Friday, October 14, 2011

Open Thread Friday

The blog may go off-line on Sunday afternoon as we will be working on a new look with (hopefully) useful-to-you features.  Naturally, it'll be a work in progress. 

What's on your mind?


mirmac1 said...

Here's a happy story to start your Friday. Goldman Sachs wants what's best for education.

Coming soon, to a charter school near you

Dorothy Neville said...

I attended a lot of meetings this week. Besides getting a lot of knitting done, I learned the following:

[A&F:Audit] A good number of the missing CHS laptops have been found in a pawnshop.

[Executive] Michael DeBell reminded Steve Sundquist that priorities identified at the Retreat become the authority of the Executive Committee. Therefore the Executive Committee is responsible for ensuring that action happens This Year on Instructional Waivers.

[A&F:Finance] Duggan and Co did show up as promised with a preliminary report on the JSCEE bonds and the building sales. While I was disappointed in the depth of the report and the format -- a narrative format instead of a spreadsheet makes it harder to see all the holes in current knowledge -- they did fulfill their promise and the team has promised that a full forensic accounting of the funds is underway. Given how terribly poor the accounting has been over the years, I can sympathize with the amount of time will take to unravel and explain, even though I am also sympathetic with those who are impatient to get answers. But my bottom line is that doing a forensic audit on these funds is CRUCIAL work that cannot be rushed. A thorough examination of the Debt Service Fund, the Capital Eligible Fund and the Community Schools Fund (not a good name, imo, don't read anything into it) will reveal the extent of juggling that previous administrations have done with our taxpayer money.

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mirmac1 said...

Aren't they required to use generally accepted accounting principles (GAAP)? These kind of transfers must be FULLY documented. Nevertheless, Harmon got a 16% raise. Great.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Thank you to Dorothy for attending all these meetings.

Was it the same pawnshop? Because if that were the case, maybe some of them weren't lost. I'm sure this is a problem at every school that hands out laptops.

Good for Michael but we'll see.

Dorothy Neville said...

I got the impression is was 20 laptops found in one pawnshop. And this is a police issue. We don't currently have possession of the laptops, pending police action. Sure, theft and pawning is a problem with anything of value, but frustrating to me in that the original laptops should have had much more bold, impossible to hide, labeling that they are SPS property to minimize this. Didn't we hear at a previous meeting that one of the "lessons learned" was that they would have bigger stickers on this year's batch? And I am sure Computrace wants to know how their tracking software failed. Did their IT department blow it or something else?

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know if teachers ever have to undergo drug testing? Is there a district policy for teachers on this?

- I could be wrong

Dorothy Neville said...

Harmon would not have been responsible for the use of GAAP in the Capital accounting from 2001 to present. I don't know if we really could afford a 16% raise for him, but I do have to say that without Kennedy around, Harmon is showing himself to be knowledgeable and candid. Promoting him (with some oversight from Bob Boesche) was perhaps a good move. Without Duggan's institutional memory, Bob would probably find his job much more difficult. I am willing to bet that Duggan's hands are relatively clean and that he has a core of integrity.

Dorothy Neville said...

@I Could Be Wrong on drug testing.

I don't think so. Check the CBA, I have not seen anything to that effect. And I have read through the series 5000 policies and attended all the board discussion of same. Nothing about drug testing, mandatory or not, that I can recall. Those are the policies that would have mentioned such, I believe.

Jet City mom said...

We have our pawnable stuff ( over $500)- engraved- like bikes etc.
Those are good questions Dorothy.

I could be wrong- I don't think teachers undergo drug testing- & from what I have read in the papers about some teachers changing states/districts, records are not necessarily shared/updated.

I think random drug testing would be a civil rights issue. ( and a more common problem would probably be alcohol in the thermos anyway)

mirmac1 said...

We will agree to disagree on this one Dorothy. I thought the whole "gap reduction" approach to developiing this year's budget was a farce (e.g. forecasting reduced nutritional services revenue because food is yucky but failing to mention NS' big fat raises etc etc). Much of the effort was intended to leverage admin and the board's effort to force concessions from teachers.

Jet City mom said...

I would like to hear thoughts about drug testing at hiring though. ( for anyone in the district)

kellie said...

What has been on my mind is a pondering of this capacity analysis.

Seattle Schools - Intermediate Term Capital Planning

I was going to post this in the Open Tuesday thread as this speadsheet answers a lot of the questions that were posted there but that thread is getting pretty far down. (I love having two open threads per week, btw)

This capacity analysis is light years ahead of the hopelessly flawed and politically motivated one that was created by Brad Bernatek. There are a number of obvious errors on this report and I hope that a lot of parent eyeballs can point them out. But the framework is solid and the team put together by Doug Nichols actually understands best practices and is committed to transparency so I have some hope that we will have a good foundation document.

And just as Dorothy noted about the forensic audit. This work is crucial and must be done right. Without a solid and transparent capacity baseline all capacity conversations are hopeless.

It is not possible to form effective intermediate and long term plans without a transparent baseline that has numbers that look reasonable to parents, staff and the greater community.

dj said...

Random drug tests for teachers? Terrible idea. There is little evidence that random drug testing reduces overall drug use, or that drug use is a particular problem among teachers in the first place.

Not to mention I'd rather not treat public school teachers as suspect.

mirmac1 said...


What would be helpful knowing is whether columns J-M are worth a d*mn. If Tracy Libros came up with those numbers, than its GIGO.

Anonymous said...

Kellie - thanks for posting this chart (and I want to say I've found your posts on enrollment and capacity issues to be very informative). I wonder what footnote 4 means when it says that the projections don't fully include projected APP growth? Don't the kids in APP need to be included somewhere? Otherwise, they will be significantly under-projected enrollment. Jane

Charlie Mas said...

I am glad that Director DeBell brought his concern about timely action on the Instructional Materials Waivers to the Executive Committee. That was the right course of action. It is Director Sundquist's responsibility to bring Director Martin-Morris and the Curriculum and Instruction Committee into line - not Director DeBell's.

Dorothy Neville said...

Mirmac, I am often a glass half-empty person. I get where you are coming from. I am just trying to be hopeful about moving forward. Kennedy really controlled the message last year and one of MGJs emails to her cronies verified that she was consciously trying to keep funding her pet projects with diminishing funds. Kennedy had the art of obfuscation down pat. Harmon without Kennedy seems like a different person. Sure, he may have been complicit in some things, but moving forward, I think we won't see that. He even brought some ideas for a more transparent and rigorous plan to cut central administration.

Charlie Mas said...

I remember the new Facilities guys saying that the correct way to report a school building's capacity is as a single number based on each classroom being used as a fully enrolled classroom after making appropriate provision for PCP. This number does not change with programmatic changes.

The measurement of the utilization of the building, however, does depend on program. A classroom could be considered full with 30 general education students or with 6 students in an intensive self-contained program.

So, two different measures: capacity and utilization. One is independent of programming the other is influenced by it.

kellie said...

@ mirmac

Yes, columns J-M are relatively solid. The methodology they are using for this is pretty good. It is not perfect but it is good enough.

That said, this chart was made on June 29th and it has not been updated with the Oct 1st numbers. As there were 1500 students over the projections, an updated version would look very different.

In many cases, this year's enrollment exceeds the 2015 number. The reason I say this is still solid is that by updating with the current enrollment numbers, then the adjustment in the projections should be reasonably adjusted and useful for projecting needed capacity solutions.

The biggest issue that I have with enrollment projections is not on this chart. With the NSAP, we are going to see significant and consistent (and predictable!) growth at high school. Right now, they are only using roll ups from middle school to predict for high school enrollment.

Both last year and this year, there were over 500 new high school students, coming into the system at all grades. I expect that trend to continue for a few more years at least.

Noam said...


The Washington State Constitution assures the privacy of citizens (and their bodies) more strongly than the US Constitution.

