Disqus

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Friday Open Thread

Things continue to heat up in our district. The BEX IV scenarios are both puzzling and shocking. And, of course, for most people it is short time to digest these ideas before next week's BEX IV meetings throughout the city. (And again, I gripe that this district has 5 regions and the BEX IV scenarios affect people in all regions. Why only three meetings?)

I am thinking of trying to have a meeting to talk about BEX issues before the BEX meeting, either Saturday or Sunday. Would anyone be interested in meeting and going over maps and ideas?

Only director community meeting this week is Director Patu on Saturday.

167 comments:

Anonymous said...

I was telling my family about that "ridiculous" list of words banned by the NYC Dept of Ed (War On Words: NYC Dept. Of Education Wants 50 ‘Forbidden’ Words Banned From Standardized Tests), when my third grader piped up that cigarettes and smoking are frequently encountered on the MAP test. Apparently he's seen numerous questions along the lines of "Bob smokes x cigarettes per day, and buys a pack of y cigarettes. How long will it take before he runs out?" Has anyone else heard of other kids coming across similar questions? Suddenly the NYC ban doesn't seem so outrageous!

-Smoking Mad

Anonymous said...

It is Friday, soon enough, the Lowell report came out exactly a week ago. And still not a word from the district about the requested public meeting. Does this mean we really need to move forward before any of the raised issues has been addressed? But as it just turned out there is no place to move forward for the APP noths population anyway. So maybe it is true that the want to destroy the whole program...
-Hopeless in Seattle

Anonymous said...

What will be announced at the BEX IV community meetings next week, since the board couldn't agree? After the board work session last night I feel the mushrooms clouded their judgement.

Melissa Westbrook said...

lI couldn't stay for the whole BEX meeting so I don't know how it ended but boy, I thought it was quite uncertain.

DeBell was careful to say that this "suport" for these ideas came either from staff or FACMAC but the public still needs to weigh in.

I urge you to bring neighbors as well as other parents because yes, these building decisions will affect neighborhoods as well.

We are also running close to the end of the legislative session. If it ends without charter legislation being passes and signed by the Governor, then BEX IV is somewhat protected.

However if McKenna wins and a new charter bill comes up, gets passed and signed before the BEX election in Feb. 2013, any charters created with the disttrict would have access to the money as well (at least under the curent legislation).

Anonymous said...

New report from UW indicates that school turnaround isn't working very well in Washington.

School turnaround mostly failing in Washington

If anyone is wondering why this is, a closer look at West Seattle Elementary would shed some light on the situation.

-we need to do better

Anonymous said...

Heard there's an all staff meeting called for today by Enfield - anyone got an idea as to why?

curious

Melissa Westbrook said...

We need to do better, that report was from the Center for Reinventing Education which tends to skew to ed reform so anything they say, I take with a grain of salt. It's probably worth reading anyway.

Anonymous said...

To Smoking Mad

Yes, those of us who saw the tests thought they looked like the questions had come from about forty years ago. They also referred to phrases that student's would not ever be introduced to any more. All of the teachers talked about how dated it was for what our students are learning now.
With the technology that we have now, there is no reason why those questions could not be revised to be appropriate.

Teacher

dan dempsey said...

MW wrote:

DeBell was careful to say that this "suport" for these ideas came either from staff or FACMAC but the public still needs to weigh in.

Same as usual .... after all the decisions are made ... then the public can give input which is usually ignored.

Melissa, you are correct with a plan to hold a community meeting NOW. (Best wishes in getting community input to be taken seriously.)

TFA - no public involvement as the Vendors pitches to the public were considered public involvement. There are a huge number of examples that show public support is hardly necessary. Look at the SPS k-12 math program for example.

Anonymous said...

Why only three BEX meetings? The SPS certainly could use some input on where to place programs and schools, but do they want more? I've seen them give parents a chance to speak, but in the end, SPS does what they want to do anyway. It is concerning that they have sizable programs that they didn't seem to account for.

Looks interesting

dw said...

Melissa said: I am thinking of trying to have a meeting to talk about BEX issues before the BEX meeting, either Saturday or Sunday. Would anyone be interested in meeting and going over maps and ideas?

I think this is a great idea and I'm surprised no one else has responded to this yet. Most "community meetings" are led by Board Directors or SPS staff. Usually the staff has agendas at these meetings, even if we don't know what it is.

Community meetings run by parents and/or non-staff seems like a great idea, or at least one worth exploring. A place where discussion can flow more freely. Kind of the offline equivalent of this blog. Meetings like this do happen, occasionally, but almost always because of some immediate "local" (geographic or programmatic) emergency. I'd actually like to see if something like this could get legs and turn into a semi-regular thing.

Anonymous said...

Recent Seattle Times story says grant money is going to figuring ways for more univeral access to art in SPS classrooms. Good. But, quite probably no money to implement plan. Horrible.

Really horrible: Families and Ed Levy cut out ALL funding to arts groups because they couldn't meet the 'matrix of quantifiable results' Tim Burgess and Holly Miller wanted. Ya know - like your reading scores go up 20 percent per year yadda yadda. The word that comes to mind is pathetic. What a sad commentary on Seattle politics and frankly on the levy. The spreadsheet mentality is out of hand. Give me a politician or gov. worker who says "We're doing this because we all know it is the right thing to do."

P.S. I hope this blog does some digging on that levy. Seem to be a number of philosophical and performance questions there for the hundreds of millions we are spending.

Ed Voter

dw said...

I stand slightly corrected, Dan did manage to sneak in a comment about this while I was typing.

Anyone else?

Anonymous said...

DW and Melissa: On the meeting idea, I guess I am confused. Is FACMAC not "community"? If so, the community has been represented at least to a certain degree. But, to what degree is the question. Has the District or FACMAC told us how closely FACMAC recommendations lined up to the scenarios being presented to the wider public?

Also, agreed, the schedule for greater public feedback is far too abbreviated in scope.

Ed Voter

Anonymous said...

I read that entire thread of comments on tne BEX meeting. Very interesting (and somewhat confusing too because of the fluidity of the discussion and my lack of expertise).

Two questions:

1) Was there any report out (powerpoint) at the end of the meeting? Or is that being worked on and will be presented at the next meeting?

2) I had the sense that the conversation was very seats driven, with little focus on program placement, either current programs or possible future programs. How much integration was there between the discussion of seats and programs?

FedMomof2

Anonymous said...

The point of that planning meeting was to narrow down from those 4 plans to 3 to then present to the public. It seems like they ended up deciding to throw out the plan witht he mushroom K-8's and modify plan 2A (with the 2 schools on W-P site). Although I think KSB still likes the K-8 plan so we will see. But it does;t actually seem like they have made all of the decisions. Far from it, actually. I was kind of surprised at how un-decided they were...
beth

Anonymous said...

Teacher, that would cost NWEA $$ to redesign (unless they can outource it to India- but then that would make the test too tough). Musn't mess with free market.

-mullish

Maureen said...

I would like to attend your BEX IV meeting Melissa, but this weekend is crazy for us so you'll have to go ahead without me! I second dw's wish for 'real life' Save Seattle Schools meetings, perhaps built around various hot topics.

dw said...

Ed voter said: Give me a politician or gov. worker who says "We're doing this because we all know it is the right thing to do."

The danger, of course, is that not everyone agrees on what "the right thing to do" is. In many areas around the country that would mean bringing religious teaching into public schools. And it would totally pass muster with the public at large in their area. Or, what if a Superintendent in Omak said corporal punishment was the preferred method of dealing with bad behavior in their district "because we all know it's the right thing to do".

I agree the situation you point out sucks, but I hope you can see where your proposed solution leads.

dw said...

I want to qualify one of my own earlier statements.

Usually the staff has agendas at these meetings, even if we don't know what it is.

I don't feel like the Director community meetings have hidden goals (although there may be unfortunate exceptions) but meetings that are organized by staff often feel that way, with conversations that don't usually flow freely and openly from top to bottom.

Independent community meetings might turn out to be a dud, but I think it's worth trying. Look how successful this blog is.

Anonymous said...

@DW: Agree with your point. I was being blog brief. The point is Burgess, Miller and co. set their own rules for how to apply and track levy dollars. If doing more than having kids perform on standardized math and reading tests was important to them, they could have set the application and reporting process up accordingly. They didn't.

Massive lost opportunity and frankly an insight into a mentality that is wrong for Seattle and wrong for kids. I really wonder if the public understands how their $$ will be spent and why. I am unimpressed and we're not even through the $$ distribution yet. This is a huge sum of $$ and zero media oversight. Blog: Help!! And talk about more than efficient $$ spend. Talk about philosophy. Like lack of using arts to expand the minds of all kids. They aren't widgets. Makes me so upset and so disappointed in our political 'leadership'.

Ed Voter

Anonymous said...

Maybe Johnathan Knapp, newly elected president of SEA, willl help you out there, Ed voter. He's got the teacher's vote.

voter

Anonymous said...

Though I wince and my teeth grind all too often when listenting to "Your Take on the News" I noticed that Ann Dornfeld (KUOW's education reporter) in on the panel today - will they discuss the Lowell/King/Geoghagan report? The Times' insightful (cough, cough) editorial and guest opinions spilling forth over the past week?

Waiting with baited breath.

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

I certainly did not mean any minimizing or disrespect to FACMAC. They are doing a HUGE amount of work and I know they are all putting in much time.

That is a good question to ask about whether these scenarios match what FACMAC says and I will ask about that today. What was odd is that the one scenario with the K-8 mushrooms was voted down by FACMAC and, seemingly, staff and yet they spent a lot of time talking about it.

FedMom, not a lot of discussion around programs, seats and fit. There was some about Jane Addams but not in a real way. I will try to put up a link to the documents provided.

Benjamin Leis said...

I would love to know the decision process around the proposed new school in SLU.

Ben

Disgusted said...

"The point is Burgess, Miller and co. set their own rules for how to apply and track levy dollars."

You bet. I wonder how much Burgess wants to hold back for Creative Approach Schools. How does Burgess want to use these dollars for Creative Approach Schools? To what extent does Burgess want to control our public schools? I could say there is a desire for governmental involvement, but the government seems to be Tim Burgess.

We need transparency. I'm not seeing it.

Anonymous said...

crosscut article on Alliance For Ed breakfast.

Boy, not a mention of Enfield in the article, and Melissa said that The Alliance didn't do a thing for her in appreciation of year in which she had to take over during crisis when the Alliance's Annointed Leader MGJ had to be fired. With Enfield dissing moving on, what do people think...is the Alliance a) still stunned, b)chastened c) scheming. Discuss!

