Sunday, January 29, 2012

Let the Board Know about the Glitch in Creative Approach Schools' MOU

Mea culpa and it happens sometimes. 

I didn't read through the MOU for Creative Approach Schools thoroughly and I missed a key point.   It cuts out ANY oversight by the Board.  

This is unacceptable. 

We elect a School Board to have people accountable for decisions made about our public schools and our public school dollars.   While I think it is fine for district staff and SEA leaders to okay a proposal, the final decision must be the Board's. 

I think my tip-off was when the question was asked about the passage about bringing in groups to help with these changes and when Asst. Superintendent Thompson was asked about who they might be, she shrugged. 

This won't fly. 

As I said in my testimony this cannot be a backdoor for astro-turf or charter groups to get their foot in the door of SPS with no oversight by the district AND the Board.  Lack of oversight by the Board could lead to exactly that.

I don't really care if it is only a "might lead to..." - we cannot give up the oversight of our public schools by elected officials.  That's why I don't like charters - most of them are not overseen by elected officials. 

I urge all of you to ask the Board to table this motion and/or consider writing an amendment to make sure they are part of this important process.


Anonymous said...

But the board doesn't oversee anything now. Michael DeBell wants to abdicate all oversight as is, and just manage the superintendent. Wouldn't want any meddling.


Floor Pie said...
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Floor Pie said...

(Typo in previous comment, trying again):

Good to know. I'd asked in the other post, but haven't been back to check in a while so I'll ask again: Do we know if creative approach schools will provide special ed services same as the public schools? Or will they have limited ability to do that?

Zebra (or Zulu) said...

Melissa: I was at the SEA vote when the floor was stacked by the leadership to get the MOU thing passed. Nobody brought this up. I was against the MOU for other reasons, but I did not see this ditty about the Board's loss of oversight.

Can you explain it to us?

If this is correct, then the MOU must be quashed. The Board will be key in the future to overturning the lousy math curriculum (and to stopping the Writers/Readers Workshop infiltration). I can imagine a scenario where certain "reformista" schools glom onto failed curricula as a last bastion of a dying ideology.

Sahila said...

this is charter school policy.... ed deformers think they cant get it through the legislature yet, so here's their back door attempt/guarantee...

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

Careful what you wish for. If we squash this MOU, which we have control of, instead of tweaking and passing it, we will be opening the door for charters. And we will not be able to tweak a charter bill, or have any control over the schools that come with it.

I think this MOU deserves careful consideration, public input, and tweaking. It should not be squashed. And if it is, say hello to charters.


seattle citizen said...


You write, "If we squash this MOU, which we have control of, instead of tweaking and passing it, we will be opening the door for charters."

1) As it is written now, we have NO control of it - as has been pointed out, there is no board oversight, hence no control.

2) While there might be some advantages to this MOU, your comment seems like one of those "lesser of two evils" arguments - If we don't want charters, we should do this other thing, even if it's bad. I'm of the opinion that we don't need the MOU - It addresses whole schools, when our efforts should be aimed at individual students. Whatever is in the MOU should be available (or not) to ALL schools - to have some schools in effect become non-responsive to board policy that oversees other schools seems undemocratic and, potentially, rife with the possiblity of abuse.

At any rate, doing soemthing to avoid something else seems like bad policy: The MOU should stand on its own or be thrown out. Besides, Washingtonians have wisely said, "no" to charters three times, and it looks like charters are a non-started for a fourth time down there in Oly.

anonymous said...

Cuts oversight by the board or the superintendent? Those are two different things. The board has no oversight over individual schools as it is now.


seattle citizen said...

This MOU is a district-wide policy: It effects all schools. Hence, Board oversight is necessary.

It just wouldn't be right to have a policy (or MOU) that said, okay, whatever school opts out of the system via this MOU, we are just going to let you go.

We need Board oversight on this. It's too big an change in the system to delegate it to administration. Sure, admin can enact it (though as I wrote it's a bad idea) but the Board, as our policy makers, is charged with seeing that it is carried out correctly and without ill effects.