For this reason, drug testing of public employees has been held as unconstitutional.

However, that being said, if a district has CAUSE to suspect a public employee is "under the influence" on the job, they can require employees to be tested.

After the episode of drug dealing by a staff member of the General Counsel's office last year, they would obviously resist. To say nothing of the "Drug Counselor" at RB (Smitty) who is servng time now. Guess the powers the are, only notice such behaviors in others.

kellie said...

@ Jane

I am not fully confident about footnote 4 but my guess is that (based on footnote 2) they are doing a very simple roll up of currently enrolled APP students with zero growth.

For pure capacity analysis, students moving from an attendance area to APP are just "swirl." They are a transfer student and not an additional student.

For the purpose of capacity analysis, they would need to make an assumption about the attendance area school from which the new-to-app student was vacating their seat. That is a pretty challenging prediction.

While there is lots of anecdotal information about which attendance areas APP qualified students are more likely to vacate their seats, it is unlikely that this number is statistically significant for this type of analysis. Moreover, it would be troubling if an attendance area was getting a big deduction for APP that turned out to be not correct.

So, my bet is that this model reflect zero APP growth.

A way to fix this would be to include in the footnote, a more explicit comment that growth at Hamilton, Washington, TM and (North end APP??) is extremely likely to be greater than anticipated due to outreach efforts for APP enrollment.

(and thanks for the compliment, notes like that keep me plugging away :)

kellie said...

@ mirmac (again)

I have to agree with Dorothy. Don't underestimate the complete loss of institutional memory to the equation. There are lots of good folks at the district and many of them are showing a very different picture without the micromanaging of Don Kennedy.

I often think about the Challenger disaster on this topic. Lots of folks at Nasa knew there were big issues. But nobody felt they had a way to daylight those issues. Nasa is a very different place after Challenger as they intentionally built transparency to prevent the obfuscation of known problems.

Melissa Westbrook said...

One interesting issue is that when the viaduct starting come down, what happens to the APP students in West Seattle?

I mean obviously the city is going to set up some other method of getting to and from West Seattle but how will this impact those students?

kellie said...

@ Charlie,

You are correct and that is is one of the obvious problems I mentioned and we had discussed this at length during the task force.

Utilization analysis is supposed to be weighted to reflect programming. This spreadsheet uses a straight utilization ratio does not reflect any weighting for special programs.

I hope that future versions show weighted programming as it is not terribly challenging to add a few columns that reflect program weighting. That is why I continually refer to this as a solid analysis. Anything that can be fixed by updating numbers and adding a column or two is a very workable analysis.

Here are some examples:

Thornton Creek is listed as having 44 extra spaces and 89% utilization. However, they have three classrooms that are fully allocated to a 4(b) special ed program with a maximum of 8 students per classroom. Those 4(b) students should get a 3x multiplier for capacity purposes as each student is (appropriately!) utilizing the equivalent of 3 seats.

That weighting would add 48 seats to the utilization analysis. This weighted version would show that TC is over by 4 spaces not under by 44 and 101% utilized. (Technically, if you are using 25 per class as a base then the 3 and 1/8 but you get the general idea.)

Another example is Wedgwood. They have a special ed program (medically fragile) with two dedicated classrooms and 19 students. A 2.5 multiplier would get them close to the 50 students for those two rooms.

I do not know the ins and out of special eduction. Someone with a deep understanding of the categories and legalities and programming would need to develop appropriate multipliers. It is quite possible that medically fragile should have the same 3x multiplier and then you would be able to demonstrate that the program at Wedgwood is overloaded.

The bottom line is that it is very easy to reflect this actual utilization with an accurate multiplier and have a solid capacity number that doesn't change.

Anonymous said...

Different topic -

- What can a parent do when concerned about the performance of their child's teacher?

- How do you know that a principal is making true efforts to improve the situation?

- What offenses are considered fireable and what kind of discipline is imposed for other offenses?

- Can any parents share their thoughts on what to do when they find the situation untenable for their kids?

signed, parent

mirmac1 said...

Kellie and Dorothy,

I'm a glass bone dry kinda gal.

On Cap Mgmt, given the recent promotion of L. Morello as Director of Capital Projects and Planning, I find it odd that consultant Doug Nichols has shifted from reformer of crappy capital projects mgmt to leading the capacity management effort. Again, his background is architecture and capital program and project management. He works with ESD 112's CSG, Construction Services Group. Like I said, I like the guy and his services are sorely needed in Capital Projects, but I see this as SPS winging it, once again.

Dorothy Neville said...

"There are lots of good folks at the district and many of them are showing a very different picture without the micromanaging of Don Kennedy."

Yes. And I look forward to Richard Staudt getting a more relevant role in the district. Risk analysis may finally be taken seriously.

kellie said...

@ mirmac

I get it. I really do. I can do capacity planning in my sleep because I learned it in my work environment, a long time ago. It is not that hard, really.

Because it is not that challenging, I have always been mystified by SPS's insistence on inventing their own home-grown analysis, rather than using any generally accepted standards.

As I said, there are obvious errors in this plan. I agree with you completely that those errors are there because there is a capitol projects focus, rather than a capacity focus (or a student focus).

But that said, the last home grown version was done by Brad Bernatek and it was such a fundamentally flawed analysis in so many directions and dimensions that it needed to be tossed out.

This version isn't perfect but it is workable. But most importantly, it is an actual analysis, rather than a politically motivated artificial construction.

The difference is that (at least in any environment that I have ever worked) you always have multiple eyeballs on your analysis. Analysis always improves every time someone else looks at it and gives feedback. Analysis done by one person is never perfect because "you don't know what you don't know." Multiple reviews is a cornerstone of good analysis.

I first met Meg Diaz when I gave her feedback on her analysis during the closures. Meg's framework was brilliant - flexible and insightful. However, she didn't know a lot of the quirks of my part of town. After a little collaboration, it was simple to update her analysis to reflect those few things that she "knew now, that she didn't know before." That is just standard practice and it was easy for Meg and I to do this as we both know standard practice.

If Brad's spreadsheet had ever been made public, it would have been easy for the community to see the obvious errors and it would have been so much easier to stop the closures. But only the conclusions of the analysis were made public.

Doug may not be perfect but he is more than competent, completely transparent and he participates in the standard practice. I can work with that.

po3 said...

- Can any parents share their thoughts on what to do when they find the situation untenable for their kids?

Document everything; if you have a verbal conversation follow up with email. Give principal deadlines to respond and when missed f/u with email.

If issue not addresed, begin to CC Education Director on emails.

po3 said...

- Can any parents share their thoughts on what to do when they find the situation untenable for their kids?

Document everything; if you have a verbal conversation follow up with email. Give principal deadlines to respond and when missed f/u with email.

If issue not addresed, begin to CC Education Director on emails.

Charlie Mas said...

I would like to see the capacity management effort be demand-driven.

For me, the question should be approached from a direction that says: We have these children, in these neighborhoods with these needs. We have these buildings. How should be allocate the building resource to efficiently and effectively meet the demand?

To date, the question has been approached from a supply-driven perspective: we have these buildings, who can we put in them?

Anonymous said...

"- Can any parents share their thoughts on what to do when they find the situation untenable for their kids?"

Ask Kate Martin. She took on Roosevelt because of a failng teacher and won a rare victory.

Another excellent reason to vote for her.


Anonymous said...

Drug testing:

I wondered about drug testing some admins after hearing so many stories about principals abusing their staff.

Just last week Sarah Pritchett, principal, McClure, accused her entire teaching staff of being racist.

Who is watching for and monitoring such bizarre behavior?


dan dempsey said...

Does anyone know if teachers ever have to undergo drug testing? Is there a district policy for teachers on this?

- I could be wrong

Not that I know of.... for the SPS teachers.

