43.7% == Cleveland 85 min/day
42.0% == Ballard

41.0% == ==Rogers*
31.7% == Nathan Hale
29.9% == Garfield

28.2% == West Seattle
23.2% == Chief Sealth
17.9% == Ingraham

8.5% == Rainier Beach HS


* => Spokane SD (Holt)
** => Clover Park SD (Holt)




There were two high schools in Seattle where more than 50% of the low income students taking Algebra I passed the EoC #1 and 8 high schools where this did not happen.


In half of the 10 Seattle high schools only 3 in 10 (or fewer) low income algebra students passed the EoC#1. In CPSD and Spokane no high school had less than 40% passing.



Alarmingly for low income students at 6 Seattle high schools the chance of leaving the Algebra course knowing very little algebra ( level 1 =>Well below standard) was above 40%.

Keep in mind that students who took Algebra in middle school likely took Geometry in high school and would not show up in my EoC #1 stats above.

Seattle is using the “Discovering Series” that was recently sold by Key Curriculum Press to another publisher.

Clover Park SD and Spokane SD use the Holt text recommended by OSPI.

Clover Park high school has been among the worse performing high schools in the state in regard to math. HSPE math pass rate for low income in 2010 was 12.2%

State average => HSPE math pass rate for low income in 2010 was 24.5%

In regard to pass rate for low income algebra students Clover Park would rank #3 in Seattle.
========

Pretty clear that this Board as a group does not care about state law or doing anything of substance about the achievement gap.


Is this a joke to OSPI also?

Anonymous said...

of the many branches of the Democratic Party, there are 1.05 branches in charge.

the main branch are the most duplicitous yuppie sell outs who consistently reinforce the boss man's world view and who consistently never enter a negotiation without giving away 80% of the store before the get to the table to split the difference.

the other .05 are the hapless naifs who don't have the back bone to run a nursery school well, so they're constantly rolled by the yuppies.

I don't know which of the 2 leading branches our school board members are trying to attain or are trying to maintain, but, at least with this TFA vote they're consistent about preaching 1 thing and doing the other.

IAmNotACrook

StopTFA said...

Interestingly, Mr. English felt compelled to 'splain away the issues of accepting funds from benefactors and how to handle these "gifts" with conditions.

He claims contract language is clear. You be the judge:

"Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual fee for each Teacher employed by Seattle Public Schools under this Agreement to defray expenses Teach For America incurred (that's called consideration in contractese) in recruiting, selecting, providing preservice training and continuing professional development services to the Teachers employed by Seattle Public Schools under this agreement. All fee payments
called for in this Agreement are contingent upon Seattle Public Schools receiving private donations to make such payments. Seattle Public Schools shall have no obligation to make any payments to Teach for America for fees except to the extent of private funds received specifically for such purpose. Any annual fees incurred may be paid through private funds. Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to constitute a commitment for Seattle Public Schools to employ any Teachers or any specific number of Teachers under this Agreement."

Yeah, real clear contradictory language. Mr English probably thought the 9th Circuit Court was wrong too. He can find the meaning of "unjust enrichment" in Common Law for Dummies. "A general equitable principle that a person should not profit at another's expense and therefore should make restitution for the reasonable value of any property, services, or other benefits that have been unfairly received and retained"

The concept of "unjust enrichment" is an easy one. If you contract with a builder to build a house, contingent upon you getting a loan; he builds the house and you move in but don't get a loan; you don't get to say "oh well, so sorry. And by the way, add another story next year."

Obviously TFA had no intention of collecting a fee. It received over $6M from the usual wealthy suspects in January of this year to open its NW branch. That's alot of money for an Exec Dir and maybe one project team leader to teach these 5 TFAers how to lead, I mean, teach. None of that went to UW. None of that went to SPS.

Once it became clear that the private donor issue was a thorn, that Directors were piqued that it was a big secret, English, Treat, Ferguson, and Enfield had to cook up how this was a gift or grant but not really because Norm's gonna cut the check directly to TFA.

Oh, and next year's no prob because SPS can just move into the house and add additional stories.

The point is, the Board (besides not needing anything but emotional testimonials) breached its fiduciary duty and placed the District in jeopardy. Staff did not follow procedures to beg billionaires for money. Just business as usual at JSCEE.

StopTFA said...

Hmmm, ate my post. Sorry if this appears twice.


Interestingly, Mr. English felt compelled to 'splain away the issues of accepting funds from benefactors and how to handle these "gifts" with conditions.