And also, WTH is up with Morris positioning the Alliance as a)District friend b) District critic c) Independent Guardian of Funds. Choose 1. Maybe 2. All 3 = Not Credible. When do we get our expose on The Alliance, Rosenthal? There is so much wrong there IMHO.

DistrictWatcher

Eric B said...

I can talk a little bit about the FACMAC vs. community input issue. FACMAC received the various scenarios presented to the Board about 24 hours before the Board work session, at a FACMAC work session. We reviewed the options, put in a raft of comments, and staff said they would take our comments back to the Board.

On the 2A/2B issue, it appeared that some Board directors asked Facilities to examine the 2B option with more K-8s. The FACMAC was nearly unanimous that 2B wasn't a good idea. However, staff still has to talk about the issue at the Board work session, since they have to explain to Board directors who wanted the option what the issues with the proposal are. So there might still be a lot of discussion about an option that is functionally dead. If 2B still shows up at the community meetings, then I would have more concerns.

Pretty soon, there will need to be a big meeting between Capital Projects and Curriculum & Instruction to hammer out some proposals for what happens in what buildings. My sense (and I'm not great at reading people, so this might be totally wrong) is that Capital was looking at what schools could be added to/renovated/replaced for a reasonable amount of money, and that those options will help drive C&I's decisions on where to place programs.

Anonymous said...

Both Lowell principals and the District again skewered by KUOW's Ann Dornfeld just now. Host and media panelists so seemingly appalled that they just shut up and didn't discuss afterward. That never happens. Muttering about how depressing the news was.

Another banner day for professionalism in the district.

Upon thinking about the story for a week, I hope Jennifer Gray and the other reporting staff member sue. I really do. It's the only thing that will change this district's attention to reporting potential student safety problems AND stop principals from unthically going after employees to save their own skin.

-critical-

Anonymous said...

I know facmac doesn't like mushroom middle schools. Some board members do, some don't. What do people here think?
beth

Melissa Westbrook said...

Well, I didn't say they didn't do ANY thing, it's just with the long faces and sad notes we hear from business and the Board about Enfield's departure, I expected more.

But, as it turns out, Sundquist had a nice party thrown for him when he was ousted (both to say goodbye and retire his campaign debt - he had debt with all those bucks?). Maybe they will be throwing a private goodbye to the superintendent.

Critical, that was an interesting non-discussion on KUOW. I think the panelists were shocked and, unfortunately, KUOW didn't get all the details right. But yes, it didn't come off well.

Maureen said...

critical, I heard that story and I was disappointed that the commenters didn't seem to really absorb the fact that it was the principals' retaliation that was the real issue. They seemed to think it was about policies not being followed. (Dornfeld got it, but it seemed to me that the rest of them didn't catch the importance of it.)

Anonymous said...

King and Geoghagan were notified about possible behavior that they are professionally, legally and morally obligated to investigate, after which they...

1. Neglected to investigate, or to follow protocol that is in place in order to protect children;
2. LIED when queried about the situation;
3. Retaliated against staff.

I'm curious how many of us would have our jobs after behavior like this...

As others mention above, it's really unfortunate the the panel couldn't seem to get their heads around the issues. Joannie just seemed to be too thrown off by hearing "foot kissing" to be able to critically engage her thinking ability.

Oompah

Melissa Westbrook said...

What is interesting is that Sherry Carr is always comparing SPS to Boeing and she usually starts with, "Well at Boeing.."

More than once she has said that certain outcomes/behaviors would have gotten someone fired at Boeing.

I wonder if Boeing found out that managers had not investigated a complaint of inappropriate behavior, lied that they did and then were caught in the lie.

And, after an investigation found they did not follow Boeing procedures and didn't even grasp what their duties were, one of them complained to the media that the investigation was not factual and wrong.

I'm pretty sure Boeing wouldn't take that and would have fired that person. But I'll have to ask Sherry about that.

I do find it quite unbelievable that Principal King can be insubordinate in this manner in the media and no one in SPS leadership is going to do anything?

Anonymous said...

I hope that the story about Gregory King and Rina Goeghagan are kept in front of the public's eye until something really does get "taken care of." This cover up, of not looking into a reported incident of "innappropriate touch" toward a student, and the ensuing retaliation toward Jennefer Gary and the other teacher,are important enough issues that they should not be swept under the carpet.

The horrible tone that these two principals created at Lowell last year, caused so many of the staff to jump ship. There was not a formal investigation done on that. The unprecidented number of teachers and other staff who left is a testimonial to the fact that those principals did not create a healthy atmosphere. The climate survey conducted by the SEA
also indicated a "low performance evaluation" for those principals.

Yet, the school district still has them as principals. In fact, even after they had the results of the investigation in their hands, SPS stated that Gregory King would be retained as principal at Lowell for the remainder of this year and the next. This man should not remain as principal of Lowell, nor should he be moved to another school, where he likely would dismantle their faculty as well.

I have heard that Mr. King has a track record, starting with his schools in Atlanta. Former blogs have spoken about what a devestating principal he was. There was also reference to "credit card" issues from Atlanta. Why is this man allowed to continue?

Lowell supporter

Charlie Mas said...

Ben, you are in luck!

Policy C56.00 requires the superintendent to establish an administrative process for approving new programs and it requires her to make that process publicly available.

Oops! She didn't do it. In fact, she adamantly refuses to do it. The board refuses to enforce the policy - not just the board as a whole but each individual board member refuses to enforce the policy.

I guess I was wrong. You are out of luck, Ben.

Anonymous said...

I just re-read the reprimand letters from Paul Apostle to King and Geoghagan. Both letters clearly state that the investigations into C1 and C2 would not have taken place had King and Geoghagan disclosed their prior knowledge of the reports C1 and C2 had previously made.

Let's look at it just in terms of direct financial cost. I would like to see King and Geoghagan reimburse the district for the cost of the investigation into C1 and C2, as well as the cost of the Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo investigation and report.

Both of these administrators have first hand knowledge of the financial challenges the district is facing, and yet they caused the district to spend money that would otherwise not have to have been spent.

Narcissistic. Inexcusible. Pathetic. Shameful.

Oompah

Charlie Mas said...

beth asked about mushroom models.

They don't work. And there is an excellent reason why they don't work. The people who want K-8 schools send their kids to the school while they are in the elementary grades. The people who don't like K-8 schools don't send their kids to them at all.

The district can say that the school has a mushroom model, but that doesn't matter if the school doesn't really mushroom.

Think about it. Why would you send your child to a K-8 in the 6th grade instead of a comprehensive middle school? They will enter a class of kids who have all been together since kindergarten. All of the friend networks are well established. That social awkwardness bonus comes on top of reduced opportunities for academics and electives. It's just not an appealing offer.

Sure, there are some folks who will say that they chose it and loved it, but look at the numbers. The middle school parts of K-8s are not popular with families who were not part of the K-5 community.

The exception is Salmon Bay, but you have to wonder how much of their mushroom is coming from Thornton Creek.

RosieReader said...

Does anyone happen to know whether Rob McKenna is a product of public or private K-12 education? And as to both McKenna and Inslee, does anyone know how they chose to/are choosing to educate their own kids? Not facts that would sway me one way or the other, but ones I'd be interested to learn. (I'm already aware that Inslee and his wife graduated from Ingraham -- I'm assuming they were public school kids K-12.)

Anonymous said...

Many people in the south end try to get their kids into k-8s for middle school years to avoid worse options. I know several who got into Orca or Southshore at 5th or 6th to avoid Aki Kurose.

Southender

Louise said...

I am one of the people who sent their child to a K-8 in 6th grade and loved it. When I toured schools for K, our neighborhood K-5 was the best fit for her. When I toured schools for 6th grade, the K-8 (Salmon Bay) was by far preferable to Whitman for me, and her. My kid was on the Spectrum waitlist for 5 years at Whittier, (I have to say one of the best parts of the NSAP was getting rid of 'sibling in school' preference for Spectrum, but too late for us) so I pretty much held out no hope she would get into Spectrum classes at Whitman. Salmon Bay worked out wonderfully for us and several other people I know in the same situation (traditional K-5, then got in in 6th grade). Different families have different priorities, of course, but I would love to see more mushroom K-8s - giving my kid a base of traditional elementary methods and then a small school alternative middle experience was fantastic and I wish more families had that chance. When we got our assignment letters for 6th grade I felt like I won the lottery as it was almost unheard of to make it in.

I don't think the Thornton Creek kids are making as much difference as they used to now that they don't get transportation. The waitlist for 6th grade at Salmon Bay has all but disappeared.

Someone said...

@rosie - looks like McKenna was military family kid - traveled around to various postings till family moved to Bellevue when he was 14 - attended Sammamish High.
Some bio info here:
McKenna bio

Anonymous said...

wow. what know-it-all commentary from Charlie Mas. there's only one 'mushroom model", salmon bay, and it appears to be working just fine. People want alternative middle school options for a variety of reasons. 1) the comprehensives are not working very well 2) the comprehensives are leaving many students behind 3) some students need a true alternative school 4) less bullying at k-8s 5) alternate curriculum 6) access to some elementary aged materials not available in many secondary schools ... and on and on

The fact that there's a "mushrooM" isn't really significant at all. If anything, it's a plus to people who seek an alternate K-8 experience in middle school but were happy with their more local elementary options - either traditional or alternative. It's the best of both worlds - a little bigger pond than a plain old k-8, but somewhat of an established cohort to relieve chaos. we need more choices and mushroom k-8's can provide that.

parent

Anonymous said...

what is a mushroom k-8 anyway? i must have missed that.

--fungi challenged

Maureen said...

... about mushroom models.

They don't work. And there is an excellent reason why they don't work. The people who want K-8 schools send their kids to the school while they are in the elementary grades. The people who don't like K-8 schools don't send their kids to them at all.


Charlie, please don't just make things up!

TOPS has consistently had enough applicants for 6th grade to fill another class. Lots of people who were happy at their neighborhood K-5 (or who didn't get a K spot at a K-8) are looking for a 6th grade spot at a K-8.

And from my observation, the new 6th graders are disproportionately popular at K-8s because the other kids are getting tired of looking at each other!

I don't mean to imply that there is some huge pent up demand for more mushroom K-8s, but the ones that exist do work for a lot of families.

Po3 said...

College letters are out, I am wondering how students faired. Anybody's kid get into UW? Any $$$ from the UW? How about the small (expensive) private colleges. Did anybody end up with a financial package that makes it affordable? I hear student loan interest rates are over 6%. How is that even possible, given the low mortgage rates?

Po3 said...