When I taught at Lummi Nation School on the Lummi Rez in the 2008-2009 school year...

Everyone was drug tested on Day 1 and all were made aware that random testing could take place at anytime....... which was fine with everyone teaching there.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Parent,funny you should ask because I just did a talk last night for a parent group on advocacy.

Document everything. Have a meeting with someone? E-mail them back your account of what was said.

Always cc a Board Director and/or Ex Director. Get that loop started early.

Be specific. Is this teacher behavior around adults? Kids? Abusive to kids? Teaching erratic or hard to follow? What is the issue? What does your child say?

Volunteer in the classroom. Look around at the kids. What is the atmosphere. Or, ask to sit in on the class.

Quietly ask other parents. Is your vibe correct?

You would know if the principal was making a true effort if things changed. Does your principal seem to understand what you are communicating? Don't be put off with "you're the first parent to tell me this." Not always true.

As for teacher offenses, you'd have to check the teachers' contract or ask the principal. I honestly don't know except that if you are found to have done a criminal act - against the school, a child or another adult - you will be fired.

If you believe your child is in danger, get out the class now. If you are just unhappy with the teaching, get specific with the principal. Ask if there is room in another class.

Respect what your gut says. You have instincts for a reason, especially paternal ones.

It sounds serious but I can only say that in terms of the teacher that Kate's child and mine shared, he was unlikeable person, treated the kids unfairly and was a poor teacher. I waited too long and then couldn't get him out of the class. I should have and just homeschooled him in that class.

Anonymous said...

@JC: "Just last week Sarah Pritchett, principal, McClure, accused her entire teaching staff of being racist." Woah, what? Are you serious? I'd like to know more about this, please.

QA parent of two

dan dempsey said...

Joy Anderson and I, along with a few others are seriously considering filing an appeal of the School Board's approval of requests for conditional certificates for Teach for America corp members.

You can find out about our thinking on this matter HERE.

This appeal business is a bunch of work and $240 in filing fee to make this one happen. Your thoughts either "pro" or "con" will be appreciated.

We are really tired of the Directors ignoring legal requirements.

Side note: Since MGJ's departure things are definitely improving in a variety of areas..... but in the instructional area ... unfortunately things remain largely the same.

Achievement Gap? For Maier a TOP Campaign priority ... so what!!

Rufus X said...

@JC -
Earlier in the week on another thread, Jane said "It's interesting to me that McClure's numbers haven't increased more. I was thinking their enrollment would start to grow since QA families now have guaranteed access to a high school (Ballard)."

Not particular surprising to me, since one doesn't have to go to McClure to continue on to Ballard.

I too would like to hear more about the accusations directed toward staff by the principal.

mirmac1 said...


Got it. And yes, Doug is a straight guy. I like Charlie's suggestion best of all though. Rather than think how cram kids into buildings, it should be how buildings should accomodate these kids....

Anonymous said...

"@JC: "Just last week Sarah Pritchett, principal, McClure, accused her entire teaching staff of being racist." Woah, what? Are you serious? I'd like to know more about this, please."

The accusation was made at the staff meeting and was vauge and unsubstantiated. No specific incident wss given just an overall rant that the staff was racist.

This is why I say her behavior was bizaare - way more than just unprofessional.

I don't believe Pritchett was refering to Koreans or Somalians or Native Americans if you get my drift.

Teachers will not speak out since they have been effectively terrorized into silence. And how does one answer such a charge anyway - can't prove a negative.

What next? Take it up the line? I have no confidence in the district on this topic. But perhaps you do.


Anonymous said...

Thanks for the comments on drug testing, now I have a little better idea. BTW I'm not advocating ramdom drug testing on teachers, just trying to figure out what policies are in place because I'm trying to figure out what to do. I'm concerned about one of my kid's teachers. Of course, since it's a pretty serious accusation I have a lot more watching and thinking to do, but was just asking what general policy currently might be. Thanks for all the comments.

- I could be wrong

Floor Pie said...

New topic (sorry if this came up before and I missed it):

I heard from a friend at Stanford that the new principal is bringing back saying the Pledge of Allegiance. Apparently it's Washington State law? I had no idea.

Does your child's school do the Pledge, and how do you feel about it?

Melissa Westbrook said...

JC,who is the Ex Director? That person should be brought up to speed and in the loop right now. It might be worth asking (anonymously) for a group meeting.

dan dempsey said...

Floor Pie ....

inquired about: pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America

and Washington State law?

It sure has been State Law for a along time.

Kids are not required to say the pledge but they are required to maintain a respectful silence while it is said.

Here is a MAP.

ACLU on WA State

The RCW=28A. 230.140

The board of directors of every school district shall cause a United States flag being in good condition to be displayed during school hours upon or near every public school plant, except during inclement weather. They shall cause appropriate flag exercises to be held in each classroom at the beginning of the school day, and in every school at the opening of all school assemblies, at which exercises those pupils so desiring shall recite the following salute to the flag: "I pledge allegiance to the flag of the United States of America and to the republic for which it stands, one nation under God, indivisible, with liberty and justice for all". Students not reciting the pledge shall maintain a respectful silence. The salute to the flag or the national anthem shall be rendered immediately preceding interschool events when feasible.


Is the Board not doing its job?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Floor Pie, my understanding is that it is a principal's call.

My recollection from elementary was maybe once a week in certain teachers' rooms. Occasionally at an assembly.

Middle School - never (maybe at 8th grade moving up ceremonies)

High School - never (except at the Veterans Day assembly)

Do they still play the national anthem at high school games like football and basketball?

They say the pledge at all Board meetings but you can say it or not (I generally leave out "under God" as do others).

Melissa Westbrook said...

I neglected to say this recollection was at my sons' schools and not my own.

Anonymous said...

What next? Take it up the line? I have no confidence in the district on this topic. But perhaps you do.

What do you mean JC? It seems kind of weird that a black principal at McClure could or would accuse her entire staff of being racist? The principal, vice principal, and handful of teachers are all black. She is the one in power. What exactly did she say and when? More innuendo doesn't shed light, and is almost as bad as nebulous claims of "racism" you are claiming she said. (not that it is untrue - just that more details should be provided to prevent rumor-mongering)

Was she complaining about treatment of a black student (seems unlikely, since she is completely in control of that)? Or was she complaining about some sort of lack of respect given her by her staff? Given that the huge teacher turnover at McClure, she should be completely in control of who the staff are, as she has probably hired most of them by now, and whether or not any disrespectful staff have been hired? So, claims of racism indeed seem strange.

But yes. It does seem pretty bad that McClure has such low capture rate for its service area. The QA/Mag area elementary schools are packed to the gills - but few seem to continue on to McClure. The district hacked a teacher from the staff - leaving classes with 35+ students per class. Then, 2 weeks into school - classes were shifted around because 8th grade was WAY overbooked, and teachers reassigned. That is the worst thing about the school currently. Racial climate is small potatoes compared to that. If there is something to "escalate", it's that.

-McClure parent

Jamie said...

Melissa, they played the national anthem at last Saturday's Ballard/Garfield football game. The BHS band played it.

Anonymous said...

Re: McClure and the mysterious disappearing QA/Magnolia students...

I don't get why everyone up here loves John Hay and Coe (and all the other local elementaries, I assume) and then completely disappears/flees when it comes to McClure. It seems to me that the reason these elementaries are so successful (aside from the great staff) is in large part due to the incredibly supportive parents who raise funds, volunteer in the classrooms, and just generally make themselves available to their children and the other students at these schools. So it would stand to reason that if these same parents provided the same amount of support at McClure, it would be similarly successful (and be perceived as a "good" school).

But every time I ask someone on QA with middle school children where his/her kids are going, 9 times out of 10 it's private school. When I ask my friends what they plan to do when their young kids get to that point, 9 times out of 10 they talk about private school. Nobody can REALLY articulate what they are so worried about at McClure, but sometimes these vague stories come up about someone's friend's kids' experience, or this anecdote about the current principal calling the staff racist.