It's similar to argument against charters: They are removed from Board policy. This MOU does the same thing, so should have oversight by the board (IF it has to go through.) The Board is our elected body to supervise ALL schools through policy, and if they approve an MOU that removes a school from policy, they must, as our watchdogs, keep tabs on that.

seattle citizen said...

Which leaves me wondering why it is an MOU instead of a policy: The idea of allowing "innovation schools" was bargained in 2010 by union reps, and this MOU is the result. Why is this a part of the bargaining process, and not a policy decision? A short-cut around policy, perhaps, and also an opening for this, or future, superintendents to direct policy via labor negotiation.

Sahila said...

so - who drafted this document, and who are they tied to?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually Floor Pie, the MOU specifically calls out the ability for schools to better serve Special Ed students (although nothing specific).

The superintendent isn't on the committee (I don't think) that will approve the proposals. The Board certainly does have a lot to do with schools by approving budgets, levies, etc.

At the Board meeting, I believe it was said that Phil Brockman, Cathy Thompson and Jonathan Knapp (of SEA) wrote this policy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Actually Floor Pie, the MOU specifically calls out the ability for schools to better serve Special Ed students (although nothing specific).

The superintendent isn't on the committee (I don't think) that will approve the proposals. The Board certainly does have a lot to do with schools by approving budgets, levies, etc.

At the Board meeting, I believe it was said that Phil Brockman, Cathy Thompson and Jonathan Knapp (of SEA) wrote this policy.

Anonymous said...

Why is this such a big deal? Flaws emerge and get fixed. I don't really see how this paves the way for charter schools. Enlighten me, please.

Oh, and spinning: "stacking" isn't really fair. ARs were there to vote which is their right.


Maureen said...

Does the Board have any input/oversight of the New School MOU?

I lean in favor of this MOU because it formalizes procedures that the Alt schools have had to slog through individually year after year. This way if staff are being asked to be flexible on some aspect of the CBA at least they can get some autonomy in exchange. An example the Nova principal gave is that they would like to be able to keep the lights and heat on in the building after 3:00. Also, Nova has been required to accept staff members who have no interest in Nova's model at all--that is crazy.

I do think it's kind of weird that a neighborhood school with guaranteed assignment can ask to deviate from SPS standards--it seems like they should write in some language that gives families a guaranteed seat at a standard school if their neighborhood school takes a Creative Approach (like they do with JSIS and BFDay).

Maureen said...

I also find it strange that this MOU requires 80% of represented staff to be in favor (no rule on parents), but the charter legislation would allow only 50% of staff or parents to flip a school to charter status. Crazy.

Melissa Westbrook said...

N, there will be no oversight of public school by the School Board. That is not a tweak or flaw - that's a problem. We have elected officials so someone can be held directly accountable for our schools.

This flaw has to be fixed BEFORE the MOU is okayed (ironic - the Board has to approve that it will have no approval over the schools).

I do approve of this MOU because of the autonomy it will give individual school communities. But they also can allow outside groups, not vetted by anyone, in.


Anonymous said...


it is stacking when people who typically don't show up all of a sudden show up for 1 issue.

it is stacking when our union "leaders" can't use simple online tools like survey monkey or blogs for debate and member temperature checks because the "leaders" define debate as divisive because the "leaders" think doing things 'behind the scenes' is ... democratic??

if the union would have surveyed members about this MOU, I have no idea what would have happened. 90% response rate, 90% for? 9% response rate with 90% against? One thing that is certain, in the absence of any real information it sure makes it more "credible" to make whatever claim you want, because who knows if the claim is crazy?

if this MOU is such a great idea, why didn't they let members see it for a month or 2 before the vote?


Anonymous said...