College letters are out, I am wondering how students faired. Anybody's kid get into UW? Any $$$ from the UW? How about the small (expensive) private colleges. Did anybody end up with a financial package that makes it affordable? I hear student loan interest rates are over 6%. How is that even possible, given the low mortgage rates?

Maureen said...

funghi, It's a K-8 that adds more homerooms for 6th grade, so a significant number of kids who weren't there for K-5 are admitted for middle school. I think Salmon Bay has had 1 1/2 homerooms for K-5 and then bumps up to 3(?) for middle school. Now they are growing K-5 to 2 per so that may change?

Anonymous said...

Well here's an interesting little tidbit...outspoken Teachers United and LEV activist Kristin Bailey-Fogarty just posted a loooooooonggggg pro-A+ Washington piece on PubliCola. Anyone want to give the background of A+ Washington and etc. to the PubliCola readers?

Tit for Tat n All That

DistrictWatcher

Anonymous said...

I agree that a few more mushroom K-8 schools might be a benefit. Not all families would want them. Many want larger middle schools because of course they can offer many more classes and activities. But some families like a smaller school. For the families that join the couple of classes that are already there (at Salmon Bay there are two classes per grade until MS where there are then 120 students per grade) it offers a slightly larger pond, but not a giant one. But I do think it is difficult to say "they don't work" when we don't have any besides Salmon Bay, which is working very well.
beth

Maureen said...

Po3, here's a link to the UW Admissions page News.

26,000 applicants, 14,000 acceptances in hope of netting 6,000 freshmen. Admission to the UW remains highly competitive, with last fall’s freshmen class average GPA at 3.75 and average SAT scores above 1800. Data for next fall’s class will not be available until after the class actually enrolls in October, but indications are that scores will be even higher.

No financial aid package at our house yet (maybe I should go check the mailbox!).

Melissa Westbrook said...

I have to say my son applied to Seattle U and, unbidden, they gave him a nice financial break (and I wonder what he would have got if he had applied for a scholarship).

Many private schools do give breaks - of all sizes - to eager students who want to go their schools.

Anonymous said...

Charlie Mas - What's your definition of mushroom schools not working? Grad rates, test scores, surveys, anecdotes, finances?

-Wondering

Anonymous said...

Does anyone know when there is going to be a meeting with SPS administration over Gregory King and Rina Goeghagan? I would like to have this meeting announced, and the results brought up to the public through this open forum.

Lowell observer

Anonymous said...

The PTA has posted they are trying to get a meeting. Email Nancy Coogan and say you want this meeting ASAP.

Lincoln parent

Jet City mom said...

Po3, students don't need a co-signer for Stafford loans, nor do they need collateral.
That may be why the unsubsidized loans are at 6.8%.

Anonymous said...

Charlie-
I disagree about your statement that mushroom-model middle schools don't work (and why).

Our son entered Jane Addams this year at 6th grade. He was at nearby John Rogers for K-5. He is doing well there, and we are happy with our choice. Our main reason for not enrolling him in Eckstein was that we felt Eckstein was too big. Jane Addams is also closer to our home.

If Jane Addams remains a K-8, I hope that it is allowed to "mushroom," and continue to be a middle school option for kids who attended another elementary school.

I don't think that mushroom K-8s can be used as the only solution to the middle school capacity crisis - we definitely need at least one more comprehensive middle school in the north end, but for our family, a K-8 was a better choice than an over-crowded comprehensive middle school.

Kim

peter p said...

Just let it go. Move on. Go hug your kids

pete p said...

Just move on. The principals are staying. Go hug your kids.

john a happy lowell parent. said...

They see it for what the story is. NOTHING. It is about policies and not what everyone wants it to be. It's much ado about nothing.

Anonymous said...

Hugs all around.

Hugs at home from parents.

Hugs at school from the IA.

-Wink

Anonymous said...

"It's much ado about nothing" . . . except incompetence, negligence, dishonesty (in the form of "misleading folks") and retaliation.

I'd hug my kid too, if he had to endure King or Rina for a principal. With luck, john and peter will never have a time when they have to rely on the competence and integrity of their school's principal.

-think your name is apt

Anonymous said...

Oh wait.

No hugs at school if you are a boy.

Only hugs for girls at school from the male IA.

-Wink

peter p said...

Since none of you actually go to Lowell or know Rina and Gregory. You should come and ask the parents and staff who currently work and go to Lowell. You would find wide support. They both are competent administrators who are effective for our schools.

Melissa Westbrook said...

If you think it is over for the Lowell principals (especially King), you'd be wrong. He has shown that he cannot be trusted and yes, he will do something wrong again.

I believe that the district gave him only a reprimand because he probably was able to say that the district screwed up as well and how would htat look in court?

He has bigger aspirations and between those and his beliefs about how to treat staff, I'd be surprised if he is still here next fall.

Charlie Mas said...

Jane Addams is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.
Salmon Bay is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.
South Shore is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.
Madrona is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.

Anonymous said...

Let's see if King has the guts to call a parent/community meeting to discuss with parents how happy they are after dissemination of the investigator's report and the reprimands (teachers don't count, because if they fear he is vindictive and retaliatory, they don't dare say anything, do they?). Seems to me that one is long overdue anyway, based solely on the staff surveys from last year. Did one happen, peter p? Has there ever been any follow up at Lowell on the staff survey results? (Don't mean to pick on King here; I'll bet no community discussion with principals took place at any of the other schools whose surveys were bad, either).

-think your name is apt

Someone said...

As a parent, I can't imagine "moving on" - there are too many unanswered questions, too many things that just don't ring true. I have known many people who play a game of being one way with a certain set of people and entirely different with others. Without being personally acquainted either of the Lowell adminstrators, there has been enough information, both from this investigation and earlier discussions of the situation at Lowell that I can come to no other conclusion than to believe that duality of appearances is at work here.

I think you, peter p and others, will have to accept others won't move on - not on your timeline, not at your command. Maybe they will come to share your views - maybe not. But accept that the topic isn't going to go away anytime soon. Such expectations are both unrealistic and unlikely.

dw said...

peterp (aka happy john) said: Since none of you actually go to Lowell or know Rina and Gregory. You should come and ask the parents and staff who currently work and go to Lowell. You would find wide support.

Why do you keep repeating this nonsense. I know all the major players, probably for longer than you. And I've talked with most of the teachers that left Lowell last year after being bullied beyond belief. If you don't think it happened, then you are obviously clueless about the realities of the situation. If you don't think it was unacceptable behavior, then I don't think it's worth continuing this conversation.

So rather than telling us to ask the current staff at Lowell (Greg didn't bully his favorites), why don't you go find the relevant staff members to ask? The ones who gave up their jobs because the building was too toxic to continue working in. Actually, I'm not sure I'd bother because most won't talk to just anyone, thanks to a fully-justified fear of retaliation. We've already seen how that plays out.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Sorry, reposting with name

Or ask the families of the 20+ kids (half the cohort) who were there for k in 09-10 and are elsewhere for 2nd grade now. it was pretty obvious that the work environment was toxic. My child's wonderful teacher was one of the ones being targeted, and the crowding was obviously not sustainable or being dealt with. We got out, and so did lots of others. It's too bad, because Mr King did such a great job the first year, and such a lousy job last year.

--former Lowell parent

peter p said...

If people need some time to heal some perceived wrong by Gregory and or Rina then you should take it. But most of us at the schools will just move forward and support the excellent teachers and staff who support and teach our kids. This does not mean I or many of the devoted parents at both schools are putting our heads in the sand as many have suggested, we just have too many wonderful projects and challenges to focus on. Focusing on last years staff survey is not productive for us or the current staff who generally like both Rina and Gregory.

Anonymous said...

Just watched the 3/21 board meeting and I will personally campaign against Michael DeBell if he runs again. So much hogwash about TFA. But the part that got me was how teachers are so honorable and deserve more money and how respected they are in other countries but our schools of education have to do better. And apparently "better" is TFA with little training and few credentials of any sort of superior experience and in spite of all the data and evidence against TFA.

What a smug and smarmy hypocrite.

n...

Anonymous said...

peter p - I'm curious about the way you keep referring to how the current staff/parents like and support Gregory and Rina.
Are you aware that Rina is no longer at Lowell? Rina is based at Lowell @ Lincoln which is currently, for all intents and purposes, quite separate for Lowell. Do you have students at both sites? If not, how can you know with such certainty what the climate is like for staff and families at Lowell@Lincoln?
As it happens, it seems to me the vibe is pretty good at L@L despite the summer move to a suboptimal building, large number of new staff, uncertainty over the future location of APP, threats of further splits, and now, this troubling investigation. It seems like the administration (Rina), teachers, and parents are really trying to make the best of a bad situation and grow and advocate for the program. It still remains to be seen how the fallout from the investigation affects us at L@L.

puff

peter p said...

Puff,
So its true the vibe is good at Lincoln in spite of all the challenges that the site has. I guess I made it all up. Or maybe I have two kids.

Anonymous said...

Or, maybe you could stop being so tricksy and keee-YOOT, and just answer puff's question. Which is it? All made up? Or a kid in each location?

eyes rolled back

Anonymous said...

I know people seem to enjoy salmon bay. do they not like those other schools you name charlie? 2 of them are newish, but i thought were fairly well liked. the third i don't know much about. i am also curious, like someone above, what your criteria is when you say mushroom k-8 schools don't work? we are planning to send our child to one (if we can).
-wondering

Anonymous said...

wondering -- I am not Charlie, but my sense is that on an individual basis, they work quite well, and are an option people are happy to have. As I read Charlie's comment, I thought he was referring to larger choice trends. I thought what he meant is that, in his opinion, when you look at the number of mustroom K-8s (or maybe they are not even all mushroom)that have middle school space, a reasonable inference is that many families are not selecting them. I assumed that was the basis for his conclusion. As you can see by the comments above, at the individual family level, some families have researched them, liked them, and chosen them.
After a less than stellar experience with a big middle school with one child, I would never have selected one of the bigs for her younger sib. We went private, and re-entered at high school, but if we had had reasonable access to a good mushroom model, we might have gone that route. At any rate, those are my thoughts.

Been there, all done

Charlie Mas said...

Reprinted from 3/30/12 12:40pm:

Sure, there are some folks who will say that they chose it and loved it, but look at the numbers. The middle school parts of K-8s are not popular with families who were not part of the K-5 community.

That's The Way I Heard It said...

Regarding the mushroom model K-8:
Kay Smith-Blum, last Saturday at her community meeting, presented it as a K-8 with a middle school of a comparable size to a small comprehensive middle school (700?). Neighboring elementary schools would feed into the middle school portion as the default/guaranteed assignment. For example, the middle school at a Wilson-Pacific “Mushroom” K-8 would be the attendance area middle school for additional elementary schools (such as Daniel Bagley, Greenwood, and/or Green Lake). It would not be a "choice" for middle school unless the whole school is an option school.