I'm not saying this didn't happen or that it shouldn't be addressed, but I'd like to a) hear some substantiation for this and other negative claims about McClure, b) hear some positive stories, and c) see more of my fellow QA parents with elementary-age kids pledge their support to this school and make it work. We're planning on sending our kids there (many, many years from now) and we intend to do all we can to make McClure a solid option for our kids and their peers.

Sorry for such a long post. I just don't get the problem with this school. And FWIW, I volunteered there last year and was impressed with the teachers and students. I'd be interested to hear what other members of the McClure community have to say about their school.

QA parent of two

kellie said...

@ mirmac and Charlie

"I would like to see the capacity management effort be demand-driven ...
To date, the question has been approached from a supply-driven perspective: we have these buildings, who can we put in them?"

Capacity conversations should (technically) be limited to number of seats and number of bodies that need seats. It is a demand-driven conversation. Frankly, watching paint dry should be more interesting than talking about capacity.

What happens in a building is about teaching and learning. That should be an interesting conversation. That is the supply side conversation. This is the conversation that is meaningful and important and a big deal.

The reason I have stayed involved in this as long as I have is because while the demand side of the equation is truly duller than rocks, it is the foundation of an effective supply side conversation.

To use an analogy. I actually like to do interesting things. I do not like to balance my checkbook. However, having a balanced checkbook makes it a lot easier for me to do interesting things as I know what is feasible and what is going to result in a bounced check.

The fact that capacity conversations in the last few years have had more twists and turns than your average hollywood blockbuster, is an indication that we were not having an effective capacity management conversation. "oh, it's Tuesday, the capacity of that building is now ...."

Simply put, if there had been a spreadsheet like this one, the closure process would never have happened. Moreover, the severe over-crowding in NE Seattle and North West Seattle would never have happened.

The ability to manipulate the capacity numbers at will enabled politically motivated decisions that would not have been possible if empirical numbers had been used. IMO, the first step to re-directing the conversation back to teaching and learning is to get capacity numbers nailed so that it is possible to have an effective conversation about teaching and learning.

Anonymous said...

Middle school is hard to do right even in the best private schools with resources. But with large class size and high teacher turnover, you're already handicapped. It would be nice if all the kids and parents from hi-functioning ES stick around and transform McClure, but it'll take a couple of years. Meanwhile, for parents who can afford to go private, APP, or choose alternative schools, they will do so because they don't want their kids to slog through the transformation. To them those 3 years are important years to get their academics right (before HS). It is no different from when parents had school choice. Many QA/Magnolia families chose Whitman, Salmon Bay, Hamilton, private schools over McClure.

-another QA/Mag parent

Anonymous said...

Another issue that I am hearing about McClure has to do with its spectrum program. McClure is the spectrum middle school for the area. The families that were successful at getting Lawton's spectrum program weakened are now working their magic at McClure. The spectrum program at McClure was one of the few positives that I have ever heard about the school and now it, too, appears to be in danger.

I have yet to tour McClure, but others have told me that its really depressing inside. It has got to me one of the district's ugliest buildings, and I guess that is also true for the inside.

-Another QA parent who is considering avoiding McClure

Been there, seen it. said...

Hey everybody:

First off, Sara Prichett is NOT black. The vice-principal is but not Sara.

And JC: No, no one is watching. At the district, principals such as she are enabled not corrected. Its a version of the "Everybody is a winner" philosophy at SSD that allows bad apples to exist for years before action is taken, and then they just "resign" (like how MGJ retells history now).

Second; no one can blame Sara Pritchett's behavior on drugs. She has been absolutely insane since before coming to McClure and has gone downhill (unchecked) since.

Careful though, she's quick to threateh legal action against anyone who criticises. Easy to imagine how staff at McClure are terrified.

Another surprised witness said...

Not so fast "Been there";

There may be drugs that account for Pritchett's behavior for all this time, the question is: Is she taking them as perscribed?

Others have witnessed her bizarre tantrums and wondered how she lasted this long.

It seems a cry for help.

Anonymous said...

Many QA/Magnolia families chose Whitman, Salmon Bay, Hamilton, private schools over McClure.

Uh. Not any more. Haven't you heard of the NSAP? That's where you don't get a choice. No, you aren't going to get to choose Hamilton or Whitman. Maybe you can have Salmon Bay, but that's pretty unlikely too. Salmon Bay isn't the option school for QA/Mag at the middle school. In fact, QA/Mag is the ONLY service area without an alternative school at the middle school level. Blaine is a K-8, and an "option", but it is not an alternative. And, since it is the assignment school for the K-5 portion, it doesn't accept many new students at 6th.(eg. something like 5) Of course, you can choose private (maybe). But how many can the privates really absorb? They're already taking a lot for elementary. Are there really that many extra spots at the middle school level?

As to McClure "improving". They've been saying that for about 10 years now. With all that "improving" it must be Harvard by now. It's hard to get traction on the promise that "one day it's going to be good" because of the NSAP... as if the southend students were ever the problem. Nobody really wants to send their kid to a school that is "improving", they'd rather send their kids to something already improved.

I guess I wouldn't agree too much with the depressing interior comment. Sure it's no beauty, but it isn't about the buildings. Buildings can be made attractive - it really isn't the issue at all.

-McClure parent

Charlie Mas said...

It used to be that nearly ALL of the Catherine Blaine fifth graders continued at Blaine for sixth grade. The enrollment numbers suggest that is still the case.

Anonymous said...

Gee "Been There". I guess there's no such thing as a single racial heritage. Every parent I know would consider, and thinks that the principal is "black". I guess others may see things differently. In any case, she still is the principal, whatever her race, and the one in charge. So, it would be great to know about the incident of "racism" and the specifics.

McClure parent

dan dempsey said...

Melissa said:

Floor Pie, my understanding is that it is a principal's call.
So much for the requirements of WA State Law in Seattle... There are a lot of school districts that follow RCWs .... Without enforcement apparently RCWs mean little in Seattle.

Pretty clear from King County Superior Court Judges' failure to even mention violations of RCW 28A 645.020 in their decisions that RCWs are neglected regularly without consequences in Seattle.

Let us see what happens in WA appeals court Division I on 11-3-2011 in regard to RCW 28A 645.020.

Anonymous said...

I don't have a child at McClure and I am sorry to hear about its trouble. However, I am very uncomfortable reading some of the comments made about the school's principal. I don't like the conjectures that are swirling here. So please folks, be careful about what you posts. I like this blog because the commentaries are usually thoughtful, insightful, and respectful. Please, let's keep it that way.

-concerned reader

Jet City mom said...

This is from this blog last month re: Mcclure
Charlie Mas pointed out

Results from McClure staff survey:

Staff feeling positive about professional culture: 30% (District average 56%)

Staff feeling positive about school leadership: 32% (District average: 57%)

Conflict and dissension among the staff is resolved in a timely and effective manner: 15% (District average: 46%)

The principal encourages and supports open communication: 19% (District average: 61%)

The principal is an effective manager of school operations: 38% (District average: 67%)

These are not very good results. About half of the staff responded to the surveys.

The Executive Director of Schools for McClure is Nancy Coogan, a woman who has always impressed me as a straight-shooter. I would encourage folks to contact her about any school in her region.

And anon posted

Over 30 union complaints were filed against Sarah Pritchett, principal, McClure middle school last year.

All but ONE teacher asked to be anonymous.

Retaliation? Fear?

Ya think?

peonypower said...

we have the pledge during announcements 3x per week at my high school. I stand and pledge, but I don't make anyone do this. Interestingly, last year no kids did and this year all my kids stand at respect the flag.

Rufus X said...