There is an amendment to this MOU (which I found out about after writing to Dir. Peaslee)

Anonymous said...

whoa and check out her other amendment:



Union Since Age 18 said...

n...I know that you have supported District reformist efforts for years. Providing cover for this clear act of collusion (SEA and DIstrict) to weaken teacher rights and protections, while representing your well reasoned ideology, is difficult to swallow.

You promulgate working longer hours because teaching is "women's work" (your words) and, as we all know, women just have to accept their lot in life. Right? You have supported failed math programs vocally (EDM and/or TERC), and now you are siding with a minority of teachers that support the current misguided and anti-labor MOU. It's your right to act in this manner, but don't pretend to represent the majority of teachers just because the Rep. Assembly was stacked with shills for one night. The MOU would go down in flames if put to a vote of the whole SEA body. How many new faces were at the Rep. Assembly at the last meeting? More than half I would venture. That usually only happens in September. They were called in...(like you) to vote the MOU into existence.

So n...like you, "I call for the question," should teachers have a two-tiered union contract? Yes...you are siding with management. No...you are siding with the people already working 10+ hours a day and weekends to deliver an education to children in a deeply flawed system.

seattle citizen said...

Beth, it's good that the amendment speaks to the Board approving various aspects of the MOU when a school opts to ask for the variance.

But nowhere in the MOU or the amendments is there any mention of oversight...at all. No "In one year, a report will be issued for the purview of (superintendent, SEA/District, Board....)"

So a school can get onto the MOU and then be on it forever. How would anyone exit it from the MOU? Where is the procedure for review and withdrawal (if necessary)?

Thanks for the link to the amended doc, tho'!

Anonymous said...

Union: I understand people like you who make points by slander, lies, innuendo and sarcasm. It only serves to give union members a bad name.

I've been unionized since seventeen; in fact, I started a union at a workplace. But I am not an adversarial union member. I believe in win-win. I doubt you know what that means.

If you were at all familiar with my posts, you would know that most of what you write is inaccurate. So I won't waste any more time responding. But, please, try to write in a professional way with a professional attitude and try to write accurately and honestly. You're writing style does our union great harm.


anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

anonymous said...
"But nowhere in the MOU or the amendments is there any mention of oversight...at all. No "In one year, a report will be issued for the purview of (superintendent, SEA/District, Board....)"

Seattle Citizen have you read the MOU? Or Michelle Buetow's piece on it? If you had you would have read the following:

"Creative Approach schools would operate under 3-year, renewable program plans, with annual reviews, and community-defined school performance goals. The MOU provides the opportunity to demonstrate to public school system naysayers that the current bon mot “innovation” can and does happen in the public sector…with unionized teachers and public administration."


Anonymous said...

You're welcome Seattle Citizen. I don't know the ins and outs of the MOU, but my understanding is similar to what familyfiirst is saying-- that the Creative School designation is good for three years. (this is why I am skeptical that this whole thing is not going to cost money-- there is going to be a lot of reporting and monitoring going on here...).

suep. said...

If the current version of the MOU does not allow or require board oversight of "Creative Approach" schools, then what did Michelle Buetow mean by this:

Significantly, though, the District would maintain ultimate oversight of the schools, which would allay fears of a private organization “taking over” a public entity. --?

(Btw, I think she meant the term "innovation" is currently "de rigueur.")

Here's what SEA's FAQs about the MOU say on the matter:

18. Can a school applying to be a Creative Approach School be exempt from school board policies?
Yes. If 80% of the staff agree, the school can waive school board
policies that they believe will help their students close the achievement
gap and raise achievement. This could be things such as using different curriculum, replacing the MAP with another way of measuring student progress, a different schedule, or other policies. The joint Oversight Committee would also need to approve the policy waiver just as it would a contract waiver.

I still want to know: why can't SPS grant ALL schools the autonomy and creativity they need to serve their communities well, without requiring schools to jump through procedural hoops or demand extra sacrifices from teachers?

And if this gets adopted, mightn't we see new inequities in which schools that have strong, organized communities taking advantage of the "Creative Approach" option, while schools that are less organized or able to apply for the exceptions more likely to be stuck with crappy math, endless MAP testing and writing about "small moments"?