--That's The Way I Heard It

Insider said...

One K-8 not working...Broadview-Thompson. For lack of a better way to say it, students who want a quality MS program bail after 5th grade. there's no instrumental music and the advanced kids get smaller class sizes while the struggling and/or bilingual kids are in larger class sizes. Most kids who remain would struggle in a traditional MS.

While the teachers work hard, the program's weakness is due to the ineffective principal who sits in a darkened office and is threatened by strong outspoken staff, and has the House Admin making true connections to the kids.

There are many unhappy staff who keep their mouths shut, isolating themselves for fear of retaliation from the principal if they speak up. They watched him unjustly go after a veteran teacher last school year, whose students were making gains based on the district's testing because she didn't cowtow to him. He was successful in destroying that teacher's career and employment in the district, though she'd been championed a couple of years before. Additionally he has loss valuable staff to early retirement or transfers because they could no longer work for an inept administrator.

-BT insider

Anonymous said...

For you strong supporters of King and Geoghagan - Am I to understand that they are both performing so wonderfully this year at their individual sites that your preference is to "forgive and forget" their past actions? I'm not talking about the "bullying". I refer specifically only to their LYING (about what they did or did not know) that was the basis for the investigations into C1 and C2, resulting in the ethics complaint regarding their behavior, explored in the investigation by Yarmuth Wilsdon Calfo. What did these investigations cost? Would you like to chip in and donate to cover those costs? Of course one of you will say that the husband of the investigating attorney is acquainted with one of the initial incident reporters. That changes nothing with respect to the facts of the LYING of King and Geoghagan.

Their actions cost the district money.

Oompah

Anonymous said...

In the cool news department:

Nine students from Seattle Public Schools have been chosen for the first phase of the Washington Aerospace Scholars (WAS) program. Seven of those nine hail from Ingraham High School.

Here is the link:

http://www.seattleschools.org/
modules/cms/pages.phtml?
sessionid=f6281bddfe310eade69405f3
180ab628&pageid=263828&sessionid=f
6281bddfe310eade69405f3180ab628

Ingraham High School is not a STEM school, but it does have a strong overall academic program for students interested in math and science.

DWE

Anonymous said...

peter p - cute - but you still haven't answered the question.
Also, re my comment that 'the vibe is good at Lincoln in spite of all the challenges that the site has". All I am saying is that is the feeling I personally have and have noticed among the parents I've come across. I am not implying this is universal.
I suspect feelings about this investigation are pretty mixed at L@L.
Some folks probably are eager to move on and put it behind them for whatever reason (i.e they think the investigation was a storm in a teacup, or they're happy with Rina's current leadership, or they just want to avoid further turmoil in the APP).
Some folks are probably want a change of leadership.
Some folks, like me, have mixed feelings- we want to avoid further upheavals, and Rina seems like she is doing a good job this year BUT...... we're clear that not investigating those reports, lying, and retaliatory action=not good!
I would speculate that parent/staff attitudes at Lowell (Capitol Hill) may be similarly divided - but unlike you I acknowledge I'm just speculating.

Puff

Jet City mom said...

Why do so many principals in SPS send their kids to private schools?
Would administrators take their responsibilities more seriously, if they utilized public education for their own family?

My H works at Boeing & we only fly Boeing built planes,
It doesn't do much for consumer confidence when administrators like Greg King, have their kids at Lakeside,

Anonymous said...

I would have to say that we found (at Salmon Bay) what KSB said at the meeting to be true-- that families found that the district did not do a good job at lefting people know their options. After we lost all city transportation and the NSAP began, our 6th grade waiting list went way down. The first year of the NSAP when families got their neighborhood school assignment letters, instructions were not clear about their options-- many did not realize they could reapply to another school, of those that did some thought they had to be in the geo zone or transportation zone to get in... it was a mess. This year we did a lot more educating on our own because we knew that people would not be getting info from the district.
beth

Anonymous said...

Jane Addams is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.
Salmon Bay is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.
South Shore is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.
Madrona is a mushroom K-8.
It has space available in the middle school.

How do transportation policies vis-a-vis comp middle schools compare? Comp middle schools seem to be able to provide it for a larger area? I am not sure that the above points are fair to make outside looking at transportation too?

FedMomof2

Anonymous said...

King, based on first-hand experience, knows that some building administrators within the SPS system aren't held accountable, don't have to take responsibility for their actions, and don't bear consequences of any great impact. He must not want his offspring to attend a school that might have a principal like him. I'd say it speaks poorly of King's opinion of his colleagues in the district.

"I don't care to (belong to a club) send my children to a school that (accepts people like me as members) might have a principal like me."

-Grouch Marx

Melissa Westbrook said...

Broadview-Thompson folks, I am aware of your situation and I hope to be able to throw some light on it soon.

Anonymous said...

fedmom, option schools do get transportation. Salmon Bay gets transportation in the hamilton and whitman areas. We used to get transportation all over the city-- it used to be that alternative schools like SB were open to any family that thought the program was a good choice for their child. A couple of years ago that ended, and it had a big impact on our program. Families can still choose the school (though there is now also a geographic zone tie breaker, making it even more difficult). But if those far away families get in, they must provide their own transportation. So we do not have the geographic diversity we once had. It is very unfortunate, and has changed our school. However, it is totally understandable given the financial times. It just happened that it was a nice thing about our school.
Beth

Anonymous said...

Emeraldkitty- interesting point.
I also wonder at the timing. A lot of people report that King was a great prinicipal in his first year at Lowell, and totally changed after that. Showing his true colors after the settling-in period maybe - or were his own kids no longer attending the school by that point.
Just wondering whether having ones own kids attending the school would cause a principal to moderate their behavior so as not to adversely effect their own kids. When did the King kids stop attending Lowell?

Just wondering

dw said...

Lowel@Lincoln and APP at large,

Is this group in solidarity about not wanting to be split again?

Parents of the youngest kids and those brand new to the program may value proximity to home a bit higher, but trust me, you will grow out of that opinion over time. Ask other parents who have been around longer. Splitting this program once has greatly weakened it in many ways. Splitting into 3 would be the death knell.

Is there anything a large group of parents can do to prevent this? Yes, I believe there is, but there needs to be one voice and one action. APP is big enough to be heard if everyone bands together for their kids. So it's time to start organizing.

Starting with the BEX-IV meeting on Tuesday, pick a section and have (most) everyone sit together. Everyone, from elementary through high school - call your friends. If other non-APP families want to join in support, that's great. The lack of district support for advanced learning in general affects other families as well, especially Spectrum. When various proposals are discussed the group can voice its displeasure as a group. If/when the audience is asked for a show of hands it will be more difficult to ignore a large cluster.

But all that can be ignored if the district is dead set on splitting the program again. But there are two things that the district cannot ignore:

1) your money
2) your test scores

Someone on the discussapp blog brought up actively campaigning against a BEX levy that doesn't provide a home for north APP. That's a very strong position to take, and I'm not sure what kind of solidarity there would be in that kind of effort, but there's one way to find out. The BEX-IV meeting on Tuesday would be a great venue to explore this.

A much, much easier plan would be to simply say that if BEX-IV does not provide a home for north APP (both elementary and middle) without splitting the program 3 ways, everyone will opt out of both MSP/HSPE and MAP (except 10th grade, as required for graduation) for the next, say 2 years.

This is almost a no-brainer for most families. If you're in APP already, these scores do nothing to help your students, they are used to grade our administration (among other things, but don't muddy the water here just yet suep!).

It's trivial to opt out, you just give your principal or test administrator a note that says your kid is opting out. That's it.

This will only work if there are numbers to support it. 5 families opting out is not going to matter to the administration. 100 or 200 or more families opting out will get their attention. It will take effort to spread the word.

Opting out of district/state testing as a vote of protest has been suggested before and received limited uptake, either because the cause wasn't something everyone could rally around, or because it was too general/diluted. This is a very specific cause, and the district will very clearly either have a solution or they won't. With a plan and a (levy-supported) budget. I might go so far as to say requiring an MOU of some kind might be justified, given how slippery the district has been over the years.

Are families finally fed up and ready to support this? Or are people still willing to roll over and take whatever placating scraps the district feels like it can get away with.

Anonymous said...

The State Human Rights Commission has opened an investigation into the harassment and forcing out of veteran SPS teachers. The Commission understands fear of retaliation but have promised to deal with any "harshly". The Commission also reports that the "gag orders" are unenforceable. For this investigation to be successful teachers and former teachers must speak up. Post personal experiences at: http://seattleareateachers.blogspot.com/

Salander

Melissa Westbrook said...

Just Wondering, well word is that yes, Mr. King was quite nice the first year and then changed in the second year. One thing I learned is that he wants to be a superintendent and spent a great deal of time out of school shadowing her.

Perhaps he gained a different perspective with his time with MGJ.

DW, I might reprint what you just wrote because you are right.

The time is now to stand up and be counted. No, "well that might be okay." And the refusal to take any of the standardized tests would be a great start.

You are right about the effect it would have particularly if Spectrum families chimed in. And they should because their program is getting weaker and weaker.

SPSLeaks said...

Very Kool! Salander, I've let your readers know how to post documents, so that community members (teachers) can better inform each other.

Julian

suep. said...

Salander -- Just to clarify, are you saying an investigation has officially been launched? If so, can teachers add their statements to this?

This persecution of senior teachers has happened at Lowell Elementary (both locations). Some of these teachers are our best, master teachers who should be respected and tapped as mentors and great resources, not targeted. It is unconscionable, immoral and hugely destructive for these principals to drive them out.

Salander -- Do you know if some kind of directive, overt or tacit, has been given to (certain? willing? weak?) SPS principals to get rid of veteran teachers? Clearly there is too much of a pattern of this behavior for this to be a coincidence.

What happened to the district and city's claim after Goodloe-Johnson was fired that it would end the culture of fear and intimidation in SPS that thrived under Goodloe-Johnson?

Why is this mistreatment of teachers still alive and well under Susan Enfield?

suep. said...

Melissa, Charlie -- Would you consider starting a thread where parents can list how many senior teachers have left their schools these past few years in questionable circumstances, possibly through coercion?

Maybe this would help determine if there is a pattern.

I know of at least four senior APP teachers who were targeted at Lowell last year and this. At least two of them, so far, 'retired' before they intended.

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
suep. said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

Just wondering if this is now true of all elementary schools.