@QA Parent of 2 said
I'd like to a) hear some substantiation for this and other negative claims about McClure

This parent can't substantiate negative claims about McClure by others. I have several friends who are involved, committed, and dedicated parents at McClure and I will not comment here or elsewhere in such a way that could be construed as derogatory toward their efforts or their school choice. I can only say that having toured McClure 4 years ago (during the principal's 1st year?) and again last winter, McClure was not a fit for the Rufus X family.

c) see more of my fellow QA parents with elementary-age kids pledge their support to this school and make it work. We're planning on sending our kids there (many, many years from now) and we intend to do all we can to make McClure a solid option for our kids and their peers.

See, that's an inherent problem with making a middle school a solid option - depending on your family situation, you may have 3 years tops to devote to such an effort and you hope the parents who are there now are helping to make a school an awesome school. I admire and revere my friends who are doing this at McClure (and other schools). Their efforts are noble, admirable, and with the help of supportive staff, will help make McClure a top middle school in Seattle. I am confident that elementary school parents within the boundaries are grateful for the paths being blazed. Part of me wishes I could be a part of that transformations. The selfish part of me recognizes that my kids can't wait. So we've chosen and were, by the luck of the NSAP draw, admitted to another school outside of our neighborhood boundaries. Part of me feels guilty about that - that we're not doing our part to make our neighborhood school the best it can be. And part of me is resentful that the district is not doing its part to make our neighborhood school the best it can be and is delegating that responsibility to the families it's forcing through NSAP into the school.

TraceyS said...

Dina Brulles, one of the two authors of the Cluster Grouping Handbook currently making the rounds, will be speaking at Wedgwood Elementary on Wednesday Oct 26. The model described in the book relies heavily on classroom differentiation, and is presented for situations where self-contained classrooms are not an option (straight from the book, not my words).

She was invited to work with staff during the day, and will lead a parent discussion in the evening on "more background on the cluster grouping model." I do not know if this meeting is open to families outside of Wedgwood, but I will try and publish some notes from the meeting for those who are interested in this.

I know this book was also used as a basis to change the Spectrum delivery model at Lawton, and there has been a lot of criticism that the model, as being implemented at these two schools, varies significantly from the one presented in the book or her research. It will be interesting to hear Dr. Brulles' take on it.

TraceyS said...

Dina Brulles, one of the two authors of the Cluster Grouping Handbook currently making the rounds, will be speaking at Wedgwood Elementary on Wednesday Oct 26. The model described in the book relies heavily on classroom differentiation, and is presented for situations where self-contained classrooms are not an option (straight from the book, not my words).

She was invited to work with staff during the day, and will lead a parent discussion in the evening on "more background on the cluster grouping model." I do not know if this meeting is open to families outside of Wedgwood, but I will try and publish some notes from the meeting for those who are interested in this.

I know this book was also used as a basis to change the Spectrum delivery model at Lawton, and there has been a lot of criticism that the model, as being implemented at these two schools, varies significantly from the one presented in the book or her research. It will be interesting to hear Dr. Brulles' take on it.

(earlier post disappeared, so sorry of this shows up as a duplicate).

Like to see school survey results said...

Does anyone know why school reports nor survey results from last spring (2011) are available on the main district website. Does anyone know where they're now linked?

anonymous said...

Here is Kate Martin's reply to Melissa's question about whether to have a superintendent search or not.

"Susan Enfield is a soldier for the failed ed reform agenda that robs high achievers down to lowest alike with the bubble test prep script.

For goodness sakes, many classrooms don't even have books and teachers and parent volunteers have to break copyright to xerox pages by chapter which cost about 4x what actual books would cost. Meanwhile we're spending millions on bubble test prep and testing.

We are adding 1000 students a year. We can't staff with 3 year formulas.

She has surrounded herself with mediocre to inadequate talent in the way of regional executive directors, refuses to do a fact check of resumes of those folks she has hired and only holds principals "accountable" to bubble test bumping.

She fails to correct the curriculum inadequacies in any perceivable way and will never close the achievement gap, but will actually make it worse, because she buys the drill 'em for bubble test agenda.

We don't need bubble test bumpers.

We have money for real teaching, real learning and real conversations with families about how to supplement and navigate public education.

APP and Spectrum are not even the beginning of challenging students.

We must stop punishing families who prepare their students for school and who cultivate them each and every day of each and every year.

Remedial is one type of classroom. We don't need to dumb down every classroom with remedial. We can't shove all of our "average students" into that milieu.

Susan Enfield does not have a vision for the best schools in the nation - which is what Seattle should be shooting for - but instead she has another tired story about the achievement gap. Yuk.

I'm tired of students being held back by such programs that only deal with one segment of the student population. All students need attention and challenges. All student deserve inspiration. Many are bored out of their minds in these classrooms.

I would like a superintendent who is willing to recognize the individual needs of students and who understand the difference between standards and standardization."


Melissa Westbrook said...

Given what has been said here about the McClure principal (who I know absolutely nothing about), there is obviously something that makes some staff deeply uncomfortable.

I wonder what McClure parents think of the principal.

Anonymous said...

I am with concerned reader. This crosses the line from "I don't care for this principal" to accusations that would get most people fired or arrested, saying she is a drug user and insane. It's also libel. Pincipals are not public figures like Lindsay Lohan and have a greater expectation of privacy.

I realize libel laws haven't caught up with blogs yet, but I expect more from Melissa and Charlie on this than crickets. This is a very nasty thread direction. If Ms. Prichett has problems, the blog owners keep saying it's easy to do-get rid of principals through a specific process. This kind of thing is the reason blogs aren't taken seriously and bloggers aren't always considered journalists.


Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm pretty sure I can't be sued for libel if I didn't write it. And I'm pretty sure the First Amendment covers free speech.

I agree that a lot of what was said here was troubling and frankly, not very nice. It does not sound personal; it sounds like people are worried about her professional behavior and how it affects their careers.

"If Ms. Prichett has problems, the blog owners keep saying it's easy to do-get rid of principals through a specific process."

Nope, never said that. What I said (and I'm pretty sure Charlie as well) is that there is a process to exit ineffective TEACHERS. I have never said that process is easy (if it was then more teachers would be exited). I have no idea what the process is to exit ineffective principals.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Anonymous said...

1st Amendment covers free speech and expression, but it doesn't mean you can say whatever you want or without reprecussion (libel laws, yelling "fire" in a crowded theater, inciting violence, and cyber-bullying). Somethings may not be criminal, but will prevail in civil courts... making free not so "free".

I cherish my 1st amendment rights. I take them seriously and I don't want to abuse those rights. The credence which I give to people is based on what they say and do. On blogs, I can't see what you do, so I pay attention to what you say and how you say it.

The other thing (and it's the analyst in me), I am cautious about what I read especially when we do allow anonymous postings (like mine). Most time on ths blog, people ask questions, other provide answers to the best of their knowledge, and most people discuss and debate away with great wit, verve, passion, and terrific analysis. I love that. I jog carefully around postings that are more innuendoes, full of many points that don't connect or don't make sense, are mean, and more troll like with a hidden agenda.

So I say again, please be careful what you post, be smart!

Concerned reader

dan dempsey said...

the blog owners keep saying it's easy to do-get rid of principals through a specific process.

Teachers yes...

Principals ????

Sahila said...



Anonymous said...

More McClure:

Yet another union complaint filed against Sarah Pritchett. This one concerns her instituting the seven period school day instead of the contract's six period school day over the staff vote for two years running.

Also, if parents want more info about Pritchett and her actions, why not call a meeting with her and her bosses?

If enough parents voice their concerns, perhaps "someone" will start watching.


Anonymous said...

