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Saturday, September 03, 2011

Series 4000 Policies

On September 7, 2011 the Board will vote to adopt the newly written Series 4000 policies. They aren't very good.

Policy 4000 Public Information Program
"The district shall strive to maintain effective two-way communication channels with the public." Vague, unenforceable.

"The Superintendent shall establish and maintain a communication process..." Note that the communication process that is required by an enforceable part of the policy is not two-way, as declared as the goal by the un-enforceable part of the policy.

Superintendent Procedure 4000SP
This is the procedure that the superintendent established to fulfill the requirements of Policy 4000. It doesn't take even a single step in that direction. Instead, it lays down the rules of engagement with the media.

Let's be clear about this. The Board should adopt a policy that prohibits the staff from withholding public information, prohibits the staff from disseminating false information, and requires the staff to establish structures and processes that ensure two-way communication as an integral part of the decision-making process.

Policy 4010 Staff Communications Responsibilities Vague, unenforceable.

Policy 4020 Confidential Communications Unenforceable.

Here's an example of how the policy cannot be enforced: "If the staff member intends to disclose the confidence, the student should be informed prior to such action." Note that policy says that the student should be informed, not that the student must be informed. "Should" is a guideline, not a rule and cannot be enforced. Look out for the word "should" in a policy; it negates the policy because it renders it un-enforceable and therefore meaningless. So do expressions like "endeavor" and "to the best of his ability".

How about this part: "A staff member is expected to reveal information given by a student when there is a reasonable liklihood that a crime has or will be committed, (e.g. child abuse, sale of drugs, suicidal ideation)." "Expected"? "Expected"? How about REQUIRED. Expectations cannot be enforced; requirements can be.

Superintendent Procedure 4040SP, Public Access to District Records
Here's that "should" word again. "Any record request received by district staff other than the Public Records Officer should be immediately transmitted to the Public Records Officer." It should be, but it doesn't have to be.

Superintendent Procedure 4110SP, Family & Community Advisory and Oversight Committees
I know that this is really petty, but Section B6 of this procedure requires that a copy of a memorandum describing each committee's charge, membership, selection process and manner of notification to the community, and more be kept in the JSCEE reception area for public review. That's a long-standing requirement and it has simply never been done. Why keep it?

"meetings shold be open to the public and minutes should be kept" Should, not must. Un-enforcable.

"The authorizing entity will respond within three months of receiving th final committee report regarding each of the recommendations by the committee and include a brief rationale for any recommendations which it cannot or will not follow." Another long-standing requirement that has never been met.

Superintendent Procedure 4129SP, Family Engagement
"Each school in the district should develop a family engagement plan..." Should, not must. Un-enforceable.
"Plans should be tailored to the realities of school families..." Should, not must. Un-enforceable.

In the case of un-enforceable policies and procedures I can't help wondering why anyone would bother with them.

16 comments:

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, did you send this info to the Board? If you don't, I will.

Also, is this all Series 4000 is or do I have to read the whole thing? Not that this isn't important but I just want to know I'm not missing anything.

That "should" not "must" has Holly Ferguson's fingerprints all over it. She very much wants control to go to the Superintendent and is quietly trying to lessen the Board's power and convince them this is the right thing to do.

If this gets voted in, the next Board should vote it out.

Anonymous said...

Looks like another item to cross off the to-do list, in order to make it look like Susan Enfield has the right to become the permanent superintendent in Jan.

What planet are these people on?
A (hopefully) new board will not be fooled by these bureaucratic games.

--enough already

someone said...

Wealsel words.... Geesh! Nice job paying attention to the details Charlie.

JvA said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
JvA said...

Dear SSD:

Do, or do not. There is no "endeavor."

--Yoda

Kate Martin said...

It would be useful to have a list of procedures from the superintendent to accompany the policies established by the board. Is that something that exists? Without clearly articulated procedures, policies have little meaning.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Yes, there's a section at the School Board page (in the box at the right with both the policies and Superintendent procedures).