If district policies and curricula are quashing creativity and stunting achievement, then let's change the policies and curricula -- not merely create arcane procedures to allow some schools to maneuver a way out of SPS mediocrity some of the time.

Why don't we instead go to the heart of the problem and fix it for everyone?

Anonymous said...

n... at 1/29/12 8:39 PM

Is it the water in the Northwest? Is there a secret training you go to as a teenager every summer?

You have done a fabulous job of name calling on someone who disagrees with all kinds of noble sounding stuff!

Those who disagree aren't professional! They're adversarial! They don't want to win-win!

You don't address TinfoilHat, and you attack "Union since..." with your I'm noblerer than you stuff, because you're definition of democracy is right in step with the entrenched, out of touch union professionals? Democracy is all us little bottom feeders should just stay at the bottom of the tank and take whatever the big boyz at the top ...send ... down on us, and we should be grateful for the scraps!

No wonder unions have been drifting or running towards irrelevance


Eric M said...

The MOU as approved by vote by the SEA has a problem.

It absolutely cannot stand, without specific language that includes the School Board, because they're legally liable.

Nobody caught the problem until now. Oops. People who wrote it, people who reviewed it as part of their jobs, and people who reviewed it just because they were interested.

Not me, either. Oops.

There is not the slightest doubt that the MOU needs to be edited, and that will require a revote.

That annoys nearly everyone for a lot of different reasons.

SEA's gonna have to vote on it again, and that's just the way it is.

anonymous said...
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anonymous said...

"I still want to know: why can't SPS grant ALL schools the autonomy and creativity they need to serve their communities well, "

That's simple - because not all families want an "innovation school" with the autonomy to deviate from the standard. They want a traditional, standardized, consistent school environment. They want to know that their high school will offer 6 AP classes, have a band and orchestra, and produce one play every year. They want to know that their elementary schools will have PE, and use EDM, and start at 9ooA. That is comforting to them. There is nothing wrong with that. But for those families that want something less traditional, and a bit out of the box, innovation schools are a great option. Those families may be willing to send their kids to a High school that only offers 4 AP classes but starts at 10A and ends at 4PM. Choice, choice, choice. No one size fits all Sue P.


Anonymous said...

"...and use EDM, and start at 9ooA. That is comforting to them."

It's good to start the day with humor! Ha ha ha, IheartSPS, that's pretty hilarious.


seattle citizen said...

I read this: http://www.seattleschools.org/modules/groups/homepagefiles/cms/1583136/File/Departmental%20Content/school%20board/11-12%20agendas/020112agenda/20120201_Action_Report_CASMOUAmendment

I thought that was the whole MOU, with amended language. My mistake, thanks for the correction.

Could you link me to the document that says "annual reviews, and community-defined school performance goals"?

I have questions: WHO reviews; and who is the "community" in "community-defined"? Would this be the entire community, who elects the board to design policy for ALL schools? Or just the "community" of...students? Parent/Guardians? Building Leadership Teams?

seattle citizen said...

iheartSPS writes that "innovation schools are a great option"

Except that my understanding is that they might not be option schools, but neighborhood schools. What about students in the neighborhood who don't want to go to an "innovation school"?

And, again, what about the board? The board oversees ALL schools through policy. Can any ol' program be brought in under this MOU?

It's like an example I heard: We pay taxes and get a fire department. We don't get to design the fire station we would like; there is a system, and it gives us what it can. The Board COULD allow for variety without an MOU (it already does through Alt Policy C54.00, and through Program policy that lets people design and suggest programs. Why an MOU that separates some schools from policy? I want a fire station that will serve MY house only, but I can't have one.

Jack Whelan said...

My understanding is that the MOU is just the teacher part of it, and that there's another part regarding the school itself--the application rules, criteria for acceptance, and rules/standards for continued district approval as a creative school (i.e., when to close it down if necessary). This doc is in the process of being written by District staff.