About a year ago, teachers were no longer permitted to have parents grade student papers, quizes, tests, etc. Parents were not allowed to record grades, or file papers in student folders. I can see why this happened, but it places a burden on teachers that can't be kept up with. As an APP teacher, it often took three hours to grade a math test. We weren't giving multiple choice type of tests, needed to evaluate a student's process, and write helpful comments. That was just one test, and there were many other labor intensive papers to grade from that same day. Parents who used to grade for us would be amazed at how long it took. I also forgot to mention that all these grades needed to be recorded in at least one or two places. Students retaking tests needed to have their grades changed. The time involved in these tasks goes on and on.

Then there is the need to file each paper in a three ring binder for each child. This is not a portfolio folder that you can slip a paper into. You have to open a binder and put each paper in at the right spot. That takes a lot of time. It really would take a full time secretary to handle all of this. Preparing for lessons, attending meetings, communicating with parents, and all the other aspects of a teacher's job, make this amount of paperwork unreasonable.

The school district doesn't hire secretaries for teachers, but that is what is needed. Parent volunteers were the ones who used to ease this load, making it possible to do. Now teachers get "dinged" if they don't have all their papers graded, filed, etc.

Is this the same for all schools?

Just wondering

Anonymous said...

@suep.

As always, thanks for your ethical compass and keen intellect.

I know nothing about this investigation. However, I can speak to the overall issue from the standpoint of being a former veteran teacher of SPS. These were my observations:

1. The "let's get tough on teachers, especially the burned out out ones", is a national phenomenon; parents and administrators in SPS are not immune to the media brainwashing.

2. Part of the so-called reform is based on the weeding out of so-called deadweight teachers. New or insecure principals may think they can prove their moxy by firing a teacher or two--extra credit for a senior teacher. I know one senior teacher who was a victim of an unsuccessful termination attempt in SPS. (There is an analogy here to those principals who hired TFA, in my opinion).

3. Many of the principals in this district have very little teaching experience. The secure ones have respect for teachers who have mastery. The insecure and inexperienced (and SPS does have a surplus of these) view veteran, highly skilled teachers as a threat to their authority, influence with parents and/or staff, or some combination of these. I received fallout from a principal's insecurity in the form of snide remarks, both to me and to my colleagues about me.

However, these principals don't hesitate to ask experienced teachers for help if it benefits them. I had principal routinely pull me out of class to handle discipline because it "wasn't her thing." Later, she told me she sought my help because "you're mean" and that's why the kids listened to me.

4. Susan Enfield, herself, has shown no regard for teachers--see TFA (and its implicit and expicit message about veteran teachers); also, look at the never-happened but media-touted "Soup with the Supe" luncheons with teachers. Underlings (including principals) manifest and mirror the ethics of their leadership.

5. The incredible turnover in HR is ripe for fostering non-compliance with basic labor and equal protection laws. I suspect that this has more than a little to do with this issue, as well. A functioning HR department creates a culture of making employees mindful of these laws, the ethics behind them, and the consequences of violation. These messages were basically absent during my final years.

--enough already

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dw said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
dw said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Anonymous said...

@suep

I didn't include the most distressing piece of all:

The utter impotence and ineptness of SEA. Members can expect to find more real support from HR than SEA.

SEA has been the weakest link in this system for years. Sadly, another round of the same was voted in this past week.

Not sure what the staff was thinking--if at all.

--enough already

Anonymous said...

enough already - I completely agree about the lack of representation or support from SEA. They do not want to rock the boat. They would rather let the whole ship sink.

I am speaking both from first hand knowledge and what others have told me about their experience.

What a waste of money we spent on union dues.

also had enough!

Anonymous said...
This comment has been removed by a blog administrator.
Melissa Westbrook said...

You may have noticed I deleted several comments.

We can comment on Principal King's work/behavior as a principal. We are not going to talk about his personal life nor that of his children. Where they went to school, even if it was the school he was at, is not up for comment.

Enough already, I have high hopes that Paul Apostle in HR IS going to be an HR leader such as you described.

One interesting thing that I am hearing from different thread discussion is that Cris Carter over at Hamilton seems to be slowly splitting teachers and parents there. I understand that clear communication seems to be lacking.

Mr. Carter and Mr. King are both former TFAers. Maybe this manner of being a principal comes from TFA training.

Anonymous said...

to dw

Yes, the L@L staff and parents are in solidarity about not wanting to be split again.
At the recent PTA meeting it was determined that parents are overwhelmingly in favor of retaining a single cohort APP program north of the ship canal.
The staff had already presented the same view on the matter.
Anything else will be disastrous for the program which has already suffered too much upheaval, loss of experienced teaching staff, and lack of district-led curriculum support/professional development.
Our kids don't deserve to be treated like some little moveable widgets that can be fitted in here or there to fill some gap or fulfill SPS admin's latest agenda.

puff

BamBam said...

three veteran teachers were bullied, targeted, forced out of Broadview during the 2010-2011 school year alone.....

just saying said...

Reading all the comments about Lowell, Broadview and other schools where the administration is a concern, especially with regards to pushing out veteran qualified teachers makes me wonder if anyone else thinks the problem is actually bigger? While I understand people are concerned about Lowell, and that has mainly been the talk the past week on the blog, why no attention to other schools, where APP does not exist, where administration has been horrible, bullying, the past few years? There were many comments about Broadview prior to this week and what the principal has NOT been doing there the past few years.

While it pains me to say it, it feels like a lot of attention is given on this blog to schools where parent involvement is stronger, and the populations are predominately white.

I know Melissa, Charlie and Dan that you've spoken up about the inequities in education for students of color and/or those who are in less affluent communities (of which Broadview has become), but most of the comments seem to not address academic excellence for these populations and how we're going to make that happen for those students as well.

I understand you hear us Melissa. Thank you.

seattle citizen said...

"Mr. Carter and Mr. King are both former TFAers. Maybe this manner of being a principal comes from TFA training."

I would hope and expect that a principal's understanding of her/his job, their understanding of pedagogy, their ethos and humanity would come from more than a short stint as corps members at TFA (and aren't most short? After all, it's an "education leadership program," in their own words.)

I would hope that becoming a principal entails years of teaching, years of getting to know various ways of learnings and the multitudes of outcomes, years of observing how to nurture a staff while playing flack against outside distractions yet finding budgets...somehow...

Yet if they are first exposed education via the short period of TFA training, which covers none of the nuance, none of the range of real teaching, nothing else, it seems than "reverse planning" to just test questions...

If they believe certificates or lengthy preparation (or even just student teaching) doesn't matter, that education is just about the MSP/HSPE scores in classrooms, just about working 24/7 (who cares about the educator's family, anyway?), just about competition, and if they ARE to be our future leaders of educators in buildings, we have trouble ahead.

Anonymous said...

http://kuow.org/program.php?id=26382

Here is the link to the KUOW program featuring Ann Dornfeld's discussion of Lowell at about minute 27:00

KUOW fan

Anonymous said...

To just saying says- I think it is very clear from the Lowell situation that a huge part of the problem is that HR and central administration blindly support what is going on in the buildings. They do not appear to be asking the questions or providing the supervision or demanding the ethics they should. Principals need to be help accountable, but to solve the problem on a system-wide basis, HR and upper administration need to be held accountable as well.

KUOW fan

seattle citizen said...

"...a huge part of the problem is that HR and central administration blindly support what is going on in the buildings."

Except where central administration might WANT what is going on in the buildings, and direct it. For instance, I'm relatively certain that principals were more than encouraged to hire TFA applicants. How else do you explain one principal choosing a TFA over 100 other applicants?

Make no mistake that central has some pull in the buildings.

Anonymous said...

I am sorry to hear about the targetted teachers at Broadview Thompson. I'm sure that those aren't the only schools where this is occuring. Principals have the tools in their hands to get rid of anyone within a short period of time. These PIP plans, Professional Improvement Plans, that they can put a teacher on, are their legal weapon of choice.

PIP plans can pile on an impossible amount of demands upon a teacher. Usually in a year, all teachers work on just two or three of the goals for effective teachers. They can pick several of the points listed under their selected two goals. Teachers on the PIP plan can be given all the goals on the list. They are given pages and pages of goals, with all the points they involve. There is no one alive who could do these plans. Their purpose is to insure that a teacher will be completely broken down, and that there will be no problem in documenting some shortfall somewhere. Not only that, but by coming into the teacher's room daily and staying until some aspect can be found, this documenting takes place fairly quickly.

When the veteran teachers , who had a strong relationship with the staff in their school, showed their colleagues their PIP plan, the colleagues were truely horrified to see what was being asked of them. They all shook their heads and said that they could not possibly do that. It was utterly unfair.
Unfair, but legal. Our SEA just says that the principal has followed allowed protocal and that there is nothing that they can do. Usually, they don't even take the time to hear the story, as they really can not do anything to stop this process or ask that the documentation be true. They just say it is your word against theirs. There is nothing that can be done.

And so a principal can get rid of any number of senior teachers that they want, and receive cudos from the district for reducing costs.

HR listens, but I have not heard of any cases where they have helped the targeted teacher in the end.

Eye Witness to this shame

Anonymous said...

Meetings for next Tuesday (04/03/12):
APP AC meeting @ Lincoln: 6 30pm- 8 00pm
BEX IV meeting @ Eckstein: 7 00pm (I think)
- Decisions, decisions...

Anonymous said...

I saw PIP plans that Gregory King and Rina Geoghagan wrote for teachers at Lowell. The requirements on these plans alone represented what I saw as targeting. If a teacher resigned prior to being put on this plan, they could sign a gag order and leave the district. The extent of what was asked of PIP plan teachers was sickening.

Mrs. Geoghagan is hoping for mercy from parents and the district for this recent legal scandal. I am all for mercy for people. The only problem with letting her stay as principal is that she was a person who did not demonstrate mercy. I do not want to see her in a position to ever do what she did to teachers through her oversite of PIP plans. She is a danger to any school that she works in if she has the stomach to do what she did last year.

I am sorry for other schools who have principals who use these tactics. They get away with it because there is nobody watching.
HR and their administrators do nothing but support them. In our case, we are lucky that Rina made a legal error this time. That is the only way that she appears to be a concern. In the perfectly legally ways to target teachers, she would get away with targeting enough to continue on for years.

Former Lowell teacher

Anonymous said...

If you're a new teacher in the district the principal doesn't even have to put you on a PIP. They can just decide that you are not hacking it and kick you to the curb.
-ST

Anonymous said...

