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Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Through the Backdoor: Creative Approach Schools to be voted on Tomorrow

Guess I'm confused because I thought it was Valentine's Day and not April Fool's Day. 

My confusion is the sudden appearance of the Creative Approach MOU back on the agenda for tomorrow night's School Board meeting.  This is action to vote on it.  It has NOT been amended in any way.  Director Peaslee is wisely offering an amendment to it to make sure there is Board (publicly elected) oversight.

The SEA refused to take it back to its membership.  (I'm thinking it has something to do with Jonathan Knapp wanting to be SEA president and worried he would lose face if the MOU had to be reviewed by membership.  There's some real courage of convictions for you.)

Here's the crux of the issue.  I like this idea of school communities working with teachers and the district to find ways to improve student outcomes using more autonomy and flexibility. 

However, what the Board is voting on is to vote itself out of the loop.  This is NOT right.  Who would be in charge?

The joint SEA/District Recommendation and Oversight Committee, the District Superintendent, and the SEA Board of Directors.  

The MOU doesn't even SAY what the make-up of the Oversight Committee would be.


The MOU doesn't even Say what a school community can do if things aren't working.  They can't go to the Board if the Board has no oversight.

and then there's this:

SEA and the District agree that any District School Board policy or procedure may be waived by a school whose application to be a Creative Approach School is approved by both the joint SEA/District Recommendation and Oversight Committee and the District Superintendent.  The SEA/District Recommendation and Oversight Committee has authority under this MOU to waive District School Board policies and procedures with approval by the District Superintendent.  

No, no and no.

Why on earth would the Board vote itself out of its oversight responsibility and give it over to an entirely non-elected group of people?

One group, the SEA Board of Directors, is a constantly changing group of people who, c'mon, have a big vested interest in this MOU.

So I have signed up to speak tomorrow night.  There are still several places open on the Speakers list.  Please, fill them.  Tell the Board to NOT give up its oversight.

Otherwise all this MOU looks like is a backdoor to charters WITH the help of the union.  The SEA gets more of what they want and yet, don't have to worry about those charters that don't like to hire union teachers.

Not nice.  It's sneaky and just what makes people not like unions. 

23 comments:

Charlie Mas said...

Wait. ANY board policy may be waived?

Like the policy that prohibits corporal punishment?

Like the policy that prohibits weapons in schools?

Like the policy that governs teaching controversial topics?

Any policy?

suep. said...

Apparently. The wording is incredibly vague and open-ended.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan's campaign lit for SEA President mentions hails his work "behind the scenes" on ... whatever.

He is part of a political subculture whose fear of 'divisiveness' and inability to juggle politics - politics is differences of wants and opinions, ya know ... humans - turns into this phony behind closed doors solidarity.

The FACTS are that if you polled SEA members about the MOU ...

Opps! no one has polled them, so who knows how many would respond to the poll and how many would support the MOU and how many would abstain?

Since a variety of viewpoints will be shrilly labeled as 'divisive', this entire last minute behind the scenes Top Down maneuvering makes sense - in the way that politburo elections can be called "Democratic".

WhatMeWorry

Melissa Westbrook said...

Charlie, to answer your question:

"The SEA/District Recommendation and Oversight Committee has authority under this MOU to waive any provision in a SEA/District CBA with approval by both the District Superintendent and the SEA Board of Directors. Federal, state, and local laws/regulations contained in a CBA cannot be waived under this MOU, unless federal, state, or local approval for such a waiver is obtained."

The timeline indicates that schools may apply to "pilot plan components during the 2012-2013 school year" and yet the schools won't be able to do anything until early November. So a school would have to do a lot of planning based on not knowing if their application would be approved.

This is a very short timeframe from when this was introduced to the SEA in December to now.

There has been NO community engagement around this proposal and what it would mean to parents and schools.

There was not a single parent on the so-called Creative Approach Schools Committee.

The input doesn't from "broad community support" doesn't happen until much later. They take pains to talk about the percentage of teachers in the building who must agree to this but not parents nor do they define "broad community support."

The Action Report states, "Failure to ratify the MOU would mean that months of collaborative work would be overturned."

Don't care.

Where is the parent and community engagement? The action report has none that will explain this or ask for input.

The criteria page says:

"Initiated as a grass roots effort with participation of staff, family, and community" "Broad participation of family and community members in developing the design"

which clashes with what the Processes and Timeline says.

These are just words unless spelled out.

The Oversight Committee has no community or parent members. It vaguely says no fewer than 3 members per organization (SEA and SPS).

There is also nothing about governance should:
- parents and community be unhappy with how the CSA is playing out at their school
- the SEA and SPS disagree

Who would you go to for these things? It should be the Board.

It also cryptically says at the end:
"Note: It is acknowledged that questions and issues not yet considered will arise in this new
process, to be jointly reviewed and resolved by SPS and SEA."

I smell a rat.

Thank goodness there are other ways to stop this kind of nonsense that don't include the Board.