Well, Melissa, you're right. YOU are safe, though I wasn't talking about YOU in the first place. The people writing about Ms. Prichett being crazy and a drug user, without the truth, i.e. PROOF, may indeed by liable. You like facts and figures, so here is a pretty definitive website on the matter, spelling out what "concerned" and I are talking about:


I admit that I've wondered in the past about Dan's on-going comments about judges and lawyers ignoring the law and such, but his statements seem to be "hyperbole" according to the FAQ. So he's safe. But stating as fact that someone is a drug user, well, that's different. And I'm sure you know that there are certainly ways to find out the identity of "anonymous" commenters.

Regardless, it's unsavory, even if she IS the the worst principal in the history of SPS. There are better ways to deal with it than to make such comments. This blog is better than that.


Anonymous said...

Sorry, I am not a live-link-able person. The last word in my link is "defamation". The rest is ok.


apparent said...

Until encountering their names on this blog, I had never heard of either Principal Sarah Pritchett or Principal Martin Floe. Through this blog, I now know that Superintendant Enfield and her regional executive advisor Bree Dusseault (almost) fired Principal Floe from his job at Ingraham High School despite very strong staff and parent support. From this thread, the question is now being raised as to whether SPS actually gives a hoot when staff and parent support for Principal Pritchett at McClure Middle School seems so thin.

In the case of a good principal, how can SPS ever justify sacrificing the education of hundreds of children by interfering with a good school? And in the case of a bad principal, how can SPS ever justify sacrificing the education of hundreds of children by putting the interests of that employee above them?

The real concern of SPS in these schools should always be the individual children.

Anonymous said...

JC - is filing "union complaints" so unusual? It seems that it is the recourse for any contract problem that district employees may have. I would expect there to be many of these at every school. Funding for schools isn't really a "school" issue. As to the seven periods, there aren't really seven periods at all. There is an extended language arts period and 5 other periods. That really gives students just 1 period for something besides the 5 required subjects: LA, math, science, social studies, and PE. I would hope that most secondary schools could offer their students at least one elective. Isn't that really just 6 periods? It is to my every-day math.

Again, if you know something of merit about union complaints, or claims of racism at staff meetings - then share that. Because without details, it isn't much. Parents aren't going to be "up in arms" about either of the issues you raised because they are staff issues.

-McClure parent

Anonymous said...

If I were terrified at my job, I would invest $100 in a mini-camera or voice-activated tape recorder. that should do the trick...

Mr Ed

Anonymous said...

Ugg, Blogger ate my previous post (I guess). This site seems to have a great FAQ on defamation/libel. Although Melissa would in fact be safe, commenters making allegations of "insane" and drug use could actually be sued, it looks like.

Here's the link, to the best of my ability:

And I like Mr. Ed's idea. Getting someone's own words on tape would certainly help one's cause. And the media could always help with PROOF of drug use, for example, to get someone removed.

--still disgusted

SP said...

The district's Friday memos are online now for Oct. 7th- they are on the School Board's page.

Jet City mom said...

But I don't think the whole school should suffer for the behavior or one (or a few).

My impression as to why screening is done on everyone instead of a " few".
Teachers are generally chaperones at these things is this correct?

Anyway- when you have a standard equally applied to everyone, it can be easier to administer, than if you make the teachers into detectives and expect them to be able to tell when someone is high.

dj said...

SQ, it isn't entirely clear that's constitutional here in WA. While the federal constitution lets you randomly drug-test students for extracurricular activities, eg, our state Supreme Court specifically has said our schools can't do so because of the state constitution.

dj said...

Also, the fact that suspicion-based programs are harder in a way doesn't mean that the solution is to treat all kids with suspicion. I think of high school as prep for citizenship, and I don't want my kids's schools normalizing fourth amendment searches as just part of daily life rather than relatively extraordinary events.

Meg said...

were projections for high schools redone?

the HS projections listed in the friday update don't match the budget projections. At all.

Almost uniformly, the stated projection in the update makes the actual projection error look muchsmaller than it was. Garfield's projection was low by 110 students; the Friday update adjusted the projection number so it looks like it was low by 12. Friday update says Ballard's projection was low by 49; it was low by 138.

Before putting on my tinfoil hat and going all conspiracy theory - I wonder if, at the high school level, projections were recalibrated with according staffing changes? I've heard that, for, say, Ingraham, recalibrations didn't come w/extra staff. Anyone know what the deal is?

SP said...

SQ- DJ is correct about the suspicion-less drug testing in Washington.

In a 2008 WA Supreme Court ruling against suspicion-less drug testing of students, Justice Barbara Madsen had an interesting opinion, “ … suspicion-less drug testing jeopardizes other important educational objectives, including preparing students to become responsible citizens who share a common understanding and appreciation of our constitutional values.”

This is exactly what DJ wrote about- what is this teaching our kids about their rights and responsibilites as citizens?

BTW-The WA State constitution "may" prohibit suspicion-less drug tests, according to the ACLU of WA. Contact them for more info, but they have a great booklet online at www.aclu-wa.org, "Know your rights: A guide for public school students in WA".

Under School Searches chapter- "Individualized suspicion: If the teacher or the principal has a reasonable suspicion that someone (italics) has drugs or alcohol, that does not mean they can search everyone (italics). The must have "individualized suspicion" (italics)...For example, if a school official has information that some students are using drugs or drinking alcohol, it would not justify a search of all students in a class or at a game."

Under the chapter "Drug Tests and Dog Sniffs":
Generally, the Fourth Amendment protects people from "suspicion-less searches." A suspicion-less search is one conducted without any reason to suspect evidence of a crime. Doing the drug test of all students, or of all athletes, would mean conducting suspicion-less searches. But, in 2002...the U.S. Supreme Court said it was okay for schools to require all students in voluntary extracurricular activities to submit to drug-testing.
Still, the Washington State Constitution may prohibit suspicion-less drug tests in Washington public schools. The Washington Supreme Court has said that a school violated students’ rights by requiring all students to consent to have their bags searched for alcohol in order to
go on a school trip. Because that search was done without individualized suspicion, it violated our state constitution. The Washington Supreme Court has not yet decided whether the kind of drug testing approved by the U.S. Supreme Court would be
prohibited by our state constitution. Because states are free to give their citizens
greater protection, students in Washington could be protected from suspicion-less
drug testing."

Kate Martin said...

We have to stop coddling management. Principals need to at a bare minimum assure us that there are no egregiously incompetent teachers in the classrooms. If they can't do that, we need them gone. Just ask the parents, kids and the teachers themselves who those people are when in doubt. Instead of canning or retraining inadequate principals or ones with no judgement,skills or spine when it comes to managing the teaching corps amongst other duties, SPS has a long history of moving them around. Same game with teachers at times. I promise you a good review if you get the heck out of here type of evaluation. That teacher who I had the problem with at Roosevelt had been moved (with known problem in tow) from Sealth. They let that disaster go on for 10 years between Sealth and Roosevelt. With principals, I think they like to threaten or proceed with a law suit when they get canned, so maybe part of their risk management is to just move the problem to a new set of victims at the new school assignment. I did a public disclosure request last year to find out how many of these guys got unsatisfactory reviews and it was pretty close to zip over 10 years. There is also the looming problem of defining successful principals in terms of bubble test bumping potential and performance in lieu of all other factors. We need to put more pressure on the system to hold principals responsible for cultivating exceptionally positive teaching and learning environments in each of our 92 schools. I don't think the executive directors are going to do a good job of this based on past performance.

none1111 said...

Dina Brulles, one of the two authors of the Cluster Grouping Handbook currently making the rounds, will be speaking at Wedgwood Elementary on Wednesday Oct 26.

This could potentially be great news. At least someone is paying attention. Her book does not support the changes Chris Cronas instituted.

BIG QUESTION: Who invited her? Is the staff (and by staff I really mean Cronas) supportive of this meeting, or was it called by the parents?