You might wonder why some people are speaking up now. That is because we are no longer at Lowell or L@L. It is safe (er) for us to indicate what we experienced under Gregory King and Rina Geoghagan. The situation was far to dangerous to say anything while we were still teachers there. We would have easily been hunted down and retaliated against. Considering the amount of targeting of teachers, one needed to be quiet.

It pained us deeply to see colleagues injured. I am in a better position now to do what I can about exposing the unfairness of PIP plans.

I hope that in the not too distant future the SEA will be able to actually do something to protect teachers from unfair PIP plans. SEA will need to make it a bargaining point that they hold to. Usually, SEA gives away everything other than salary. They trade away class size and everything that is important to teachers. SEA only has power at bargaining time. The school district has a long track record of knowing that , in the end, they will give everything away other than salary. All those things that they give away are what really matter to schools. SEA has no power over anything until the next bargaining contract. They never do help individual teachers.

Realistic about the way it is

dw said...

Meetings for next Tuesday (04/03/12):
APP AC meeting @ Lincoln: 6 30pm- 8 00pm
BEX IV meeting @ Eckstein: 7 00pm (I think)


Check again on the APP AC meeting, I believe it has been rescheduled for Monday because of the BEX IV conflict. Go to both!

Anonymous said...

Neither Mr. King or Ms. Geoghagan showed mercy to C1 who had a known, documented, medical condition that was seriously aggravated by false accusations and an investigation that had no merit or truth behind it. Ask anyone who knows or who worked with C1 what they thought about her health last spring. Worried would be putting it mildly. Ask any of those people what they thought of administration's actions against her. Inhumane would be one of the nicer words.

in agreement

Anonymous said...

Our union SEA. Is weak! One can look at Lake WA's and everett's contracts and see quite a different story. SEA takes our $$$ yet does nothing for us. It is as if they are in bed with district leadership. But it is up to us to not accept contracts where the SEA bargaining team says its the best we can get. The district can't replace ALL of us with TFAs. LOL.
:0

Together we are string.

dw said...

puff said: Yes, the L@L staff and parents are in solidarity about not wanting to be split again.

Actually there was a bit of rhetoric in my question. I know that the vast majority of APP wants to avoid another devastating split. The real question is:

Does the group have the resolve to actually do something about it? Because it's now or never.

People need to come together on this, and there's a very limited time frame, and very limited ways to exert any meaningful pushback. Having watched this unfold last time, if someone doesn't start organizing the group to take some kind of action quickly, it's probably over.

It's also time to start educating newcomers, those with the youngest kids, who may not yet understand why splitting the program was bad, and why splitting it again will be even worse. We all need to work to bring them up to speed as well.

Spectrum families are having different, but related, problems. It's more difficult for them to organize as a single group because they are geographically dispersed, but the more people that come together on this, the better -- for ALL. It can set some precedent that the district should try to fix problem areas instead of destroying things that are (were) actually working well.

Anonymous said...

Boy -- this Human Rights commission thing sounds so great -- it is almost too good to be true. Here are my thoughts:

1. If the SEA is as dysfunctional as it sounds, why don't teachers get together and see what it would take to decertify the union and form a different one? Decertification campaigns tend to put the fear of God into unions who have become lazy and corrupt (or inept) -- because they have to actually make their case again to members. I know nothing about labor stuff (I don't even like unions very well, though I can see why they are needed and useful -- to a point), but I cannot fathom why Seattle teachers put up with paying dues to these jokers. Find a better group. There has to be a way.

On retaliation. What the spineless SEA says notwithstanding, I think there are a number of really serious problems (for the District, ultimately) in devising PIPs that are essentially impossible to accomplish -- and I assume that the HR commission might be very interested in seeing the plans, talking to ordinary teachers about what THEIR improvement goals look like, talking to those on PIPs about what THEY were asked to do, how much support (as opposed to terrorizing) they got, etc. While I agree that an employer can generally just make life so unhappy for a disfavored employee that they just "leave," there are limits, and it wouldn't surprise me one bit to find out that the District has far exceeded them (another problem of having a dysfunctional downtown HR department). I hope all these teachers kept their PIPs, and have some records, or good recollections, of how they were administered.

Braessae

Anonymous said...

Another thing relating to Lowell: I heard through a grapevine (but a fairly short one, so I have some confidence that the conversation that was overheard and reported to me actually took place) that someone overheard a Lakeside administrator commenting that the quality of educational preparedness that they have seen the past few years in applicants from Lowell, who I assume probably apply for either 5th or 6th grade, is noticably worse than it used to be, and no longer compares favorably with the level of preparedness they see from other applicants.

Caveats galore: I have no clue whether what I was told was an accurate description of what was said, though if I seriously doubted the person who related the conversation, I wouldn't say it here. I also have no idea whether the Lakeside employee who supposedly said it might have been mistaken -- though the person's position would be one where she/he would have been in a good position to know. So -- caveats and grains of salt everywhere. But here is why I thought it was interesting:

First, if it was the last two or three years, it would coincide pretty neatly with the AOO split, the arrival of King, and the reports from APP teachers of significant interference with veteran teachers' methods of teaching gifted kids, project-based learning stuff that had formerly gone on, teacher harrassment and attrition, etc. It also dovetails alarmingly well with MGJ's tenure in Seattle, and her absolutely dreadful (my opinion only) effect on learning generally.

Second, it made me realize that there we have very few ways in which current tests administered to APP would show significant declines in their learning -- because they pretty much "test out" of most of the tests we give them (MSP, MAP, etc.) They are already way above the benchmarks, the 99th percentiles, etc. They would have to fall much farther than most kids before the declines would show up -- and frankly, many of those kids are so smart, they are NEVER going to fall that far. There ARE tests (the ones given by the the University's gifted ed folks, SATs, etc. that actually start to measure growth in these kids -- and the differences between them, but we generally don't give those. But I thought that (IF what I heard was accurately related, and IF the underlying statement is true -- that these kids are learning less and are less prepared for rigorous middle school curriculum than they used to be) the time correlation (with MGJ, King, the APP split, etc) is troubling. And the only way an APP parent would know is if they knew what was being taught and learned by kids in the private schools that often feed into Lakeside -- and how many would know that?

Braessae

Anonymous said...

And it gets worse, because IF this is happening, no one (except the kids, their parents, and their former teachers -- most of whom no longer teach at Lowell) will care. The District treats APP like an evil stepchild. Many other parents resent their existence. In terms of choice, their parents are pretty much stuck -- because there is no other public school alternative for highly gifted kids (those at the lower end may survive a regular curriculum, but many of them really can't). Their only option is to look for private gifted education, which is expensive and scarce -- and much less diverse (economically and culturally) than public school, for those who value that.

Final nails in the coffin. First, even if someone at the District administrative level cared, there is no way to confirm any of this. The records of private schools are, well, private. If it were true, Lakeside would never make something like this public. The parents of kids who apply wouldn't even know (unless maybe their kids don't get in -- but there are lots of reasons why one child is accepted and nine others are not), and in any case, how would they know what used to happen with admission in prior years? There is no baseline, and no aggregated data to back up any claim.

Second, given how cranky folks get about APP, about the only thing that could be worse would be an APP kid with the temerity to leave the system altogether for an "elitist school like Lakeside!" Those would TRULY be the "spawn of the devil."

So, IF what was told to me strikes any note of truth with any parents of APP elementary kids -- it seems to me that those parents ought to look into it, talk to the middle school APP teachers (the ones who have been there 5 or 10 or more years) about whether THEY have seen any negative effects on learning in the past 2 or 3 years, double down on their demands for teachers and administrators who are qualified and capable of, and experienced in, teaching gifted kids, and who have the freedom and administrative support to do so, renew their demand that the District supply the written and tested curriculum that was promised as part of the APP split, and push hard for no further degradation to the program through further splits of the cohort, more "curriculum alignment," or more attrition of the most experienced, valuable teachers. Oh, and a permanent north end home.

Braessae

apparent said...

dw, there is an open thread on the Seattle Schools APP Community Discussion blog called "BEX IV and APP." Please post your notices and thoughts there too, as there may be many APP parents there who have not seen them on this blog. And thanks for your urgency as well as your constructive ideas.

Don't get anxious. Your APP kid is fine. said...

Don't worry. Your kid is fine. My kid graduated from Lowell and is a current 7th grader. She is excelling in accelerated math and hangs out with other APP alums who also were well prepared for school. The single best thing she did to prepare was to join math club. However, even her friends who didn't do that are still among the really smart kids in the grade with better preparation than many of their peers.

And yes, I am confident enough in Lowell that her younger sibs are there..

Don't get anxious said...

Whoops! I meant at Lakeside.

Anonymous said...

Only downside... a note from the doctor will not get you into Lakeside as it will for APP.

Another Parent

Don't be anxious said...

Please tell me that you're not trying to hijack this thread and turn it into one about how appeals have weakened APP. We've heard it all before.

Anonymous said...

Oh, no, I want to hear more. I can't hear enough about the unethical psychiatrists who fake scores so that they can get kids into a program that's not right for them. I know every other kid in APP has one!!!!! Can we also talk about Drs who give fake diagnoses to patients so that they can get handicapped parking?

-Love to hear more

Melissa Westbrook said...

"Only downside... a note from the doctor will not get you into Lakeside as it will for APP."

What does that mean? Are you talking about a private test or a medical condition?

dw said...

apparent said: dw, there is an open thread on the Seattle Schools APP Community Discussion blog called "BEX IV and APP." Please post your notices and thoughts there too, as there may be many APP parents there who have not seen them on this blog. And thanks for your urgency as well as your constructive ideas.

Would love to, but after the blogger changes I can't seem to post over there anymore. Feel free to copy my comments and post on that site, as I agree it would be useful.

While you're at it, you could suggest losing the "verification" code, which happily, Melissa has done here. I hope it hasn't caused a huge upsurge in spam behind the scenes.

dw said...

Braessae,

You are right to be concerned about the educational preparedness of Lowell students as compared with a few years ago. I have not heard directly from anyone at Lakeside, but it does not surprise me in the slightest, as I have heard from those who know best - the teachers themselves. This has been happening for several years now, and unfortunately, those with knowledge and understanding of the long term changes are mostly gone, many in just the past year. New teachers have no long term perspective to understand just how much the program has lost in recent years.

The reasons go deeper than the split and the arrival of King, and while the curricular materials may exacerbate the situation, they are not really the root of the problem either. The problem is that the district is actively encouraging the program to "grow", which by its very definition means taking in more kids who are not at the same cognitive and achievement levels as in the past.

There are certainly different perspectives on the merits of this, but honestly, if kids' needs can be met in a well-supported regional (Spectrum) program, why encourage them to join APP, which is a more costly program due to transportation, and (was supposed to be) designed for kids who have needs that truly cannot be met in a local or regional program.