But we have a smart Board including Sherry Carr who would not vote for something giving away elected Board oversight of our schools.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan Knapp has an opponent in his bid to be SEA president. Eric Muhs from Ballard. Eric is the leader that Jonathan never will be in part because Muhs is upfront and honest and um SMART in his dealings with those he agrees with...and those he doesn/t, too.

Have a teacher friend or are you a teacher? Let them know that Knapp has shown himself here as the wrong leader for the SEA job. He's acting like an ass.

Savvy Voter

Anonymous said...

The negativity seems fairly extreme. Perhaps teachers should voice their concerns at their union meetings. The dialogs are usually pretty thoughtful.

Teacher

SeaTeach said...

Savvy Voter, "Muhs is upfront and honest and um SMART in his dealings with those he agrees with...and those he doesn/t, too."

Are you kidding me? Muhs is a conspiracy theorist who is a jerk in his dealings with those he disagrees with. I'm sure he's wonderful to those he agrees with.

Knapp's not perfect, but at least he can run a meeting where each side is given a chance to speak their piece.

And why is Knapp being held to the flames for this going to vote without first returning to SEA? Olga is still president. Ask her why this is on the docket tonight.

Sahila said...

If I hear one more person describe those who are awake, aware and politically savvy enough to see what's going on, and to call BS on it, a conspiracy theorist, I'm going to scream...

I'm wondering how come the oligarchs - and their servants like Knapp - aren't stumbling around tripping themselves up with their proverbial ever-lengthening Pinocchio noses...

How can they utter their completely ridiculous and transparent lies and manipulations with a straight face? The sheer gall of it all simply infuriates me...

And what infuriates me more, is the fact that more people dont seem to be able to see through the con, the sham, the illusion, the delusion...

End of rant...

What I want to know is WHERE ARE THE PARENT VOICES ON THIS? How come this is such a cozy little dialogue/deal between teachers and the district and the parents of the children who will be affected by this, have not been asked to take a seat at the table????

Melissa Westbrook said...

I don't call out Olga because Jonathan has been the lead on this issue for months. But yes, Olga is part of this as well as president.

Anonymous said...

"The SEA refused to take it back to its membership. (I'm thinking it has something to do with Jonathan Knapp wanting to be SEA president and worried he would lose face if the MOU had to be reviewed by membership. There's some real courage of convictions for you.)"

That is so untrue. This MOU was discussed at length at two SEA meetings. It would be a waste of time to force us to discuss something that has already been voted on and approved at a SEA Rep Assembly. If the district doesn’t approve this MOU, it’s back to the drawing board and SEA Reps will need to discuss and potentially approve a new one.

Some of the confusion of this whole process can be attributed to the intense and insane bargaining that went on for the last contract. The district put out that awful SERVE proposal at the last minute creating needless churn and confusion. The process to create this MOU started with that contract and it doesn’t surprise me that some confusion remains.

Regarding the SEA election, there will be a new contract before the end of this cycle. I am interested in electing someone who has bargaining experience. Jonathan did a great job, along with the SEA bargaining team, picking his way through the mine field that was the SERVE proposal. Phyllis Campano, his running mate, also has bargaining experience.
Teacher Parent

Sahila said...

The SERVE proposal chucked on the table by MGJ was a strategy/tactic and SEA fell for it...

If you want to have something go your way and the other side is reluctant, put something so horrible on the table that the other party will accept your first offer gladly...

SEA swallowed the bait hook, line and sinker and allowed in evaluations tied to student test scores and TFA in that last bargaining round...

Great work on the part of Jonathan and the rest of his 'bargaining' team...

(am parent, not teacher)

Melissa Westbrook said...

"That is so untrue."

I didn't say it wasn't discussed. Yes, if it were taken back to membership it might needed to be changed because parents AND the Board need to be part of the MOU.

If the SEA doesn't want that, say so.

I appreciate there has been time put into this effort. Considering parents as part of the process would have been a good idea and yet it didn't happen.

And so, my hope is that this is voted down and the process will start anew.

Anonymous said...

From the MOU:
"Innovation Schools – SEA and SPS will develop and negotiate a process, approved by
both parties that will allow agreed upon schools to be able to apply for broad exceptions
from SPS policies and collective bargaining agreements in return for enhanced autonomy
and accountability. The process designed will include how schools qualify and from which SPS policies and collective bargaining agreement sections schools may be exempted."

As a parent of a student, can a creative approach schools reject student? Another word since the language allows the schools , can it extend to creating a school tailored for certain student populations based on the staff expectations and belief system. Will this allow a student selection or admissin criteria to be set up? (As long as it appears to comply with the nondiscriminatroy clause of course.)

I would like more explanation what
"broad exceptions from SPS policies" mean exactly?

Does anybody know?

PS mom

Wondering said...

I've heard a rumor that LEV has a hand in running S.Shore. It is somehow tied to a grant. Does anyone have information?

I continue to be concerned about the board giving up oversight. I believe this board would accept conditions similar to Lincoln High School in Tacoma- Saturday school, extended day etc.

I'm more concerned about the Oversight Committee, TfA etc.

I suspect the board is under tremendous political pressure.

Wondering said...

The board can approve things like alternative curriculum, extended day etc. The union has already given up it's collective bargaining rights.