You can see where I'm going with this. It's hard to imagine, based on her writings, that Chris would want her there talking about how Cluster Grouping is "for situations where self-contained classrooms are not an option" after he just killed self-contained classrooms, and implemented something that barely resembles her recommendations!

Does anyone know how this speaking engagement came about?

WV: teribbel
The perfect description of what happened at WW this year!

none1111 said...

Here's more info on the Cluster Grouping talk: WW News and Events

Chris sent/posted a letter about Dina Brulles coming to speak. I imagine this will be a very well-attended event.

Melissa Westbrook said...

SQ, I have no problem with checking their breath. It may save lives. There are many kids able to get alcohol who come to games and dances drunk. This is documented in the past at many schools (including Roosevelt).

Unless you have seen how unpleasant the dancing can get (and how many of the kids at the dance are uncomfortable and don't want to participate but the music choices make that hard), I have no problem with the dance rules. It is, I believe, a Board policy based on many parents complaints from different schools.

I understand completely about trusting kids but past experience has shown that kids won't stick to the guidelines. Believe me, the adults don't enjoy the enforcement at all.

Anonymous said...

Someone or a set of someones wanted to hear from a McClure parent. I have/have had two kids at McClure, so I will weigh in.

Initially, it was a bit of a leap of faith for us to choose McClure as our neighborhood middle school. This was a couple of years before the NSAP and the school still had the reputation of being the place that kids got sent to if they were kicked out of another middle school. It wasn’t true any longer (if ever), but it is hard to live down a reputation. It was also a school that had guaranteed busing from South Seattle, and (preparing to be flamed now), some people in the neighborhood didn’t like “those kids” or “the riff-raff” element coming to McClure. Those are direct quotes, by the way. So go ahead and flame me, but I believe one reason that families in the neighborhood didn’t choose McClure has an uglier side.

Choose McClure we did, though. And we have been generally pleased with our children’s middle school experience there. Any problems we have had have stemmed from the teachers and not the administration

To put it bluntly, there have been a couple of train wrecks on staff there. By that I do not mean that there was a mere personality clash. By train wreck, I mean a teacher who did not have competency in the subject matter they were teaching, or a teacher who dissed their colleagues with their students (not the administration, mind you, but their fellow teachers), or a teacher who simply didn’t teach. There was a teacher who constantly lost student work – made the kids re-do it – and then lost that. There was a teacher who gave incorrect and possibly damaging information to students in the context of a sex ed class. By the way, these examples are of teachers my children had – this is not second-hand, or rumors. This is direct experience.

To my mind, it took far too long to exit these teachers. Most of them have been exited (or retired) though – which could be one reason that the staff is so unhappy with Ms. Pritchett.

I just spent a lot of real estate discussing train wrecks but I do want to say that my kids have also benefited from some amazingly talented and committed teachers at McClure. There is a teacher at the school who makes students truly excited about math. There are a number of cracker jack language arts teachers who push kids in all the right ways. There is an amazing woman who spearheads the entire musical each year. There are many teachers who not only “get” this age, but particularly enjoy them! On balance, our kids have experienced many, many more ups than downs at this school

I am not completely dismissing the staff survey results. Clearly the staff as a whole is not happy and that is a problem. However, look at the parent surveys and you will see a very different picture.

To anyone looking at this or any other school, I would just say that you shouldn’t take mine or any other person’s word for it. Please don’t go on the word of those who “have heard” something about the school or those who seem to delight in posting vindictive innuendo about the principal. Check under the hood for yourself.

--another McClure parent

Anonymous said...

Thanks, Another McClure Parent. I plan on doing just that (checking under the hood, that is).

I appreciate your honesty about your children's educational experience at the school. And as a teacher of over ten years myself at various schools and programs, I would just like to add that unprofessional, incompetent, lazy, or mean teachers exist at every sort of school (public and private) and in every kind of neighborhood. And great teachers are everywhere!

QA parent of two

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

Another parent, a few bad teachers in a building is pretty typical in SPS, and I have come to expect it (now it will be my turn to get flamed). I don't think it is anything unique to McClure, and I certainly wouldn't avoid the school because of it, though of course you can complain and help to rid the school of the bad seeds.


Melissa Westbrook said...

"There are many teachers who not only “get” this age, but particularly enjoy them!"

warmed my heart! I agree; bless those who are middle-school teachers (and there are some really good ones at Eckstein).

Back to the drinking/drugs - no, I wouldn't like be tested every day at work but we're not talking about every day at school.

I'm not sure every kid gets the breath test but I think the staff looks over each kid and asks a couple of questions. (It may depend on the school.) If the kid cannot answer the questions clearly, then they get a test. You should ask at your school if this bothers you.

But in the end, wouldn't you like your child who might not be drinking but is in the car with someone who is, to be safe from that driver? The staff does not do this to embarrass or be punitive; it is to protect these students (some of them from each other).

"Remove them from the dance, ban them from future dances, call their parents, whatever."

Sure, you could do that but have you ever seen how these parents react?

"You dared to kick their child out? What about other kids who didn't get kicked out?"

As a former high school PTSA co-president, I've heard this stuff.

Call the parents? The police told us at the drug/drinking prevention meetings that sometimes parents wouldn't even show up to pick up their kid ("put him in jail for a night").

Whatever? You might also ask your principal how difficult it is to deal with parents who say "my kid, right or wrong" and will not accept sanctions for their child.

Anonymous said...

@Another McClure Parent: Just wondering if both your kids were in Spectrum classrooms? Because we chose McClure just as you did, and had the opposite experience. The school you describe is the one we thought we were getting. Instead we found a place with many absolute gems on the staff, both teachers and administrators -- but with an overall culture that was just awful. Rampant, out of control discipline issues; seemingly no clue how to solve them. Discipline was so inconsistent -- "everything goes" alternating with a zero tolerance policy randomly throughout the year.

But the main reason we left was that the Spectrum classes were not full of Spectrum-qualified kids. Not even close -- so they took a whole bunch of higher-scoring kids out of general ed. That left general ed really, really dumbed down. I know it is common to fill those extra Spectrum seats with kids who "opt up" but I'm not sure most schools need to do it in such large numbers. It caused a huge imbalance -- and this was also before the NSAP, and very few of the bussed-in kids were opted up. I believe this also contributed to the poisoned, conflict-filled atmosphere. Not to mention those "ugly, underlying issues" AMP refers to. Additionally, the teachers refused to differentiate, including teachers I otherwise found admirable, so I figure they must have been too overwhelmed with discipline issues to manage more than basic teaching.

Many ex-McClure parents I've talked to noted the same issues. Plus the fact that those few amazingly bad teachers AMP mentioned often seemed to be switched around in the grades so kids would have to endure a second year with them. By the way, at least one was exited to a different Seattle public school (lovely.) I've always been sorry McClure couldn't seem to thrive. I don't know about the allegations against Sarah Pritchett, but personally I didn't find her very inspiring and that school needs a truly gifted leader to climb out of this hole.

dj said...

Melissa, of course every intrusive governmental action involving children can be supported rhetorically by speculating about possible grave dangers, tittering about these kids today, and exhorting (without data, of course) that such measures save lives. That is exactly why we are supposed to have constitutional protections that shield people against suspicion less intrusions based on hysteria.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Melissa Westbrook said...

I'm not being hysterical; all you have to do is look at the stats on teen drinking. And drinking and driving.

I am surprised that Hale is using the breath test on all students. They didn't at Hale. It would seem appropriate for there to be a standard for all schools.

I belong to the ACLU; I understand what you are saying.

SQ, I agree about enforcing regulations and I know kids are ejected from dances. But some parents are very aggressive about suing the school over issues like this and I can only say that my experience is the schools (and district) are skittish about it.

There's what should happen and there's the reality of what does.

Melissa Westbrook said...

correction: They didn't at Roosevelt.

Anonymous said...