And that doc, when it's finished, (I assume) will have to be debated and approved by the board as well. So this MOU isn't the whole thing, but it's an essential part of it, and it's absolutely necessary that it be got right, and in this instance at a minimum be amended to fix this particular omission. Later we'll get to debate "what exactly is a 'creative-approach school chez SPS'. And that's when we'll have to be sure that there isn't a loophole through which charters or other undesirable agents can drive.

Jack Whelan said...

In answer to the queston, why can't all schools be allowed to innovate, a few thoughts.

The creative approach school, the way I read it anyway, is just a way to revitalize what already exists in SPS, namely the Alternative Schools. After a decade of superintendents bent on their centralizing agenda, most of the 'alternative' has been beaten out of existing alternative schools, and this initiative is designed to give back to existing ones--Thornton Creek, NOVA, TOPS, and others more autonomy to be what they were originally designed to be.

But it's not just about the existing alternative schools; it's about supporting new initiatives as well. If you're familiar with Deborah Meier's schools in New York and Boston, that's the kind of thing I'd like to see in Seattle, and this creative approach initiative paves the way for that. It's not like this hasn't been done before here; it's just to make it easier after a decade of making it harder.

My support for the creative approach approach, therefore, is rooted in my desire to reinvigorate the SPS tradition of alternative schools. If you don't think alternatives are a good idea, then I understand why you might be against this creative approach initiative, but if you do think they're a good idea, it deserves your support--as long as it's done right.

People are understandably worried about the negative consequences of this change, and they should be vigilant to protect against them. But let's not be so cynical or paranoid as to assume that there is only bad will here. In our zeal to prevent the bad, let's not prohibit the possibility of something good happening as well.

I also think that traditional neighborhood schools should be given more autonomy when it comes to curriculum choices and teaching methods, but that's another issue.

Anonymous said...

How's this for engagement and process and democracy?

Thursday, Dec. 8

An email to SEA building representative containing the first mention of the MOU. The MOU is to be voted on at the Monday 12 Dec. Representative Assembly (RA). The MOU doesn't exist !!

Monday, Dec. 12

The non-existent MOU is tabled or something-ed, so that it will be voted on at the next RA in Jan.

Tuesday, Jan. 10

Here is an email with the MOU for Seattle Education Association members to READ! I exist, therefore I am.

Monday, Jan. 24

At a packed SEA meeting with all kinds of people who never show up, the MOU is overwhelmingly approved.

Last week / weekend

Community members notice all kinds of problems with the MOU.

Clap Louder for Democracy-By-Clique!!! (pst - don't mention anything or you'll be blamed for the lack of rank and file enthusiasm for being kept in the dark and fed crap. SEE "Mushroom Theory Of Management".)


dw said...

SC wrote: Except that my understanding is that they might not be option schools, but neighborhood schools. What about students in the neighborhood who don't want to go to an "innovation school"?

I think this is the iceberg below the water. I wrote about this on another thread, but can you imagine the blowback if a CAS school was created with some odd kind of emphasis or teaching model, but everyone in that district was required to go there because of geographic assignment??

It doesn't matter that they might be fantastic models for some kids, they MUST be option buildings. Just doesn't make sense as a neighborhood assignment.

dw said...

The problem, of course, with making these Option Schools is that it wrecks havoc with capacity because there is no wiggle room. Especially in the most crowded areas, where wiggle room is so far from reality it's not funny.

Melissa Westbrook said...

And then we have charters.

Can you imagine what the assignment plan would look like?

First of all, if they are in the district, under this bill, the district HAS to advertise for them just like all other schools.

Second, so you're in a neighborhood that gets a charter. How many kids leave your school - 20,40, 60? What would that mean to your school's budget?

Third, what if your neighborhood school converted to a charter? What would the assignment plan look like then and where would kids go who don't want the charter school?

Not saying good or bad but it's all logistics. And if we have capacity issues now, just throw in charters and see what happens to the plan.