He claims contract language is clear. You be the judge:

"Seattle Public Schools shall pay Teach For America an annual fee for each Teacher employed by Seattle Public Schools under this Agreement to defray expenses Teach For America incurred (that's called consideration in contractese) in recruiting, selecting, providing preservice training and continuing professional development services to the Teachers employed by Seattle Public Schools under this agreement. All fee payments called for in this Agreement are contingent upon Seattle Public Schools receiving private donations to make such payments. Seattle Public Schools shall have no obligation to make any payments to Teach for America for fees except to the extent of private funds received specifically for such purpose. Any annual fees incurred may be paid through private funds. Nothing in this Agreement shall be construed to constitute a commitment for Seattle Public Schools to employ any Teachers or any specific number of Teachers under this Agreement."

Yeah, real clear contradictory language. Mr English probably thought the 9th Circuit Court was wrong too. He can find the meaning of "unjust enrichment" in Common Law for Dummies. "A general equitable principle that a person should not profit at another's expense and therefore should make restitution for the reasonable value of any property, services, or other benefits that have been unfairly received and retained"

The concept of "unjust enrichment" is an easy one. If you contract with a builder to build a house, contingent upon you getting a loan; he builds the house and you move in but don't get a loan; you don't get to say "oh well, so sorry. And by the way, add another story next year."

StopTFA said...

cont.


Obviously TFA had no intention of collecting a fee. It received over $6M from the usual wealthy suspects in January of this year to open its NW branch. That's alot of money for an Exec Dir and maybe one project team leader to teach these 5 TFAers how to lead, I mean, teach. None of that went to UW. None of that went to SPS.

Once it became clear that the private donor issue was a thorn, that Directors were piqued that it was a big secret, English, Treat, Ferguson, and Enfield had to cook up how this was a gift or grant but not really because Norm's gonna cut the check directly to TFA.

Oh, and next year's no prob because SPS can just move into the house and add additional stories.

The point is, the Board (besides not needing anything but emotional testimonials) breached its fiduciary duty and placed the District in jeopardy. Staff did not follow procedures to beg billionaires for money. Just business as usual at JSCEE.

Anonymous said...

I don't want to take anything away from the TFA teachers when I say this, but I remember being 24 years old, fresh out of college, and thinking I could do anything I put my mind and shoulders into too.

I used to work 70 to 80 hours a week in my late 20s and early 30s. Then I had kids. Now I'm lucky if I can work a full 40, but I'm one heck of a lot better at my job now, than back then.

Missing from the TFA equation is a large dose of reality, sustainability, and thoughtfulness about the future. Many, many grown ups & hot shots are not being realistic at all in their expectations. And large numbers of TFA Alums "working in the education sector" or "field" is not the same as "still teaching." Not by a long shot. But it is conveniently passed off that way in all the "making a difference" rhetoric.

When will people be thoughtful and truthful about this topic, at long last? Parading former TFA teachers who stayed in teaching is a red herring, when compared to the thousands upon thousands of alums who bolt from the classroom after 2 or 3 years.

Why were none of those former TFA alums present to speak? And if being a TFA teacher was so great, then why did they leave the classroom?

Feel free to educate me, TFA folks, I'm all ears. WSDWG

Anonymous said...

RE Contacting Randy Dorn and following the law...

I did. His office said they do not get involved with specific school districts.

Wonder what exactly they actually do to earn their paychecks...

-JC.

Melissa Westbrook said...

StopTFA, that is an interesting point about the contract. Because it clearly says that the district will pay TFA and they went out of their way at the Board meeting to say Seattle Foundation will pay directly to TFA.

Odd.

StopTFA said...

Not at all, Melissa. They're all about diffusing opposition. So I zig, they zag. And the Board is in LaLa land.

Jan said...

Melissa -- it is not really all that odd. There is a contract. SSD "owes" TFA $4000 per year for each TfA teacher it hires. SSD makes it very clear to TfA that is has no obligation to hire any TfA teachers, and that it "intends" to get the fee from private sources.

Nothing prevents TfA from agreeing, later, to "accept" funds from a private donor to cover that cost, and essentially "waiving" its rights against the District for that money. Waivers in contracts happen all the time. I suppose somewhere it all needs to get documented, but that is not rocket science either. In essence, what happened was pretty much what was supposed to happen -- but with a ridiculous amount of ball hiding, obfuscation, etc. along the way about donor identity. I like it no better than I did on day 1, but as long as the District did not have to pay the bill, we are about where we thought we were, I think.

cont'd

Jan said...

To me, the bigger issues are the ones still out there:
1. Are there still MORE TfA's to be hired as the capacity dust settles? If so, how many?
2. If NOT, then this is not working out the way either TfA or UW's COE intended. What will they do next? Just suck it up and pay more for the few TfA teachers here? Lobby hard behind the scenes for changes in the CBA so they can, in fact, get a thumb on the scale -- preferential treatment of TfA teachers -- in the hiring process?
3. What happens if there are "layoffs" next year and TfA teachers are not retained for the 2nd year? Presumably they sign the same contracts as everyone else, right? And no other teachers have guaranteed 2 year deals -- so TfA teachers don't either, right? Do we know this? How can we keep track of it when the RIF process starts next spring?