I heard there may be changes to the district PE waiver...do we wait to hand in forms, or do we submit before the change?

Does anyone have more info?

band parent

Jet City mom said...

When my D was at Garfield- there was an incident at a dance ( the off duty police officer who usually worked with Garfield was on vacation & another one who was more prickly was in charge) & for the rest of the year all their dances could not be on district property.

I don't mind them checking everyone- I would rather that be the case, than certain groups of students being passed through because " they never would be drinking".

Never- doesn't really apply to teens.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

A hundred people will have a hundred different opinions about drug testing at a school function. What I really want to know is it a civil rights violation? Can all children be drug tested at a school function without cause, provocation, or suspicion?

This was a homecoming dance. There were 6 security guards and police officers there, in addition to many parent chaperons, and the principal. One of the first things that a police officer is trained to do is to be able to identify people under the influence. A police officer and/or a security guard should be able to tell with little effort if a teen is intoxicated. By all means drug test those kids and take appropriate actions, but to subject every kid to a drug test????

Maybe it's just me? Maybe it's just my parenting style? I choose to trust my children- unless they prove to be untrustworthy. Does that mean that I am blind and believe my kids will never do anything wrong? Never lie? Never try alcohol? Or pot? Shoplift? I'd be a fool to think that my kids will never do anything wrong. They are teens. They will. And when they do I deal with it appropriately. But unless I have a reasonable suspicion I choose not to randomly (or preemptively) drug test my kids, search their rooms, or enact unreasonable rules....just in case.


Greg said...

Different topic, but Erza Klein just posted an interesting summary of research that argues that efforts like KIPP and Harlem Promise Academy don't require charters, but can be implemented successfully in public schools.


Not surprising, but worth knowing about.

Anonymous said...

I'm sitting with a Hale student right now who attended the dance. She was not given a test. Her friends were not given a test, and she heard about and saw no other students who were tested. Not sure where the info on "Every student" came from, but I heard it from the horse's mouth.

anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
TraceyS said...

none1111, Chris Cronas invited Dr. Brulles to speak, from what I understand. At the summer meetings, where he announced the Wedgwood Spectrum changes, he mentioned her book. I bought a copy, and read it between the first and second meeting. I agree with your assessment that his plan varies quite significantly from what was described in her book. I attended three of the four meetings, and several parents did ask specifically about these changes. I don't think he really answered any of their questions - there was a lot of "I'll get back to you on that".

It will be interesting to see the Oct 26 presentation, and if he has made any changes to his original plan based on his meeting with Dr. Brulles.

Christina said...

I know few will read this but I love the clean look of the new blog design.

Charlie Mas said...

Hey! Good question, Like to see school survey results.

Where are the results of the most recent surveys and why aren't they posted to the district web site.

The folks in Evaluation Research and Assessment aren't much for providing public information, are they?

Charlie Mas said...

Meg, regarding the projected vs. actual enrollments, consider that at the high schools they are counting AAFTE which is different from headcount.

Still need the tinfoil?

There is a question about staffing adjustments, both up and down. For example, which teachers have left Rainier Beach high school now that the enrollment is 62 less than projected?

none1111 said...

Thanks TraceyS,

I hope parents ask lots of questions. I hope they think hard about what's happened to their school.

Here's a pre-made Brulles question for anyone planning to attend:

Why would a principal dismantle a strong, self-contained program that had been working for decades, to replace it with cluster grouping when your book states cluster grouping is "for situations where self-contained classrooms are not an option".

No, here's a better one: What's the best way to re-implement self-contained classrooms after a principal foolishly dismantles them?

A Principal said...

Be careful with taping a conversation (video or audio) without the other participants' permission...it's illegal and it can get you in a lot of trouble.

Principals are essentially at-will employees. Unlike Teachers, who have union protection to oversee their due process rights, a superintendent could theoretically fire a principal for just about any reason. It is actually far easier to exit a bad principal than it is to exit a bad teacher. The problem is that a greater level of trust has been placed in principals, and it is often very hard for upper administration to see or believe that a principal needs to be exited.

TraceyS said...

I do plan to ask questions, but those questions are better suited for Chris Cronas, I think. Dr. Brulles is here in her role as a consultant. She will be leading a workshop for staff during the day, an conducting a parent meeting in the evening.

I am more interested in asking her about her body of work and how it applies to our particular situation. From what I understand, her experience is primarily with small districts that do not have either enough money or enough students for a full-fledged AL program like we have here, and she presents an in-classroom alternative.

This is NOT to say that an integrated classroom is inferior, just that her solutions may be for a different problem. Right now, I am trying to read as much of her and Winebrenner's work as possible, so I can get a better handle on what her research says, and what problems her consulting practice typically focuses on.

Anonymous said...

none111 - that's a great question, since Winebrenner and Brulles both say in various books/ publications that self contained is the best way (for all students, not just AL students) when schools have the ability to do a self contained program. Cluster grouping is for schools that don't otherwise have a way to serve gifted students...

RE: Dina Brulles visit.
She came to Lawton last spring too and I thought she was thorough presenter and an advocate for gifted ed.

Be forewarned though... In her cluster grouping model the gifted cluster is what SPS typically defines as APP designation (percentage wise anyway - ie the top 2% on CoGAT). So those students would be in "group 1" - but that can leave our Spectrum designated students in no mans land (between groups 1 and 2) Some Spectrum students test very high and some not so high, but the individual test scores are known to the AL department, but not the Principal or teachers (so it makes it hard to assign who's in 1 and who's in 2 going by a %age GoCAT score, because the people doing the cluster creation (principal and/or teachers) don't actually have the test result data) -or so we were told.

Since SPS has an established AL definition and designation for gifted, that includes Spectrum, Lawton designated all their Spectrum students Group 1. [Which I personally think was the right choice.] Naysayers say many of those children shouldn't be in Spectrum anyway (you know, the tried and true old "they're not really gifted/AL" argument) so therefore they shouldn't really be Group 1's.

Swapped one set of labels for another set.

--walked a mile in those shoes

TraceyS said...

In the Wedgwood summer presentation, the model being presented was to equally divide all groups among all classrooms. This is in conflict with the Brulles/Winebrenner cluster grouping book (and is pretty much the antithesis of the model). One question I will be raising is whether the books's model will be followed, and how the designations will be made, in the absence of district test data.

Anonymous said...

i agree with another McClure parent@7:07pm. My child attended McClure and I also volunteered at the school. My problem was with a couple teachers and not the administration. The principal was always available and I did complain and seek out options. It took two years but, one teacher is not there this year. McClure has some amazing staff as mentioned and many wonderful kids spent hours getting to school on Metro or the light rail. I call that dedication. One teacher bought uniform shirts for the Soccer team and sent them anonymously in a box to a game. McClure also had problematic students, theft, etc as most other middle schools. You can make a difference. I would like to see more electives at McClure such as the CAD classes at other middle schools. Not everything is rotten at McClure.

Public school parent

Charlie Mas said...

Mark Teoh says that the target date for posting the Spring 2011 survey results is November 1.

I have no idea why it takes them so long to tally the results.

Anonymous said...

As a McClure parent of a current 8th grader, and somewhat involved volunteer, I've seen McClure get better each year we've been there. I agree with other comments about poor teacher quality and a slow but sure track of moving poor performing teachers out of the school - - I'd like to see Sarah/Admin be more assertive with these moves, but they have happened and she's worked to be responsive to parent engagement coupled with facts and data.

Our experience has been positive with a number of quality teachers, especially in the 2011-12 school year.

As neighborhood families continue to commit to sending their kids, and volunteer their time and talent, the school continues to improve - - perhaps the whole point of the Neighborhood Assignment Plan.

In all, having a middle school of only 500 kids, where the principal and nearly all teachers know my kid by name (in a postive way...) has been a good experience for him and our family so far.

McClure Mom