I have been hearing rumblings that some of the Board have been asking for more time and possible public engagement. I also hear that staff is pushing back saying that they think only the policies that involve families need that.

These Board policies provide the platform on how the Superintendent and Board interact and what is most important to this district. I think the public should be aware of this in a larger, more public way and not just by district watchdogs.

Again, I believe this is about consolidating power and I absolutely believe the Board must push back hard.

Kate Martin said...

In general it's possible that a more bottom up administration model would make more sense in Seattle than what we have.

More participation would definitely be better. Does this policy revision work have a citizen oversight structure or advisory council of any kind? Should it have one if it doesn't?

If a good number of the principals were teachers who were identified by their peers to become administrators and most of the executive directors were also from a homegrown principal corps, again peer selected, we might be better off.

none1111 said...

If a good number of the principals were teachers who were identified by their peers to become administrators and most of the executive directors were also from a homegrown principal corps, again peer selected, we might be better off.

I'm not so sure about this. The qualities that make you a respected peer are not the same qualities that make you a great boss.

That said, I agree homegrown is nice, and I do note that you said "good number" and not "all". Perhaps there could be a way for peers to be influencers without the full authority to make selections. Honestly, I can't think of a practical way to make this happen, but it's interesting to consider.

Anonymous said...

in the dumb show kabuki that is seattle politics, doesn't it make perfect sense that a "governing" body would try to hide, cower, delay, avoid, punt, dodge - if you lose your cushy job in mount rainier-ville, what are you doing to do? Move to L.A. or D.C.?

BoatRockersBad

someone said...

I also hear that staff is pushing back saying that they think only the policies that involve families need that.

I'm a little confused, or maybe just too ignorant on this topic to understand. But, um...its a school district - ultimately, doesn't every decision "involve" families? How could one possibly make a cogent argument that families aren't impacted by nearly every Board policy, one way or another. The more I read, the crazier these people get - I'm starting to (sadly) understand why SPS is sooooo dysfunctional

Kate Martin said...

The action report says that there was a sense of emergency to get these changes done, yet there will be a chance to revisit this in 2012 or later. I guess I don't understand why there isn't enough time to do this right, but there is enough time to do it over? Consuming resources in a process that by design excludes the important elements of participation of citizen oversight and citizen input is imprudent. We may need a policy that guides policy development to avoid this from playing out through the rest of the policy series revisions currently underway and for future policy overhauls.

Wondering said...

"I guess I don't understand why there isn't enough time to do this right"

Perhaps concern over new school board?

Dorothy Neville said...

They actually delayed this a meeting because they hadn't gotten any feedback from citizens. I think they want feedback and are frustrated that they didn't get any. But I am not sure they know how to be effective at getting feedback.

For instance, while the 4000 policies are on-line, the series that they are actually in committee (2000 and 3000 in C&I and 5000 in executive or vice versa) are not on-line yet. I suspect they won't be until it becomes an intro item.

Kate Martin said...

In my opinion, the process needs to be embedded with citizens as opposed to the citizen piece being "community engagement" in spirit. An on-going citizen policy oversight commission would be useful. Creating a subscription distribution list for policy would be great, too. If we could click on the website at SPS and subscribe to areas of interest with news to our inbox when something is afoot, it would be useful. That way we could have a more on-going organic process constantly honing excellent policy and accompanying procedural suggestions to prompt the superintendent instead of hoping procedure is aligned with policy. Also could call out a lack of adherence when policy is ignored or when procedures don't align with policy.

Cap'n Billy Keg said...

Breaking a "rule", "regulation", "policy", "law", etc. is only ENFORCEABLE when there is a consequence for breaking said "rule", "regulation", "policy", "law", etc.

In addition to this "Series 4000" policy - is there a list of consequences should said policies not be followed?

You can "should", "must", whatever all you want, but unless there is a "price to pay" any "policy", "law", "regulation", "rule", etc. won't be worth the paper it's written on...