It doesn't make sense for the board to give up oversight.

Something smells.

Anonymous said...

Jonathan does not want to take this back to the SEA for 3 reasons.

1. He wants to book a "win" to help his campaign for SEA president.

2. He is afraid that he might lose a second round of SEA voting. Not that the teachers are against the idea as a whole, but because a significant number of voting members had a number of refinements they wanted to make to the MOU. Knapp carefully corralled the votes to keep the concept -as he sees it- in tact. Going back means answering the other teacher questions.

3. His character appears to be somewhat tempremental. He is fine when no one disagrees with him. He has repeatedly shown himself to be defensive and unmalleable when presented with alternate ideas. This is not the sign of a strong leader. (I could just say he acts like an ass, but that's too harsh. Immature or peevish seems closer.)

The stupidity of all this is that we will be farther behind in getting an agreement if the board now votes this down than if Jonathan had just stepped up and addressed the board's concern in the first place.

Big fail here. And it will hurt not just school communities wanting to move forward with this MOU, but also the reputation of the SEA. And yes, Jonathan's chance at election. Only his chance at election deserves the negative consequence, though.

Voting SPSer

dw said...

I agree. This MOU, as it stands right now, needs to be reworked. And this is from someone who appreciates the general need for something like CAS.

Time to get those emails and phone calls rolling.

Melissa Westbrook said...

Wondering, the New School Foundation which has the partnership with the district to run South Shore, folded into LEV. I do not know how the merger works or if LEV has any input to how South Shore works.

Like Rainier Beach, South Shore is probably, because of its past partnership, ripe for charter picking.

Voting, I would agree with your assessment.

Chris S. said...

dw, I agree. And I'm a little confused, but I haven't been following this closely. WHAT was Knapp supposed to take back to SEA assembly? Has the MOU changed? Was it the Peaslee amendment?

Melissa Westbrook said...

Knapp was supposed to go to the SEA and say, we need to add the Board to the oversight. (It would have been nice to add something about parents as well).

Nothing has changed in the MOU; that's the point.

Peaslee's amendment adds Board oversight to the MOU.

If Peaslee's amendment gets passed, the MOU will likely pass tonight (even though it is very vague and not favorable to parents).

If Peaslee's amendment doesn't get passed, I doubt the MOU will pass. Even Sherry seemed disturbed by leaving the School Board out (and, I think there's a good court challenge in the MOU should it pass).

Anonymous said...

TeacherParent @ 8:49.

The following timeline of SEA notification is worthy of the Politburo.

YOU think this is open and democratic? Fine, vote for Mr. Behind-The-Scenes Jonathan.

1. Membership made aware of this MOU's existence Thurs. 8 Dec. for a
Mon. 12 December vote of approval. NO MOU EXISTS FOR MEMBER REVIEW.

2. Some members get the vote tabled until Jan. Snow-ma-geddon happens,
the 12 Jan. meeting is delayed to Mon. 24 Jan. NO MOU EXISTS FOR
MEMBER REVIEW.

3. Tues. 10 Jan. the MOU is finally sent to members for review.

4. Mon. 24 Jan. SEA meeting - a packed house, resulting in approval of the MOU.

I haven't a clue if this MOU would be good or not - people I trust says it could be decent, with patches. The people I trust want more OPEN processes.

Vote for being kept in the dark & vote Jonathan.

IDontTrustBehindTheScenes

Anonymous said...

IDontTrustBehindTheScenes @ 6:09

I have been a building rep in 2 different Wash school districts and have been attending Rep Assemblies for over 10 years. The timeline for this MOU was not much different from many I have seen at other rep assemblies. The Dec. intro of the MOU was too fast. It was postponed until Jan because of a vote of the body. Before the Jan meeting (which didn't seem particularly packed), I had enough time to look at the MOU, as well as SEA and SEE provided supplementary info before voting. The body voted, it passed. It doesn't mean it's a great MOU but I don't see any big conspiracy. I assume this MOU might have to go through the process again if it's not approved by the school board.

I don't usually comment on this blog, but I am seeing so much bad information flying around on this post that I'm becoming alarmed. It's obvious that many of the commenters have no idea about the structure of SEA, SEA rep assemblies or SEA bylaws. SEA has a specific process for bringing forth and voting on business items at rep assemblies. As opposed to the district, we actually follow our bylaws.

Sahila, your comments regarding how SEA survived the SERVE proposal are so far of base I'm not even going to discuss.

Teacher Parent

Charlie Mas said...

Here's the thing. The SEA and the central administration knew - or should have known - that they would need Board approval for the MOU. That - by itself - makes the Board a stakeholder. Yet they didn't deign to include the Board in any aspect of the development of the deal and they never stopped to consider what the Board might want to see included in it.

Then, when they brought it before the Board, they basically threatened the Board with the hammer of charter schools if the Board didn't accept their manufactured urgency to adopt a flawed document.

The SEA and the central administration screwed up. Badly. The Board is pissed. But the Board put their ego aside and accepted the current deal knowing that it is close to re-negotiation and that it will be fixed the next time around.