Given that all of this was done behind a screen of nonsensical ed reform babble -- and we would love to have the Board revisit it when the contract comes up for renewal, how best to accomplish that?

StopTFA said...

Jan,

I beg to differ. It is, shall we say, frowned upon for contractors and vendors to "waive" fees to public entities. How is that different than a freebie? A gratuity? Public entities should not place themselves in such a compromising position. Much like congressmen shouldn't accept rides on corporate jets even though there were empty seats.

That is why the district has 100+ audit findings over the last nine years. Policies and procedures are simply paper to put in binders.

Departments are to coordinate requests for monies through the grant office, the requests are reviewed for additional conditions and obligations, upper management and the Board are consulted.

My work is in the public contracting arena. Well run agencies don't do bush league junk ball like this. If they do, they are rightfully called on it.

dan dempsey said...

RE Contacting Randy Dorn and following the law...

I did. His office said they do not get involved with specific school districts.

Wonder what exactly they actually do to earn their paychecks...

-JC.

======
What do they do?

When the District makes a request for conditional certification and essentially makes a claim that they are following the law when they are not..... Dorn just rubber stamps it all OK.

This looks like Mr. Dorn deserves another recall hearing as he is supposed to be supporting the constitution and laws of this State .... That looks like too big a task for OSPI .... to actually base conditional certification on the requirements of State law.
---
Great question JC ....
"Wonder what exactly they actually do to earn their paychecks..."

The answer to that is apparently follow the wishes of the "Big Money".

Where is our Republic?

dan dempsey said...

So here is how things work in WA State...

August 2010 -- Seattle Foundation announces it will bring TfA to Puget Sound area for 2011-2012 school year ... laws never mentioned

Nov 2010 -- SPS Board ignores state laws in approving a TfA agreement.

Decemeber 2010 -- 6 million goes to establish a TfA office etc. in Seattle Area.

Spring 2011 -- PESB ignores state law after Executive Director Jennifer Wallace has been pushing for TfA.

Sept 21 -- SPS Board ignores state law for a third time in approving a request for conditional certification without the required careful review of all options for closing the achievement gaps.

OSPI confirms to JC (above) that they will ignore state law in the Seattle request.

----
I never received a response from the Board or from OSPI.... note I emailed OSPI and hand delivered a letter... I emailed the Board ... testified.. and submitted written testimony.

These folks never answer ... they violate state laws and do not respond ... I hope they do not wonder why recall attempts are initiated and school board decisions are appealed.

Jan said...

Stop Tfa: very interesting. I had been thinking more of private enterprise (not public. For example, if I owe the Bank a "management" fee for managing a trust account, and my grandmother decides to "pay" the fee for me -- the Bank is generally fine with that, and perfectly willing to accept the fee from a third party. All they care about is getting paid -- and all I care about is making sure the payment is credited to my account, so I don't have to make it a second time (not what granny intended).

As a result, I had not looked at it from the perspective you suggest. I am not sure the situation is exactly what you suggest (they are not truly "waiving" the fee, they are just "waiving the right to get it from party A (SSD) rather than party B(SF). And party A was on record all along saying that it had no intention of paying it, and was seeking some party B to make a donation to pay it. But I am intrigued by the larger point you make -- that the insertion of the donated money from someone (here, SF, but it would be from TfA if they were actually waiving payment altogether) operates very differently in public contracting, where it creates at a minimum an appearance of impropriety (of being beholden to the party giving the favors). To the extent this is an issue, though -- I wonder if your argument does not suggest that the problem was baked into the deal last fall when the original contract (indicating that the District would look to donated funds to pay the 4K fee) was signed. Because if I understand you correctly, the "worm" here is that by accepting "free money" from an entity (here SF), we wind up either actually compromised -- beholden to them -- or at a minimum, we create that impression.

It sounds like you are suggesting that the District should have decided on day 1 whether it was worth it to pay an extra 4000 per teacher per year to get neophytes trained for 5 weeks -- instead of whatever else was available (dozens of certified teachers with years of experience). And -- if the answer was NO (well -- THAT would seem pretty obvious), then we should have just declined this entire deal.

StopTFA said...

That is what I'm saying. The Board should not green light staff to cook up deals with sole-source vendors, and expect Daddy Warbucks to hand over a bag of cash.

This does cast a spotlight on the influence and access money can buy.

dan dempsey said...

"This does cast a spotlight on the influence and access money can buy."

Typical of a director, Michael DeBell raised the issues of Money and Access at a Board meeting on 9-7 and the TfA vote was delayed until 9-21 ... then on 9-21 at the Board meeting he did nothing of substance at all.

This is such BS. Yet, I think that DeBell is a better director than each of the four running for reelection. WOW what a remarkably sorry school board.

Yet it is the Best Board money can buy.