Regardless of the specific testing/qualification details, empirically we have incontrovertible proof that standards to enter APP have been lowered over the past few years. Yes, there are long term trends that kids are getting smarter, but at a very, very tiny fraction of the changes we're seeing in SPS.

What comes with growth? Overcrowding.

What comes with overcrowding? Splits.

What comes with splits? A lot of bad stuff, but one thing is buildings closer to people's homes, which encourages more parents to enroll their kids. Even if they feel their child is borderline, why not? It's close to home, and Spectrum is being torn down.

So there's the cycle.

The only way to break this cycle is to carefully consider ways to reduce enrollment in APP, with the hope of keeping it a program for those kids who truly need these services, rather than "the place to be". A robust APP program is not one that you want your child to attend, it's the program that you begrudgingly attend in spite of the long bus ride because nothing else works.

One way to do this is to tighten up the testing criteria. But an even better way is by strengthening our Spectrum programs around the city instead of destroying them. Carrots work much better than sticks! Both are probably necessary to some degree. Unfortunately, the support (and thusly, the reputation) of Spectrum these days is terrible, and reputations take time to build or rebuild. Even with a concerted effort, that will take time. Let's hope our new superintendent will take some steps in this direction.

There are other ways to accomplish stability in enrollment numbers. The most simple and reliable is to simply say there is a limit of N students in each of north and south regions. That might sound terrible to some, but it's managed well in other areas (see Paradise Valley, AZ). The alternative here in Seattle looks like it will be the dissolution of APP over the next few years.

SPSLeaks said...

please send a thoroughly redacted PIP to spsleaks@gmail.com, if you think we should see what kind of pressures senior teachers are being placed under.

Anonymous said...

Seriously, why to go to any APP related meetings and waste hours there every time when the APP AC and the FACMAC are only advisory boards and the district is not even taking into consideration what these boards are recommending??? See the BEX IV, the word 'APP' is not even there in their report???
- Hopeless in Seattle

Anonymous said...

Interesting idea about posting the PIP plans that teachers were given. Those plans were sent to the teachers on line, and they would certainly have that. Each plan was unique, so that even with a teacher's name removed, it would completely identify that teacher. I believe that those were likely the teachers that were asked to sign gag orders, so that the school district would not sabotage their opportunities for future work. If it were me, I might not feel safe posting something that could easily be linked to me. I will mention the idea to them.

Lowell teacher

Anonymous said...

I also wondered whether there was any way to see what is in a PIP without identifying (and possibly harming) the teacher -- but I guess we will see. That was the reason I liked the idea of an investigation -- because an investigator can get LOTS of PIPs, talk to LOTS of teachers, take a look at the performance goals for regular teachers, get honest, credible feedback from teachers as to the feasibility and time requirements inherent in the PIPS, and come to some conclusion. When you do it on a "one off" basis, you expose a single teacher, and risk getting a PIP from someone who possibly WAS a problem teacher (leading to choruses of "I told you so") -- sort of the problem we had with the Seattle police department -- where every complaint of unjust force became a referendum on a single citizen, their character, motives, etc.

But thanks, SPSLeaks -- because I would love to see one, and get some teacher feedback on how reasonable or unreasonable it is.

Braessae

Anonymous said...

dw: historically, because gifted ed (at the APP level) was considered sort of a different version of "special ed" (i.e. -- these services are provided because they are the only way to meet these kids' needs), the program could not legally be limited. Spectrum, on the other hand, was never part of the gifted grant, never considered to be "necessary" (as opposed to just a nice option) -- and so was restricted, modified, etc at will. For those reasons, I don't think you can just set a number and turn kids away. When you think about it -- what DOES that say when the next kid ("first kid out" in March Madness terminology) is in fact at a 150 or 160 IQ, and utterly incapable of surviving and doing well in a regular system?

Nor do I think capacity and "splittability" should be the criteria -- because those aren't inherently bad -- they are just botched by THIS District.

I do think, though, that you are right on the concept of admission criteria -- AND on the deleterious effects on APP by destroying Spectrum and refusing to provide meaningful ALOs. I wish someone at the District level cared enough to do an internal review or audit of the program to determine whether the admissions criteria are appropriately set -- and whether the "next programs down" -- Spectrum or ALO should be enhanced (or brought back from the dead, or whatever) to restore health to the advanced learning programs generally.

Strategically, I don't want to argue for a higher cutoff in a world where Spectrum is being exsanguinated (sorry, watching too much House lately), and ALO is a fiction -- because of the panic it will cause in borderline Spectrum/APP families whom you would strand with no options. If this is to be done at all, it needs to be done by:
1. Rebuilding advanced learning at the Spectrum/ALO level; and
2. THEN looking at how you best place kids (for the KIDS' benefit) between these programs. Because historically, when Spectrum has been viable, LOTS of potential families have shown a strong desire and willingness to place their kids there, rather than in APP. THAT is what will take pressure off APP growth -- and do it without denying access to kids. It all worked pretty well (except for lack of access to Spectrum, because it was not protected by "gifted ed" classification) -- once upon a time.

Brassae

Anonymous said...

Hopeless in Seattle -- I hope SNAPP parents are going to FACMAC meetings, emailing FACMAC members, calling and emailing the District and the board -- because leaving SNAPP out of capacity planning in BEX IV was astonishing. This is one where Ms. Geoghagan has to be a good team player for her employer -- so parents have to carry the torches.

Braessae

Melissa Westbrook said...

Brassae, I think about this a lot. Thanks for the input.

Salander said...

I initiated the investigation with the Human Rights Commission so I know it is the "real deal". Lots of great stories on this blog. Please, please share at http://seattleareateachers.blogspot.com/
I need the evidence from Lowell and Broadview and anywhere else teachers are being hit. I have also talked WEA into investigating SEA.
Everything being said about the PIPs is true. Mine started out with 73 areas for improvement.The principal of my school has never been a teacher so I guess he thought he would just cover all his bases. I knew I was doomed from the moment he began telling me he was going to "support me to improve". My parents and students give me their full support. This lifts my spirits but all their phone calls and letter writing have come to nothing.HR is complicit. Please tell your stories so the investigator has a road map to follow. No problem if you are afraid and want to be invisible. I will give him/her the link to the blog.

Salander

Anonymous said...

Having seen some PIPs from district colleagues who 'chose' to retire, I can say that their PIPs were about intimidation, full of things that their principals did not know how to do themselves (Instructional leaders, what does such and such look like when it is successfully done?)!

Even if you believed that those colleagues needed to take their teaching up a notch, were the plans really about improving teaching and learning, it wouldn't have to be about intimidation. Giving them three preps/new courses to teach along with an improvement plan is a recipe for failure.
To me, knowing that the administrator observing daily was there to hinder and not help would be so horrible.

The bottom line: Agree to retire and the harassment stops.
These colleagues later signed a non-discloure agreement with HR so I doubt if they'd share with SPS Leaks....

--Old School music

Anonymous said...

I showed my PIP to at least fourteen colleagues that I could trust. It was enough to scare the pants off of them. No one would ever want to have that on their plate.

As it was, I usually worked from early morning until about ten at night on school. I took time out for dinner, usually eating out, so that I could eat rather quickly. There is so much to a teacher's job, that it always took that amount of time for me, even though I had many years behind my belt in the same grade level.

That's why when I was handed a PIP plan that would have taken me another full time job to do, I just sobbed. I had to say that I could not do it. On the spot I had to agree to retire. I had loved my career, but I knew that I would just be butchered over parts of the new requirements that I couldn't keep up with. That happened last year. I had seen other colleagues go through this process and I knew it was a true butchering. I could not take going through that. I had already gone through enough last year up to that point.

Years ago, principals would have had a hard time proving that a teacher should be let go. Now, with PIP plans, there is no difficulty getting rid of even the most competent teacher. This is full-proof, and legal for the principal. SPS is giving administrators the "extra personnel" needed to do this documentation. They don't even need to represent the situation accurately, as a teacher's written side is just attatched to their personnel file. Nothing trumps what a principal has said, and nothing stops this speedy process.

This creates so much saddness in a school, as colleagues know that what has happened was undeserved. Their day could come up at any time, but not likely until they are on their fourteenth year--or more.

The principal looks like they were a mover and a shaker, and saved the district lots of money. They fare well with their administrators. It's kind of like getting an "A."

teacher from last year.

Anonymous said...

We are having the same targeting of a senior teacher at our school. SEA again no help. Honestly, this teacher is working harder than either of her two younger colleagues but she is the target. On a plan as well.

Maybe her teaching isn't great . . . or maybe it is. But the plan isn't fair because it isn't giving her the time to prove her stuff. She gets praise more often than not but then another issue arises. It is never ending.

If there is a pattern, perhaps SEA can bring some sort of collective action to the District? I hope so. What I've been watching is unfair and hurtful. Usually veteran teachers are masters of the craft. Everything in our world is upside down.

n...

Anonymous said...

Knapp won? How disappointing. Well, I pushed hard for Muhs. I don't think three-fourths of my school's teachers voted. Honestly, we get what we deserve sometimes. Is it that we're women? Someone tell me why teachers are so weak when it comes to being strong and actively working for their own good.

n...

Anonymous said...

Somebody above posted about a disappointed continuation of the same at SEA . . .

In some other districts, teachers have their own unions. We are clumped with a lot of people who weaken us because the District can appease a lot of smaller groups to the detriment of teachers. I believe Northshore is one of these districts. A good friend who worked as an IA was paid much less than IAs in Seattle but teachers were paid more.

Before anyone grumbles about taking money from poor IAs, remember they have no responsibity, no accountability, no long hours (unless they do it to themselves) and generally less of everything. When I was a Title 1 teacher, my scope of responsibility was extremely large while my IA's in math and reading had little to no responsibility. That was a long time ago. Maybe things have changed.

I also remember that at one union meeting when a representative for secretaries asked about their pay increase, Roger Erskine (yes, that long ago) said that Seattle secretaries were already paid the highest in the state and he didn't think the bargaining team could go to that well again.

Teachers always came last. I'd be interested to know what other people think of a teachers-only bargaining team as opposed to something for everybody.

n...

Anonymous said...

As I read this thread, a couple of things lept out. I've always wondered about SEA and teachers, teachers and curriculum, and the decline of learning vs. the incline of standardized tests.

Looking at school budget and sitting in on BLT meetings, it came as no surprise to see veteran teachers being pushed out because they are old and expensive. I saw it in our school with a very green, 1st year principal who has very little teaching credential. What surprised me was the lack of support by the younger teachers for the vets. The school gave the vets a lovely send off, but "it was a pity, glad it wasn't me" party. Wierd.

Many here have addressed programs, gaps, and testing and they are topics my family and friends have discusseded as well. We've noticed kids in ES who get promoted and yet are several grades behind. And this is at well off schools N. of downtown, not just the usual suspects. These schools are the ones who can't seem to cross the gap. What surprises me is despite the money hired for tutors and x tra work with these kids, is the lack of planning and follow up these kids get. For those of us who tutor this group 3 X/week, it confounds us how there is no focus or clear plan during the school year or from year to year at where these kids should be, why their specific problem areas are not ID'd and mapped out, what they should be working on, and assessment to see if they have gained competency of particular skill set or learning goals (if they have them).

The thing is with larger class size, wider range of abilities in one classroom, and the talk of differentiation accompanying the LACK of differentiated actions, kids are NOT getting what they need to learn. Even more troubling are kids who are underachieving (may be quite bright) with behavioral issues who are often not in the classrooms to learn so they fall even futhur behind. Wierd.

Which brings me to my last point. The sense that AL programs may not be up to snuff. I would say you can extend that beyond the AL programs. In some schools where you always have strong test scores, parents are working harder outside schools to supplement because MAP and MSP are geared to assess the generic or the minimum. For parents and kids who want real learning, doing well on these tests aren't good enough. In schools where spectrum is being dismantled, there is some shift to move kids into APP or alternatives with stronger academics, smaller class size, or different teaching/curriculum emphasis. Of course, these movements aren't easy and require a lot of networking and luck to make it happen especially when schools are over capacity. Hence the conundrum we read about here.

It's such a FU. But as long as we keep having pity parties and glad it's not me (or my kids), guess we'll keep this blog abuzzed.

-dystopic education

Anonymous said...

Regarding the non-disclosure agreements that departing teachers are required to sign - I don't know what the penalties for breaking the non-disclosure are, but I am curious about a couple of things -

Are the non-disclosures in fact legally "bullet-proof"? Have any of the exited teachers consulted attorneys outside of the union?

Since SPS is so infatuated with data, is there data on the number of teachers exited which indicates their number of years teaching, and whether a non-disclosure was signed?

What about publishing redacted PIP's from the exited teachers, or from all teachers at one particular school? Some way to compare and contrast in order to explore whether there's been any management "missteps"?

Not knowing the risks or penalties to exited teachers breaking the non-disclosure, what action does SPS need to pursue against a disclosure-breaker? What if there were a whole lot of disclosure breakers?

- just wondering about courses of action

mirmac1 said...

It would seem to me to be hardly conscionable or legal for employment security to agree to cut off unemployment benefits because a teacher refused to keep quiet about an unfair termination/"mutually-agreed upon retirement".

Anonymous said...

SEA gets union dues from teachers. It doesn't matter if dues are from old, young, TFA, incompetent, competent, or greatest and oldest teacher alive. The less involved SEA members are, less work for its leadership. So don't be stirring the muck up until CBA time.

-dystopic education

Anonymous said...

I haven't consulted a lawyer, but I don't believe a nondisclosure agreement is "good" as against a States Human Rights Commission official investigation of the type that Salander describes. An SPSLeaks post, however, would be a very different matter, assuming PIP could be traced and the disclosure was voluntary.

Do I understand though, that the "threat" for disclosure is that the District will then claim firing for cause, making the employee ineligible for unemployment comp? Seems to me that if the Commission concludes abusive firing practices -- that would work to negate any claim by the district that they had cause to terminate employment. It also wouldn't sit well with me, if I were the unemployment securities folks, to have the employer and employee "colluding" to determine whether termination of employment is for cause or not -- and using unemployment money as "hush" money. It seems to me that if the District wants to buy silence, they should do it with their OWN money, not taxpayer money. Oops. Wait -- District money is taxpayer money TOO (unless Gates et al are giving out grants for the purpose of funding senior teachers' severance payments -- I wonder if they have thought of it).

So how is it that our taxpayer dollars are being used to further such blatant abuses of power?

Board?

--Unhappy About Abusive Termination Practices

Anonymous said...

In my case, there were no unemployment benefits. I signed that I would retire. The only thing the school district agrees to is essentially not smearing my name by bringing up the PIP plan, unless the future employer specifically asked. I am still unemployed at this point, and need to be careful about what I say , and to whom.

Former teacher from last year.

Anonymous said...

I've waited to post this to see if there is any change. But as someone who advocates for my kids, I need to speak up about this. I am no longer in the building and feel it safer to speak up now.

Safety is not a concern at Lowell.

Gregory King is often unavailable or not in the building. An elevator was stuck in 2011, maybe a week before the chaperone incident in December, leaving an assistant and several students with severe medical conditions inside. It took over 10 minutes to even find him to let him know. He was in the building. Not a very big one, might I add. Everyone else was panicked and he was "unavailable."

After December's news-worthy events with a parent chaperone, several urgent safety plans needed to be set into place. Gregory's own ignorance of updated district procedures regarding lockdowns was identified. He used outdated codes to set the lockdown into motion. His emergency plans do not reflect the updated requirements by the District, and he is aware of that. I sat in a meeting in which an employee stated that they had been trained in the new system, and yet the staff has yet to receive any such training. If you look at Lowell's plan, it's old and no longer used.
-To this day, there is no discipline plan at the school set in place for students to remain safe. As a result, students have left the building, are showing immense violence and aggression towards both student and staff, and know that are no serious repercussions to their behavior. My concern was for a student I am connected. Students aren't even safe with each other. Having talked with staff, this seems to be incredibly frustrating and Gregory has been incredibly silent. This is a SERIOUS safety risk. Gregory's response has been that he hasn't wanted to get involved, to let teachers decide how they want to handle things. It's absured. They need support form an administrator who they can trust will handle safety concerns promptly and with the necessary level of intervention.

-Again, Gregory is often unavailable or not in the building. As a result, 2 or 3 teachers have been put in place to deal with discipline issues for the whole school--one of which is my student's friend's teacher, the 5th grade teacher. This has taken significant time away from their instructional time and the students' learning. I'm a bit perplexed what his salary is going to--certainly it's not leadership. Why are these teachers not receiving additional pay for the additional weight of running the school? These are also the teachers that have planned the handful of staff meetings that have actually taken place. Where is GK's mind? On leaving. On his own education. On Superintendent of Somewhere.

-There have been no staff meetings regarding procedural protocol that I am aware of. This is why the event in December happened; it's why teachers are left groping in the dark or leaning heavily on other teachers for information that should be coming from administration. And we've seen what happens when that's not in place.

-Please do not be misled. This is not isolated and this is not a misunderstanding. This is negligence that has left staff frustrated and our children incredibly unsafe. I would not be surprised if he received a vote of no confidence this year, or at least an incredibly negative climate survey. Staff are not happy. They are fed up. And rightly so.

-got out of dodge

erik T said...

got out of dodge, you clearly have no idea what is happening at Lowell right now. Since January, the staff and Gregory have had two or three staff meetings regarding the new discipline plan that was handed down by the district.The staff are energized by this plan and I know you hate to hear this, but the staff are pretty happy with Gregory and his plans for the future of our school.
You should also not make assertions about the kids or staff in the school being safe, since you are not there on a daily basis and we do indeed feel safe and happy with the environment.
I am in the school on an almost daily basis, speaking with staff and parents alike and the feeling at our school is pretty good despite all of the negative press. I think the coming survey will reflect a growing confidence and general happyness with the culture in our school.

Anonymous said...

I'm glad to see all the comments regarding the administrators at Broadview-Thomson. Hopefully getting people to speak out on this blog will help with the problems that are going on there.
I'm curious about what "light" Melissa you have to shed on the issues there.

Watching My Back

Anonymous said...

Reading the conversation at publicola and now reading this blog, I am beginning to wonder if there is anything right in our model of education in this district. Is everything dysfunctional? It is disheartening.

n...

Melissa Westbrook said...

"...anything right in our model of education in this district..."

You'd have to define "model of education" for me but do I think everything is wrong? Nope. Do things need to get better in some ways? Yes. Do I believe there is a national crisis in public education? Only for the children that are in the opportunity gap.

Not to say everything is rosy for the other children - public education is not a static project. It evolves and shifts and rightly so.

N, do not give up. We talk, we discuss, we support, we advocate and I say this all the time but I believe we are poised to some great things in this district. There is some lining up of the stars but it will depend on our new superintendent and the directions our state takes in the next decade.

If we chart our own course - as a district and a state - and not allow ourselves to be taken down a rabbit-hole with only our fingers crossed as data, I think we will do better all across the board.

Anonymous said...

It seems like there is so much support for so little understanding of the problems we face and even less evidence that the fixes they propose will work or are even necessary. It's like we've gone down the rabbit hole.

Thanks for your optimism, Melissa.

n...

mirmac1 said...

I found this site interesting. There are few reviews, but I'm sure you can add some.

TeacherVoice.com

Annie said...

'and the directions our state takes in the next decade.'


next DECADE.....holy crap batman.....

-Annie

Anonymous said...

eric T: you can whistle in the dark all you want. What I have heard is that Lowell remains a pale, sad shell of its former self; that certain of the Lowell staff who used to eat together, using that time for collaboration, idea exchange, and just plain community building, now eat alone, keep their heads down, concentrate on just getting their work done and not sticking their necks out, try to avoid saying anything that Mr. King's "spies" might report back to him as something that can be used against them.

Ugh. If it's true, it is unhealthy, and a crying shame.

-think your name is apt

erik t said...

Think your name is apt.
Five staff memers and myself went to the creative schools seminar together and were charged up about it. And just today there must have been six or eight staff laughing in staff lunchroom. Doesn't feel like the gloomy place that you describe.

Charlie Mas said...

erik t, I saw the Lowell team at the Creative Schools meeting. They were visibly frustrated that they would have to get buy-in from special education staff and the Lowell at Lincoln staff as part of the 80% needed to approve the creative approach. The spirit I saw expressed was that their agreement was not obtainable. Why wouldn't it be? Why would those folks want to monkey-wrench Mr. King's plans?

erik t said...

Charlie,
The feeling that it would be difficult has nothing to do with Gregory, but convincing the SPED staff who number about thirty and another twenty five Lowell @Lincoln staff to vote root something that gives them no benefit. We felt that people are conservative by nature. We felt that on its own, the creative schools approach will be a hard sell even in the best circumstances.
As a side note, you must have noticed that the largest group there was Lowell, sitting with Gregory. The constant banter about the lack of cohesion from the staff, or mistrust of Gregory is just not true. Whatever happened last year does not exist at our school currently.